Paul Krugman criticized Barack Obama’s plans for economic stimulus as compared to those offered by John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. Brad DeLong, on the other hand, thinks Obama is on the right track, seeing it as closer in line with the principles articulated here by Jason Furman and Douglas W. Elmendorf.

Of course, the two perspectives aren’t necessarily in tension. Krugman writes that:

Obama came out with a real stimulus plan. As was the case with his health care plan, which fell short of universal coverage, his stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but tilted to the right . . . the Obama plan appears to contain none of the alternative energy initiatives that are in both the Edwards and Clinton proposals, and emphasizes across-the-board tax cuts over both aid to the hardest-hit families and help for state and local governments. I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy. In short, the stimulus debate offers a pretty good portrait of the men and woman who would be president. And I haven’t said a word about their hairstyles.

DeLong thinks Obama has a better plan. Krugman thinks Obama’s plan is less left-wing than is Clinton’s or Edwards’ and that this provides a window into Obama’s soul — a more meaningful window than is offered by speculations about haircuts, and one which reveals a man who lacks mettle. DeLong, by contrast, says:


John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton and their staffs — they don’t seem to have grasped that governance is best when you ask congress to do things that are within its competence, and ask the administrative branch to do things that are within its competence. They might respond that these stimulus packages are political rather than policy documents — acts of campaigning rather than acts of governance — and they are right, up to a point.

To me, I see documents that are almost entirely about political positioning. None of these people can possibly become president until January of 2009 at which point appropriate short-term economic policy is going to be different from appropriate short-term economic policy for January 2008. I see some reason to believe that an Edwards administration would draw more senior staff from the labor-liberal, trade skeptical, deficit-friendly wing of the center-left than would an Obama or a Clinton administration. But the two front-running candidates would, based on everything I know, be staffed by a very similar group of people on big-picture macroeconomic issues.