Saturday, February 20, 2010

Economic Priorities of 2010 - Part Two

According to a story posted by Reuters yesterday:

A job-creation bill could be headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate next week, lawmakers and aides said on Friday, as key Republicans have withdrawn support for what was supposed to be a relatively noncontroversial measure.

Anyone who is surprised by this development doesn't understand the prerogatives of the modern Republican party. In order for them to retake power - first in the 2010 midterm elections, then in the 2012 presidential election - they need Barack Obama to fail. For Barack Obama to fail, they need the sufferings of the American people - specifically their economic hardships - to be progressively worsened at least until November of this year, and more likely until the November that follows two years after that one. As such, it is in their vested interest to make sure that any legislative program which Obama proposes, and which could have the effect of solving the major problems facing America right now, goes down to miserable defeat.

Republicans, of course, can't let it be known that they are intentionally obstructing Obama's agenda, and with it the well-being of their own country, for purely political reasons. They like to claim that they have legitimate disagreements with Obama's proposals, even though - on issues as wide-ranging as foreign policy and health care reform to economic stimulus and deficit reduction - Obama has done far more to reach out to conservatives than any of the more recent right-wing presidents (Reagan, the two Bushes) ever did to liberals (and, for that matter, far more than Obama's own liberal supporters would have liked). Indeed, the jobs creation bill in question was by-and-large one crafted BY conservatives - it consists mainly of pork barrel projects in red districts and tax cuts/incentives for businesses, all of which are based on a distinctly Republican philosophy on how to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Although watered down to be more acceptable to Democratic moderates, the legislation itself was ultimately a product of Reaganite minds, as evidenced by the manner in which one of its key provisions was drafted by far-right Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (with the help of New York Senator Chuck Schumer).

Yet Republicans are still determined to defeat it. Why? Because even this measure, paltry though it is, would effect at least modest improvements in our economy. That, in turn, would benefit the political fortunes of Democrats in general and President Obama individually. Such an occurrence, even if it comes as a result of Americans being helped through the worst economic crisis in three generations, is one that Republicans simply cannot abide.

This doesn't mean that Obama doesn't have other resources at his disposal. He could engage in a more aggressive campaign against Republican obstructionists and so-called "centrists" in his own party, thus using the bully pulpit of the presidency in order to put his opponents, rather than himself, on the defensive. He could take bold measures to effect positive change over-the-heads of the legislative branch, such as by pushing through important bills via a process known as reconciliation (which only requires 51 Senate votes instead of 60, and is filibuster-proof). He could implement vital policies via Executive Orders instead of legislation, which - even though they are inherently temporary by nature - could, if successful, become permanent as a result of widespread popular support.

Obama seems to be under the misconception that his troubles are due to American leeriness of bold, sweeping action, and a preference for moderation and bi-partisanship. Although vocal right-wing zealots are certainly inclined to give him this impression (since, after all, a timid and ineffective liberal president is an easier opponent to beat than a strong and bold one), the reality is that most Americans are angry at Obama because HE HASN'T SOLVED THEIR PROBLEMS. If he suddenly has the image of a forceful leader, and is seen taking daring and effective steps to solve the problems of average Americans, with Republicans forced into the role of enemies of the American people's interests, he will see many of his current troubles vanish with remarkable celerity. America's most popular and successful presidents - from liberals like Franklin Roosevelt to conservatives like Ronald Reagan - are those who, regardless of their ideological dispositions, were perceived as taking charge and shaking results out of problems, no matter how obstinate those problems might have seemed. It would do Obama well to remember the sage advice of the Roman poet Virgil:

Fortune favours the bold.

1 comment:

Regina said...

Here is what I relly don't understand: Obama is not a stupid man. More importantly, he's well-intentioned! He genuinely wants to fix these problems. And I can't imagine he--as well as the adults who surround him--doesn't watch the news and look for these polls and opinion surveys. None of them live under rocks. The guy may not be an economic-minded guy (Obama's real strength, I think, is supposed to be foreign affairs), but neither am I, and I get it. Most of America seems to get it. How come he doesn't? How come his advisors don't? Do they WANT to lose the midterms and the presidency?!