American Elephants


The Tragic Collapse of Great Expectations. by The Elephant's Child

“The Obama administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace  quicker than anticipated.”

“The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress.  The President, vice president, first lady, Cabinet officers and senior staff have participated in 187 political events in the last 18 months, all with the intention of directly supporting candidates on the ballot in 2010…”

All these achievements, and the President isn’t getting any credit. Financial reform, just a couple of months after passage of a comprehensive health care reform, 2.5 to 3.6 million jobs saved or created, and GDP raised by 2.7%  to 3.2% through June 20.

Yet the mystery remains; Having moved swiftly toward achieving the very policy objectives he promised voters as a candidate, Obama is still widely perceived as flirting with a failed presidency.

Eric Alterman, in a column that drew wide notice, wrote in The Nation that most liberals think the president is a big disappointment.”  House Democrats are in near-insurrection after White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated the obvious — that the party has a chance of losing the House under Obama’s watch.  …

The reality is the opposite. You can argue over whether Obama’s achievements are good or bad on the merits. But, especially after Thursday’s vote, you can’t argue that Obama is not getting things done. To the contrary, he has, as promised, covered the uninsured, tightened regulations, started to wind down the war in Iraq and shifted focus and resources to Afghanistan, injected more competition into the education system and edged closer to a big energy bill.

Elsewhere, “journalist Eric Alterman…blames a broken system in Washington that he says allows the minority party to rule with impunity — and special interests and big money to dictate legislative policy.”  “The system is rigged,” he concludes, “and it’s rigged against us.”  His essay is subtitled:”Why a progressive presidency is impossible for now.”

I would be delighted if a progressive presidency is impossible for now, or forever.  They certainly make a mess of things, but there is a rather large disconnect here.  How anyone can conclude that a minority party “rules with impunity” when the “progressives” control the House and the Senate with an iron fist, and do exactly as they please with no input from Republicans? “From the beginning, the stimulus bill was viewed as containing too many compromises in a futile attempt to garner Republican support.”  Huh? What attempt?

“It’s open season on Obama, whom so many hoped would lead us out of the neo-liberal wilderness,” Firedoglake blogger Les Leopold declared… “He once was a community organizer and ought to know how working people have suffered through a generation of tax breaks for the rich, Wall Street deregulation and unfair competition.  When the economy crashed, he was in the perfect position to limit the unjustified pay levels on Wall Street.”

I don’t know what planet these people live on, but it’s not this one.  The “perpetually discontented”  who demand that everything be fixed so it is no longer annoying, will never be satisfied.  The perfection they desire is unattainable, wouldn’t work, and is quite impossible, for it does not take into account ordinary human nature.

The marvelous economic progress exists only in Christina Romer’s magic Keynesian computer where you insert spending, multiply by the mythical Keynesian multiplier, and get wonderful numbers of jobs saved and created. But that works in a world where, as Nancy Pelosi insists, “extending unemployment benefits creates jobs.” In the real world the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf has added 35,000 to 50,000 more highly paid workers to the unemployment rolls.

If you consider passing a $862 billion stimulus program a great accomplishment, but neglect to consider the fact that it didn’t work and was mostly wasted money; and if you consider creating jobs out of a computer program, much as global warming was created out of a flawed computer program a great accomplishment; and if you consider passing a financial reform bill an accomplishment though it does not address the sources of the financial crisis, correct the ‘too-big-to-fail problem or even consider reforming Fannie and Freddie — well, why is anyone upset?  Isn’t it all just what Obama promised?

The White House has a hubris problem.  They are in trouble, but they deny any responsibility for that fact.  It is the fault of the previous administration.  And the White House has a communication problem. The communication problem deals with words that are meant only to please the audience to whom they are addressed. They have no permanent meaning.  They will be discarded in the increasingly voluminous pile to be found under the bus.




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