Jul
27
2011

Friedman's Dream: If Only We Had a President Like Obama

In the debt ceiling debate, Republicans and corporate media have somewhat similar strategies: The GOP can't reach an agreement with the Democrats, because that would be a win for Obama. The media, meanwhile, can't say that the Democrats are doing the right thing, even when they're doing exactly what media pundits demand that they do because that would make the media seem like they were on the Democrats' side.

Thomas Friedman's column today (7/27/11) is a great example of this. Aside from what sounds like a call for a series of Tom Friedman impersonation festivals (i.e., "a series of hearings under the heading: 'What world are we living in?'"), what he's asking for is basically just what Obama's done:

For starters, two years ago Congress and the Obama administration would have collaborated on a series of hearings…. Then we would have put together "The National Commission for 21st Century America."… We then sit down with a blank sheet of paper and say, "OK, given our current fiscal predicament, where should we cut spending and where must we raise new tax revenues so that we can bring our government back to solvency and, at the same time, reinvigorate our formula for growth and success."…

"Such a plan requires cutting, taxing and spending. It requires cutting because we have made promises to ourselves on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that we cannot keep without reforming each of them."

But we cannot possibly generate the savings–or the new investments we need in our formula for success–by just taking funds from these social programs and shredding the social safety nets…. That is why we need to raise new tax revenues as well–so we can simultaneously shrink the entitlements programs, but still keep them viable, and generate the funds needed to strengthen all five parts of our growth formula. Anyone who says that either entitlement reform or tax increases are off the table does not have a plan for sustaining American greatness and passing on the American dream to the next generation.

It's hard to deny that this outline closely resembles the general policy approach, as well as the rhetoric and decision-making process, of the actually existing Obama administration. But Friedman can't write a column saying he thinks the president has got basically the right idea; where's the fun, or the bestselling book, in that? Instead, the columnist pretends that he's making a brilliantly original proposal that is only likely to be carried out by his longstanding dream of a "radical centrist" third party:

Personally, I'll support anyone with a real plan to cut spending, raise revenues and boost investment in the five pillars of our success–be they Democrats or Republicans. But if neither Republicans nor Democrats can see that we need a hybrid politics today–one that requires cutting, taxing and investing as part of a single nation-building strategy (phased in over time)–then I'll hope for a third party that does get it and can take us where we need to go.

Hear that, Democrats? When you start talking about cutting spending, raising revenues and investing in the future, Tom Friedman is ready to support you. If he hears about it, that is.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.