Skip to content

Catching Up with the Obama Dilemma

2010 June 21
by Ian Welsh

I haven’t had much to say the last bit, because the rest of the blogosphere and even mainstream pundits are catching up to where I was a while ago.  Let’s see where we are, and where we’re going.

To recap:

1) the stimulus bill was neither big enough, nor well enough put together to do the job.  However many jobs it “saved and created” they weren’t enough.

2) Obama is not in the least interested in doing progressive things unless great pain is inflicted on him, personally.  This is most likely because he is not a progressive.

3) On civil liberties, Obama is probably actually worse than Bush.  Yes, that’s quite an accomplishment, but there you have it.

4) He’s an incompetent leader, who over-centralizes decision making, refuses to delegate, then makes decisions slowly and badly.

5) His courtiers are not the problem (although they’re almost all scum), he is the problem: he chose them.

6) The spring job recovery is already petered out, and around the world virtually every major economy other than China is turning to austerity, including the US.  US cities and States are in a horrible state, gross income is down, and bank lending is still not recovering.  The US economy has become more oligopolistic and more sclerotic than ever before, with the major firms who run the economy making their money by squeezing little people who have nowhere to turn.  Thanks to Bernanke, Paulson, Geither, Bush and Obama’s bailouts, and refusal to engage in meaningful restructuring of the economy or the financial industry, their profits have recovered.  That means, to them, that the crisis is over.

7) Election results in the midterms are looking really bad.  I was warning about this in beginning of 2009, because if Obama’s economic policies didn’t work, and if he continually alienated the base, it was going to cause problems.  The only thing Obama and Congressional Dems have going for them is how bloody awful the Republicans are.  But being the lesser evil isn’t always enough.  Liberals and progressives can’t vote Republican, but they can refuse to donate, not volunteer, and in many cases, not vote.

Going forward Obama is faced with a choice.  He won’t do enough to make the base happy, because he genuinely doesn’t believe in any progressive ideals.  What he can do, however, is goose the economy. He has most of the TARP slush fund to play with.  He could dump it into the economy post-haste in order to rescue the mid-terms.

Whether to do so is a dilemma for him.  On the one hand standard methodologies are still showing that the Dems (barely) hold onto the House, and keep the Senate.  But it isn’t much of a stretch for the Republicans to win the House.

If they do so, Obama’s presidency is effectively over.  The Republicans will Clintonize him, tying him down in a blizzard of subpoenas and fake scandals.  He will get nothing done for the next two years, and will probably lose re-election.

On the other hand, if he spends the money in 2010, it won’t be there in 2012, and after all, Dems might squeeze through without it.

Choices, choices…

I’d feel sorry for him, but he’s made clear that he isn’t a Democratic president, and he isn’t a liberal or a progressive, so I see no point in wasting any angst on personal problems he himself created.  All of this was totally predictable, and was, in fact predicted by multiple people.

Obama never made a sincere effort to fix the economy, to end the wars, to stop civil liberties abuses or to revamp the financial industry.

As he reaps, so he sows.  It is unfortunate Americans have to suffer even more than he does (he’ll be taken care of after he leaves the Presidency, never fear), but such is life.  Maybe it’s time to stop voting for people who say they love Reagan and that they don’t believe in Democratic solutions to problems.

Coming up…

We’re still in a Depression

and

Why it is never in Congress’s interests to look after Americans

48 Responses
  1. Tom Hickey permalink
    June 21, 2010

    Nice summary, Ian. To bad progressives didn’t notice at the time of the primaries. They were so focused on defeating HRC in order to avoid Clinton II that that they got W II.

    Welcome to the beginning of the second leg down in GDII.

    If you haven’t yet read this satire, you might appreciate it. I won’t say “enjoy.”

    L. Randall Wray, The Great Depression and the Revolution of 2017

  2. June 21, 2010

    Croak! “Conservative Democrat.” The Democrats are the USA’s new conservative party, while the Republicans are its crazy right-wing party. I don’t think the Dems are in as much trouble as you–after Joe Barton’s apology to BP, maybe not much at all–though a lot can happen in four months. But where is the new left going to come from? Is The Big Zero going to be followed by More Nothing?

  3. June 21, 2010

    Or perhaps The Big Minus Sign?

  4. June 21, 2010

    I’m sorry, but you’d have to have been in a coma between 2001-2009 to seriously equate Obama with GWB. I know time heals all wounds, but seriously.

    That said, yeah, Obama has been a huge disappointment. Look: we were presented with two lousy choices in 2008. Among those of us who supported Obama, it was a choice between (1) a candidate we knew would govern the way he is governing now, plus the Clintonian baggage, or (2) a candidate who was far from ideal, but presented the possibility of not governing the way he, unfortunately, is now.

