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by Christopher Chantrill
September 09, 2009 at 9:41 pm
ITS about a year since Barack Obama has been at the center of US national politics, but its probably not too early to say that his first year was wasted.
It is also probably too harsh to blame the president for all of the waste. He heads a party that last did something serious in the civil rights era of the 1960s. Its hard, even for the best of leaders, to kick free of the bad influence of your peers.
We all know how it all went wrong.
When Lehman Brothers failed on September 15, 2008, the global financial markets seized up and the stock markets, barometer of the future earnings of the worlds enterprises, went south too. At that point, any prudent campaign organization would have said to itself: all bets are off. Wed better start contingency planning for a completely different presidency. By January 20th, Inauguration Day, it was clear that the entire world was in the middle of the most serious financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. President Obama and his team could have junked their game plan and started over. They could have told us that all the goodies they promised us, the health care and the green jobs, would have to wait.
The response of the Obama administration to the economic crisis will go down as one of the biggest blunders in US history.
In his inaugural speech the president decided to stay the course, acting as if the national larder were full instead of empty.
The president encouraged the Congress to pass a huge stimulus bill that was, in fact, a bailout for the state and local governments, i.e., state and local government jobs.
The immediate emergence of the Tea Party movement in February told us that something was wrong. Everybody who was anybody sneered at the grass-roots consternation of the American people.
They are not sneering any more.
As it happens, the American people are right. All the bailouts and deficits are just digging a bigger hole. Only one bailout was necessary, the bailout to unfreeze the frozen credit markets and put the banks back above water.
Since February the Obama administration has attempted two more blunders, the cap-and-tax bill, presently hidden away in the US Senate, and the three ring circus of the presidents health reform, presently on life support.
Has there ever been a more reckless squandering of political capital in US history?
The irony of the situation is that the failure of its initiatives is probably going to be the one thing that saves the Obama administration. If cap-and-tax fails, and the health reform is reduced to minor tinkering, then 2010 may turn into the year that Congress looks at ending the Bush tax cuts and blinks. With taxes low and new spending shelved, in spite of the president and his liberal Congress, the economy might eke out a decent recovery in 2011 and 2012 and reelect President Obama.
It is telling that the center of resistance to the presidents agenda seems to be coming not from the established conservative movement but from some more amorphous, Middle American place. Maybe thats not surprising. When the welfare state crashes and burns it will not necessarily be women and minorities hardest hit. No, it will be ordinary Americans that will be hardest hit. Liberals and their clients will do fine, protected in their lifetime government sinecures and benefits. Conservatives will do fine, because they never trusted government, and made other arrangements for their security. It will be the moderates, who vote one year for Republican tax cuts and another year for Democratic spending, that will be devastated by the wreck of the liberal spending programs.
So it makes sense that they are the ones instinctively reacting in nervous opposition to the presidents huge spending plans.
Some people believe that the president has persisted in his folly because he is an unrepentant leftist. The truth is probably more prosaic. The problem is that the president and his advisers seem to be unable to see round corners or think several moves ahead. They have kept on with their original game plan because they lack the experience and the confidence to change it.
It makes you wonder what would have happened after 9/11 if President Bush hadnt been served as governor of Texas and received his baptism of failure in the oil and gas business. Or if Vice-President Cheney hadnt brought to the team his unrivaled lifetime of experience in government service.
But President Obama is the only president weve got. We must hope that he finds the wisdom and the strength to start over.
The nation cant afford another wasted year.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel