Dan Henninger has a scathing column in the Wall Street Journal today linking the policies of what he calls the "Obama government" to the fact that "Without exception, the Obama people with responsibility for the private economy come from a lifetime in politics, public administration or academia." Mr. Henninger is such a smooth writer that it sounds convincing — until one remembers that many of these policies and programs were begun in the Bush administration, where the Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, had plenty of private sector experience. These are bipartisan problems.
Mr. Obama himself made this point about the Bush-Paulson policies providing a precedent in response to the question from the New York Times about whether he was a socialist:
"It wasn't under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks," Mr. Obama said. "And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement, the prescription drug plan, without a source of funding."
And it may be a mistake to make too much of Henninger's British-style phrase "Obama government," but I remember back when I was covering the American Jewish community and the Israel beat back in the mid-1990s, critics of the Rabin administration used to call it the "Rabin government." After Rabin was assassinated, I started correcting them -- "You know, it wasn't the Rabin government, it was the Israeli government." It's not the Obama government, it's the American government.
What's more, while it is true that plenty of Obama people have more public sector experience than private sector experience, it'd be a mistake to underestimate that private-sector experience, such as Lawrence Summers's $5.2 million a year, one-day-a-week job at the D.E. Shaw hedge fund, or Rahm Emanuel's two-and-a-half year, $16.2 million stint as managing director in the Chicago office of Wasserstein and Perella.