    We picked the possibility of change, and unfortunately we didn’t get it. I’m sad about that, but I don’t regret the choice. Anyone who thinks HRC wouldn’t be as lousy for real progressives as Obama is delusional, and I’m not one for settling. The point, however, is not whether Obama or Clinton would have been a better choice, but that we need better choices.

    Unless things change radically between now and 2012, I would totally support a progressive Democratic challenge to Obama in the 2012 primary. I also believe our first priority as progressives should be to reform campaign financing and election laws to return real power to the people, and if nothing else, ensure that in 2016 we have a real progressive choice.

  5. June 21, 2010

    P.S.: My comment above should not be read to suggest that I have any substantial amount of faith in the Democratic party. I suspect it’s pretty much a lost cause for progressives. I’m seeing more support than ever for a third-party progressive or populist political party. I hope that comes to something, because I do believe it’s our best chance at getting some kind of political power back from the corporations.

  6. John B. permalink
    June 21, 2010

    Really, the fight is in the Supremem Court. If the Supremes continue to maintain that corporations have the same voting and spending power as actual people, than nothing will get resolved in favor of campaign finance reform or returning power back to “the people”. Which with this court will all know will never happen. Basically we are screwed.

  7. marku permalink
    June 21, 2010

    Ian, excellent. This kind of clear concise report is why I keep coming back. And there is no solution in sight. Obama’s clear purpose is to make sure that none of his constituencies have to make _any_ sacrifices. And by constituencies, I mean Big Oil, Big Banks, Big Health Care, etc. Certainly not you or me.

    So that means that the only possible result is the continuation of the GDII, until conditions get so bad that an autocratic populist takes the reins. And many of the powers that the autocrat will need (locking up citizens w/o habeas, license to kill, shutting off the internet) will be powers that Obama institutionalized.

    That perhaps has been the biggest surprise. All the other stuff is pretty standard DLC politics, and I doubt it would have been any different under HRC. But for a constitutional scholar to piss on the constitution as Obama has–that was a surprise. I guess the man has no core beliefs.

  8. BDBlue permalink
    June 21, 2010

    The Supreme Court fight is over, the left lost (not that it put up much of a fight). As Ian has pointed out, the real battles were over Roberts and Alito and they were confirmed because the Democrats wouldn’t mount a filibuster (or even threaten one with any credibility) to stop it. Elena Kagan will likely be more conservative than the GOP-appionted Stevens she replaces. In fact, as Stevens has pointed out, every Justice for the last 40 years or so has been more conservative than the person he or she replaced:

    I don’t think of myself as a liberal at all,” he told me during a recent interview in his chambers, laughing and shaking his head. “I think as part of my general politics, I’m pretty darn conservative.” Stevens said that his views haven’t changed since 1975, when as a moderate Republican he was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Supreme Court. Stevens’s judicial hero is Potter Stewart, the Republican centrist, whom Stevens has said he admires more than all of the other justices with whom he has served. He considers himself a “judicial conservative,” he said, and only appears liberal today because he has been surrounded by increasingly conservative colleagues. “Including myself,” he said, “every judge who’s been appointed to the court since Lewis Powell” — nominated by Richard Nixon in 1971 — “has been more conservative than his or her predecessor. Except maybe Justice Ginsburg. That’s bound to have an effect on the court.”

  9. Lori permalink
    June 21, 2010

    Pants,

    you’ve drunk the Koolaid way too deeply if you think Hillary wasn’t going to be way to the left of Bush. This is the kind of misogynistic based stupidity that caused this bullshit problem in the first place. Hillary, unlike Obama, has a long, long, long history of getting stuff done for ordinary people. From opening up the legal aid clinic out of college to facilitating the building of Farmer’s Market’s in New York so small farmers could sell their produce easier. She’s got a voting record to quite a bit to the left of Feinstein, and only slightly right of Boxer. And there is no reason, given Hillary’s history, to think she would suck as grotesquely as Obama on civil rights issues.

    This is the problem with misogynistic reasoning – you can’t take Hillary’s history into account and come up with that assessment. So you keep yourself ignorant – and you are extremely ignorant on this subject – so that you can maintain your biased thinking. This is exactly how racism works as well. Congrats, pants, you’ve done Jesse Helms proud with this post.

    Oh, and before you tell me you do know her history – go ahead, give us four or five of her initiatives as First Lady of either Arkansas or the US that you’re familiar with. Bet you won’t be able to do it.

  10. June 21, 2010

    “This is most likely because he is not a progressive.”

    That takes same sayin’ with the straight face. The man is a torturer in his own right, a murderer by drone, an enemy of the constitution he has sworn to protect from enemies foreign and domestic, and is aiding and abetting the cover-up of war crimes and torture to an extent and in a manner that, before his election, was considered criminal, and an aberration to boot.

