07 February 2009

This is dumb, but that won't matter

The St Petersburg Times ran a PolitiFact page during the campaign in which they tried to keep track of statements that were made in the press and campaign commercials and evaluate them for truth or falsehood... or the "pants on fire" award.

Now they are out with the Obameter, in which they will attempt to keep track of Candidate Obama's promises and compare that to how well President Obama delivers on them.

I should say that I have no idea whether the St. Petersburg Times leans to the left or to the right politically. Googling the question gets complaints from both conservatives and liberals, so my gut tells me that they are like most of the mainstream media: slightly left of center, but trying.

This is dumb. First off there are, by the Times's account, 510 campaign promises that Obama now needs to keep. They are all going to be scored, on ongoing basis, apparently, kept, compromise, broken, stalled, in the works, or no action.

Nevermind that circumstances have changed drastically since some of these promises were made. And never mind that, as the Rev. Wright commented during the campaign, politicians say what they need to say to get elected. And never mind that some of these promises are merely symbolic. And never mind that some of these were written into policy papers which the candidate may have only skimmed and which will have so little impact that they're hardly worth worrying about.

Consider Promise 21.

He would mandate automatic 401(k) plans for employers offering retirement plans. Automatic 401(k)s require individuals to opt out of their employer’s retirement plan rather than to opt in, but do not change the individual’s set of available options.

This promise was made to the Tax Policy Center as part of a discussion and written statements by campaign staff. It is probably not a bad idea to make the default position regarding 401(k) plans to be "participate" instead of not, but this is not going to make a big difference in the long run for most workers. And it will have almost no impact on the overall economy.

In despite of the fact that it is dumb, it is going to make a difference in how the public views Obama presidency. Blogger Harold Shaw comments:

Don’t get me wrong, I voted for and definitely support my new President, but at the same time, it is our responsibility to ensure that he does keep his promises to the American people. Just like anyone else he needs to be held accountable for his action or inaction.

This is especially going to be true in the next two years. Under other circumstances, a president could claim that he made the promise in good faith, but it was not his fault because the other party control one house of Congress or the other. That is not the case now. This one is all on the Dems. Back in the campaign, Gov. Ed Rendell was being interviewed on one show or another, and was asked why people should not vote for John McCain in order to insure divided government. Rendell's response was, give us a chance to control the legislative and the executive, and if we don't get it right, you kick us out in two and four years, respectively. (Close paraphrase; no link.)

He got what he asked for. Now it is time to deliver.

This is an age of near total transparency, brought to us by technology. (Ask Michael Phelps.) That is now going to be brought to bear on the Obama presidency. Given how far left and partisan he is tacking, I think that such scrutiny can only be a good thing.

1 comment:

victorsleeps said...

Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.

~Edmund Burke