Obama: The big-spending fiscal conservative

The New York Times tackles Obamanomics -- and does a darn good job.

Published August 21, 2008 4:19PM (EDT)

It is no small tribute to the excellence of David Leonhardt's in-depth exploration of the economics of Barack Obama, to be published in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, that he is able to say far more in 8,151 words than John R. Talbott did in his entire recent book, "Obamanomics."

I say this not just because I could not find a single word of analysis that I disagreed with, based on my own periodic efforts on the same subject, but because of how effortlessly Leonhardt melds together the larger narratives of politics and economics since the dawn of the "Age of Reagan," along with the specific challenges currently facing the economy. "Barack Obama, A Free-Market-Loving, Big-Spending, Fiscally Conservative Wealth Redistributionist" is the definitive piece written so far explaining, not only how Obama straddles traditional economic positions on both the left and the right, but also why he is the right man for the right time.

It's just not even a contest. Leonhardt tries hard to be fair, but the facts are clear: In an era in which wealth inequality has risen to levels not seen since the 1920s, and in which the average American family has seen inflation-adjusted income fall since 2000, John McCain is offering more of the same, while Barack Obama has a set of detailed proposals that would redistribute wealth, invest in infrastructure, and tackle the huge problems of global warming and healthcare -- all while taking care to respect and enable the true potency of a well-regulated free market. Don't take my word for it: Read the piece.

The great conundrum of the campaign as it is currently playing out, however, is that while David Leonhardt can compellingly capture the essence of Obamanomics in 8,000-plus words for readers of the New York Times, Obama himself can't seem to do it in a couple of sentences for the general public -- at least, if we are to believe the steady tightening of poll numbers we've witnessed for the last month.

Maybe it's true, maybe most people just haven't been paying close attention, yet. But now the dog days of summer are rapidly fading, and the campaign has begun in earnest. The Democratic convention is practically upon us -- if Obama wants to get his message across, the time is now.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Economics Globalization How The World Works The New York Times U.s. Economy