    Hostis humanis generis. The lack of “progessiveness” is the least of the issues here. This president is as functionally incompetent, as dishonest, and far more damaging than his predecessor. Bush was a tumor on the body politic, Obama governs a moribund nation towards the terminal state.

  11. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010

    “Among those of us who supported Obama, it was a choice between (1) a candidate we knew would govern the way he is governing now, plus the Clintonian baggage, or (2) a candidate who was far from ideal, but presented the possibility of not governing the way he, unfortunately, is now.”

    Because Clinton chose Lieberman as her mentor in the Senate right off the bat? Because Obama had no record except a bunch of empty platitudes.

    One thing anyone paying attention during the primaries would have noticed was that Hillary got better during the primaries when she got heat from the left (I supported her as the second worst candidate, but apparently I gave too much credit to Edwards), whereas Obama just got worse (take FISA for instance, and then shove it). He went from an enigma shrouded in a cloud of platitudes to an obvious smug huckster shrouded in a crowd of smug true believers.

    Pants, stop rewriting history. You Obambi’s did NOT think Obama was far from ideal. Your kind thought he was very much IDEAL, and anybody who thought otherwise was shouted down as a jaded cynic and traitor.

  12. Lori permalink
    June 21, 2010

    This is what Obama did – he justified stupidity. He brought out the bigotry and the ignorance in a party that tried to rise above it, and now justified, they hate giving it up.

    He ran the most retrograde, degrading campaign since the state’s rights campaigns in the south in the middle of the last century.

  13. June 21, 2010

    Lori,

    This is Z the misogynist here (definition of misogynist in the lori dictionary: one who does not worship the ground hillary clinton walks on). Tell me the story again about how hillary single-handedly saved … well, with vincent foster … that law program by talking ronald reagan out of axing it. That warms my heart. And it could be true … how the hell do I know? … and how the hell do you? … but it says a lot about you, how eager you are to proliferate any positive nonsense from your hero, that you accept that story even though the principles are all dead except for a person that benefits from the story being told who also happened to be caught “mis-remembering” another “heroic” would-be-happening where she was “shot at” at a tarmac in Bosnia.

    And I know that I suffer from cds (see: objectivity), but please share with me again about your visions of hillary clinton … ms. dlc herself who hired mark penn as her chief campaign strategist! … of being an antagonist of corporate amerika. And recite for me one more time your fairy tale about how hillary clinton didn’t work to pass nafta and how she really was against the whole thing. (http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/03/hillary-clint-1.html).

    And finally, while you are on it, tell me once again how hillary clinton HAD to vote for the iraqi resolution in a valient attempt to stop the iraq war when it already had way more than enough votes for it to pass anyway. And then tell me why … hold on a second, while I tuck away my misogyny … this very intelligent person who graduated from yale law school “misunderstood” and voted against a bill shortly afterward that could have more effectively reined in bush’s lust for war. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/us/politics/02check.html).

    None of this means that, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t prefer hillary clinton over barak obama at this juncture … what are the chances she would be worse than the current piece of garbage? … even though I voted for neither of them at the time. See, there is overlap between the beliefs of some of us cdsers … and I think the term fits you much better, but in a different way … and objectivity.

    Z

  14. June 21, 2010

    It’s hard to disagree with anything that Ian has posted above except that I don’t think that the dems losing the house and/or senate comes anything close to dooming obama in 2012. clinton proved that you could sell out the base to court corporate money and lose both the house and the senate and still get re-elected … although he did run against a semi-comatose bob dole and even had perot sniping votes from dole. I just look at the reps … and the demo-zombies that will bang a D just becoz they are one … and wonder who the hell they could run that could beat him. But, then again, if the economy keeps on its current course, enough people may vote for the alternative just for alternative’s sake.

    obama had been much worse than I thought he’d be and I didn’t think much of him to begin with. He deserves much worse than to just lose an election and then seamlessly hop aboard the post-presidential speaking engagement money train.

    Z

  15. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    … the rest of the blogosphere and even mainstream pundits are catching up to where I was a while ago.

    1) the stimulus bill was neither big enough, nor well enough put together to do the job. However many jobs it “saved and created” they weren’t enough.

    Has the rest of the blogosphere caught up with the fact that the Insurance Care bill (predicted to fail) is already failing? Or, are they still calling it “Health Care Reform” and judging it to be an accomplishment?

    Also, in the interest of maintaining due humility, let’s remember some events that were not predicted:

    – Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile (not predictable)
    – Catastrophic drilling failure in the Gulf of Mexico (somewhat predictable given BP’s “safety” record)
    – Israel’s attacking a non-military ship that contained no weapons in international waters, and killing unarmed men
    – Dubai’s collapse/default, precipitating Greece and the other PIIGSs’ possible default, possibly leading to the dissolution of the EMU (was anyone predicting this in 2009 for 2010?)
    – The coalition gov’t. in the U.K., which in turn has foolishly lead to their proposing IMF-like measures on themselves

    In Feb. 2009, it appeared that the collapse of Citi was imminent (remember $0.99/share?), that is to say, predictable. Bank of America was thought to be a likely follow up. I don’t think anyone predicted the rewrite of standard accounting rules or the trillions in guarantees and transfer of private debt to public debt. Will someone now predict that the EMU will dissolve (it might, but who will say — and back it up with good reasons — that it will be allowed to happen?), and then predict that this will cause Citi and BofA to be allowed to go under?

