Monday, August 1, 2011

01/08/2011: Should President Obama play a harder ball with the Republicans?

In the wake of the US debt 'deal' pre-announcement, I have been seeing comments, including that from Paul Krugman in the NYT today (here) which appear to suggest that President Obama's agreement to accept parts of the Republican's proposals represents a surrender of the presidential authority and, more improtantly, such a limit on presidential authority is somehow a bad signla concerning consistency of macroeconomic policy in the US.

In particula, Prof Krugman states: "In fact, if I were an investor I would be reassured, not dismayed, by a demonstration that the president is willing and able to stand up to blackmail on the part of right-wing extremists. Instead, he has chosen to demonstrate the opposite."

Now, this argument would be fine, if Mr Obama had a record worth taking a stand on. He does not. Here are two charts on US debt based on IMF WEO database.

So both in terms of debt to GDP ratio and absolute current dollar denominated debt levels, Mr Obama might do well running away from his previously established record. Whether he did this via the latest debt deal or not is a separate issue altogether, but Mr Krugman's statement that President Obama should have exhibited more intransigence as the means for encouraging investors confidence in his administrative abilities is bizarre, to put it mildly. Mr Obama has no record worth defending. He has a record worth abandoning.
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