Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Obama's new Budget Director: Top 5 reason's he's not a progressive pick

According to the Associated Press,  Obama has nominated Jacob Lew for the OMB director post recently vacated by the only OMB Director with baby mama drama , Peter Orszag.  Washington Post has already vouched for his pedigree, offering the usual stuff like we know he can count, and he's worked on a lot of cool projects and for a lot of cool people. most recently, he's been a  major part of the brain trust in the State Department, with his influence felt in our international Food Policy and African diplomacy. Hillary calls his departure bittersweet, but that may be Hillary-talk for...well, I don't post profanity. She's and her husband have been leaning on Lew for years, particularly when crafting the health care reform of the early 90s.

At any rate, I know a lot of us feel like everyone should give Obama a break, with Faux News going crazy on him everyday and the endless string of disasters, storms, and leaks in his first two years in office, but this new OMB appointment..I think he can do better.

Here are few other nuggets about Lew alluded to but not illuminated in the Post and elsewhere:
  1.  Lew was VP of NYU. While there, he refused to recognize the graduate student teachers' union.
  2. He's a major deficit hawk, but he knows how to make it sound sensible and progressive, like a lot of President Clinton's team was so skilled at doing. He knows how to make it sound good at least:  “Fiscal discipline and progressive government must be essential partners.” (Statement at the White House in April 1998.) (Congressional testimony in March 2000.) Um, what does that mean?
  3. He used to head up  Citigroup's Alternative Investments unit. May not ring any bells,because it used to be called Citi Alternative Investments unit. the name change was preceded by more than a dozen of its funds with almost $80 billion of assets being frozen during the global financial crisis. The result: $3 billion of losses for Citigroup.So much for that Volker Rule.
  4. He got a $1.1 million bonus after Citigroup's bail out, then he joined the State Department.
  5. And last but not least, what id the budget look like the last time he ran the OMB? Here are some highlights and low points from the "1998 Budget Citizen's Guide" Note my official ratings guide in parenthesis:  Among its major elements, the budget:
    • saves $137 billion in discretionary spending, cutting unnecessary and lower-priority programs while investing in education and training, the environment, science and technology, law enforcement, and other priorities that would raise living standards and the quality of life for average Americans (cuts - the whole ending welfare as we know it thing);
    • saves $100 billion in Medicare, ensuring the solvency of the Part A trust fund until 2007 while maintaining the essential quality of Medicare services for the elderly and people with disabilities (saves is code word for cut);
    • saves $22 billion in Medicaid, building upon the substantial savings that Federal and State experimentation in this jointly-run program is already generating, and continuing the guarantee of essential health and long-term care coverage for the most vulnerable Americans (whatever happened to this?);
    • saves $76 billion by ending corporate subsidies and other tax loopholes, extending expired tax provisions, and improving tax compliance;(yeah!)
    • saves $36 billion by continuing the Administration's successful policy of auctioning segments of the broadcast spectrum;(booo!)

    • provides $18 billion to correct the harsh provisions that Congress attached to last year’s welfare reform law; and (yeah!)
    • cuts taxes by $98 billion, providing tax relief to tens of millions of middle-income Americans and small businesses. (um, ok)
And there's of course the continuation of the welfare cuts. For those who thought the Clinton years were just heavenly, well then Lew's your man. Plus, a number of smart people vouch for him. Those who weren't elated   with what President Clinton sacrificed to keep some of his pet projects going, may think we can do better. Maybe we should start running nominees from the grassroots, the way we run candidates. What do you think?
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