    (Is anyone predicting the hurricanes that may happen this summer? Will this lead to the shut down of all efforts to capture the oil gushing out of the seabed? Will it lead to catastrophic destruction of additional ecosystems along the Gulf as storm surges push oil deep inland? Will it lead to catastrophic destruction of crops in the states bordering the Gulf? Will this lead to food shortages? Will that lead to food riots in countries that depend on imported food? Will that lead to the fall of numerous gov’ts. around the world? Will all of this cause everything “electoral” to pale in comparison? Can we rule this scenario out? Interconnectedness and the consequent fragility remain the rule of the day.)

  16. June 21, 2010

    This is off-topic, but many people, myself included, have concluded that the best way to maintain social cohesiveness … and rebuild the country’s infrastructure … would be to put the disgruntled and unemployed people to work doing something positive for society in a federal jobs program. But, of course, there is zero talk of this and one of the primary reasons for this IMO is that the plutocrats don’t want us to assemble in any way. They don’t want the unemployed to come together and work side by side becoz they don’t want to create any social cohesion that may lead to a movement against their rule. They’d rather hand us money to sit at home isolated from the rest of malcontents.

    Z

  17. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    3) On civil liberties, Obama is probably actually worse than Bush. Yes, that’s quite an accomplishment, but there you have it.

    At this point, I think her actions as Sec. of State have confirmed that Clinton should not be a candidate in the future for the presidency, that is, no progressives should be promoting her candidacy. At the time she was nominated, she had grounds for thinking that Obama should be given the benefit of the doubt (he hadn’t been president before and she did not know in advance what policies he would support). But by this time it is clear that she should have resigned and should be giving speeches around the country and around the world condemning Obama’s policies. She is in the position that Powell was in. He should have resigned and protested against bush&cheney’s actions and policies. Not only is she not doing that, but she is also objecting to the unalloyed good that occurred when Brazil and Turkey gave Obama&Clinton an opening to ratchet down their “we’re going to war with Iran” policy (The wisdom of Lincoln’s “one war at a time” response to his sec. of state is made all the more apparent. With Obama&Clinton, two occupations are not enough, they want to have their own invasion.)

    Never mind her past actions as a legislator, her current actions as an executive give plenty of evidence of how she would act.

  18. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    They’d rather hand us money to sit at home isolated from the rest of malcontents.

    Agreed except, they would like that money cut off, too. It is inconceivable to them (and Obama has repeated this propaganda) that gov’t. should or even can create jobs, despite abundant evidence all around them that it should and can (and has and does).

    Private companies are dictatorships. Even publically-held companies are ruled by those with the most money/shares. Their strategy, acknowledged or not, is to deal with employees one-by-one, keeping them subdivided from each other. A union is a group of employees, and a group with collective bargaining power has more power to deal with the dictatorship that “manages” the company than individual employees. A democratic gov’t. has even more power than a union to deal with the individual dictatorships. Hence, the desire/need for these dictatorships to weaken/eliminate unions and weaken/eliminate democratic gov’ts.

    Unemployed people desperate for jobs provide a labor pool of potential low-wage workers and help keep employed people from demanding higher wages. If those unemployed people were instead employed at gov’t. jobs, the dictatorships would have to pay higher wages to lure those employees to work for the dictatorships.

    There is also the matter of funding the wages for those gov’t. jobs. If the gov’t. borrows money from banks (sells treasury bills) and pays those back with interest, then the dictatorships at the banks consider that to be money well spent. But if gov’ts. issue their own sovereign money as wages for productive jobs (creating, say, a new transportation system), while paying no interest to the banks for that money, then the dictatorships at the banks will not profit and will consider that money spent to be a threat to them, which it is.

    Medicare works, therefore Medicare must be destroyed. Other industrialized (“financialized”?) countries have not-private medical services sectors that work better than the U.S.’s and for less money, therefore those approaches cannot be allowed here. Social Security works, therefore it must be destroyed and replaced with “private” retirement plans (divide and conquer the rubes).

  19. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    …mainstream pundits are catching up…

    For those who missed it, here is mainstream pundit Jon Stewart “catching up”:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-june-15-2010/respect-my-authoritah

    (Stewart’s been extremely mild on Obama up to this point. He and his co-writers still appear to consider “Health Care Reform” to be a success for Obama and a step forward for the country.)

