Monday, February 14, 2011

"Obama's Cowardice"

Andrew Sullivan missed Egypt's revolution owing to illness. He wastes no time diagnosing what's wrong with President Obama's proposed budget, which is busted on the back of discretionary spending:

To all those under 30 who worked so hard to get this man elected, know this: he just screwed you over. He thinks you're fools. Either the US will go into default because of Obama's cowardice, or you will be paying far far more for far far less because this president has no courage when it counts. He let you down. On the critical issue of America's fiscal crisis, he represents no hope and no change. Just the same old Washington politics he once promised to end.


MK said...

In order to do take the necessary steps (I'm not in a position to spell them out although I have my ideas) now required laying the groundwork a long time ago. Too many forces prevented that, on both sides. Not all, of course. I know senior citizens who have always voted GOP who asked why taxes weren't raised after 9/11; some members of the World War II generation understood that you don't get something for nothing. Others their age and younger seem never to have grasped that. As David Brooks wrote a year or two ago, there's been a lot of economic immorality among the American public.

I think we're stuck with what we have in large part because both parties have bought into the idea that they can't talk to voters as if they were grown ups. After Mondale tried to talk candidly to voters as if they were adults and lost big, the Republicans and Democrats both have viewed voters as too ignorant and too selfish to support what needs to be done in terms of fixing revenue and spending imbalances.

Sullivan to his credit links to former Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan advisor, who writes, correctly in my view, "One of the biggest problems we have in dealing with the budget is the gross level of budgetary ignorance on the part of the public." Anyone trying to fix the problem in Washington is in the position of a step-parent dealing with a child whose education and upbringing have been ignored or mishandled by his or her birthparents. An awful lot of ground to make up, some nearly impossible to do.

I actually think buried knowledge of that is the source of a lot of the anger I see among some bloggers and talk radio and cable bloviators when they talk about Tea Party issues. They know they've let down future generations and feel trapped (impotent) to fix things because they sat by and let problems build up since the 1980s. There's more anger on the right (probably more guilt) but both parties kicked the can down the road for too long.

I can't think of any other reason for some of the anger, as opposed to a sense of "ok, we're all in this together, both parties, let's roll up our sleeves and find a way to make it work." You can't fix big problems from a position of anger. And anger usually blinds you only if it is linked to denial or other things you are afraid to face. Only unacknowledged and unacknowledgeable guilt about not facing tax and spending issues bravely in the past can explain some of the anger that now suffuses some of the rhetoric about budget issues by opinionators.

Too many leaders and pundits and opinonators failed as "parents" and future generations will pay--and they know they failed future generations. I'm convinced the anger is a form of displacement. A symptom of the "not my fault" thinking we started seeing more and more of after the 1970s. Yes, on the right, very much so, as well as on the left. I'm really glad I don't have children. . . .

Fr. John said...

Ever the optimist, however, I begin with the proposition: What should we do right now? Right off the bat, all I can think of is that some politicians have to be willing to take some risks, beginning, I would think, with a president who really does have the option of at least acknowledging the logic of his own fiscal commission. Is not being reelected the worse thing in the world?

MK said...

Not being re-elected might have been a trade off in the 1980s or 1990s but I'm not sure any Democratic president is willing to make it now, given how the base of each party views each other. (I'm not a part of either base, of course.) To judge by liberal blogs, there's a vibe on cable and talk radio on the right of rolling back workers' and womens' rights, maybe even the Voting Rights Act (the Birthers really have done the GOP a disservice), rolling back regulations to the point where the earth and our health might suffer, and fighting war after war, whether warranted or not.

Talk radio has harmed the GOP and conservatism greatly. Too much anger, too much of a sense of having punishment as a primary motive, too little sense of love of country as opposed to love of party. And the left still drags some baggage from the 1970s, despite the success of DLC type Clintonism in the 1990s.

With the extremists' voices (or the voices of those who think that to win ratings you have to use extreme rhetoric) the loudest, each side baying against the other, it might be hard for a Democratic president not to see himself as a bulwark aginst harmful regression and come to perceive himself as a protector of workers, women, the environment, etc. I don't think Obama himself is there, but much of his base might be, given what they are hearing from right wing talk radio.

In the 1990s and early part of the 21st Century, more Republicans believed in climate change than they do now. I don't know what led some of them to change their minds, it can't just be greed and a desire to hold onto money rather than spend some of it for a better environment. But there are so many issues now where the *only* answer to *any* issue is, "don't take my money." Period.

Even I, who follow politics closely, have to remind myself sometimes that the GOP really isn't a party that thinks of issues in terms of "me and my family and my wallet" and the Democrats as "us as a nation and the common good." There actually is a huge group of people in the middle -- what I believe is a Silent Majority, which leans right on some fiscal issues and moderate or left on some social issues and wants the two parties to work together. But few in the punditocracy or blogosphere represent them. That means the image of an angry and punitive GOP in charge, eager to punish heretics (which I guess means people like me, too) looms larger than it should.

The GOP and its principles really aren't as weak and indefensible as the Limbaughs and Becks and Palins and other radio talkmeisters would have one believe. (Again, I link level of anger to level of guilt and lack of confidence. That the image of the genial conservative who wants to do what's best for his country and countrymen that Reagan projected so well really has faded.) So a Democratic president might face more pressure to "hold on the power now than in the past.