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The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change…
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The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era (editie 2012)

door Michael Grunwald (Auteur)

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The New, New Deal is a riveting story about change in the Obama era--and an essential handbook for voters who want the truth about the president, his record, and his enemies. In a riveting account based on new documents and interviews with more than 400 sources on both sides of the aisle, award-winning reporter Michael Grunwald reveals the vivid story behind President Obama's $800 billion stimulus bill, one of the most important and least understood pieces of legislation in the history of the country. Grunwald's meticulous reporting shows how the stimulus, though reviled on the right and the left, helped prevent a depression while jump-starting the president's agenda for lasting change. As ambitious and far-reaching as FDR's New Deal, the Recovery Act is a down payment on the nation's economic and environmental future, the purest distillation of change in the Obama era. The stimulus has launched a transition to a clean-energy economy, doubled our renewable power, and financed unprecedented investments in energy efficiency, a smarter grid, electric cars, advanced biofuels, and green manufacturing. It is computerizing America's pen-and-paper medical system. Its Race to the Top is the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It has put in place the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, the largest research investments ever, and the most extensive infrastructure investments since Eisenhower's interstate highway system. It includes the largest expansion of antipoverty programs since the Great Society, lifting millions of Americans above the poverty line, reducing homelessness, and modernizing unemployment insurance. Like the first New Deal, Obama's stimulus has created legacies that last: the world's largest wind and solar projects, a new battery industry, a fledgling high-speed rail network, and the world's highest-speed Internet network. Michael Grunwald goes behind the scenes--sitting in on cabinet meetings, as well as recounting the secret strategy sessions where Republicans devised their resistance to Obama--to show how the stimulus was born, how it fueled a resurgence on the right, and how it is changing America. The New New Deal shatters the conventional Washington narrative and it will redefine the way Obama's first term is perceived.… (meer)
Lid:aaronarnold
Titel:The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era
Auteurs:Michael Grunwald (Auteur)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2012), 528 pages
Verzamelingen:Jouw bibliotheek
Waardering:*****
Trefwoorden:economics, politics, history, favorites, read-in-2012, science

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The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era door Michael Grunwald

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This is probably the best book I've ever read about a single bill. Grunwald does a magnificent job recounting the genesis, drafting, passage, and effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus, an act so vast that not even its supporters fully appreciate the range and depth of its impact. The economics that prompted the bill's passage remain controversial in the political world, as do its contents, but Grunwald's evenhanded and fairly comprehensive reporting work should be essential for anyone who wants to have an informed opinion on the stimulus, and even to some extent "government spending" in general.

The ARRA, one of President Obama's signature laws, was first proposed before he was even elected as both an extension of previous stimulus efforts and as the fulfillment of many of his campaign promises in the sectors of energy, health, education, and the economy. The economic reasoning behind the stimulus is important to understand, because members of the Republican Party, as recounted here, have had a "complicated" relationship with fiscal stimulus. According to mainstream economic theory, in a recession that features reduced business and consumer spending, it's a bad idea to either raise taxes or cut government spending, because that removes additional money from businesses and consumers, which only exacerbates the recession. By the same principle, it's a good idea to cut taxes and/or raise government spending to try to fill up the missing output gap, until businesses and consumers spend normally again, whereupon government spending and taxation can return to a more sustainable path. You would be able to judge the success or failure of this strategy either by seeing soaring interest rates on government debt, if the policy was too aggressive, or prolonged recession, if policy was too timid. These were Keynes' insights on fiscal policy during the Great Depression, and they've remained basically conceptually intact ever since; the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were in part promoted as perfectly Keynesian stimulus in response to the recession at the start of his term, and although there were questions about the proper distribution of the tax cuts, both Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that cutting taxes and raising spending, or at least not cutting spending, were the appropriate responses.

The recession that began in late 2007 and really began to get bad towards the end of the 2008 Presidential campaign was even larger, and in the minds of both parties deserved a commensurately larger response, along with more active monetary policy. And to that end, the ARRA was designed, primarily by Democrats but also with Republican input, as a mix of tax cuts and increased spending which should have been acceptable in theory to Congressmen regardless of party affiliation. On the tax side, there were billions in credits for children, earned income, student loans, homebuying (important in a recession precipitated by the bursting of the housing bubble), energy use, energy use, and more. There was also the typical annual forgoing of scheduled adjustments made to the Alternative Minimum Tax as well as completely new cuts in the payroll tax, with the reasoning that increasing people's take-home pay was one of the most effective methods of stimulus. In an unfortunate preview of the bad press the stimulus would receive, that large payroll tax cut was specifically designed using insights from behavioral economics, which suggested that if people didn't realize they were getting a tax cut they would be less likely to hoard, as opposed to the Bush strategy of simply sending a check. This was satirized as "sending flowers to a romantic interest without signing the note", and indeed it would turn out that many people were under the impression that the stimulus included no tax cuts at all.