    Note that Obama made statements supporting civil liberties and opposing bush&cheney’s campaign of fear publicly and from his own mouth. But when he repudiates those statements, he does so through written announcements or appointed gov’t. employees. He does not come out publicly and argue against the statements he had made while a candidate. This deliberate avoidance shows that he knows the venality of what he is doing.

  20. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 21, 2010

    Citigroup and BofA were not allowed to go under, even though they were (and probably still are) bankrupt. The bad paper from the major banks was pushed onto the Fed, and then it has been moved over to Freddie and Fannie. The Freddie and Fannie bailout is going to be huge, and that’s because it has become the real bank bailout. This is Japanification, and yeah, in broad terms if not specifics, that’s what I predicted.

    I didn’t expect the PIIGS, though they don’t surprise me, either, however a global wave of austerity (Hooverization) is something I thought quite likely, and it is happening.

    The question about unexpected shocks is whether the system can handle them. There will always be unexpected events. The problem right now is that the system can’t take them and that the President and government are incompetent at handling them.

  21. S Brennan permalink
    June 21, 2010

    To the two clueless posters above,

    A little constitutional info:

    If Hillary is not doing what the President tells her to do she should be fired.

    An officer of the cabinet serves at the Presidents pleasure, if she is doing a good job it is because she is carrying out the Presidents orders well, if she is doing a poor job she is not carrying out the Presidents orders well.

    She does not make foreign policy…she carries it out.

    Love Hillary, hate Hillary…if you think the current foreign policy is good/sucks, Hillary is not the person to blame/praise.

    Saying Hillary shouldn’t be president because you hate Obama’s foreign policies is beyond stupid.

    It seems many posters above are not clear how the US Government works. I’m okay with you guys [it's almost always guys] being an idiot, but do you really need to get on the internet and shout it from the highest roof top?

  22. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 21, 2010

    Why is it that the most progressive and liberal candidates weren’t even in the running for the Democratic nomination? Hmmm?

    And on domestic policy Hilary was (slightly, but in a real way) to the left of Clinton. She was slightly to his right on foreign policy. Isn’t it /interesting/ that he chose her for a foreign policy post and not a domestic one? Hmmm?

    Whenever given a choice, Dems always choose the rightmost candidate to be their presidential nominee–he was the right most of the candidates in domestic terms.

  23. S Brennan permalink
    June 21, 2010

    “Why is it that the most progressive and liberal candidates weren’t even in the running for the Democratic nomination?

    Hmmm?”

    Could it be they succumb to “small chartered plane carrying left-leaning politician meets inclement weather even though weather is fine” syndrome.

    But with a special attention to the”Corpse Beats John Ashcroft and Gains Senate Seat for Widow” syndrome.

    FYI, Wellstone’s wife and daughter were killed along with the Minnesota Senator in what the media would like us to believe was a tragic accident that was “investigated” by a former CIA official, Carmody who “was” something of a “damage-control” expert for the CIA, who coincidentally, handled the NTSB’s investigation of the suspicious aircraft crash of Democratic Senatorial candidate Mel Carnahan, exactly two years earlier.

    NTSB report said Pilot error caused the crash , the twin King Air A100 lost airspeed while approaching Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport.

    “The flight crew did not monitor and maintain minimum speed” The report said.

    When simulations couldn’t produce the stall under the same conditions, the NTSB suggested Wellstone’s air craft succumbed to “icing”, although pilots in the area/altitude reported that those conditions were not present.

    What didn’t get included:

    Large numbers of people in the area reported cell phone interruptions with loud sounds in their handset that coincided with the crash and one local neighborhood complained of garages doors suddenly openning, one witness reported a large electrical spark coming from the plane, then several smaller ones.

    The phenomenon known as Electoral Manipulation of Policies, or [EMP] was suggested, but not looked into as being too “tin foily” by “serious people”.

  24. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    Why is it that the most progressive and liberal candidates weren’t even in the running for the Democratic nomination? Hmmm?

    Dems always choose the rightmost candidate to be their presidential nominee–he was the right most of the candidates in domestic terms.

    After losing three presidential elections in a row (fixed elections, or not), that is, Reagan and Bush, with liberal-minded candidates, the Democratic party was traumatized, which made it possible for the DLC to come to power. For example, Dukakis’s campaign was the last one in which addressing poverty was a plank of the Democratic party’s platform (do parties even pretend to have platforms any more?). After that period, the conventional wisdom became that raising campaign money was the key to getting in office, and that meant turning to the corporations and/or PAC money. The result is what we have today: two parties representing corporations. “What’s good for corporations is good for America” might as well be both parties’ motto.

    The question now is: Will that paradigm continue, or will people look at the problems facing the country and reject the messages delivered by corporate-financed campaigns? Unfortunately for those who would like an orderly transition to better officeholders, there are only two paths for rejection at the moment: massive non-turnout at the polls and revolution. Massive non-turnout would likely to be ignored.

