Friday, September 10, 2010

The President's alternate reality

Barack Obama is still running against George Bush and doing so by describing Bush policies that Democrats like to caricature as Republican ideas even if it's all a fantasy. Jonah Goldberg has the example from Obama's speech in Cleveland.
Here’s Obama in his Cleveland speech Wednesday, describing the philosophy that defined the Bush years: “Cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires. Cut regulations for special interests. Cut trade deals even if they didn’t benefit our workers. Cut back on investments in our people and our future — in education and clean energy, in research and technology. The idea was that if we had blind faith in the market, if we let corporations play by their own rules, if we left everyone else to fend for themselves, America would grow and prosper.”
Of course, the reality is something quite different from the Democratic demonization.
What movie was he watching? At best this is a Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robot battle between delusion and dishonesty. Rhetorically, Bush never advocated anything like any of this. Indeed, Bush the compassionate conservative described his philosophy thus: “When somebody hurts, government has got to move.” More concretely, under Bush we had massive spending increases on education, alternative energy, the National Institutes of Health, and health care. We saw the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, and the trade deals Bush pushed are now part of the Obama agenda.
Notice how Democrats are now lining up to keep the Bush tax cuts. Obama doesn't want to keep the tax cuts for those earning over $250,000, but he wants to keep the rest. Huh? I guess that means that Bush tax cuts were for everyone, not just the millionaires and billionaires.

Goldberg posits that Obama isn't the next FDR, but the next Herbert Hoover.
For reasons fair and unfair, the Great Depression discredited laissez-faire economics for a generation or more. Hoover, who was hardly the “market fundamentalist” FDR made him out to be, suffered largely from the (bad) luck of the draw, giving Democrats a chance to argue for a new deal of the cards. For reasons fair and unfair, Obama, who inherited a bad recession and made it worse, every day looks more like a modern-day Hoover, whining about his problems, rather than an FDR cheerily getting things done. Inadequate to the task, Obama is discrediting the statism he was elected to restore.

The punch line? When the economy finally rebounds, it might be just in time for Obama’s replacement to get all the credit.
I remember being frustrated that Bill Clinton got the credit for curing a recession that we'd already started to come out of in 1992 before he was elected. If things turn out as Goldberg suggests, it will be a political fate for Obama well-deserved.