Hope and change down the road

John writes that, in light of Obama’s staffing decisions, “it now appears that the Obama administration will represent a continuation of Bush-era policies on taxes, response to the current financial crisis, and national security policy, including Iraq.” In my view, it is important to look separately at the key areas implicated (to whatever degree) by the staffing decisions Obama has made so far.

I take some comfort in the selection of Secretary Gates and General Jones for the key national security positions. I take little, if any, in the selection of Hillary Clinton. I’ve stated my reasons several times, and for now I’ll just add that the prospects of a clash between the intertwined security and foreign policy teams are considerable, as David Frum has noted.

As with foreign policy/national security, events, not personalities, are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the economy. The current economic difficulties constrain some of Obama’s leftist objectives (as he grudgingly acknowledged in one of the debates), while creating opportunities with respects to others. Thus, it may be more difficult to overhaul the health care system under the present circumstances. It may also be more difficult to increase the tax burden on those with the most disposable income. So these programs/policies might be delayed. At the same time, it becomes easier to increase the power of the federal government both as an employer and as a shareholder in what traditionally has been the private sector.

Eventually, if Obama retains anything like his present level of popularity, he likely will accomplish all of the above — higher taxes on the well-to-do, some form of socialized medicine, and a vast increase in the government’s control of much of the rest of the economy and of our daily lives. I don’t view Paul Volcker or the other members of Obama’s economic team as either a sign that Obama has a different long-term agenda or a brake on such an agenda.

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