    Changing chairmen of the various committees has been shown not to make a difference. The past decade has shown Citizen Nader to be the most prescient of public speakers.

  25. June 21, 2010

    To hell with them all.

    And by the way, I ain’t votin’ no mo’…

  26. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    This is Japanification, and yeah, in broad terms if not specifics, that’s what I predicted.

    I think that this is too simple a description of what is occurring in the U.S. economy.

    The distribution of income in Japan is much more equal than it is in the U.S. As you, Ian Welsh, have acknowledged, the greatly unequal distribution of wealth in a country leads to a many bad consequences for the population.

    (Uneconomic, but not irrelevant: There is a much greater sense of public responsibility for one’s actions in Japan than the U.S. I can only repeat what I have read and heard many times with regard to this observation. I don’t have first-hand experience with it.)

    Japan has run a substantial trade surplus for the past two decades while the U.S. has run a substantial trade deficit.

    Japan has universal and low-cost health care for its population.

    The U.S. economy will not be “Japan-ified” in ways that matter for the population:

    – It will not begin running a trade surplus
    – It will not provide universal or low-cost health care for its population
    – It will not redistribute the income and wealth more equitably

    It seems to me that those who would use the characterization of “Japanification” to describe the economic policy of the U.S. are not so much criticizing that policy for its slow-growth results so much as they are insulting the Japanese for saying that their economic policies are like the U.S.’s.

    I wish we had true “Japanification” in the the U.S. economy.

  27. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    And by the way, I ain’t votin’ no mo’…

    I’m still voting for those who represent my interests and for those who I think represent the best interests of the country and the planet. At present, there are no parties that can get on the ballot that do that.

  28. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 21, 2010

    Yes, as I’ve also written, more than once, I don’t think the Japanification scenario is a stable solution set for the US, for the reasons you have noted. That doesn’t mean it isn’t what is being attempted, however. The question is how long this solution set will hold.

    The answer may be “not bloody long at all.”

  29. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 21, 2010

    Americans keeping wanting to elect people like Obama, and so do Democrats. That’s one thesis, anyway. As such, they get what they deserve.

    Another thesis is that the system has been seized by an unaccountable elite, but that seizure is possible to maintain because Americans insist on electing people like Obama and Bush, and when they turn to alternatives, they vote for crackpots like Rand Paul.

  30. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010

    Ian Welsh, 2010 April 28:

    http://www.ianwelsh.net/greek-and-european-insolvency/

    Haven’t commented much on this, but let’s cut to the chase. Greece is going to default. Period. The only question is when.

    Ian Welsh, 2010 June 21:


    I didn’t expect the PIIGS, though they don’t surprise me, either, however a global wave of austerity (Hooverization) is something I thought quite likely, and it is happening.

    So, Greece is not going to participate in the global wave of draconian cuts?

    And if Greece defaults, what will the other PIIS do? Ireland has already started its draconian cuts policy, so that only leaves Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Somehow, after Greece defaults (“Period.”), the banks in the U.K. (just starting its draconian cuts policy), France, and Germany will be fine.

    And the U.S. will begin its cuts after the first Tuesday in November.

  31. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    Americans keeping wanting to elect people like Obama, and so do Democrats. That’s one thesis, anyway. As such, they get what they deserve.

    In general terms, I agree. For multiple elections, I have seen people in Democratic primaries vote not for what they believe and not for what they think is in their best interest, but have voted “strategically,” that is, they have voted for the candidate they think is most “electable.” They wanted a winner who would get the repubs out of office. The problem with this “strategic” voting is that it is a break down of representative democracy. If people do not vote based on what they want or what they think is in their best interests, then the people who end up in office do not represent them/their will.

    But it is also the case that candidates are to blame because they lie about what they believe in order to get into office. I don’t think that there is any other reasonable explanation for what Obama has done, as shown in the Daily Show clip (reposted from above):

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-june-15-2010/respect-my-authoritah

  32. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    …the system has been seized by an unaccountable elite, but that seizure is possible to maintain because Americans insist on electing people like Obama and Bush.

    1) Bush was not elected. However, millions of people did vote for him.

    2) That thesis is incomplete because it does not take into account the fact it is nearly impossible to overcome the ballot restrictions that the two corporate parties have managed to get in place. In practice, it may be nearly as difficult to get more parties on national ballots as it is to call a constitutional convention, that is, something that is less likely to occur than the two parties holding power until the country has a collapse.

