Friday, February 06, 2009

Political update for February, 2009 - Obama to the rescue?

I've been waiting until the passions of the election cooled down to review it or to comment on the president. Time, as usual, doesn't wait, and now I'm behind. Just a brief comment here on the stimulus bill.

I had the luxury to sit in my living room and watch the Senate debate, which, if you have a choice between the Senate and the House, is the much better selection, for interesting discussion and sometimes, more decorum. This is because of its rules, that is, not only the possibility of a filibuster halting any legislation, but, also, because the majority cannot control the legislation to the extent it does.

When Obama won the election my belief was that the Republicans were marginalized to the degree that it was not between President Obama and the Republicans in Congress, it was between the President on one side and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on the other. More so, it's Obama versus Pelosi, because she is politically more aggressive and possibly stronger than her Senate counterpart, plus, the house originates spending bills.

I was happy to see Tom Delay go, and although the way it was done -- through an apparently phony prosecution in Texas (he's never been prosecuted), that is just the kind of thing he would enjoy doing to his adversary. Now, Nancy Pelosi has said pretty much the same thing that Delay said - we win, we rule - get out of our way. Fortunately, it doesn't work that way, at least when there aren't 60 votes in the Senate for one party, and the Obama administration is paying the price. I don't know if rumors that Rahm Emanuel is pointing fingers at Nancy Pelosi for the failure of the stimulus bill to be pushed through is true, but I like it. Obama versus Pelosi.

Because I voted for McCain for two main reasons -- one, I believed he would greater resist spending, and, two, because I didn't want a one party government, which was the biggest problem the Bush administration had for six years. One party government leads to overreaching, arrogance and fueling your opposition.

Sadly, I have to admit, that if McCain took office, they would probably be debating the same type of bill and his vaunted claim to eradicating pork from bills would probably be left in that sad pile of unfulfilled presidential promises that grows ever larger every four years. Usually the first go is the promise for better ethics and the second is for an end to bickering. That has already proved true in this administration.

In the Senate yesterday, Democratic California Senator, Barbara Boxer, asked to put a question to the Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, who politely agreed. She immediately accused him of theatrics because he had held the bill in her hand and brandished it, and asked if he ever did that with respect to a Bush bill. He took offense, reclaimed his time and insisted that he was second to none in opposing his own party. Were I able to whisper in his ear, I would have told him to say to her that there was an element of theatrics in all speeches, if you want anyone to listen, but he had not seen in a while anything as theatrical as the question she just asked. Many of my complaints about our partisan warriors is not the accusations they make about the other party, but their refusals to acknowledge that their own party does the same thing. An example - I don't remember her complaining when Democratic Illinois Senator, Dick Durbin not only brandished the bill, he actually ripped one page out of it. Nothing wrong with that, but it is nothing but theatrics.

Here's the giggles - Senator Durbin made the point that all of the Republican complaints could be contained in one page of this several hundred page bill. That's probably not literally true, but, somewhat true. If the Republicans got their way, we would probably not have a record bill of 900 billion, but, 800 billion. Big deal. Were I a Republican congressman, I would have just said, if it is so small, just give it to us and we'll vote for your bill. More likely, the Republicans are just sore that it is Democratic pork instead of Republican pork.

I joyfully cling to my cynicism about our economy. This is a reckoning. Growth is crucial in modern economies, but growth by our phony bologna bubbles (one, which I benefitted from by selling my home before a total collapse) is building houses on sand, and this is what happens. We don't need more bubbles - whether they are created by a market or a government, they are going to burst.

Some respect to John McCain, who is back at work in the Senate. He accepted his loss and went back to work; gone are the silly theatrics of campaigning, the pandering of his heroic story and sneering at the opposition for much the same absurd reasons they sneered at him. His amendment, to stop spending after two quarters of growth was pretty reasonable as is his call for spending and tax cuts that actually might stimulate the economy. Democrats don't seem interested. As another Republican Senator commented, so much for this being a stimulus bill.

I have no problem with a stimulus bill that uses tax (preferably not borrowed) money where it creates jobs and deals with real problems. We know from the New Deal that spending alone probably doesn't work. I do have a problem with giveaways to some groups of people, whether they are banks or homeowners or particular industries which already have a market, while other suffering people and industries get to pay taxes but not receive from it. I know of no reason that people who didn't take loans they couldn't pay back should have to watch this go on while they can't pay their own bills. Not that any of these are easy.

All that being said, even a good stimulus bill is a little like the effect of eating "right" or not smoking on your health. They have their effect, even an important effect, but I believe the "hidden hand" which is so beneficial in our system, and sometimes so destructive, is far more powerful than any cure. We all know that economies are cyclical and that there must be some recession even as there is growth. We are in an era when we foolishly believe we can have a greater effect on things out of our control. Sometimes our fiddling just makes things worse.

Note to Obama. It's not so easy when you are in office, is it? He seems to be following the same play book as Bush. We have to do this NOW. No more debate. Not my fault. I just got here - and you are a partisan. This is not exactly calm and reassuring and it's not really fair in this case. I note that the Republicans were already cynical about big spending and the Democrats for it, when Bush was in office. This is really about basic governing philosphy. Admittedly, it gets mushy, as, arguably, the Democrats have a better record of restricting spending than the Republicans for the last three decades despite their philosophies, at least if you compare the deficit to the gross domestic product and don't allow for other factors. But, perhaps that's for another post some day.

Right now, despite Obama's urgency and trying to get the feel of the bully pulpit, I'd counsel more patience. You know, haste makes waste, even if you are in government.


  1. It's like a carousel. You go round and round and make lots of noise and the end result is???? Obama should be more patient? That's it? That's all you've got? Feh.

  2. My favorite book forward was one written by Kurt Vonnegut. He wrote that a fan wrote him a letter which said that all of his books could be summed up with (something like) "Stop loving me so much and just treat me with common decency." He said, I'm sure with tongue in cheek, if he realized it earlier he could have saved himself a lot of work and just sent everyone a telegram.

    I think there was a lot more to Vonnegut (the world agrees) and I hope there was more to the post than just "be patient." One could make the comment "So what?" after virtually any article every written and it is hard to justify.

    I'm pretty sure I liked Bear's comment on my last article better.

  3. David, I agree with you. Although I did not vote for Obama I was willing to give him a chance. Everything I am seeing him do just makes me ill. When do these great things that he talked about start? We are suppose to have patience as a people while Government continues to give out handouts and take away our liberties? Good Morning, America..wake up.....Sighs......


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .