Tuesday, December 24, 2013

He Walks on Water, So Why Didn’t the Website Work?

“The Worst Year of the Obama Presidency;” “Obama’s Katrina and Iraq War Rolled into One;” “Too Cold a Personality for a President.” You would think the country is in really bad shape, and it’s the president’s doing.

Of course, if you listen to Fox News or right wing radio talk show hosts, that would be called liberal media spin on their beliefs: “Obama Sold us into the Slavery of Socialism;” “Weakening our Nation and Destroying the Military;” “A Tyrant Ignoring the Constitution.”

In fact, it bears remembering that five years ago only the extraordinary measures Obama and a briefly Democratic Congress took in 2009 to stimulate the economy and save the auto industry kept us out of a Depression.  But it seems increasingly clear this “jobless recovery” was because we stopped stimulus spending too soon. Nevertheless, the economy has finally shaken off the lethargy it was in. Despite the Government Shutdown, Sequestration, and despite 3 years of GOP austerity policies that limited stimulus spending to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to pump money into the economy, we have seen sustained growth reaching 4% of GDP and shrinking unemployment.

Where might we be if we’d had a second stimulus bill to fix our crumbling infrastructure instead of fretting about debt and deficits and facing Republican refusal to raise new revenue even by closing tax loopholes?  A conservative estimate is a million jobs and nearly a trillion dollars a year since 2011. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the Sequestration alone is responsible for the loss or failure to create over a million jobs and almost a full percentage point of growth. That’s why it’s worth at least a sigh of relief that the recent budget compromise has delayed some of Sequestration's effects of and increased the budget for a couple years. The so-called Party of Fiscal Responsibility has cost us a fortune.

We shouldn’t be gloomy, we should be angry. When even the Pope comes out and says trickle-down economics doesn’t work, isn’t it time for Republicans to acknowledge they’ve been standing in the way of growth? In recent elections, they incessantly claimed businesses would not hire because of the “uncertainty” of whether taxes would rise on top earners as they finally did at the beginning of 2013. And look at how well the economy has done since then! There was something to their argument, only it was the Republicans causing the uncertainty, and the increasing inequality of income in our country.

“If you like your health care plan you can keep it.” He said it, many times. Was he lying, misled, or stupid? None of the above. He is, after all, a politician. In this case, as politicians do in campaigns, he oversold. Mark my words, something like the following will be reported in a tell-all book some day.

Obama: Maybe I should say, “If you like your health plan, almost all of you can keep your health plan!”
Campaign advisor: Not strong enough. Drop the almost all.
Obama: I don’t know, we put in the grandfather clause to let insurance companies keep people insured if their plans were in effect since before the law was passed, but some folks have bought inadequate policies since then.
Campaign advisor: How many?
Obama: Maybe 1 or 2%.
Campaign advisor: Look, 98% keeping their plan? That’s virtually everybody. Just go with it.

It turns out it was more like 5%. And of course, there is the Healthcare.gov website that took two months to get working right. Two months of bad press about how government can’t perform like the private sector. That’s mythology: 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first year. The federal government can’t go out of business, so when it makes a mistake, it has to fix it. How does a failed campaign promise and a poorly designed website become the equivalent of a failure to provide emergency assistance to a whole city (Katrina) or of going to war on false pretenses (Iraq) and proclaiming victory months into a protracted disaster? Who died because of the website failure? How much did it cost to fix it compared to 8 years of war? (answer: don't know how much it cost to fix, but it was supposed to be 1/2 billion to build Healthcare.gov. A low estimate on cost of the Iraq War is 800 billion).

Is Obama held to a different standard by the media? Heck, the worst they can say about him is that he’s not as outgoing as other presidents; he doesn’t like to glad hand and schmooze as much as Bill Clinton or George Bush. Have his poll numbers dropped simply because people found out he’s not perfect? I saw a cartoon recently showing Obama walking on water, but sinking and now up to his knees. The last panel shows an elephant (GOP) on the bottom pulling him down with its trunk.

There’s a lot of good that Obama has done for the American people in five years, but he could have accomplished much more with a "loyal opposition" instead of a perfidious one. Background checks, immigration reform, closing corporate loopholes—these are issues large majorities of Americans favor, but Republicans are blocking. It’s time for us to stand up for this man and for sensible lawmaking. It’s easy to get stirred up by a great speech during a campaign; it's harder to cast aside your gloom and get stirred up to change public opinion. But that's what we need to do to convince the other side to support sensible, needed policies, or to mobilize to vote them out.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12/25/2013

    Great blog, thanks Paul. ~ Norm