  33. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    Yes, as I’ve also written, more than once, I don’t think the Japanification scenario…

    I understand that you’ve written that (I remember reading it more than once). My quarrel is with the term, which I realize you did not invent. Japan is portrayed as having this awful economy because it has slow growth. However, the people who do that in the mass media have a propaganda agenda. They are objecting to the fact that the Japanese are spending gov’t. money for the benefit of the Japanese. “Gov’ts. must not be allowed to spend money for the benefit of their people! If they do that, where would we all be? Look at that awful man in Cuba or Venezuela or France!” The population of the U.S. would be much better off if its economy was “Japan-ified,” that is, universal health care, equitable wealth and income distribution, longest lifespan…. “My god! Stop! Japan is hell on Earth! Japanification! Japanification! What about the money wasted — wasted! — on infrastructure projects?!!” At that point, mentioning the trillions of dollars wasted on weapons and mercenaries by the U.S. probably won’t register.

  34. beowulf permalink
    June 21, 2010

    Citigroup and BofA were not allowed to go under, even though they were (and probably still are) bankrupt.

    Yeah, that’s when there was no question Obama was no progressive. How the hell does a Democratic president come out with a bank rescue plan to the right of James F’in Baker (“bank boards of directors and senior management should be replaced and, unfortunately, shareholders will lose their investment. Optimally, bondholders would be wiped out, too. But the risk of a crash in the bond market means that bondholders may receive only a haircut”)?
    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/03/jim-baker-first-lets-kill-all-zombies.html

  35. Albatross permalink
    June 21, 2010

    Why is it that the most progressive and liberal candidates weren’t even in the running for the Democratic nomination? Hmmm?

    Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! Ooh!

    Because… the “Two Party System” is the oxymoronic name for the one-party system that controls our country. That this one-party political and financial aristocracy will never knowingly field a candidate whose policies may in any way ever threaten the international oligarchs who run this nation. That America’s political system is moribund, and will continue to consume the wealth of this nation like a dying star consuming hydrogen until America collapses in a manner not unlike that of the Soviet Union. That among the political elite are some cunning folk who are quite aware of this, and who are working towards just that goal, in the hope of being one of the Big Fish in the Smaller Ponds of a fractured America. And that among others, particularly international corporations and oligarchs with no actual national identity, the idea of the collapse of the American Republic is seen as nothing more or less than the Ultimate Tax Break and the Ultimate Deregulation. The death of America would mean the death of everything from the 40-hour work week to the prohibitions against slavery and child labor.

    Did I get it right? Aw, dang, I forgot to phrase it in the form of a question!

  36. anonymous permalink
    June 21, 2010


    …this one-party political and financial aristocracy will never knowingly field a candidate whose policies may in any way ever threaten the international oligarchs…

    Just as Obama lied to the people who supported him and voted for him, so, too, will some future candidate need to fool the Democrats/Republicans and be called a “traitor to his class,” someone who will “welcome their hatred.”*

    *http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=old&doc=69&page=transcript

  37. anonymous permalink
    June 22, 2010


    How the hell does a Democratic president come out with a bank rescue plan to the right of James F’in Baker

    Agreed, but let’s keep matters in perspective. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (a million?) have been killed by an occupation that had no legal reason to occur. Obama’s response? “Let’s look forward, not back.” The Congress’s response? “Huh? What? Um, uh, what he said.”

    As bad as the TARP and other financial responses are, it does not compare with having your family being killed when your house is blown apart. Even what the Israelis have done to the Palestinians pales in comparison.

  38. June 22, 2010

    Pants writes:

    We picked the possibility of change, and unfortunately we didn’t get it. I’m sad about that, but I don’t regret the choice.

    Well, here are a few things you ought to regret: (1) Caucus fraud; (2) Rules and Bylaws committee effectively disenfranchising two states, FL and MI; (3) the vile and misogynistic character of so much of the online support for El Presidente; and (4) false charges of racism used to smear El Presidente’s opponent.

  39. Albatross permalink
    June 22, 2010

    I’m perfectly willing to say that Obama was the best of a bad lot of choices. The problem is that our electoral system will only ever offer a bad lot of choices. Short of some kind of progressive Manchurian candidate, the election system is owned by America’s aristocracy, and the differences between Republicans and Democrats are largely splitting hairs from where I stand, way on the left side of the progressive spectrum.

  40. June 22, 2010

    I’m not willing to say that obama was the best of the choices … not at this point … but I agree that it is damn near impossible for the “small people” to find a presidential candidate that represents their interests … and the best interests of the country … in either one of these parties.

    Z

  41. anonymous permalink
    June 22, 2010


    I was warning about this in beginning of 2009, because if Obama’s economic policies didn’t work, and if he continually alienated the base, it was going to cause problems.

    Not to be picky, but it is conventional wisdom to predict that the party in power in the white house loses seats in the mid-term elections. You have a *lot* of company in your prediction here. A surprising and, if true, prescient prediction would be that the democrats were going to gain seats.

    Recall that in the 2002 mid-term elections, the republicans gained seats, against the historical norm. This was the first election after the 2000 “election” and as a result was getting started with more widespread electronic ballot “counting.” Until actual reform of ballot counting is enacted, elections (especially elections for federal office) are suspect. (See, the “election” of 2004). Needless to say, this is getting very little attention.

