HEY! Who are you and what have you done with my friend Ed, the radical neo-conservative?!?!?!? Did I write this? I might as well have! Oh, God! I wonder if I caught something from talking to Ed too often.
Progressives push forward, regressives pull back
by Robert Reich
Sunday, October 23, 2011 http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/23/INFP1LJ2P4.DTL&type=printable
A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward.
We are going to battle once again.
Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity and tolerance. Progressives assume we're all in it together: We all benefit from public investments in schools and health care and infrastructure. And we all do better with strong safety nets, reasonable constraints on Wall Street and big business and a truly progressive tax system. Progressives worry when the rich and privileged become powerful enough to undermine democracy.
Regressives take the opposite positions.
Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the other tribunes of today's Republican right aren't really conservatives. Their goal isn't to conserve what we have. It's to take us backward.
They'd like to return to the 1920s – before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage, Medicare and Medicaid, worker safety laws, the Environmental Protection Act, the Glass-Steagall Act, the Securities Exchange Act and the Voting Rights Act.
In the 1920s, Wall Street was unfettered, the rich grew far richer and everyone else went deep into debt, and the nation closed its doors to immigrants.
Rather than conserve the economy, these regressives want to resurrect the classical economics of the 1920s, the view that economic downturns are best addressed by doing nothing until the “rot” is purged out of the system (as Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover's Treasury secretary, so decorously put it).
In truth, if they had their way, we'd be back in the late 19th century – before the federal income tax, antitrust laws, the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Federal Reserve. A time when robber barons – railroad, financial and oil titans – ran the country. A time of wrenching squalor for the many and mind-numbing wealth for the few.
Listen carefully to today's Republican right and you hear the same Social Darwinism that Americans were fed more than a century ago to justify the brazen inequality of the Gilded Age: survival of the fittest. Don't help the poor or unemployed or anyone who's fallen on bad times, they say, because this only encourages laziness. America will be strong only if we reward the rich and punish the needy.
The regressive right has slowly consolidated power over the last three decades as income and wealth have concentrated at the top. In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of Americans received 9 percent of total income and held 18 percent of the nation's wealth; by 2007, they had more than 23 percent of total income and 35 percent of America's wealth.
CEOs of the 1970s were paid 40 times the average worker's wage; now, CEOs receive 300 times the typical worker's wage.
This concentration of income and wealth has generated the political heft to deregulate Wall Street and halve top tax rates. It has bankrolled the so-called Tea Party movement and has captured the House of Representatives and many state governments. Through a sequence of presidential appointments, it has also overtaken the Supreme Court.
Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts (and, all too often, Kennedy) claim they're conservative jurists. But they're judicial activists bent on overturning 75 years of jurisprudence by resurrecting states' rights, treating the Second Amendment as if America still relied on local militias, narrowing the Commerce Clause and calling money “speech” and corporations “people.”
Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern: Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward. Sometimes it takes an economic shock like the bursting of a giant speculative bubble; sometimes we just reach a tipping point where the frustrations of average Americans turn into action.
Look at the progressive reforms between 1900 and 1916; the New Deal of the 1930s; the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s; the widening opportunities for women, minorities, people with disabilities and gays; and the environmental reforms of the 1970s.
In each of these eras, regressive forces reignited the progressive ideals on which America is built. The result was fundamental reform.
Perhaps this is what's beginning to happen again across America.
Â© 2011 Robert Reich
Robert Reich PhD, former U.S. secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, is professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and the author of “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future.”
This article appeared on page E – 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle
“….and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
After that it did not seem strange when next day the pigs who were supervising the work of the farm all carried whips in their trotters….”
George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)
The Coming Post-Obama Renaissance
By Victor Davis Hanson
October 2, 2011 http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/the-post-obama-renaissance/
The Parting of the Clouds
In every literary, historical or cinematic masterpiece, times must grow darkest before the sunrise and deliverance. Tolkien worked that classical theme to great effect. A sense of fatalism overtook a seemingly doomed Gondor â€” right before the overthrow of Barad-dÃ»r and the dawn of a new age of men. The historian Herodotus, in literary fashion, also brilliantly juxtaposed the Greek collapse at Thermopylae (the Spartan King Leonidas' head impaled on a stake), and the Persian firing of an abandoned Athens, with Themistocles's sudden salvation of Western civilization at Salamis. In the classic Western film, hopelessness pervades until out of nowhere a Shane rides in.
