Back in April, I chided the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman for having two bad habits: (1) writing columns complaining that President Obama had failed to take a certain action, apparently unaware that the president has already taken that action, and (2) writing columns calling for a third party that would push the two major parties to be more responsible.
This week, in a curious twist, Friedman combined both bad habits – he wishes a third party could have forced Obama into supporting an agenda Obama already supports.
[T]here will be no third-party candidate, so the only hope is getting Obama to raise his game. […]
What the president should have done is follow the advice of the Princeton University economist and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, namely lay out a specific “three-step rehab program for our nation’s fiscal policy.” Call it the Obama Plan; it should combine a near-term stimulus on job-creating infrastructure, a phase-in, as the economy improves, of “something that resembles the 10-year Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan – which would pay for the stimulus 15-20 times over” and a specific plan to “bend the health care cost-curve downward.”
My beef is not with Friedman’s goals, per se. I consider much of the Simpson-Bowles plan to be off-base, but putting aside the specifics and considering the larger context, an approach that combines short-term growth and long-term deficit reduction sounds quite sensible. What Friedman wants, in a general sense, is what I want.
Instead, the problem, once again, is that Friedman is admonishing Obama for no reason – the president already agrees with the columnist and has already done what Friedman recommends.
A “near-term stimulus” with a focus on “job-creating infrastructure”? Done. A phased-in deficit-reduction plan that “resembles” Simpson-Bowles? Also done. A plan to “bend the health care cost-curve downward”? You guessed it; that’s done, too.
Where’s the value in criticizing the president for failing to adopt an agenda he’s already adopted?