On the spending side, one big area was aid to state governments, who were hit by massive decreases in tax review and, lacking the ability to deficit-spend, were forced to make large cuts in essential services. Beyond that, there were big expansions of Social Security payment and unemployment insurance, which were important in a crisis involving hundreds of thousands of net job losses per month as well as extremely effective ways to keep money circulating in the economy. Finally, there were a dizzying array of spending initiatives that were either campaign promises or requests from Senators and Governors: over $150 billion for health care, preserving Medicaid and encouraging much-needed improvements in medical IT. Over $100 billion for education, in aid to local governments to keep schools from shuttering, increases in Pell Grants, and in Race to the Top education reform. Over $100 billion in infrastructure, from highway/bridge repair to new high-speed rail initiatives to environmental cleanup to constructing new buildings to improving America's patchy, embarrassing access to broadband. Over $25 billion to energy, providing funds for weatherization, efficiency improvements, and smart grids, as well as seed money to start several entirely new renewable energy businesses with immense future potential (these sections, with Energy Secretary Steven Chu leading the way, are some of the best in the book). Almost $10 billion for science, with grants for NASA, NIST, NOAA, the NSF, the DOE, and more. The book covers such a dizzying array of potentially transformational projects in the stimulus, including plentiful profiles of stimulus-aid businesses, that it could almost be subtitled The Quiet Revolution. In constant dollars it was 50% larger than the whole New Deal, and it was condensed in one single bill instead of being spread throughout years.

And yet, this bill passed with 0 House Republicans and only 3 Senate Republicans, ceaselessly denounced in conservative circles as a big-spending, waste-filled assault on freedom and a handout to Democratic interest groups. It's worthwhile to consider their objections. First of all, the purest, most classic examples of fiscal stimulus are "timely, targeted, and temporary" - narrow measures designed to address specific aspects of a recession very quickly and then fade away. The stimulus, however, also included plenty of measures that were "speedy, substantial, and sustained" - things like Race to the Top that, whatever their merits, were not really stimulus measures in the classical sense. Where were the Works Progress Administrations projects, the new Hoover Dams and Skyline Drives, the armies of newly employed workers? Secondly, the stimulus was so large that it seemed inevitable that there would be large amounts of waste and fraud; a nation which had just seen Bridge to Nowhere scandals should expect similar follies on a vastly grander scale. Third, the impact on the deficit could be so large as to seriously impair the credibility of the US dollar as a safe store of value, and these objections were being raised not only by Republicans but also by many Democrats, even some in the White House. Fourth, for all Obama and the Democratic Party's proclamations of bipartisanship, this was a bill that would fulfill liberal priorities and reward Democratic-leaning interest groups, what was the upside for a Republican who voted for a bill that would protect groups like public employee unions?

I won't mince words: as Grunwald shows, these objections are basically horseshit, either cynical, hypocritical, or both. First, the stimulus came of age in an era where it's simply not possible to put massive armies of unemployed people to work making new Jones Beaches or Interstate Highway Systems. Labor-saving technologies mean more work can be done with fewer people, and the increased complexities of building mean that even "shovel-ready" projects can take time to get off the ground, and it definitely doesn't help when states like Florida or New Jersey cancel some of the biggest infrastructure projects like new rail tunnels or high-speed rail lines for purely political reasons. Second, the oversight provisions in the stimulus, including websites like recovery.gov that provided unprecedented transparency into specific projects and initiatives, meant that a vanishingly small amount of waste or fraud was uncovered, even using the most uncharitable definitions of waste or fraud conceivable. Third, not only has the stimulus' impact on the deficit been dwarfed by such items as the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the aftermath of the recession itself, but since the stimulus has passed interest rates on US public debt have fallen to the point where they are actually negative in real terms - investors are literally paying the Treasury money to hold public debt, even as Republicans demand higher deficits through yet more high-end tax cuts. Fourth, it's worth mentioning that the Republican Party had suffered an immense rout in the 2008 elections and remains unpopular even today. But even despite that, Republicans had incredible amounts of input into the bill, Senators like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter in particular had almost carte blanche to arbitrarily insert or remove line-items in exchange for their vote. Their statements and actions - e.g. Rep. Paul Ryan's public denouncements of the stimulus yet quiet letters requesting more funds for his district - give the lie to the idea that they had any kind of principled objections to it.

