The Obamas head off to their annual vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. But they insist it’s a working vacation. Too bad for the drone victims!
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Democratic Party Needs a Democratic Primary Process
What a comedown!
In 2008 Barack Obama ran on hope and change. His reelection bid relies on fear (of Republicans) and stay-the-course (lest said Republicans slash even more Medicare than Obama is willing to give away).
Yeah, yeah, anything can happen in one year—the GOP could nominate Bob Dole again—but it’s getting harder to imagine a scenario in which Obama wins reelection. The tsunami of bad economic news has become so relentless that last week’s story that one out of six Americans have fallen below the poverty line came and went with nary a shrug. (On the bright side, we’re just ahead of Indonesia. On the other side, Russia won the Cold War after all.)
Obama’s threat to veto any debt bill that doesn’t include taxes on the rich is supposed to signal a “new, more combative phase of his presidency, one likely to last until next year’s election as he battles for a second term,” as the New York Times puts it. But it’s too nothing, too late.
Tax increases get rolled back; Medicaid cuts are forever.
Rick Perry thinks the earth is a week old and Mitt Romney wears pink underwear and Michele Bachmann has crazy eyes. Unless they fart into the camera on national television, however, any of the leading Republican candidates will likely trounce a president who did nothing while the labor force shrunk by at least six million.
OK, he did stimulate the Martha’s Vineyard golf club economic sector.
On fifth thought, voters might overlook flatulence.
I had been wondering what accomplishments Team Obama planned to point to next year. Times editor Bill Keller helpfully lays it all out (I use the word “all” loosely) in an op/ed: “Lost in the shouting is the fact that Obama pulled the country back from the brink of depression; signed a health care reform law that expands coverage, preserves choice and creates a mechanism for controlling costs; engineered a fairly stringent financial regulatory reform; and authorized the risky mission that got Osama bin Laden.”
Let’s take these Democratic talking points like the trajectory of the U.S. empire: in reverse.
The trouble with assassinating Osama bin Laden is that once you’ve killed Osama bin Laden no one thinks about Osama bin Laden anymore. The Bushies understood this. Putting the Al Qaeda chief on trial would have been smarter politics (not to mention a sop to basic legal principles).
The new banking and securities regulations were too granular and timid for anyone to notice. Show me a president who bans ATM, overdraft and late credit-card fees, on the other hand, and I’ll show you a shoo-in for reelection. Or sainthood.
I don’t know what kind of health plan they offer on 8th & 42nd, but no one—not conservatives, not liberals, not anyone—likes what we know about Obama’s healthcare reform. The Right thinks it’s socialism. The Left wishes it were. What matters is that it doesn’t matter—Obamacare doesn’t going into effect until 2014. You can’t ask for votes of gratitude for a law that no one has experienced—and that many suspect will be repealed by the GOP or overturned by the courts.
Then there’s Keller’s first assertion: “Obama pulled the country back from the brink of depression.”
Um—Bill? Depression? We’re soaking in it.
The real unemployment rate (the way the government calculated it during the 1930s) is over 24 percent. That matches the highest monthly rate during the Great Depression.
But this Depression is worse than the “Great” Depression. You could buy an apple for a nickel back then. Now there’s high inflation too.
Not only are one out of four Americans out of work, the salaries of the employed are stagnant and getting eroded by soaring food and gas prices.
U.S. state-controlled media outlets like the Times are in the president’s corner. But their “without Obama the economy would be even worse” narrative is reducing their man’s chances next November. If there’s anything worse than losing your job, it’s a media that pretends you that you and your reality don’t exist. There never was a recovery; the economy crashed with the dot-coms in 2000 and never came back, what they called a “stimulus” was nothing more than a giveaway to bank CEOs, and now tens of millions of pissed-off people are itching for a chance to make a noise.
This, as Keller should know from reading the polls in his own paper, is why the liberal-progressive base of the Democratic Party is drifting away from Obama. They won’t vote for Perry or whomever, they just won’t vote.
Not since 1980 have the Democrats headed into a reelection campaign with such a weak incumbent president. Which prompts a question: Why is Obama running unopposed? A Democratic Party, it should go without saying, needs a democratic primary process.
A group of liberals led by former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has issued a call for one or more progressive leaders to run against Obama in the spring primaries. “Without debates by challengers inside the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries, the liberal/majoritarian agenda will be muted and ignored,” Nader said in a press release. “The one-man Democratic primaries will be dull, repetitive, and draining of both voter enthusiasm and real bright lines between the two parties that excite voters.”
It’s a nice thought, though it would be impossible to raise enough money to successfully challenge Obama at this late stage.
So get ready for The Return of the Republicans. I’m no James Carville, but I’ve seen enough presidential politics to know that anger beats fear.
Especially during an Even Greater Depression.
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
It’s the Not Caring About the Economy, Stupid
As a pundit it’s my job to explain why politicians do the things they do. Every now and then, however, a pol behaves so irrationally that I have to throw up my arms and ask:
What the hell is this guy thinking?
