Thursday, November 04, 2010

Out Of Control?

I didn’t hear the President yesterday and can’t find a transcript, which in itself speaks volumes, but from what I have read and the clips I have seen I’m glad I missed it. Chris Matthews praised him for being “poised,” but most of it sounded to me pretty much like he was making excuses and feeling sorry for himself.

I’ve rather enjoyed reading all the bullshit theories about why Democrats took such a “shellacking.” I think most of them are wrong and am, of course, prepared to deliver my own theory. You are tremendously surprised to know that, I’m sure.

I don’t think that cause was that Obama failed to be liberal enough. He certainly was not liberal enough to suit me, but I don’t believe there were enough of the “liberal base” to create this kind of defeat. I do think that the difference between the flavor of his campaign and the flavor of his governance was a factor. He campaigned as a populist and a beacon of honesty in government, and he governed as the same old deal making corporatist. That led to a great many young people, new to politics and not yet accustomed to politicians going back on their campaign promises, staying home.

I certainly don’t think that it was because he was “too liberal.” Good lord, what did he do that was liberal? He passed a stimulus bill that was more tax cuts than it was actual spending, and the spending was on social policy that the Republicans, for the most part, thoroughly approved of. The health care reform was one of the biggest gifts to corporations in history. What little part of financial reform that to do with people was passed with no enforcement provisions.

Saying that the “shellacking” was because Obama and the Democrats “didn’t fix the economy” approaches the cause, but I think it’s only close.

I think the real reason is that for much of the past two years Obama and the Democrats didn’t even try to fix the economy. If the economy had remained bad but it had been evident that government’s focus and effort had been on dealing with that problem, I think the Democrats would have held power.

I believe, for instance, that health care reform was a huge blunder. Sure, it was a great and historical idea, and it was a major factor in the campaign, but by the time he took office Obama was faced with an economy in shambles, unemployment on its way to 10% and banks on the verge of collapse. His response was to bail out the banks and then to pass a bill that lets me pay for my kid’s health insurance until he’s twenty-six.

News flash. I don’t want to pay for my kid’s health insurance until he’s twenty-six, I want him to be able to get a job so that he can move his butt out of my house and pay for his own damned health insurance. You rescue banks and you add eight years to how long I have to support my kid.

Paul Krugman suggests that the stimulus bill that Obama passed was the best he could get, and that there was nothing more he could do to improve the economy, and that may be a valid point. I would suggest that doing nothing would have been better than the year-long ugly catfight we had on health care reform; a catfight that flung in the faces of the American voting public that Congress and the President were doing nothing about the economy and about restoring their jobs.

Certainly it’s true that individual components of the reform polled well; the “public option,” for instance was heavily favored. Each of these polls was based, however, on the premise that health care reform was the order of the day. When polled about major concerns, the economy and jobs were always at the top of the list, and health care reform was never higher than, I believe, number eight or so. What was being said was to the effect of, “If you’re going to do reform, then the public option is good, but we’d rather you not do reform and work on the damned economy.” Obama and the Democrats did not listen.

As if the health care reform distracting from economic concerns weren’t bad enough in itself, Obama had to display his corporatism at the beginning of the process by making a deal with drug companies that reform would not include Medicare negotiation of drug prices or allow drug reimportation. Then he made a deal with hospitals that reform would not attack their pricing and profit. Then he made a deal with insurance companies that it would not include the public option. The only reason the deal making stopped was because there was no one left to make a deal with. Then, and only then, does the process move to Congress where the fight begins for a long and ugly year as each Congressperson tries to get their piece of the pie while the economy continues to deteriorate.

Obama’s first two deals were known during the health care reform debate, and the third was revealed well before the election. When your government is colluding with corporations to keep their prices high, and then passing a law requiring you to buy their products, does that not sound like a “government that is out of control” to you?

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