A Question of Priorities

A Question of Priorities August 27, 2008

Politics is not only about policy, it is also about priorities. Legislative time is limited, and even where a President does have the votes in Congress to get his various proposals passed, he may be forced to choose which of his plans to focus on, and which to take up later, if at all.

Based on some selective convention watching over the past couple of days, it would seem that the main issues where Democrats would like to see an Obama administration take action are: 1) the Bush tax cuts; 2) climate change; and 3) health care. My guess is that many readers here at Vox Nova would likewise consider these to be important issues and would be pleased if a President Obama was able to enact his proposals on the subject.

My question is this: supposing that an Obama administration could only enact his proposals on one of these three issues, which one would it be and why? If was only able to enact two of the three, which would you have them be, and why?

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  • Policraticus

    As I’ve said, I will not be voting for Obama. Nevertheless, to answer your first and second questions by means of a hierarchy of priority, I offer:

    1. Health Care
    2. Climate Change
    3. Tax Cuts

    Health care–predicated on an increase of taxes on those who earn over $250,000 a year–would provide relief, I think, that is comparable to a tax cut for many American families. Climate change is a high priority as well, I think, given the “time” factor.

  • Katerina

    HEALTH CARE. Health care in this country as it currently stands is a scandal.

  • Zak

    I’m guessing it will be climate change, because energy is the easiest issue for Democrats (although reversing the tax cuts should also be relatively easy given the majorities they’ll have). Since I’m not sure what I’d like them to do about health care, and because I think they could get bogged down in it the way Clinton did if they start off, I think I’d prefer them to address the other two points first.

  • jeremy

    Health Care is pretty much it. The tax system needs to change a lot more than just the Bush tax cuts. Even before the bush tax cuts, we had an unhealthy emphasis on giving income not derived from our labor a free ride compared to wages.

  • If I had to choose one policy to be enacted, it would be whatever his plan is for climate change. I think it would have the fewest deleterious effects.

    If I had to choose two of his policies:

    1) I’d like to see the Bush Tax cuts repealed, because that would have the most obvious negative effect on the economy and would provide more empiricial evidence to be used when arguing against Democratic economic policies.

    2) Climate change, for the reason outlined above.

    I’d prefer not to have his health care plan implemented – socialized medicine is a terrible idea and would fundamentally change our political culture and institutions for the worse.

  • Morning’s Minion

    Zach: what you call socialized medicine is not a “terrible idea”, but one that works quite well in the rest of the world, delivering universal coverage at lower cost and better outcomes than the US system.

  • blackadderiv

    I really rather not get bogged down in a debate about whether Obama’s proposals on these issues are good or bad. If you think that Obama’s health care plan means socialism or that his tax policy would be class warfare, then my question isn’t really directed to you.

  • blackadderiv

    That said, I would be interested in hearing MM’s take on which of these issues should have the highest priority.

  • Morning’s Minion

    BA: I didn’t answer because I don’t see (1) and (3) as totally independent. I would prefer using the proceeds from the Bush tax cuts to pay for health care– and that, by the way, is my main priority.

    Incidentally, I would have liked to have heard more about health care last night, and the fact that Obama will cut taxes on all but the very rich. Tax credits for big oil? Yes, we get it, but after 5 hours it gets a bit tedious.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    ….The last two days have been disappointing, IMO. Very little focus. But leave it to the Democrats to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

    They really will outdo themselves if they lose a presidential election while the outgoing president has a 29% approval rating. It would not be surprising, however.

  • Sorry Blackadder

  • blackadderiv


    Not a problem.

  • Bill H

    There’s no big need to prioritize undoing the Bush tax cuts. If Congress does nothing whatsoever, most of them will expire on Jan. 1, 2011. Given that the 2009-2010 Congress will most likely be dominated by Democrats, a vote to extend them seems unlikely. If I were hypothetical President Obama, I’d cash in my political chips elsewhere.

  • I’m not sure if I should comment, seeing as I have no intention of voting for Obama, but I was a little curious why the issue of the war/foreign policy was not included? I know the Democrats are trying to talk more economically to respond to the main interests swing voters are identifying in the polls but I think most Democrats, and most of the people on this blog who are voting for/sympathetic/tolerant of Obama would make that a top priority. I don’t know if they’d put it over health care but I’m curious to see.

  • blackadderiv

    I didn’t include foreign policy because it isn’t subject to the same constraints. If a President Obama wanted to bring the troops home from Iraq, for example, he wouldn’t need congressional authority to do so.

  • As with Policraticus, I don’t support Obama, and would follow the same order of priorities as he lists.

    Good point made in the first paragraph, by the way, Blackadder.

    – Kyle