Monday, September 13, 2010

What This Election Means Part II

This is just a quick addendum to my last post because as always Andrew Sullivan says it better than me.

In this post he quotes Yuval Levin from the Weekly Standard:

"Democrats, as the president’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel explained in 2008, have sought to use the ongoing economic crisis to achieve all kinds of unrelated goals: health care policy they have craved for decades, environmental policy that has little to do with the economy, more protections for unions, a greater role for government in the financial and automotive sectors, and on and on."

So, in my last post I focused on 9/11 and the bank bailouts in reaction to the greatest collapse of our economic system in modern times.

But really, the attacks on Barack Obama have been so over-the-top. I understand people may have principled reasons to be opposed to the health care bill or his energy bill or the specific ways Obama tried to deal with the economic meltdown.

But you really need to put it into perspective:

Health Care

"The health-care plan to provide access to insurance for the tens of millions was a clear part of Obama's election campaign. It eschewed the left's dream - single-payer - and eliminated a public option. It was supported by the drug and insurance companies. It needs constant monitoring and improvement if it is to control costs, but it has set up a market in insurance that could be a model for future conservative innovation. It strongly resembles Mitt Romney's legacy in Massachusetts. None of this was snuck through in the stimulus package described by Rahm Emanuel's infamous aside. It was the result of almost two years of painful attempts at some kind of bipartisan agreement. It reduces the deficit over the long run if the CBO is to be believed - unlike the unpaid for, budget-busting Medicare D that Bush and Cheney foisted on the next generation."

In fact, this bill could have been labelled a Republican bill for many reasons and as I truly believe (I don't think I blogged about how but I've had many facebook debates where I've laid it out - I'll post it later), there are plenty of opportunities to move our health care in much more free market direction than even in our current system.

Environmental Policy

Yuval then writes the befuddling phrase: "environmental policy that has little to do with the economy." In fact, as we know, no gains have been made in curtailing climate change, unless you include some of the green energy components in the stimulus package, and Obama's biggest gesture was to endorse off-shore oil-drilling, to make his environmental policy close to identical to John McCain's. Climate change legislation - cap-and-trade - didn't occur, but even there, that strategy is designed to minimize disruption to markets and came from the right, not the left in the 1980s and 1990s. Again, Yuval makes it seem as if this comes from nowhere, as if the evidence that America is being trounced by China in this vital new industry and if the climate isn't clearly veering toward unpredictable crises were phantasms of the mind."


Then: protection for unions. Again, there is no card-check legislation. It was not a priority. It was not snuck into the stimulus package.

This is just another example where people on the right are just making stuff up.

Greater Role in the Financial Sector

Lastly "a greater role for government in the financial and automotive sectors." What you will notice is that there is no reference in any of this to the appalling economic circumstances Obama inherited which determined both policies. It's like describing FDR's policies as if the Great Depression never happened. What a leap toward Kenyan anti-colonialism that was. Indeed, in the Weekly Standard's headline "madness". Levin, of course, makes no reference to the deregulated chaos that precipitated the financial meltdown that created the worst recession since the Second World War ( or are Richard Posner and Alan Greenspan Kenyan anti-colonialists now as well?). And what Obama has done to rein in some of the abuses is relatively modest, wrought by such radicals as Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, to the consternation and contempt of the left.

And Automotive Sectors

As for the auto companies, the emergency aid given has been a gleaming success with Detroit managing to turn things around far more quickly than most imagined. Ditto the banks, where the government may actually be making money off its bailout soon, just as GM is eager to sell off its government-owned stock to the private sector.


All this Yuval knows. He is not a Beck or Palin with no grip on reality at all. And yet this is what the intellectual right at its best is now dedicated to: pure propaganda on the crudest old right-left axis, arguing that a recession caused in part by a Republican administration's neglect and in part by failed Republican policies can be rectified merely by Republican rule.

Again, I thought it would get worse before it got better on the right. But that we have propagandistic, intellectually dishonest dreck like this coming from their brightest stars - and that large swathes of the American public seem to be buying it - brings one close to despair.

I mean Barack Obama has taken heat on the left for being just another Bush. The fact is that Obama has tried to be as respectful to the markets as he possibly can while dealing with real problems that need to be solved.

You can respectfully disagree with the core of Obama's policies, I'm fine with that. Especially, if you bring to the table alternative ideas and show specifically how they will deal with our world.

(You can't say we need to get more competition into our health care unless you're willing to eliminate employer subsidized health care and then show me how someone with a disability or chronic illness has any hopes of getting the health care they need).

But to label him a socialist or to reduce the debate to "pure propaganda on the crudest old right-left axis" is simply just frustrating.

And the fact that Republicans are campaigning for election on this kind of stuff at every level of government is mind-boggling to me. Can someone please explain it to me?


Inspector Clouseau said...

We strongly suspect that neither party really knows what they’re doing, nor does any group of experts know what to do.
This is an area of uncharted waters, and everyone has theories, including the President. He's placing his untested theories into action, and people are uncomfortable. Even if the executed policies are the "right" ones, that is something which we will not know for several years down the road, even if then.
This economic problem is simply too large, complex, and interconnected with the economies of other nations, over which the US has no control. To fix most things in the universe, you have to get them to sit still at least for a short period of time. This is a dynamic situation.
If we as a society actually knew what worked, and could establish a direct cause and effect relationship with any certainty, we would have done it by now. Don’t you think?
If the solutions were that clear cut, wouldn't you think that the governments of some other large world economics would have placed those solutions into action already? Any self-respecting, honest person would not claim WITH CERTAINTY that what they did at point X led directly to condition Y. Who really knows that? Let's get real folks.
Quite frankly, we don't think that any leader or legislative body ever KNOWS that what they do will have a specific, desired effect. Like any business person, they simply just give it their best shot and hope and pray that things will turn out OK. At least business people have more control over their smaller entities.

tempe turley said...

I can accept this explanation. I see a lot of anti-Obama rhetoric in the media that borders on the verge of rage. If most people out there reject the hysteria out there, but are more comfortable with a divided government, then that makes sense to me.

To just pick on one thing you said, though: "To fix most things in the universe, you have to get them to sit still at least for a short period of time. To fix most things in the universe, you have to get them to sit still at least for a short period of time. "

That's a pretty impossible thing to do. In every example I point to in this post, I think doing nothing is actually a pretty radical response to the realities we're facing.

Doing nothing in the face of a economic collapse to the scale we've never seen to me is more radical than what Bush/Obama did.

Doing nothing in response to a health care system that is on a trajectory to bankrupt our country even as it shuts more and more people out of it, to me is just not acceptable.

Climate change, terrorism, almost every problem we face is similar.

The universe does not sit still, its moving. The problem in my view is that our government just is not moving enough to adjust to changing realities.

And any politician(in many ways Obama has been very pragmatic and incremental - the health care plan was only a small departure from our current system. It was more, let's use our current system and tweak it so it works better) who tries gets excoriated for it.

I'm not saying we should overhaul, but we need to solve these problems, and government absolutely has a role to play here.