OBAMA'S CHALLENGE: THE END OF ECONOMICS?

Founding Editor Bob Kuttner is joining us on TAPPED with commentary about his new book, Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, and on economic issues in the campaign.

Columnist David Leonhardt has a piece forthcoming in the New York Times Sunday Magazine that asks: where does Obama really stand on economic issues. It’s the right question—but along with some useful insights Leonhardt provides some odd answers.

In his view, Obama’s economic ideology is hard to chart on the usual left-right spectrum because it’s something new. Leonhardt refers back to the ideological battles of the Clinton years, which he calls the Battle of the Bobs, Rubin versus Reich. He writes:
“Bob Reich…argued that the government should invest in roads, bridges, worker training and the like to stimulate the economy and help the middle class. On the other side was Bob Rubin, a former Goldman Sachs executive turned White House aide, who favored reducing the deficit to soothe the bond market, bring down interest rates and get the economy moving again. Clinton cast his lot with Rubin, and to this day the first question about any Democrat’s economic outlook is often where his heart lies, with Reich or Rubin, the left or the center, the government or the market.”

True enough. But Leonhardt goes on to argue that “The battle of the Bobs may not be completely over, but it has certainly been suspended”—presumably in favor of a more robust use of government to compensate for what markets mess up.

Well, you could have fooled me. There are fierce battles going on within the Obama campaign and outside it among Democratic progressives and centrists.

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