Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A closing argument for the Democrats

Facts discussed in this article:

1: The recession was Bush's responsibility. His policies exacerbated the problem, and the collapse started on his watch.
2: Obama's policies,m on the other hand, arrested the decline, and a Depression; however
3: He will get no credit for this achievement because people still suffered, and the suffering occurred during his presidency

People generally don't realize any of this because Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly and Co. are inveterate liars, who blame Obama for everything, and lie about his record, his background, and his intentions. Also, the inveterate liars are responsible for making this election about issues that just don't matter.  As one commenter on this blog  put it, we have a "job crisis, a deficit crisis, but instead of addressing those things, [the Tbaggers, their media lap dogs, and moron RW bloggers are] pushing...  to remove church-state separation/ Abolish the 14th Ammendment/ push matters of employment discrimination back to the States/ repeal the 17th Ammendment, etc.")

Read it after the jump

by Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker

Franklin Roosevelt was a lucky man and, in 1932, a lucky candidate. Start with the name—or, as today’s political marketers would say, the brand. F.D.R.’s name paired that of the twinkly, kindly philosopher of the American Revolution—the Uncle of His Country—with that of his own distant cousin, the most popular and dynamic President of the still-young twentieth century and the namesake of the Teddy bear, to boot. On top of that, F.D.R. was born to wealth and position. Just in time for radio, he had a beautiful voice. His political base was the most populous state in the nation. He was even lucky in his bad luck: people knew, vaguely, that he had had polio, but the mannerly conventions of what was not yet called the media kept his disability below the level of public consciousness.

The current President of the United States is a lucky man, too, on the whole. He’s had to be, if only to surmount his name (a veritable catalogue of unfortunate rhymes and echoes) and his birth (which, besides providing fodder for malevolent fantasies, brought him no riches, no entrée into any élite, and a skin color that presented some challenges). Barack Obama won the Democratic Presidential nomination by dint of his own large talents, a superior strategy, and his opposition to the Iraq War, but his (and his party’s) victory in the general election was mainly a function of public unhappiness with the record of the outgoing Administration, culminating in the most serious crisis in the economy since the one that lifted Roosevelt to power. For both men, national economic disaster was electoral good fortune. But Obama’s luck ran out almost as soon as the votes had been counted. F.D.R.’s held. Many factors account for the difference, but the biggest is a mundane matter of timing.

As of Black Thursday—the stock-market crash of October 24, 1929—Roosevelt’s Inauguration was more than three years away. In the long interim, the unemployment rate went from three per cent to twenty-five per cent. Average family incomes fell by a third, industrial production by nearly half, housing starts by four-fifths, stock prices by nine-tenths. Eleven thousand banks ceased to exist, taking the savings of some ten million depositors into the ether with them. By the time Roosevelt moved into the White House, what had begun as a financial panic had become an existential threat. The Great Depression had fully taken hold. Its effects had been felt for years. No one could argue that the new President or his party was to blame for it, or that getting out of it would be a quick or easy task.

The rough equivalent of the ’29 crash—the collapse of Lehman Brothers—took place on September 15, 2008, the day that John McCain declared that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” It was a mere seven weeks until Election Day. The economy had been an issue well before that, of course. Under the Bush Administration and its tax cuts, growth was sluggish. All of its fruits, such as they were, trickled up to the top, mostly to a tiny sliver atop the top: by 2007, the richest one per cent were claiming almost a quarter of total national income, their highest share since 1928. (When Ronald Reagan launched the era of modern conservatism, it had been one-tenth.) Under Bush, the wages and incomes of average families actually declined. But when Obama declared his candidacy, in February of 2007, unemployment—the most politically salient of economic numbers—was below five per cent. When he accepted the Democratic nomination, in August of 2008, it was still “only” 6.1 per cent. When Lehman went under, it was 6.2 per cent. Only after the Democrats won the election did the full impact of the disaster kick in. On Inauguration Day, the jobless rate was 7.7 per cent. A month later, when President Obama signed the stimulus bill, unemployment was 8.2 per cent, and by the end of the year it was in double figures. The most recent report, for September, puts it at 9.6 per cent. Last month, people at the National Bureau of Economic Research announced that, the way they define recessions, this one ended sixteen months ago. The way actual people experience their actual lives, it most certainly did not.

Obama is no more to blame for the Great Recession than F.D.R. was for the Great Depression. But the longest and deepest mass suffering has occurred with Obama in the White House and Democrats holding a majority in (if not always in control of) our two national legislatures. That—more than tea parties, more than Fox News, more than the scores of millions of anonymous corporate dollars poured into negative campaign advertising courtesy of five Justices of the Supreme Court—is why, next Tuesday, the Republican Party is overwhelmingly likely to retake the House of Representatives outright and, at the very least, to augment its share of seats in the Senate enough to make its veto power absolute.

From the outset, the Republican legislative strategy has been to reject any hint of compromise in favor of making unprecedentedly ruthless use of Senate filibusters and threats of filibusters in order to thwart or weaken everything the Democrats seek to do, the better to attack them for lack of accomplishment. In this way, four hundred and twenty bills passed by the House (which is fifty-nine-per-cent Democratic) have died in the Senate (also fifty-nine-per-cent Democratic). Even among the small minority of voters who have some familiarity with Senate rules and their baneful consequences, few know that the Democrats had their filibuster-proof majority—sixty votes, not all of them reliable—for just seven of the Obama Administration’s twenty-one months. Under the circumstances, the record is impressive: a health-care program that will cover twenty million of the uninsured while restraining costs; partial reform of the financial industry; the rescue of the American auto industry, saving a million jobs; and a fiscal stimulus—$814 billion of tax cuts, infrastructure projects, and help for states and cities—without which, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, today’s unemployment rate would be pushing twelve per cent.

It is often said that Obama—in 2008, a gifted orator with minimal national experience—has been better, as President, at “governing” than at “politics.” His fitful attempts to present his programs as a coherent, compelling whole have been a failure. He seldom offers the consolation of anger; his instinct for comity can look, to some, like detachment, even weakness. His supporters are worried, sometimes dispirited; his enemies are full of passionate intensity. The Republicans offer plenty of rage and resentment, but nothing of substance beyond fulminations about a deficit that their proposals—more and bigger tax cuts for the comfortable, the gutting of health-care reform—would exacerbate. President Obama and the Democrats kept the Great Recession from becoming a second Great Depression. But the presence of pain is more keenly felt than the absence of agony. ♦

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