Paul Krugman: The Real Referendum
If Obama wins, will he betray the "clear mandate for preserving and extending" the social insurance system that voters will have given to him?:
The Real Referendum, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Republicans came into this campaign believing that it would be a referendum on President Obama, and that still-high unemployment would hand them victory on a silver platter. But given the usual caveats — a month can be a long time in politics... — it doesn’t seem to be turning out that way.
Yet there is a sense in which the election is indeed a referendum... Voters are, in effect, being asked to deliver a verdict on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare...
If the polls are any indication, the result of that referendum will be a clear reassertion of support for the safety net, and a clear rejection of politicians who want to return us to the Gilded Age. But here’s the question: Will that election result be honored?
I ask that question because we already know what Mr. Obama will face if re-elected: a clamor from Beltway insiders demanding that he immediately return to his failed political strategy of 2011, in which he made a Grand Bargain over the budget deficit his overriding priority. Now is the time, he’ll be told, to fix America’s entitlement problem once and for all. There will be calls ... for him to officially endorse Simpson-Bowles...
And Mr. Obama should just say no,... the fact is that Simpson-Bowles is a really bad plan, one that would undermine some key pieces of our safety net. And if a re-elected president were to endorse it, he would be betraying the trust of the voters who returned him to office. ...
Now, there’s no mystery about why Simpson-Bowles looks the way it does. It was put together in a political environment in which progressives, and even supporters of the safety net as we know it, were very much on the defensive — an environment in which conservatives were presumed to be in the ascendant, and in which bipartisanship was effectively defined as the effort to broker deals between the center-right and the hard right.
Barring an upset, however, that environment will come to an end on Nov. 6. This election is, as I said, shaping up as a referendum on our social insurance system, and it looks as if Mr. Obama will emerge with a clear mandate for preserving and extending that system. It would be a terrible mistake, both politically and for the nation’s future, for him to let himself be talked into snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Posted by Mark Thoma on Monday, October 1, 2012 at 12:33 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Health Care, Politics, Social Insurance, Social Security |
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