  42. Pepe permalink
    June 22, 2010

    @ S Brennan

    Saying Hillary shouldn’t be president because you hate Obama’s foreign policies is beyond stupid.

    I think the argument made was something along the lines of, “if Hillary really was a progressive, she’d quit the cabinet rather than carry out Obama’s foreign policy.”

    Not my argument, but it has a certain logic. I wouldn’t try to convince Lori that Hillary wasn’t really liberal/progressive. Lori is a true believer. It always makes me giggle when people call Hillary liberal though.

  43. anonymous permalink
    June 23, 2010


    I think the argument made was something along the lines of, “if Hillary really was a progressive, she’d quit the cabinet rather than carry out Obama’s foreign policy.”

    Correct.


    Not my argument, but it has a certain logic.

    Would you argue that Colin Powell should have resigned from bush’s cabinet? Powell more or less had this argument with himself and justified his staying with the “good soldier” argument that he interpreted George Marshall as making back during the Truman administration.

  44. anonymous permalink
    June 23, 2010


    I think the argument made was something along the lines of, “if Hillary really was a progressive, she’d quit the cabinet rather than carry out Obama’s foreign policy.”

    To be more precise, the argument is that once Clinton* learned what policies Obama stood for, whether foreign or domestic, she should have resigned if she were progressive. On the other hand, if she thinks that staying is good for her “career” and if that is more important than any principles, then, by all means, stay. It’s not a reason for any progressives to support her, though.

    *Why do people insist on patronizing her by referring by her first name? There is no confusion that we talking about Bill Clinton. Generally, they do that with women, and with men who they want to “demonize.”

  45. Ian Welsh permalink*
    June 23, 2010

    Need all the anonymy to start saying anon1, 2, or 3.

    Back in early 2009 the standard in the blogosphere was a triumphalist prediction that at worst the Dems would lose a few seats in 2010. Many bloggers even thought 2010 would see more seats picked up. It may seem like a sensible prediction now to say that it was going to be bad, perhaps so bad that the Dems might lose the House, it did not seem that way back then.

    Just like everyone says they knew Iraq was a stupid war based on big lie propaganda.

    Now.

    The majority of my predictive success is based entirely on two abilities: the ability to spot the bloody fucking obvious and a willingness to say it when most people won’t. Abilities which, it appears, most people lack. I’m no genius, I just make a sincere effort to not believe the world is the way I want it to be.

  46. anon2525 permalink
    June 23, 2010


    Back in early 2009 the standard in the blogosphere was a triumphalist prediction that at worst the Dems would lose a few seats in 2010. Many bloggers even thought 2010 would see more seats picked up. It may seem like a sensible prediction now to say that it was going to be bad, perhaps so bad that the Dems might lose the House, it did not seem that way back then.

    OK. I’m not too knowledgeable about the consensus blogosphere opinion. I only wanted to say that it is the historical pattern that the party that holds the white house loses seats in the mid-term elections (repeating myself), which is so established a pattern that even “analysts” in the corporate media routinely “predict” it. The consensus blogosphere opinion that you describe would have been predicting an upset.


    I just make a sincere effort to not believe the world is the way I want it to be.

    Yes, it would be nice if any time someone (especially in the corporate media) made a prediction, they included the following:

    1) here is what I want to happen
    2) here is what I predict will happen
    3) here are my conflicts of interest

    This would have been especially helpful during the Insurance Care debate, for example.

  47. Banal and Intangible permalink
    June 29, 2010

    President Obama is guilty of not fulfilling every leftist Utopian fantasy inspired by his aspirational campaign message. He has failed to beat down Senators and Representatives who have openly opposed his most liberal prescriptions (such as more stimulus) and we haven’t even gotten to the Republicans. Those who believe in the Myth of One Great Man are “disappointed”and feel “betrayed” by this historical figure.

    It is going to take more than 17 months to clean up the mess left by the Republicans, and to some extent, President Clinton (NAFTA, DOMA, Dot.com bubble, etc..).President Obama is just the beginning of process that will take a t least a generation and every inch of progress will be trench warfare. Politics is not an endeavor for the immature or impatient.

    After the election, some settled in behind their keyboard to critique President Obama as if they were observing their lawn crew. Luckily, those of us who understand that a Republican return to power is unacceptable have never stopped organizing, never stopped going door to door, never stopped working.

    I am proud of President Obama and understand that this isn’t the 1930′s, or 1960′s. There will be plenty of us that will continue to work while others complain. Unlike Congress, the country isn’t eager to have crazies in the Oval Office again. This is class warfare and you’re either comfy aand complaining or you’re fighting. President Obama is beside the point and it’s sad that some very smart people still don’t get it.

Comments are closed.