These past three years, the anti-Obama contingent has cheered at every shred of bad economic news and bureaucratic misstep. The wild-eyed charges of an ideological war carried on by an administration bent on Marxist objectives are all aimed at obscuring the sad results of three decades of “supply-side” economic mischief.
“Larry Summers and I were both on the side of ‘we need a more definitive clean-up of the financial system.’ And the question was if somebody, you know, really wasn’t solvent, do you need the government to put in capital, realize the losses, clean it up, and then put it back into private hands?” – Christina Romer, White House Economic Advisor 2009 – 2010
Any serious study of this administration’s policies reveals a most pragmatic response by Obama at almost every turn. From the selection of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and many other establishment appointees, to the decision not to seize or take the banks to the woodshed, Obama has erred on the side of caution and market reassurance rather than a confrontation with forces that would flirt with a stalemate leading to economic stagnation or catastrophe. It is essential that the story be told clearly and that we rely on the accomplishments. That looks to be the approach the Obama campaign will employ based upon the message from the campaign thus far. The facts are more than embarrassing for the right’s apologists.
The jeering squad on the right has done more to damage the economic recovery than to diminish the popularity of the President, though both were their objectives. One facilitates the other. It says a lot about who really hates America. Fear, hate, and loathing juxtapose the positive message of the Obama Presidency. But fighting the onslaught of right wing misinformation is an uphill battle and an appeal to consider the facts, not to react viscerally based upon predisposition is a tough road. The window on the facts is opaque. Lost in the resulting darkness, demons are too often our first advisors.
President Obama’s economic view, which focuses on the long run, plays into the hands of the narcissistic short run ballyhoo of the right. That short run focus brought immense rewards to the market because it claimed the liquidation of capital resources as profit, exaggerating results, while eroding the infrastructure necessary to sustain future returns. Sacrifice was brushed aside as a relic of bygone days and this sense of doing business for today played into the hands of those who claimed to want to run government like a business. For eight years, the Bush administration ran government, domestic economic and foreign policy, with a view to the short run. That set a high bar for recovery expectations and the environment for the ensuing three years’ right wing meme.
The PBS Frontline “Election 2012 Special Event”, Money, Power, and Wall Street (see Republicans, Deregulation, and Ruin for more background) concludes with the economic melt-down during the run-up to the 2008 election, the void of leadership from the Bush administration that followed during the transition of power, and the efforts to balance change with economic recovery. Armed with the facts, the right’s effort to lay the economic disaster at the feet of this administration is beyond laughable and an absolute indictment of supply side economics. But the issues, unfortunately, are not kitchen table subjects for the majority of Americans who rely on the integrity of our institutions to get by day to day. After all, there’s a lot on that table without having to guard against those who should act as our fiduciaries; who should have our backs.
We must be armed with the facts to counter the indolent lemmings who believe the assertions that the economy is staggering as a result of these past three years. Well before it became painfully clear that the economy was in crisis, Obama the candidate was calling for purity in the ethics of Wall Street while doing the business we should be doing. We weren’t, driven by reverence to the short run. The short run has nothing to do with leaving a better world for our children and grandchildren; those who the right so righteously claims to defend. These past three years have saved a semblance of hope for the future, but that is not yet assured. Romney, the “reorganization expert” would discard any hope for a middle class future at all.
The 2008 election was important; this one may be for keeps. And the debate must be guided toward rational discourse to claim the independent vote. The facts are Obama’s best ally. His measured focus on the future with regard to the present is far from the ideologue he is painted by his detractors, driven by ulterior motives and relying on emotion rather than reality.
Emotions were on the side of Democrats in 2006 and 2008. It’ll be a nasty draw in 2012. This campaign must rely on a direct appeal to the American middle class’s better judgment. That’s best done by laying out the case and expecting them to act sensibly in their own interests.