The Spectacle Blog

Obama Gets Specific

By on 2.13.08 | 5:44PM

No doubt in an attempt to stave off criticisms that he's all platitudes and no specifics, Obama unveiled his economic plan today. The Clinton campaign notes, correctly, that a lot of the plan is a carbon copy of what she has already proposed, including starting an "infrastructure reinvestment bank." The problem for Clinton is that voters don't really care who came up with something first. John Edwards found this out when for months he argued that his health care plan was nearly identical to Clinton's but the difference was that he was the first one out with a plan. It's kind of the political equivalent of "well, he started it!"

Obama's overall plan is also ideologically similar to the approach Bill Clinton took in 1992, the idea being to advocate government solutions to people's problems without making it appear as though he is a big government liberal. In addition to investing $60 billion in infrastructure over 10 years, $150 billion to "establish a green energy sector," and a $4,000 college tuition tax credit, Obama proposes middle class tax cuts, which will no doubt be used as cover as he advocates repealing the Bush tax cuts.

Some other items of note, "Obama has proposed a fund to offer direct relief to victims of mortgage fraud and would ease the burden on struggling homeowners by offering a tax credit to low- and middle-income Americans that would cover ten percent of their mortgage interest payment every year." The problem is that we already have something like this--it's called the mortgage interest deduction--and all it does is artificially inflate home prices and effectively act as a subsidy for the housing industry.

Also, "Obama will require employers to enroll every worker in a direct deposit retirement account that places a small percentage of each paycheck into savings. Workers would be able to retain this account even if they change jobs, and the federal government will match the savings for working families." This seems very similar to Clinton's government-subsidized 401k proposal. Just as I wondered then, I'll wonder now why it makes sense to force employers to create a retirement account allowing workers to save, but it's a risky scheme to allow a portion of money that is already removed from checks for Social Security to be voluntarily diverted to a portable, personal account.Â

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