Friday, November 5, 2010

Whine Some More, Guys!

After this Tuesday's election results, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of partisan Democrats around the country struggling to find ways to blame their crushing losses on anyone - anything - but their own policies.

Obama went out of his way to make all kinds of claims leading up to the election about the need to avoid voting Republican "going back to the failed policies of the last decade". But anyone who's been legitimately paying attention shouldn't be misled by such a statement... It's impossible to "go back" to all of those failed policies because, well... We've never left them!

Ted Balaker & Reason TV already created a fine short video (and corresponding article) discussing a few basics of Obama's similarities to Bush on economic issues... Not that they're all that hard to point out.

  • Bush initiated bailouts with TARP - Obama continued & expanded them.
  • Bush supported a massive stimulus package - Obama's stimulus packages dwarfed Bush's.
  • Bush signed into law massively restrictive "reforms" to the financial system - Obama signed into law even more.
  • Bush signed a massive new health care entitlement - Obama rammed through an even bigger entitlement.
  • Bush added almost 15,000 pages of regulations to the Federal Register - Obama's tally is still rising.
  • Bush spent more and went into more debt than any president in 40 years - Obama has already outpaced him.
That list goes on and on and on... Bush was as Keynesian as you get. Or so I thought, until Obama was elected.

And yet the apologia from partisan Democrats so far is maddening...

On Facebook the other day, D.J. Grothe (President of the James Randi Educational Foundation) posted a San Francisco Chronicle article by Mark Morford entitled "Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat". Unfortunately, the whiny (probably not young) Democrat in question here is actually the author himself:

The article stupidly blames low voter turnout by Democrats for their losses:
"Oh, now you've done it.

See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party's newborn, hard-won ideas about Hope™ and Change™, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as "the long view"
Of course, voter turn out was higher this year than in most all other mid-term elections, including 2006 when Republicans lost control of the congress last time. But really, who cares about facts?

I suppose it's also worth pointing out that it would seem to me that the "long view" would involve caring about the crushing deficits and debt, and the burden of our unfunded liabilities and looming economic catastrophes rather than ignoring them in favor of some misguided, misplaced and magical belief that somehow this time Keynesianism will work.

And then we have Andrew Leonard's condescending piece from Salon entitled, "The Unbearable Stupidity of American Voters" - a sentiment echoed by many of my partisan Democrat acquaintances, by the way - which spouts a stream of economic nonsense, and blames voters for being duped by Republican control of "the message":
"2) Republicans have won the messaging game for the last two years.

It seems remarkable that a party that governed so badly while it was in power, preaching smaller government while engaging in total fiscal irresponsibility, would be trusted by anyone on anything. But GOP talking points, fueled by Tea Party mobilization, appear to have taken hold almost immediately after Obama's election."
Yep... The Republicans, without the bully pulpit, a majority in congress or really any friends in the media outside of Fox News, controlled the "message". Most newspapers, every TV network except Fox, and dozens of celebrities have come out again & again regurgitating the timeless statements issued by the White House.

  • "It's Bush's fault."
  • "The economy would be so much worse without the stimulus."
  • "We had to bail out those banks and give trillions of dollars to corporations, or the whole system would have collapsed."
  • "RepubliCorp!"
  • "Party of NO!"
  • "The problem is, people aren't spending enough."

...and when they weren't just repeating whatever Obama or Nancy Pelosi said verbatim, they were busy finding new and interesting ways to make Tea Party activists all look like crazed, racist lunatics.

And yet, after all that... Most of the American public just didn't buy it. I'm personally pretty happy they didn't, by the way... Not because I want to see Republicans in power, mind you, but because I'm tired of watching year after year of the general public in America avoiding a bunch of really serious and systemic problems with our government and finances.

But anyway... No one is confused on why Obama or his party have claimed to do the things they've done. Obama has been stumping for "the message" for the past two years and has appeared on TV more times and more frequently than any president in history. Hell, he's even made regular appearances on entertainment shows like Jay Leno, "The Daily Show" and The View.

The message got out loud and clear. The message sucked.

It still sucks, but I am betting that few hyperpartisan Dems are going to learn from their mistakes.

And why should they? According to writers like Andrew Leonard, the American public was just too stupid to understand that the man who has outspent 8 years of President Bush and who has placed even more restrictions on people's lives and businesses was actually doing them a big favor.

In part, Mr. Leonard bases his point around the assertion that the public mistakenly believes Obama has raised taxes when in fact, he has "lowered" them.

I'll leave the discussion of methodology and the validity of public-opinion survey data for another day, but the article seems to omit that those "lower" taxes aren't across the board tax-cuts, but rather one-time, temporary tax breaks built into the stimulus packages. Leonard gets to play up a technicality as a meaningful truth... But in reality, things aren't quite so simple.

Taxes have been increased on a slew of consumer goods like cigarettes, the Bush era tax cuts will be expiring soon, and the future increase in taxes to pay for things like the health care bill are going to kick in in a couple years and hit everyone pretty hard. And we all know that!  Plus, that's all without mentioning the new restrictions on banks & businesses, the regulatory and policy uncertainty and the dozens of tariffs and trade wars sparked in the past couple years dragging us all down, making entrepreneurs and existing businesses extremely cautious with their capital and causing our cost of living to shoot up while we're all suffering from a serious lack of employment...

