Nothing to be Proud Of

Invitation to attend the 2009 Inauguration of ...

Obama Inauguration. Real Change, But Squandered?

Tonight is a pretty low night in American politics.  The worst of us are ruining this country. 

I am challenging anyone to give concrete examples of what Republicans have done in recent years to deserve an opportunity to steer policy in the United States again.  For my part, I cannot think of anything.   What they have accomplished is hardly anything to be proud of.  They have fostered confusion and frustration, characteristics they are very skilled at capitalizing on, and tonight they appear to be garnering results from their deceptive efforts. 

If people are not going to learn economics, history, science, and other basic subjects, perhaps it would be a good idea to defer to people who have studied these topics.  Learning your lessons from politicians is poor substitute, especially politicians who celebrate anti-intellectual populism over facts.  We have come off of decades of progressively worse government mismanagement which ultimately resulted in out of control wars, a disappearing middle class, loss of global competitive advantages, and ultimately economic collapse.  The anti-government supply-siders have not done much for us, I would argue.

Facts should trump opinions, but they do not.  Since the Obama inauguration the Dow has risen over 45% and the NASDAQ is up over 70%.  The federal deficit has actually decreased.  And we have gone from losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month to actually showing job growth.

Business — especially big business — has recovered.  The Fortune 500 is at or above pre-recession revenues with many companies posting record profits.  The financial industry has recovered quickly enough and well enough to justify again huge bonuses.  And productivity is at record levels.  Jobs, of  course, are the problem for Americans and our economy, but with business already sitting on piles of cash, it is hard to understand how the Republican argument that tax cuts are needed to create jobs is valid, but that has been all they’ve offered to poorly informed voters, and the voters seem to have taken it all hook, line, and sinker.

Of course we could talk about uncertainty in monetary policy as a factor keeping sophisticated business from stepping into large scale investment, but that hardly washes in a global economy where investment isn’t happening in the United States anyway.  Moreover, the average small business owner — the hair salon owner or the veterinarian — is not assessing Federal policy to determine if they should keep the lights on or move operations to Shanghai.  Finally, the free market principles that created the global economy are the principles promoted by the GOP and their even more misguided cousins in the Tea Party.

Since the Obama inauguration the United States passed modest, but needed, health care legislation that brings us closer to our economic peers in advanced social services.  An important first step in reworking a for-profit health care system that inherently depends on economically rationed access to health care — people must die — to protect profits.  We saw important consumer finance reform laws passed, including an office to again monitor a horribly neglected mortgage industry.

Look…large government, high taxes, and lost freedoms — whatever those are has never been defined — did not cause the economic collapse.  Unregulated and reckless investment and reinvestment in overly leveraged exotic financial products caused the collapse.  It is a disgrace when politicians will scapegoat American families with the blame for this crisis by blaming them for reckless borrowing.  Sorry, it has been reckless investing that was unsustainable.  The average American, whether struggling with a mortgage or unable to find a job, is paying for the losses these investments caused.  They will continue to pay for it through subsidies for costly and unaffordable tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the same people and institutions that hauled down the economy.  Again…a lesson in economics would be useful.  Taxes are not killing jobs.  Lack of demand is hurting jobs.

Which brings up the final accomplishment enjoyed since the Obama Inauguration.  The federal stimulus was, like health care reform, inadequate, but helpful.  Almost universally economists agree that short term deficits are acceptable and would be beneficial if government spending were set directly to funding immediate works projects.   Instead we are stuck with lending locked up and frozen.  Money is not moving in the economy, especially the local economy.  Frankly…Americans do not understand the economics of this solution.  They are confused and misinformed.  But without stimulus legislation, we would be in a much, much more dire situation today than we would be otherwise and now we are about to put the very people who would have put us in otherwise back in power.

We will get what we deserve.  Unfortunately not all of us voted for these mistakes.  Better Americans have been fighting for change, but the GOP has steadfastly stood in the way.  That is their real accomplishment and ultimately will be their legacy.

Michael Kinsley has a point.  Time to be exceptional again.  Tonight is not getting us there.


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