Obama and Reagan

Paul Krugman manages to pack an awful lot of ideas into this column. One of which I disagree with him about. He says that Obama should have embarked on a Reaganesque campaign of predecessor-blaming:

But he didn’t. Maybe he still dreams of bridging the partisan divide; maybe he fears the ire of pundits who consider blaming your predecessor for current problems uncouth — if you’re a Democrat. (It’s O.K. if you’re a Republican.) Whatever the reason, Mr. Obama has allowed the public to forget, with remarkable speed, that the economy’s troubles didn’t start on his watch.

I appreciate that a lot of people don’t like Obama’s political style. But look at this chart from ABC News:

obamareagan 1

Similar economic circumstances = similar results.

I’m with Krugman on the other points. The too-small stimulus looks like a huge error. And the administration’s thinking on this was partly political (and possibly correct) but also partly substantive. The economic team straight-up misestimated how bad the recession would be, and no effort was made to articulate any kind of logic about an insurance policy against worse-than-expected results. Policy toward the banks has been substantively and politically problematic:

At this point Mr. Obama probably can’t do much about job creation. He can, however, push hard on financial reform, and seek to put himself back on the right side of public anger by portraying Republicans as the enemies of reform — which they are.

As I’ve said before, the key to this is to accept the possibility of losing in congress. You try to win in the court of public opinion. That may create pressure on congress to go along with you, or it may not. I think the chances that it won’t bend congress’ will are actually really large. But on this issue, that’s fine. On health care, it was (and is) crucially to get something major done ASAP. On financial reform, I don’t think it’s super-urgent to reach a short-term compromise.