Friday, August 20, 2010

The Executive Branch is Not the Only Branch of Government

Yglesias writes about the foolishness of blaming all government problems on Obama.

Something to add to the growing “what’s Obama done wrong” literature and the “what’s wrong with the ‘what’s Obama don’t wrong’ literature” literature is that too often these discussions seem to me to forget that the United States Congress is composed of free and equal human beings who are responsible for their own actions. For example, it may or may not be the case that a different approach on the part of Barack Obama or his staff would have caused Ben Nelson to do different things low these past several months, but it’s absolutely certain that had Nelson wanted to do different things that different things would have happened.

Given that to err is human, I think we can take it for granted that some errors existed in the White House’s approach to legislative negotiations. But it’s also clear that members have their own volition. A skeptical Blanche Lincoln could have responded to the $800 billion stimulus request by asking Barack Obama “what does Christina Romer think? will this really fill the output gap?” Vulnerable House members could have challenged Rahm Emannuel “if things turn out to be worse than you guys expect, we’re all going to lose in the midterms—wouldn’t it be more prudent to build in provisions for additional stimulus if necessary?” The members who insisted on exempting auto dealerships from the jurisdiction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could have said “you know what, Michael Barr is right, this doesn’t make any sense; we should do the right thing and tell the dealers to stop whining.”

He calls the tendency for this the "soft bigotry of low expectations." I'd also say that it's easier to point to one guy to blame for something than to say, "Well, it was the fault of at least some of those people over there, some more than others."

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