Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's all President Obama's Fault

Every day I see and read another right-wing opinion piece telling us how President Obama and an intrusive government are the cause of all our economic woes. Tea Party pundits and libertarian true believers seem to dominate the media, the Internet and the discussion despite their endless complaints about the "liberal bias" in anything that doesn't parrot their views. Living in a conservative state like North Carolina these views are now the real mainstream. My brother, who lives near Atlanta, made a comment that fits my feelings about my adopted home: "I used to be a conservative Republican until I moved to Georgia. Then I became a liberal Democrat... and my views didn't change." What was once conservative, or perhaps still is in New York where I cast my first ballot, is called liberal here.

Sorry, I don't see the government as more intrusive now than it was 30 years ago no matter how many right wingers say otherwise. We don't have a nanny state, though if social conservatives take power we might have government policing our bedrooms. We don't have too much government regulation. We have too little. Corporate greed rides rough shod over realistic planning for our future and for a sustainable economy rather than the quick buck. The right wingers who claim to be saving us all from an overbearing government that will tax us to death are ready to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, effectively handing granny a tin cup for her retirement, while refusing to cut one penny from corporate welfare (pardon me, subsidies) for big oil companies making record profits.

2011 resembles 1937. The Republicans were decimated in the 1932 election and we had one party rule for the next four years. With New Deal programs and the government building infrastructure FDR managed to cut unemployment from more than 25% in 1933 to 12% by 1936. That was still too high and people were suffering but the economy was in recovery. By 1937 the Supreme Court had thrown out some New Deal programs. A new Conservative Coalition in Congress called for fiscal restraint and deficit reduction. The economy went straight back into full blown depression and didn't recover until World War II.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. --George Santayana

I believe in times of economic crisis, and that is where we are now, an activist government is a necessity. Yes, debts and deficits are a problem and they should be addressed. Start by ending what caused the deficits in the first place: unnecessary wars coupled with ill timed massive tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy. In wartime past Presidents have called on Americans to sacrifice. Neither President Bush nor President Obama has done so. Neither of them put this country on a wartime footing. The Bush tax cuts cost $4 trillion over 10 years, or roughly one third of our current deficit. Let the tax cuts expire next year, end the useless wars which we cannot possibly win and the deficit wouldn't look so daunting after all.

Make no mistake, President Bush and the policies of the right caused the current crisis. President Obama, through lack of leadership and a negotiating style that gives away the store before he even begins, has continued those policies and given as a Republican-light agenda that perpetuates the problems.

I am not a fan of President Obama. I'd gladly vote for someone else who would be an improvement. The current crop of Republican candidates is so extreme, so incredibly far to the right, that any of them would make things far, far worse. Unless President Obama faces a primary challenge or a strong independent with sane policies emerges I will have to hold my nose and while I vote to reelect him. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Oh, and before the usual people simply write me off as some crazy liberal I will remind people that once upon a time I was a Reagan Republican. To paraphrase: I used to be a conservative Republican until I moved to North Carolina. Then I became a liberal Democrat. OK, my views on economics have moved to the left, but not by as much as you might think. As President Obama pointed out, President Reagan did take a balanced approach to deficit reduction. All too often President Obama's positions are far closer to those Ronald Reagan took than those of the Tea Party faithful who now effectively dominate the Republican Party.

Those who say it's all President Obama's fault want to take the policies that brought us to a crisis in the first place and put them on steroids. President Bush and a much more moderate Republican party gave us the Great Recession and record deficits. Those who ignore that bit of recent history don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past. They want to amplify them. Between TARP, bailouts, the stimulus package, new fiscal regulations and all the other policies they vilify we avoided a Second Great Depression. Yet on Fox News and on right wing and social media websites black is now white and white is now black. Those policies that saved our economy from going off a cliff are now the problem. Indeed, as the recent clamor on the right to not raise the debt ceiling amply demonstrated, they are more than happy to throw us all off that cliff.... and it will all be President Obama's fault.