The Long Winter of Our Discontent

I like President Obama more than any other political figure in my lifetime. I like the President for the same reason the Conservatrons hate him: he seems like one of “us”. He’s the only major political figure  to hail from the “us” that I recognize myself to be a part of.

Objectively, Obama’s first two years have been a sterling success. The economy was saved from Depression, two Supreme Court justices were confirmed, the auto bailout saved thousands of jobs and three huge companies, fundamental health insurance reform and financial reform were passed, and the ball was generally moved forward on issues from womens’ equity, to green energy, to nuclear disarmament. Unnoticed by most, Obama has also done a tremendous amount of healing beneath the skin by inserting earnest and sophisticated citizens into Cabinet and under-Cabinet positions that were once the province of Bush junta “Brownies”. The Education Department is utilizing venture capital style experimentation through the Race to the Top contest. Steven Chu is the best Secretary of Energy in the Department’s history having oriented it towards resolving cutting edge technological problems while personally participating in small ventures like orchestrating the ultimate capping of BP’s gushing oil well in the star crossed Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s first two years are also a self-evident failure. If you could time travel back to Inauguration Day 2009 and tell an Obama supporter the result of the 2010 midterms, the supporter at first would not believe you and then conclude that the two intervening years were a disaster.

There are two obvious horseshoe-and-hand-grenades failures from Obama’s first two years. The first was the Stimulus that was too small, but advertised as being just as right as the Third Bear’s bowl of porridge was for Goldilocks. Paul Krugman, who has only been correct about almost everything since the daisy brained days of W’s 2000 presidential campaign, has written extensively about this on his blog. The second would be the bonus imbroglio with AIG and other bailed out Bankster Rats’ Nests. Yes these bonuses are just a goofy form of delayed compensation, and maybe there is little legally that the government could have done about them. But gut feelings are not always wrong. The sense that the same corrupt Master of the Universe nimrods that caused the Great Economic Collapse only to be bailed out by the serfs were then somehow deemed to important to risk losing, and were thus rewarded for their destructive errors was logically infuriating. My participation in this blog flatlined after Obama was ineffectual in contending with the bonuses either substantively or through oration. Of course I argued, donated a few dollars and voted early in 2010, but my enthusiasm was deflated.

It’s not clear how Obama could have given voice to this populist fury or exactly how Obama should have played the Stimulus. Maybe he chose one of the best possible courses in each case – perhaps alternative actions would have turned out worse. Regardless, the 2010 elections are proof positive that what he did do failed. It’s even possible that he wasn’t the right man for the job. Obama’s Hope message resonated in the early rounds of the Democratic Primary because it was the antidote to the low morals and manipulations of the Bush regime and the agony of the Fear Years. Clinton seemed to “connect” better on the economy after the Ohio primary (whatever that means), but her foolish vote in favor of Generalissimo Bush’s Iraq War II cost her the Democratic nomination and, with it, the Presidency. Would HRC have succeeded in these two make-or-break areas where Obama didn’t? Who knows, but the “spiritual thirst” of America was far more meat’n’potatoes in the fall of 2008 then it was in the summer of 2007 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina finally obliterating Generalissimo Bush’s string of fooling all of the people (or at least a preponderance of them) all of the time and the agony of deceit began to permeate workaday life.

Maybes, wouldas, couldas, and who the hell knows? Oh well. Whatever. The tragedy is that we are where we are and it is hard to see how Obama’s failures leave America any real way to get out of the Great Economic Collapse. There was a fluffy tech bubble in the 1990s, but computers, the Internet and cellphones were also tangible improvements that created wealth and new businesses. The Web 2.0 Facebooks and YouTubes of the 00’s also added real economic development to the empty calories of the housing bubble. Today, corporations are sitting on heaps of dollars like hens atop an egg, but what is it that they should spend it on? Who is going to buy the products that corporations create with their ample capital in sufficient quantities to generate self-sustaining wealth and jobs?

