Friday, July 08, 2011

Indulging my worst impulses toward despair

Good God, is this the day the Obama presidency died?  Horrendous monthly jobs numbers make it seem so. As the economy dives toward double-dip recession, the president is a self-bound hostage to the GOP, mired in calamitous-looking deficit reduction talks, the results of which are likely to further crimp growth while shredding the safety net.  Having let the GOP set the agenda, Obama is unlikely to find a way to further stimulus.

This feels like nemesis nipping at the U.S.'s heels, the next tumble down a staircase that began with the Lewinsky scandal, carried through the busted and stolen 2000 election, then on to Bush busting the budget and defunding the federal government while shredding civil liberties and various norms and taboos of governance. Now, I'm haunted by Cassandra Krugman's constant forecasts of calamity triggered by too-weak progressive response to the financial meltdown, half measures that discredit a sane stimulative response.  Now the lunatics are poised to once again take over the asylum after four years of powerful incentives to sink ever deeper into lunacy -- discrediting stimulus, discrediting the once-conservative approach to universal healthcare codified in the ACA, discrediting effective regulation, discrediting an even minimal safety net.

We are in the dangerous circumstance of having a two party system in which one party is not fit to govern and the other -- its leader, anyway -- may lack the will to effectively counter that extremism.  The country cannot afford another period of Republican misrule before that party changes its character, chastened by a period of Democratic success. The abyss yawns.

A stupid post, I know, but I'm going to ride with the feeling of the moment.

Update: thanks to commenters for the buck-up messages. I do hope that this post looks really stupid a year from now, and it was probably silly to put it up: I have been determined to reserve judgment on the debt ceiling talks until we see what results, but jumped my own gun.  


  1. I feel your pain Andrew. If I may briefly join you on the therapist's couch...I think that those of us in the reality-based community are all at different points along the five stages of grief, depending on which piece of tragic reality hit home for us, and when. For me the largest shock was the US Military predicting in April 2010 (the Joint Operating Environment report) that peak oil would hit by 2012 and cause global chaos by 2015 (unreported by our media, of course). That confirmed my long slumbering fears and truly caused several months of intense despair from which I have since moved along to "acceptance", as they say.
    Accepted that the "double dip" will be a long swim, and that little can be done to stop it, but that much can be done to improve our collective lot as we go through it. And thankful that there is a steady hand on the rudder of the country, at least for now.

  2. Please do not give up all hope. I may be in a dwindling group that has faith our President is a knowledgeable, very smart progressive, liberal. I believe, hope, he will not allow the lunatic Republican party to run this country of a cliff. Lets see if there is a debt ceiling deal, what it is, or if no deal what he does than.

  3. I hear where you're coming from, dude, but there's a 90% chance of this post looking really silly a year from now.

    And then obviously a 10% chance where things will be so horribly depressing that it doesn't matter what you wrote in 2011.

    So it goes, but don't lose hope yet. The man is a good President, and that might yet still count for something in this world.

  4. What can Obama do? Is this an opportunity to re frame the debate? Say that "The latest job report shows that this recovery is in serious jeopardy, and is more fragile than we though. It demands we immediately rethink our efforts, and take measures that foster job growth, and avoid those that hinder it. That's why I pledge I will veto any debt bill which the CBO says will destroy jobs. If the debt ceiling deadline approaches with no indication of an agreement, my administration will have to take a look at all options the Constitution provides in order to prevent a national emergency." How would that play? At the very least, that would change the story from "cut cut cut".

    He needs a big moment. Something like his race speech during the primary. But what??

  5. @jcradin

    Based on what, exactly? As far as I call tell in 1972 he'd be in the centre-right to right section of the Republican Caucus, protesting that damn liberal Nixon with his universal health insurance and withdrawal (faster than Afganistan) from Viet Nam and for the guaranteed annual income proposal and for indexing SS to inflation and so forth: not to mention thinking taxes should a quarter of what they are in 1972. Shit, I'd vote for Nixon over Obama any day of the week.

    He screwed healthcare reform by delaying it constantly and telling Congressional Democrats he would act against them on lowering the Medicare age and the public option. So costs are climbing and it's unpopular (as indeed, all polls showed it would be with an individual mandate and without a public option). Magic fix: universal medicare would instantly solve most American budget problems. Let alone raising taxes and cutting the military. (And no, the filibuster is not in the Constitution and it can be ignored or broken in multiple ways and instead of sucking up to Republicans well past the point it was obvious they didn't care, he should have moved past them and killed the filibuster.)

    Super-weak financial regulation is dead in the water no matter how much it being enforced wouldn't matter. He needs rich banker money to get elected, so those guys are free and clear to crash the economy again.

    He offered the Republicans vastly more in cuts than they asked for in the debt ceiling debate, and the Republicans said fuck off because there was some paltry tax loophole closing. (It's like saying: "as a Democrat I'll help destroy the economy so only Republicans will get elected", and the Republicans going with "nah, still want more" and then Obama goes, "well, ok, you win as usual".)

    Expansion of Afganistan to—as everyone could and/or did predict—no effect, plus a few bonus drone wars, plus a major bombing campaign in Libya.

    Failure of card check to strengthen unions and perhaps get median wages rising again, outside of the car companies failure to rebuild any sort of non-service/non-financial jobs meaning that the middle class is continuing to collapse.

    Oh yeah, pissing off seniors (and poor people, but they don't vote) by screwing with their Social Security and Medicare? A brilliant move… or, um, the opposite. Could one overhaul the programs? Sure (means-test SS, for one, see the Australians), but just cutting their benefits? Yeah, not so much.

    So anyone: what is Obama's magic secret plan to get himself out of the hole? I think he can be re-elected and that's much better than most Republicans but then what? Four more years of Obama giving into Republicans and throughly trashing the Democratic brand with persistent 9% unemployment (20%+ counting people who gave up and are underemployed) with median wages outside of the top 5% actually falling?

    I guess that's a success, in that Republicans would be worse. But in 2016 a gay female Republican could win with 70% of the vote.

  6. Kevin Drum has a different take than you and is worth reading for a different perspective: