WHY THE DEMOCRATS LOST: Because they cannot win unless they explain Keynesian economics and inform the public of the dramatic reduction in federal spending and federal employment since 2010—and the consequences of it. Obama will not (or, intellectually, cannot) do that. So others must.
Yesterday, I wrote here in response to a statement by Greg Sargent that “McConnell’s only way to re-litigate Obama’s policies will remain budgetary guerrilla warfare that will only work if Obama allows it to work, which he won’t, which he won’t.”:
McConnell’s only way to re-litigate Obama’s policies will remain budgetary guerrilla warfare that will only work if Obama allows it to work. Which, if past is prologue, he will. And with Obama, past is always prologue
Obama spent the first three years of his presidency, and, intensely, 2011, waving the budgetary white flag so desperately that it was only the farthest-right contingent of House members that prevented significant changes to Social Security, Medicare and other major safety-net programs. The House contingent that blocked the deal did so because it didn’t go far enough, in their opinion. But it went very far.
What I remember most strikingly from that period, and what Sargent apparently has forgotten, is Obama’s angry public response to the death of this Republican-dream legislation. Always one to invoke some stunningly stupid family-is-like-government analogy, however clearly the analogy adopts the Republicans’ factually erroneous and very harmful policy mantras (“Families are tightening their belts, so the government should tighten its belt, too.”), Obama said he was willing to give the Republicans 90% of what they wanted if they would give him 10% of what he wanted, because that’s his arrangement with Michelle.*
His party controlled the executive branch and one-half of the legislative branch. But he was willing to give the one-half of the legislative branch controlled by the Republicans 90% of what they wanted. If only they would stop looking that gift horse in the mouth.
Biden said yesterday that “we’re willing to compromise.” Read: “We’re willing to cave.” And the Dems’ standard-bearer-apparent—who’s aggressively blocking anyone else from running for the presidential nomination—couldn’t explain Keynesian economics, or cite healthcare coverage or healthcare-cost-reduction specifics, to save her life, yet she’s what will pass for the Dems’ fallback voice.
I titled my post: “Greg Sargent confuses Obama with Elizabeth Warren. Or with Harry Reid. While Obama confuses the congressional Republicans with Michelle.” The post garnered a comment from reader Axt this afternoon saying:
In this I firmly believe the GOP whacko birds will save Obama from himself.
Basically they’ll require full repeal of Obamacare as part of any deal, and that is the one place where Obama will hold firm.
My lengthy reply to him or her merits a full post of its own, I think. I wrote:
Axt113, I wish you were right, but you’re not. McConnell has made clear time and again in the last few months that it will all be done through the budget process.
Of course, Obama COULD—theoretically—give a short primetime TV address once Koch-McConnell Industries starts doing this, explaining what exactly they’re doing, what the intent is, and what the effect is. He COULD, theoretically, even mention how many Kentuckians will lose their healthcare insurance if McConnell gets his way.
Just as he COULD, theoretically, during the last several budget confrontations, and even during this year’s congressional campaigns, given a short primetime TV address, using charts, and telling the public that the budget deficit has declined by more than half in the last four years; that the federal workforce has declined dramatically because of that; that the budgets for key federal agencies such as the NIH and the National Weather Service have been gutted, as has federal financial assistance to state and local governments, causing dramatic reductions in employment by state and local governments (including for teachers and firefighters).
But just as he hasn’t done these things before, he won’t do it going forward. He doesn’t feel comfortable speaking into a camera from his office in the White House and doesn’t feel comfortable explaining things to the public, see. Which I guess is why he didn’t do either of those things regarding Ebola and the travel-ban issue.
We’re in a perfect storm, here, and have been for the last nearly-six years. There no longer are any cultural barriers to brazen misstatements of fact about government policies, statistics, affects, so the Republican media machine inundates the public with false facts. And the only person who could actually penetrate and counter this false-propaganda fest by gaining nationwide attention for the refutations, using statistics and other facts, and the economic effects of these statistics (i.e., Keynesian economics), refuses to do that. And in any event probably couldn’t do it coherently, to save his live. Or to save anyone else’s (political) life.
I’ve known, and right now know, a small number of people who seem very bright and are highly educated (graduate degrees of one sort or another), and yet whose thought process is so “off”, so utterly weird, so illogical, that eventually I realize that there’s no actual way to communicate normally with the person, and no reason to expect that the person will ever have a normal recognition and understanding of normal things. I don’t know Obama personally, but I put him in that category.
This is not to say that he doesn’t deserve great credit for some of what he’s done as president—especially his decision in early 2009, against the political advice of some of his aides, to ask Congress to pursue healthcare insurance reform.
But his bizarre, hands-off, delegation of the policy design to Congress—and his stupefying failure, throughout, to refute the false statements of fact about the eventual law and to make one infamous one himself (“If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan,” which is true for most but not all), rather than explaining the actual policy, and that virtually identical or more comprehensive policies will be available, and why—is emblematic of so much that is very wrong with his presidency.
They are, specifically: His extreme lack of mental agility—an inability to recognize when something, including false facts being propagated, needs to be addressed, needs to be dealt with; his extreme delegation to Congress of complex and very important legislation that should be designed at the outset by the White House; and, most of all, his failure to do what is necessary to educate the public about absolutely critical facts that the public clearly is unaware of and facts about which holds outright-false beliefs.
Rand Paul was quoted last night saying that the reason for the election results was “the incompetence of big government.” Because, you see, small government could stop Ebola in its tracks, halt the advance of ISIS, and enable everyone to have access to good healthcare without having to develop an extremely complicated web sign-up. It also could forecast, monitor and warn the public about weather, accurately, using infallible by very cheap technology and warn the public. It could develop an Ebola vaccine, run a wildly popular national pension system for pretty much everyone, and provide competent healthcare access to elderly retirees.
Last weekend, I wrote in a post here:
Yup. Wouldn’t wanna distract from the “personhood” issue by setting the record straight on trivia such as that the federal deficit actually has fallen by more than 50 percent since President Obama took office. And by mentioning such dramatic budgetary facts as those cited in the op-ed about the National Weather Service and those discussed recently by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. Or by noting the drastic cuts in infrastructure upkeep and in financial assistance to state and local governments. And you certainly wouldn’t wanna point out the direct effects of these cuts.
Bridge collapses, potholed highways, the sudden inability of the National Weather Service to warn of a hurricane’s path, a massive snowstorm, or tornadoes pale in comparison to a “personhood” constitutional amendment that would have less chance of actual passage by Congress and ratification by the necessary number of states than a polar bear will have of survival in Alaska in a few years. So do advances in medicine, warnings of tornadoes and major storm paths, and bringing down what are now spiraling state university and college costs and student loan interest rates.
The New York Times op-ed I linked to, “Our Failing Weather Infrastructure,” by Kathryn Miles, author of a book called ““Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy,” begins by detailing several recent severe failures of technological failures of the National Weather Service. Miles says these breakdowns are not a new problem, and explains:
For years, congressional allocations to the National Weather Service have all but flatlined. Meanwhile, the cost of storm recovery has skyrocketed. In the 20 years leading up to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the United States suffered 133 weather disasters that exceeded $1 billion in damages, for a total of over $875 billion. Sandy, the secondcostliest hurricane in the nation’s history, came with a price tag of anestimated $65 billion.
In the months after Sandy, the Department of Commerce issued a service assessment report, which evaluated the National Weather Service’s response to the storm. Its authors discovered understaffed forecasting offices, a shortage of products that convey storm threats to the general public and a real need for more staff training. These findings echoed a similar report issued after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which charged that gaps in technology, service and training had complicated forecasters’ ability to do their jobs.
But rather than address these shortages, in 2013 the National Weather Service was forced to put in place a hiring freeze and cut off funding for forecaster training and equipment maintenance, part of an 8.3 percent budget cut that came in the wake of the federal government’s budget sequestration. The National Weather Service now employs 288 fewer forecasters and technicians than it did when Sandy struck.
A report issued earlier this year by the union representing National Weather Service employees estimates that there are more than 500 job vacancies within the agency, 396 of which are considered “emergency essential” — forecasters and technicians who are on the front line of storm prediction and the issuance of watches, warnings and advisories.
For years, the National Hurricane Center has been stymied by what the Sandy assessment report called “a severe staffing shortage” in its technology and science branch, which is responsible for everything from software development to communicating watches and warnings. Thanks to budget constraints, the center employs just one fulltime storm surge specialist, despite the fact that storm surge consistently kills more people than wind and is much harder to predict.
Meanwhile, existing forecasters are forced to cope with limitations that make their jobs difficult: radar that crashes, broken winddetection devices, failing satellites and budget constraints that prevent them from utilizing tools like weather balloons.
Meteorologists at all levels of the National Weather Service are exceedingly talented, hardworking scientists. They can do far more than their jobs currently allow, including issuing sevenday storm forecasts and using global information systems to create surge maps that would assist emergency managers in evacuations. But, as one senior administrator at the National Hurricane Center told me, “we can barely keep the trains running.”
One commenter wrote in the comments to the op-ed something like: “More money! Look, if they need more money to operate they should get it. But first they should prove that they’re competent.”
Undoubtedly, that commenter also thinks hospitals should demonstrate their competence at surgical operations and at running x-ray labs before they’re paid enough to buy the equipment and hire staff. We do need to reduce healthcare costs, after all. I hope this guy uses one of those hospitals next time he needs major medical treatment. There will be one less winger to vote in the following election.
This is so stunningly stupid. But it also is the result of decades of anti-government propaganda based upon clichés repeated and repeated and repeated, and nothing pushing back on it.
Unless the Democrats, en masse, do a complete sweep of their party’s consultants and operatives, and unless they nominate for president someone who never bought into the sales pitch of those people, the party will lose next time. And the time after that. And the time after that.
The Democrats cannot win unless they explain Keynesian economics and inform the public of the dramatic reduction in federal spending and federal employment since 2010—and the consequences of it. Obama will not (or, intellectually, cannot) do that, so others must.
So, Dems: First kill all the consultants. Then kill all the politicians who follow the consultants’ advice.
*ADDENDUM: Obama seems to actually think in these silly analogies to families/sports/other-things-that-trivialize-complex-facts-and-situations. Last summer when ISIS broke through to the American consciousness after American journalist James Foley was appaulingly killed and the killing was videotaped, it was reported that last winter when a reporter asked him about ISIS’s recent advances, he said it was just the JVT to al Qaeda. The reporter pointed out that the JVT had just invaded and conquered Falujah.
Which isn’t to say that this country should re-enter Iraq. But it is to say that Obama apparently settles on an analogy and that’s the end of it—including deciding to borrow the “families” analogy from the other side that undermines what had been, and should be, his own position. After all, it’s a family analogy! Or a sports analogy! Or a cat-jumps-through-a-hoop analogy! The public will identify with it!