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Use It Or Lose It

November 4, 2010

Economist Paul Krugman provides the most succinct summary I know of regarding the election results in his NY Times blog (

After noting Obama never did pursue any so-called “leftist” policies,  he sums it all up nicely:

“What actually happened, of  course, is that Obama failed to do enough to boost the economy plus totally failing to tap into populist outrage at Wall Street. And now we’re in the trap I worried about from the beginning: by failing to do enough when he had political capital, he lost that capital and now we’re stuck.”

The Nobel Prize winner notes Obama had help “getting it wrong:” from the stonewalling GOP  (“We’re here to make you fail”) and the conservative “Blue Dog” reluctant  Democrats.  Of these last-named  wise “moderates”,  only 3 of the 16 in the House won re-election. Voters rejected them more thoroughly than any  group of  openly liberal congressmen.

Despite a landslide victory in the 2008 elections, a clear  popular mandate  repudiating Bush economics,  support for  dramatic change, control of both houses of congress and the White House, and  a tidal wave of popular enthusiasm and hope, the Obama administration seemed hesitant and timid from the start, warning supporters that because they only had a 60-40 advantage int the  Senate, they wouldn’t be able to get much done, and unclear about articulating what specifically needed to be done.

A boxer that takes a dive, that’s the analogy that  eventually occurred to me. They seemed to fold as soon  as they met  (predictable) opposition from the mouthpieces of powerful vested interests.  Like a boxer “going in the tank” as soon as a punch whistles by him. In a futile attempt to appease Republicans and garner their support, the Democrats agreed to make one-third of the  stimulus package take the form of tax cuts to businesses. That’s right–one-third of the cost (usually given as $787  billion) of the stimulus package was actually tax-cuts demanded by Republicans. Then the GOP said, ‘Thanks, suckers,” and not one ended up voting for the bill anyway. The Obama Democrats seemed slower than Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in learning that appeasement of sworn enemies out to destroy you doesn’t work. The Republicans openly announced early on, “Nothing you can do will appease us. No concession you can make will ever satisfy us or be reciprocated by us.” Yet the Democrats kept caving in, seemingly without a fight. No wonder the electorate lost confidence in their ability to exercise effective leadership.   And the hard reality is that by bungling reform, they discredited the very idea of effective reform in the eyes of many.

Why couldn’t the Obama team realize the  obvious truth of the old Clinton slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid”? It  should have been obvious that if the unemployment rate was still  around 10% at the mid-term elections, the incumbants would  certainly take a beating. The Democrats’ actions may, in fact,  have saved us from  sinking into a much deeper Depression but  an election slogan of  “Things  could have  been  worse!” isn’t very inspiring. And  now the people who represent those who literally stole trillions from the middle and working classes,   drove the economy into the ditch,  ruined the lives of tens of millions of Americans, and blocked any attempt to get us out of that ditch for the past two years,  are back in control of the House of Representatives and strengthened in the Senate,  and seem to have learned nothing.  You would think they’d have some humility after the disastrous outocmes of their actions,  but no, they are filled with arrogance, a limitless sense of entitlement,  and self-righteous aggression. Their solutions–still more tax cuts,  deregulation, and corporate giveaways–are the  very same  Bush Era policies that led us into this disaster.

I dislike being so pessimistic. I wish to hell  I could be optimistic. But I fear getting out of that ditch is going to be a long, slow, and  only partially successful process, extending over many years.






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