However unfairly, the stimulus seems unlikely to go down in memory as being as transformative as the original New Deal. Part of that is rose-colored glasses, as the New Deal was neither so highly-thought of by contemporaries or as unified a set of policies as it currently seems to us. Part is due to PR missteps by the White House, such as the infamous 8% unemployment projection, part is due to relentless partisan attacks and the new conservative system of epistemic closure, part is also due to particularly bad media failures, and part is due to the nature of the Recovery Act itself. So much of its infrastructure funding was spent on projects that didn't have the iconic stature of, say, LaGuardia Airport, but were badly needed nonetheless; Grunwald gives the distinction as "The New Deal had the world's largest dam. The stimulus had one of the world's largest dam removal projects", and there's another perfect example of the changed mentality later on:

"Millions of fans watched Stanford defeat Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl, but none of them knew that an aging transformer almost overloaded while feeding power to the stadium.... The problem was detected by Florida Power & Light's new smart grid equipment, which quickly diverted the electricity to healthier transformers, avoiding a midgame blackout."

It's hard for people to think in terms of counterfactuals; "think of how much worse it could have been" never got anyone elected. Yet without the stimulus the US would be a poorer and less advanced country, and many businesses that are only just beginning to realize their potential would have been strangled in their cribs by a recession that didn't obey the laws of partisan combat.

No one will argue that the stimulus was perfect: it wasn't large enough, it wasn't the political slam-dunk it should have been, some companies it funded like Solyndra and A123 have failed, unemployment remains high years after its passage, and there are plenty of arguments to be had about projects that it should have covered. But it was unquestionably bold and creative, and it will continue to help the economy immensely, years into the future, especially now that Obama has been reelected and the prospect of another period of Republican doldrums has been (mostly) averted. As Grunwald closes with: "We know if it worked. We just don't know if it matters." ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
The book is very well written and I liked it at first. I liked the clever way the author said things. After reading about 100 pages, I lost interest. There was just way too much information for me. Within the 100 pages I got an in depth look at how preparations prior to inauguration and even prior to election were made to be ready to move on the very bad economic situation. I'm glad I read those pages, because the information helped me appreciate that critical work that was done. I'd like to find a good summary of the book, maybe 50-100 pages. ( )
  ajlewis2 | Feb 24, 2016 |
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The New, New Deal is a riveting story about change in the Obama era--and an essential handbook for voters who want the truth about the president, his record, and his enemies. In a riveting account based on new documents and interviews with more than 400 sources on both sides of the aisle, award-winning reporter Michael Grunwald reveals the vivid story behind President Obama's $800 billion stimulus bill, one of the most important and least understood pieces of legislation in the history of the country. Grunwald's meticulous reporting shows how the stimulus, though reviled on the right and the left, helped prevent a depression while jump-starting the president's agenda for lasting change. As ambitious and far-reaching as FDR's New Deal, the Recovery Act is a down payment on the nation's economic and environmental future, the purest distillation of change in the Obama era. The stimulus has launched a transition to a clean-energy economy, doubled our renewable power, and financed unprecedented investments in energy efficiency, a smarter grid, electric cars, advanced biofuels, and green manufacturing. It is computerizing America's pen-and-paper medical system. Its Race to the Top is the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It has put in place the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, the largest research investments ever, and the most extensive infrastructure investments since Eisenhower's interstate highway system. It includes the largest expansion of antipoverty programs since the Great Society, lifting millions of Americans above the poverty line, reducing homelessness, and modernizing unemployment insurance. Like the first New Deal, Obama's stimulus has created legacies that last: the world's largest wind and solar projects, a new battery industry, a fledgling high-speed rail network, and the world's highest-speed Internet network. Michael Grunwald goes behind the scenes--sitting in on cabinet meetings, as well as recounting the secret strategy sessions where Republicans devised their resistance to Obama--to show how the stimulus was born, how it fueled a resurgence on the right, and how it is changing America. The New New Deal shatters the conventional Washington narrative and it will redefine the way Obama's first term is perceived.

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