Obama’s able Cabinet and their underlings can still heal beneath the skin, the Fed can give the Market more quantitative easing hand jobs, and Obama can surely make his mortgage program more effective. Still, the huge Stimulus spending that must be done on infrastructure, the smart grid, and a bevy of other initiatives; the Stimulus spending that objectively would end the Great Economic Collapse will not get done. America is settling in for a long long winter of meager growth, diminished expectations, and near-feudal wealth concentration, meanwhile the Conservatrons and the junior varsity fascists in the Tea Party will use the resulting disorder to pit dispossessed groups against each other while distracting them with fake issues (Ground Zero Masque!) and phony scandals (Obama’s a Muslim!). Obama and Progressives will be playing defense, stopping the barbarians at the gate and keeping them from smothering the infant recovery in its oxygen tent.

I Hope We Can….

2009 Will Be More Like 1933 than 1993

The Stim will soon be passed with fractional Conservatron support. The sample size is small, but two situations similar to this one offer potential guidance on how the politics of this will play out.

Example One is 1933 when FDR passed a substantial part of his New Deal legislation with minimal GOP support. The media back then was owned almost entirely by the same class of people that attempted a fascist Coup against FDR. In spite of the negative reaction from the out-of-powers-that-be, the Democrats expanded their majorities in the 1934 mid-terms and FDR won more states and total votes in 1936 than he did in 1932. This neat feat was accomplished even as the Depression dragged on because, regardless of what the Conservatron elite claimed, the New Deal made things better. Where once there was no job, now one was a part of the CCC. You didn’t have electricity, but after the New Deal, you did. This self-evident improvement was the cornerstone of the Progressive Populism that reigned over the American polity until 1968.

Example Two is Clinton’s Balance Budgeting of 1993. The 1993 recession was not as bad as the Great Depression; but personal desperation is personal desperation, regardless of how society at large is fairing. Clinton came into office without a popular majority and could not get a stimulus bill through Congress and had to nix the Middle Class tax cut that he had campaigned on. The Budget Bill that finally passed reduced taxes on the poorest Americans, raised them on the richest Americans, and cut the budget. Although the economy soon recovered it did not begin producing many new jobs until late 1995. Without the stimulus or the Middle Class tax cuts, and with typical venal negativity from the Conservatrons and their water carriers in the media, the lot of most Americans did not appear to improve. The Democrats got trounced in the 1994 mid-terms and Clinton had to largely play defense for the rest of the 90s.

The Great Economic Collapse is closer to the Great Depression than the early 90s recession, but in many ways self-evident improvements are harder to establish. Developing and deploying non-GHG emitting energy through an Apollo style program would better the lives of everyone on the planet and probably set the stage for an economic boom. It would also take several years before the benefit became obvious.

My instinct (and it is just that) is that the full extent that America is screwed economically has not become entirely apparent yet. While the Stim is probably not enough, it is something, and could well be just about the only game in town for quite sometime. More importantly is includes most of Obama’s promised tax cut. Conservatrons can poo-poo the $13 per week nature of it, but having an additional $26 in each bi-weekly paycheck will make a tremendous difference to this typical American because it extends, for one day, the amount of time at the end of a pay period when I am not broke. That the Conservatrons cannot grok this demonstrates just how far through the looking glass they have fallen.

The Stimulus will create or preserve jobs for millions of Americans, and it will put some important extra dollars in the pocket of everyone. It will be up to Obama and the Democrats to keep on pointing out these benefits to underline them for those that are not directly assisted. With the economy lagging but the Stimulus bill providing a few sparks of sustenance the Democrats should be poised to win a few House Seats and, more importantly, a couple more Senate seats.

With over sixty Senators Obama may be able to complete the New Deal/Great Society and pass Universal Health Care, thereby providing the last technologically feasible self-evident benefit to everyone and setting up a landslide reelection in 2012.