It's not like the bulk of the American people are incapable of reading the writing on the wall and with Obama's unprecedented spending, I think most Americans are pretty clear that their taxes are going up one way or another... Few reporters seem to have been able to grasp that concept though. Not sure why...

But hey... If only there were SmartPeopletm like Andrew Leonard around to explain all this to them... Geesh. The fact is, most Americans are starting to feel serious pressure from the continuing high rates of unemployment, the pay cuts, cuts in hours & benefits and from years of economic malaise.

In an attempt to explain all that away, Leonard cites a modest increase in GDP as a measure of "growth" in order to prove that although people think the economy is still bad, really it's getting back on track. But since GDP includes government expenditures and refers only to the nominal monetary value of certain types of economic activity, it's hardly a useful measurement in the best of times, and it's nonsensical when the government has taken it upon themselves to burn through trillions of dollars in worthless Keynesian stimulus.

A better understanding of economics would serve a hell of a lot of people well right at this moment, and maybe if they did understand the subject better, people at Salon and the San Francisco Chronicle would be smart enough to realize that the policies pursued by the Obama administration have been identical to those favored by President Bush - and that the reason they're not working today is the same damn reason they didn't work 3 years ago or 8 years ago... Or during the Great Depression, or during the 70's in America, or during the 90's in Japan or anywhere else they've ever been tried!

The American public may not clearly understand that either... In fact, I'm positive that overwhelmingly, they don't, since the economic literacy rate in the US is abysmal. However, people do know when to trust their eyes on the economy, and that statistics like GDP should best be ignored when the reality that money & credit is tight and jobs are scarce is right in front of their faces.

However... That's just the economic side of things!

It's something I care a lot about and focus a lot of my own energies on, but it's hardly the end of Bush/Obama similarities on policy matters - and in a lot of ways, they aren't even the most damning.

The real problem for Team D this year wasn't that Obama and his staff are economically illiterate - sadly, most of their constituents and party-line voters are too. But a hell of a lot of them are also people who care about certain civil liberties violations and wars. Especially (and here's the important part) the independent, non-partisan ones.

Take for instance, my friend Nathan Goodman, an extremely principled and non-partisan guy who has been making the shift from leftist to libertarian for a while wrote a powerful response to D.J. Grothe's posted articles, entirely worth sharing on the subject of why the Democratic party has lost the support of left-leaning independents like him:
""What an arrogant and pompous columnist. I hate this center left assumption that we oppose Obama because he hasn't done good things quickly enough. Has it ever occurred to them that maybe we're pissed off at actual policies like the administration surging into Afghanistan, drone bombing countries with which we're not officially at war, ordering the assassination of American citizens, re-authorizing the Patriot Act, cluster bombing Yemen, harassing anti-war activists, arresting whistleblowers, fighting to prevent death row inmates from accessing DNA evidence which could exonerate them, appointing a former lobbying executive for Well Point to implement Obamacare (In blatant violation of the spirit of Obama's campaign), continuing use of far right death squads for drug war operations in Colombia, repeatedly abusing the state secrets privilege, continuing the use of rendition, denying habeas corpus at Bagram, and threatening the British government to prevent open discussion of torture?"
...and then, because the guy rocks so much, links provided to everything:
"Drone strikes:

Patriot Act:

Cluster bombing Yemen:

FBI Harassment of Anti-war Activists:

Arrests of Whistleblowers:

Fighting to prevent death row inmates from accessing DNA evidence:

WellPoint exec implementing health reform:

Expansion of military presence in Colombia:

Abuse of state secrets:

Continuing rendition:

Denying habeas rights at Bagram:

Threatening Britain to conceal torture evidence:"

And I think this really clinches it, don't you?

It's not just that Obama and his party's near super-majority of congress for the last two years has behaved identically to Bush on the economy and left us all in an ever-deepening hole with fewer and fewer opportunities - that damage just keeps on hammering ordinary Americans every day and is the big reason the Tea Party folks are upset... But those who voted for Democrats in the past few years expecting an end to Bush-era civil rights abuses and war mongering have been (or should be) equally disappointed!

And of course... Those of us who wanted both less war, less civil liberties abuses, a freer society and a freer economy who didn't vote for either major party candidates are perennially let down. And that's really the point... For all the partisan hacks out there still behind the 8-Ball on this one... It was YOUR OWN PARTY'S POLICIES that lost you the election!

It wasn't that any one really "trusts" the Republicans to do a better job, per se, though I know a lot of Tea Party people who want to believe they can hold their party accountable... It's not that people were duped by GOP sloganeering... It's not that the voter turn-out was low.

You hear that Team Blue? You lost because of what you did (or didn't do).

At some point, it would be cool to see Obama and his party own up to their own failings and to the absurdity of their economic reasoning - but unfortunately, their sycophants refuse to acknowledge that the people know exactly what they're selling and don't like it. Partisan hackery will do what it does though... And in a few years, once the Republicans go back to their big-spending, entitlement bribing ways, I'm sure I'll have to write this article again with a few labels reversed... But I think we can do better.

I think it's time for everyone to wake up. Shrink the size of government, shrink the warfare and welfare states, let our economy flourish by loosening the millions of restrictions on everyone, and unchain its potential.

Seriously... Now's really the time to do it.

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