Elected as a moderate, a centrist and a pragmatist, Mr Obama has repeatedly sided with the liberal left of his party on economic policy. The design of the fiscal stimulus, the shape of the budget, and Mr Obama's willingness at every turn to support higher spending and higher taxes on the better-off – to pay for health reform, social security reform, infrastructure investment, expanded educational opportunities, wage subsidies for the poor, you name it – has delighted the party's left and alarmed its centrists. The related charge of fiscal indiscipline is starting to stick, and it colours the health debate.
Mr. Crook is exaggerating a bit. Members of the liberal left wanted a bigger "stimulus" than was passed, they want a single-payer health care system, they want card-check for union organizing, they want a "second," meaning third, stimulus now. And they aren't thrilled with the presence of Timothy Geithner at Treasury or Lawrence Summers at the National Economic Council. And Mr. Obama has not gone along with that. Mr. Obama's willingness to raise taxes on the "rich" is not a departure from his campaign rhetoric; in fact it was essentially one of his campaign promises. But even so he is certainly on to something when he writes about how Mr. Obama is starting to make uneasy some of the centrists and independents who voted for him.