Commentary

A Reasonable President?

A Politico report from this morning chronicles how liberals and progressives are increasing upset with President-elect Obama’s shifting political views:

Case in point: One of the Campaign for America’s Future blogs commented on Obama’s decision not to tax oil companies’ windfall profits saying, “Between this move and the move to wait to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, it seems like the Obama team is buying into the right-wing frame that raising any taxes–even those on the richest citizens and wealthiest corporations–is bad for the economy.”

Critics from the left are also upset that Obama has left a Bush appointee in Robert Gates as SecDef (smart move because, lets face it, Gates has done a great job running the war and has a timetable set for our pull out) and put an Iraq War initial-supporter in as SecState. Ironically, progressives have been critical of Tim Geithner as not “pro-labor” enough, as if that was the only part of the economy that mattered. Meanwhile many critics from the right slam his past as a perpetual bailouter. Of course there will never be complete satisfaction for ideologues of any political bent. There is something we can learn from all this politicking though. The Obama cabinet picks thus far reveal an attitude quite different from the Bush Administration. Where George Bush played up the go-it-alone-cowboy image, Barack Obama is making every attempt to appeal to a broad base, even if he doesn’t have a Republican in his cabinet yet (Gates is a registered independent). Obama has seemed willing to consider opposing view points. Not only does he have former rivals in his administration that will challenge him (healthy for government), but he has shifted on issues like the windfall oil tax. This means there is hope still to demonstrate that alternatives to a stimulus package are better in the end. While it would be ideal for Obama to oppose a windfall profits tax on oil companies because its bad economics and only political posturing, he at least has realized it would be foolhardy to push forward a political goal with no economic benefit, especially since oil is in the $50 per barrel range. It is still worrisome that he sets an arbitrary $80 per barrel level as what he thinks acceptable profit should be, but he’s a President that should be open to well reasoned, data backed proofs. That’s change we can believe in. Hopefully its not a smoke and mirrors trick.

Anthony Randazzo

Anthony Randazzo is a senior fellow at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.