Bryan Caplan  

Robin's Dangerous Question

Me in the Chronicle of High... Education and Technology...
Robin celebrates Inauguration Day with an idealistic yet cynical challenge:
[W]hat does Obama have to do for you to consider him a "good" president, or even better than Bush?  It is enough for you that he is (part) black and a Democrat?  Or does he actually have to do something?
He then sketches his expectations for "most any president today," and asks readers if they think Obama will do better or worse.  Whatever you think, today's the day to go on the record!

As for me, my current probability that Obama will be the next FDR has fallen to 6%.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (10 to date)
AB writes:

Here's my outlook:
- Obama's chance of being considered the next FDR: 30%

- Obama's chance of "failing": very low

- Chance that government will expand under Obama's administration: 90%

- Chance that Obama's proposed education reforms will be worth their cost: 11%

- Chance of overall tax cuts becoming part of "stimulus package": 43%

- Obama considered favorable after his first three years: 52%(by those not caught up in Obamamania), 99.9%(by those caught up in Obamamania), 3%(by hardcore conservatives)

As for my own opinion on how Obama will do as president; I think he'll be better than Bush.

thrill writes:

He would need to get government into what the Constitution calls for, and out of what it doesn't, by increasing the overstressed US military manning and budget by 33%, and otherwise reduce government spending by 33% and taxes by 33% until we are nationally debt free.

He needs to make an honest program out of the Social Security Ponzi Scheme and then privatize it.

He needs to require all retirement accounts to belong to and follow the eventual retiree and that they be paid into in full and in cash.

He needs to create a similar private health, and education, account system.

He needs to let parents decide where their kids attend school.

He needs to eliminate all taxing schemes other than some sort of national sales tax - I suggest it be on energy, and not goods, and most certainly not "gains".

He needs to allow failures to fail and winners to win.

In short, he needs to attend to Libertarian and Republican principles better than Bush did (which ain't saying much after the bailout debacle). I ain't holding my breath.

Greg writes:

Thrill, is it safe to say that you never have been and never will be satisfied with a US President?

For me, here's the success list:
- Close down Gitmo and end enhanced interrogation
- Avoid screwing up the withdrawal from Iraq (by screwing up I mean increasing the odds of an Iraqi civil war or drawing out the withdrawal)
- Avoid screwing up the recovery with high inflation, protectionism, or unnecessary regulation
- Tie any increase in healthcare spending to a funding source and to smart attempts to increase the efficiency of the system
- Make some kind of meaningful progress on our energy infrastructure
- Bring down the deficit

Greg writes:

After reading some of the Overcoming Bias comments, I'll add:
- Improve the situation in Afghanistan without getting sucked into another full-scale, long-term war (this is a tough one!)

Les writes:

I think that "thrill' got it 100% correct.

Zac writes:

My expectation is he'll be quite average. So as with all leaders I'll breathe a sigh of relief so long as it isn't disastrous. I can't imagine him being worse than Bush. If he ends the fighting overseas, I will be pleasantly surprised. Anything more than that I think is probably unreasonable to hope for.

Caliban Darklock writes:

I boil it down to one basic thing.

Any President should do at least one thing that:

- Only a President can do
- Most Presidents lack the courage to do
- Has long-term impact
- Has potential for benefit

GW: Removed Hussein from power
Clinton: Closed military bases
Bush: [not yet declassified... sorry]
Reagan: Support for free markets
Carter: Amnesty for draft evaders

Of these five, the only five Presidents I've personally observed in office, only Clinton could be called a failure (and GHW Bush, without personal knowledge of certain projects) - and I have to grudgingly admit that Clinton's actions DID have potential for benefit.

Granted, what we actually GOT was the events of 9/11, but he's not a military expert and didn't realise he was fertilising the seeds Carter planted with executive order 12333.

And I'll also grant that my primary interest in a President is how he renders his duty as Commander-In-Chief of our armed forces. So Obama's "money decision" for me is how to handle withdrawal from the conflict in Iraq; it IS time to withdraw, but we have to be smart about it.

Tom writes:

"[W]hat does Obama have to do for you to consider him a "good" president, or even better than Bush?"

If I had to look at only one thing to decide if Obama was good or better than Bush, I would look at government spending as a percentage of GDP. If government spending as a percentage of GDP falls to 18%, then I will have considered him to have been a "good" president. This is in the same ball park as Bill Clinton. One of course could argue that it was the Republican congress who got spending down and not Bill Clinton, but the president should probably get some credit too. If Obama gets it down to 15%, I will consider him a "great" president, despite anything else that occurs while he is in office.

Of course using this metric Ronald Reagan was a bad president. However, I still think Reagan was great and I justify that by saying that times were different when Reagan was president and he set the stage for smaller government in the 1990s.

If government spending as a percentage of GDP goes above 25% I will consider Obama to have been a "bad" president.

Jacob Miller writes:

While it is hard to define "success," it is easy to define "abject failure." I believe that if any of these conditions are met, abject failure status is achieved.

1) United States treasury is unable to recapitalize its debt anytime in the next six years.
2) CPI goes above 6%.
3) Nuclear or EMP attack on continental U.S. during the next four years.
4) Federal marginal tax rate above 50% for any group.
5) Total government spending (federal, state, local) reaches 38% of GDP.

Libertarian writes:

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