A Moderate, Hidden in Plain Sight

I actually agree with a lot of what David Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times column about economic malaise.

But – you know there has to be a “but” – so does a guy named Barack Obama, which brings me to one of the enduringly weird aspects of our current pundit discourse: the constant calls for a moderate, sensible path that supposedly lies between the extremes of the two parties, but is in fact exactly what Mr. Obama has been proposing.

So, Mr. Brooks writes that: “The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.”

Well, the Obama administration would love to spend more on infrastructure. The problem is that a major spending bill has no chance of being passed by the House of Representatives. And that’s not a problem of “both parties” – the G.O.P. is blocking the bill. Exactly how many Republicans do you think would be willing to engage in deficit spending to expand bus networks? (Remember, these are the people who consider making bicycles available for rent an example of “totalitarian” rule.)

Also, there’s this from Mr. Brooks: “The government should reduce its generosity to people who are not working but increase its support for people who are. That means reducing health benefits for the affluent elderly.”

Hmm. The Affordable Care Act subsidizes insurance premiums for lower-income workers, and pays for those subsidies in part by eliminating overpayments for Medicare Advantage. So conservatives are celebrating both ends of that deal, right? Oh, wait, death panels.
It’s an amazing thing: Mr. Obama is essentially what we used to call a liberal Republican, who faces implacable opposition from a very hard right. But Obama’s moderation is hidden in plain sight, apparently invisible to the commentariat.

A.C.A. O.K.

The Times recently published a very nice survey of the results to date of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, a.k.a. death panels and the moral equivalent of slavery.

The verdict: It’s going well. There’s been a big expansion in coverage, which is affordable for a large majority of Americans. The main exceptions seem to be people who went for the minimum coverage allowed, which keeps premiums down but leaves large co-payments.

And none of the predictions of disaster have come even slightly true.