That’s what Obama has me doing. For over two years. Why isn’t he worried about unemployment?
Thomas Frank wondered in “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” why Americans don’t vote their (liberal) self-interest. What I can’t figure out is why President Obama isn’t following his self-interest.
Obama says he wants a second term. I believe him. Every president wants one.
Americans vote their pocketbooks. Not exclusively—they care about a candidate’s values—but no president has ever been reelected with an unemployment rate over 7.2 percent. Right now it’s 9.1 percent. Unless there’s an unexpected reversal, it will still be way high by Election Day 2012.
Economists surveyed by USA Today predict that the jobless rate will be pretty much the same, 8.8 percent, at this time next year. Goldman Sachs is even more pessimistic. They think it will be 9.25 percent by the end of 2012—with a “meaningful downside risk” that it will be even worse.
Polls indicate that economic insecurity, specifically high unemployment, has been the biggest issue on voters’ minds since Obama took over in 2009.
77 percent of Americans tell Gallup the economy is getting worse. That’s up from 62 percent a month ago.
If Obama wants to get reelected he has to do something about jobs. Something BIG. Failing that—and that’s an epic fail—he has to at least be perceived as trying to do something about jobs. But he hasn’t done squat so far. And his job approval rating, now at an all-time low of 39 percent, reflects that.
I don’t like admitting this, but I’m mystified. Why isn’t Obama even trying to look like he cares about the one issue that could make or break his reelection chances?
What’s up? Are he and his advisors morons, or just out of touch? Do they have some secret jobs-related October Surprise that will magically reemploy the 22 percent of Americans who are out of work during the last few weeks of the election? Are they the Chicago Black Sox of politics, determined to throw the race to the Republicans? Psychologist Drew Westen can’t figure it out either, wondering aloud if Obama is sick in the head.
Some ask: Is Obama a Republican?
“Government doesn’t create jobs,” tweeted GOP candidate Herman Cain recently. “Businesses create jobs. Government needs to get out of the way.” Obama and his fellow fake Democrats never challenge this right-wing framing.
Maybe they believe it. “The White House doesn’t create jobs,” Obama press secretary Jay Carney said August 5th.
But the meme is wrong. In the real world where flesh-and-blood American workers have been living since 2000, businesses haven’t created any jobs. Instead, they’ve eliminated millions of them. And shipped millions more overseas.
Those job-killing trends—eliminating workers, increased automation and globalization—won’t change soon. “Workers are getting more expensive while equipment is getting cheaper, and the combination is encouraging companies to spend on machines rather than people,” Catherine Rampell recently reported for The New York Times.
There’s also a death-spiral effect. Elena Semuels of The Los Angeles Times sums it up: “Economists say the nation is stuck in a Catch-22 scenario: The economy won’t improve until businesses hire, but many won’t hire without consumer demand, which is weak because of the current state of the job market and concerns about the future.”
“Everyone says, ‘How can we have a recovery without jobs?’ [But] until I start seeing my competitors add jobs, I’m not going to do it,” Loren Carlson of the CEO Roundtable tells MSNBC.
Recovery won’t come from business. The scope of the post-2008 meltdown is too vast.
On the other hand, government can and does create jobs. Indirectly, it creates the veneer of law and order that permits commerce. Government can also employ people directly.
FDR orchestrated the direct hiring of 9 million Americans as government employees for the WPA and other programs. The federal government even hired writers and artists. Adjusted for population growth, that’s the same as 22 million people today. Obama could have done something like that in early 2009.
Too late now, of course. Obama’s inaction on the economy prompted a Republican sweep in the 2010 midterms. They won’t go along.
Keynes 101: the time for austerity is during a boom, when you can afford to save up for a rainy day. Governments are supposed to spend their way out of a recession or depression. The GOP-conceived debt ceiling deal is 200-proof insanity.
“An anti-Keynesian, budget-balancing immediacy imparts a constrictive noose around whatever demand remains alive and kicking,” wrote Bill Gross of the bond-trading firm Pimco in The Washington Post. “Washington hassles over debt ceilings instead of job creation in the mistaken belief that a balanced budget will produce a balanced economy. It will not.”
Rather than criticize this austerity lunacy, Obama is still going along. “Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact,” reports the New York Times.
“We’re at a loss to figure out a way to articulate the argument in a way that doesn’t get us pegged as tax-and-spenders,” admits a Democratic Congressional advisor. For God’s sake, grow a pair! Make your case to the public.
Anything that doesn’t have “much economic impact” isn’t going to have much electoral impact either. And neither are token gestures like a three-day bus tour, revamping the patent process, or another overhyped speech. (Scheduled for September. Because, why rush?)
As you read this Obama is off to Martha’s Vineyard, hanging out with millionaires.
Really—what’s going on? Can Obama really be that stupid? Can anyone?
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL