Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Intellectual Bankruptcy: The Signs

"If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from."

--Barack Obama (2008)

Our national elite is divided into two tribes that speak mostly to themselves. Though there's a possible biological basis for this, our current stand-off shouldn’t last. Life moves on.

I see signs those in power are weakening. After all, top-down rule hasn’t delivered the strong economic growth our nation needs. For those who prefer hope to fear, it’s reassuring to know today’s principal practitioner of scare tactics, our president, once told us (see above) that negative campaigning stems from a bankruptcy of ideas. First bankruptcy, next change.

It’s hopeful that the New York Times, America’s font of liberal wisdom, in the person of politics editor Richard W. Stevenson openly worries about a 2012 Democratic campaign based not on ideas, but on brawling:
Democrats are primed to play rough in 2012. To conservatives, it is all just more evidence that hope and change was never more than bait-and-switch. To some liberals, it is about time the White House showed a willingness to brawl. [emphasis added]
Please note Stevenson refers to “conservatives” on the one hand, and “some liberals” on the other. By doing so, liberal Stevenson revealingly tells us that he’s in the middle, between “some liberals” and “conservatives.” Ah, the view from Manhattan, with its rich diversity of liberals (who combined make up just 20% of the country).

It’s hopeful that the Democratic case for Obama’s re-election is so weak, at least as presented by CalArts teacher Steve Erickson in the progressive journal American Prospect:
the Republican [line] on Obama is that he has no record to run on . . . Obama has a record, and hardly a disreputable one. It encompasses the prevention of an economic Chernobyl by which the world’s entire financial system verged on meltdown, the passage of the first major regulatory reform of Wall Street in 30 years, the salvation of the auto industry and the creation of more jobs in three years than during the previous administration’s eight, the signing of a law codifying equal pay for equal work for women and the passage of the first major health-care reform since Medicare
Let us, if we may, deconstruct Erickson’s argument.

“prevention of an economic Chernobyl”

The Bush 43 administration developed and passed the Troubled Assets Relief Program in October 2008, a bill both Barack Obama and John McCain supported. The chief “preventers” of our 2008 “economic Chernobyl” were Bush, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. As president, Obama went along with their plan, as would have McCain.

“major regulatory reform of Wall Street”

Dodd-Frank. Says the conservative Weekly Standard:
The best way to understand the Dodd-Frank Act is to think of it as Obamacare for the financial industry. Like its health care counterpart, it leaves the members of the massive financial services industry as privately owned firms, but blankets them with so much regulation that . . . a U.S. industry once so aggressive and innovative that it came to dominate the world’s financial markets will be reduced to a ward of the U.S. government.
“salvation of the auto industry”

Bush 43 authorized emergency loans to GM and Chrysler totaling $18 billion before Obama went through the White House door. The two auto companies could have then proceeded through a normal bankruptcy, restructuring labor contracts and becoming leaner and meaner as did reorganized U.S. Steel and most domestic airlines before them. Instead, Obama pumped another $60 billion into GM and Chrysler, oversaw Chrysler becoming foreign-owned (thus helping it compete with all-American Ford), and restructured both GM and Chrysler to benefit labor unions, improperly placing unions ahead of secured creditors for payouts, and setting a national industries-socialist precedent for future large bankruptcies.

“the creation of more jobs in three years than during the previous administration’s eight”

This statement is flat wrong, disproven by going to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Bush 43 created 1.1 million jobs in 8 years. Obama thus far has lost 740,000 jobs, putting him -1.8 million jobs in the hole to Bush.

“equal pay for equal work for women”

The Lilly Ledbetter Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, only extends the deadline, already in law, during which people victimized by unequal pay may sue to secure back pay due them. The Equal Pay Act became law in 1963, so had existed for 46 years before Obama’s tweek.

“the first major health-care reform since Medicare”

Obamacare is, in the words of Vice President Joe Biden, “a big fucking deal.” We’ll soon learn how much of it will survive constitutional muster, a “BFD” if it does, since it will mean the federal government can force us to buy any product or service it in its wisdom feels is in the national interest for us to have.

One hopes the “brawl” Democrats plan to unleash on Republicans—because they have no record to run on—will backfire. One hopes future campaigns will instead offer contrasting programs for a better U.S. One hopes.

Finally, it’s hopeful that such a good-hearted singer/songwriter as Bono, the unusual liberal who is friends with Bush 43, sees so clearly the bankruptcy of Democratic efforts to build class envy in America. Listen to Bono, who has said, "In America, you look at the mansion on the hill and think, 'One day that will be me.' In Ireland, people say, 'One day, I'm going to get that bastard.' "

I hope America retains the significant difference with Europe that Bono brings to our attention. Bono's Democratic friends are certainly trying their best to do otherwise.

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