Let's imagine the political possibilities of the next two years and beyond. So far, President Obama's response to the drubbing of the mid-term has confirmed the progressive community's worst fears. Astonishingly, he still seems to believe the following:
The American people care more about bipartisan compromise and budget cuts than about ending the economic crisis.
If he just compromises a little more, the Republicans might still meet him halfway.
The recipe for economic recovery has something to do with reducing the short term federal deficit.
All three of these premises are disastrously wrong -- as politics and as economics.
Gestures like freezing federal pay levels and cutting the government workforce only play into the rightwing mantra that the government is the problem. Politically, they signal weakness.
This move makes no significant impact on the deficit, reduces employment and purchasing power; and, characteristically, Obama got nothing in return. The Democratic National Committee, disgracefully, even used the Organizing for America email list to try to drum up support for a Democratic president freezing worker pay during a deep recession.
The Bush tax cuts expire on December 31. Most Democrats are beating on the Republicans for refusing to spare 98 percent of Americans a tax hike, so that the top 2 percent can continue to get lower rates. Most Democrats are whacking the Republicans for letting unemployment insurance expire at a time of increased joblessness. But the message gets blurred because of Obama's mixed signals.
And instead of drawing a line in the sand and making clear that Democrats will not cut Social Security, Obama encouraged Democrats to support the scheme of the deficit commission, which was an anti-government, anti-social insurance blueprint that had very little public support and no constructive impact on the economic recovery that the country needs, and robbed Democrats of their most potent issue -- that Democrats defend Social Security and Republicans don't.
To add insult to injury, Obama just proposed yet another Bush-style trade deal with South Korea, which is likely to be a net job loser for the U.S. The widely expected appointment of investment banker and Robert Rubin protégé Roger Altman as Obama's chief economic adviser to succeed Larry Summers will continue the Wall Street dynasty at the White House.
The problem, however, is not Obama's advisers. It is the man who appointed them -- and his failure to know how to fight and lead as a progressive.
Let's stop pretending. Barack Obama is a disaster as a crisis president. He has taken an economic collapse that was the result of Republican ideology and Republican policies, and made it the Democrats' fault. And the more that he is pummeled, the more he bends over.
So what exactly are our prospects and alternatives?
Absent radically different policies, an economic depression will continue indefinitely. This is not a "Great Recession" in the New York Times' cute pun. It's a depression, made up of persistently high unemployment, reduced consumer purchasing power, damaged banks, and business unwillingness to invest, just like the 1930s. Unemployment is not quite as severe, but measured properly it is around 18 percent. And unlike in the 1930s, we don't have a strong Democratic president using activist government to dig our way out.
With Congress deadlocked, the second best course in these circumstances is to offer progressive policies that will cure the depression, and beat the stuffings out of the Republicans for blocking them. But that is simply not going to happen because that is not who Obama is. His style is not to draw bright lines, but to blur them.
Absent that kind of leadership, the Republicans going onto 2012 will succeed in blaming the continuing crisis on Obama and the Democrats. Obama is rapidly becoming our Herbert Hoover. As you will recall, Hoover's legacy was Democratic dominance of American politics for a generation.
The 2012 election is especially bleak because redistricting, with the increased Republican control of statehouses, gives the Republicans a likely pickup of ten to twenty House seats independent of other electoral trends. On the Senate side, just 10 Republican-held seats are up for re-election compared to 23 Democratic ones. The arithmetic alone suggests a Republican Congress.( Collapse )source
perfectisafault isn't posting about South America? :O