How do I know President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank is an inspired and awesome choice? Two reasons. One, all the smart Puritopian money was depressingly convinced that President Obama was going to fail progressives again because he had to choose Larry Summers for the job.
Second, the right is having a small series of heart attacks.
What will be interesting is how a left-wing physician will run the only aid organization with a decent smattering of free market economists, who have tried, sometimes successfully, to help nations build private insurance-based healthcare systems. My suspicion is that more and more of the competent staff will leave, and the Bank will endorse more centralized medical systems development. I guess it has symmetry that as Obamacare is about to be challenged in the Supreme Court, the president doubles down on his intent to move the rest of the world away from private healthcare.
Now go figure, Fred Hiatt is in love, and Noam Scheiber is convinced that Kim’s views will be neutered, and therefore President Obama basically deserves no credit for his selection.
In Kim’s case, it’s not hard to see how that might put him at odds with the Obama administration, at least when it comes to global health, his area of expertise. Kim’s formative professional experience was co-founding and running the group Partners in Health (PIH), which was dedicated to battling expensive, hard-to-treat diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis in the most forsaken places on the planet. To realize that goal, as Ezra Klein points out, Kim and his more famous PIH co-founder, Paul Farmer, had to wage a years-long battle against the global health establishment, which was generally skeptical of the approach. Suffice it to say, he believes in it pretty deeply.
Problem is, the Obama administration has taken a very different (and, in the post-PIH world, equally controversial) position on global health aid: It has slowed the rate of growth in the money the U.S. government spends fighting AIDS and TB abroad, and instead spent a good deal of money on equally deadly but far easier-to-treat illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria (especially for children).
I doubt a Wolfensohn or Zoellick type would have challenged this approach—such a person probably wouldn’t have spent much time thinking it through before ascending to the World Bank presidency. But in Kim’s case, opposition to the Obama approach is, you know, the foundational principle of his career. Will he dissent from the Obama administration line or pull his punches?
Just…really? So, President Obama gets pretty much no credit for doing what the left begged him to do, which is “Please pick anyone but Larry Summers!”. They can’t even give him credit for that, it was served to him on a short list by others of course, and now Scheiber is wondering if Kim is going to actually be any better than Summers or if Obama will make him “pull his punches.” Christ. Of Course, Scheiber’s new book on the administration’s stimulus battles and economic policy is pretty much all about how Larry Summers was the worst choice ever, and I’m totally not surprised that Scheiber is immediately convinced that Kim’s choice is bullshit.
And you wonder why I’m mad at the “professional” Left all the damn time. They got an inspired choice, Obama surprised them pleasantly, Dr. Kim has amazing credentials and he’s exactly what the President’s critics on the Left said the next head of the World Bank needed to be, a development expert and not a banker, and the first thing they ask is “Will Obama just ignore him anyway and keep being the worst administration ever?”
Really? What the hell does he have to do, folks? What is it going to take?