What Was Hope and Change?
We are living in an age of such morality tales, though the depressing cycle reminds us that the gloom is hardly fiction or artistry. For those with a little capital there is only a sinking stock market. It seems to wipe out more of their 401(k)s each week, as if each month cancels out yet another year of prior thrift. Near zero interest means any money on deposit is only insurance, not any more a source of income. Millions are trapped in their unsold houses, either underwater or facing an end to any dreams of tapping equity by sale.
And for the greater number without savings? Stagnant GDP, 9.1 unemployment, another $5 trillion in debt, $1.6 trillion annual deficits, and sky-high fuel and food prices have combined to crush any notion of upward mobility. (If in 2004 5.7% unemployment was supposed to mark a jobless recovery,what exactly is 9.1% called? If Bush's average $500 billion deficits over eight years were abhorrent, what must we say of Obama's average $1.6 trillion over three? Really bad?)
In response, the Obama administration” let me be candid here” seems clueless, overpopulated as it is by policy nerds, academic overachievers, and tenured functionaries (cf. Larry Summers 'there is no adult in charge'). They tend to flash Ivy League certificates, but otherwise have little record of achievement in the private sector. Officials seem to think that long ago test scores, a now Neolithic nod from an Ivy League professor, or a past prize translates into knowing what makes America run in places like Idaho and southern Michigan.
Yes, I know that Steven Chu is 'brilliant'and a Nobel laureate. But that means no more than suggesting that laureate Paul Krugman was right about adding even more trillions to the debt. My neighbors know enough not to quip, as the know-it-all Chu did, that California farms (the most productive in the U.S.) will dry up and blow away, or gas prices should reach European levels, or Americans can't be trusted to buy the right light bulbs, or a failed Solyndra just needed millions more of taxpayers' money.
Solyndra and Van Jones are the metaphors of these times, reminding us of the corruption of the very notion of 'green.' In the age of Al Gore, it has eroded from a once noble ideal of conservation to a tawdry profit- and job-scam for assorted hucksters and snake-oil salesmen. Without the lofty hype and shake-down, most otherwise would have had to find productive jobs. Tragically, green' is the new refuge of scoundrels.
Costal del Sol Community Organizing?
I fear we have not seen such a divisive president since Richard Nixon. Suddenly there is a new fiscal Rubicon. Those crossing $200,000 in annual income now are to be suspect ('fat cat' ,'corporate jet owner', 'millionaires and billionaires' [note how the two are sloppily associated as if 1/1000 the wealth of one is still approximate to the other ]); those still on the other bank, are far more inherently noble (cf. Michelle Obama's selfless legions, who, like the first couple, supposedly were to take her advice to turn down guaranteed riches in the abhorrent, but easy, corporate sector, to take on a life of noble service and relative poverty as hard-working community organizers and reps).
When did immigration law become embedded within the racial industry? If millions of Koreans were entering the U.S. illegally, would the National Council of La Raza insist on their amnesty, or be indifferent, or worry that such an influx might tax existing social services that provide for U.S. citizen poor? Did we ever have a president who issued a video (cf. 2010) appealing to constituents by their race, or suggested that border enforcement was equivalent to 'moats'� and 'alligators',� or beseeched his Latino allies 'to punish our enemies'? Is the president trying to turn enforcement of a federal statute into community organizing?
The Black Caucus has sadly become a caricature of itself , bewildered that Great Society II has further decimated the black community now in racial solidarity with a failing president, now lashing out at the Tea Party. Yet the latter's advocacy of fiscal discipline, greater deregulation, oil exploration, smaller government, and entitlement reform would unleash the private sector ” and, to use the administration lingo, really create for the inner cities millions of new jobs.
So we are all confused by this new Morgan Freeman-esque (one of my favorite actors) racial illogicality : electing Obama was proof of racial harmony; but criticizing him proof of racialism; wanting to end his policies (that have impoverished black America most of all) borders on racism; expanding what will further harm blacks is proof of racial harmony? So one was supposed to vote for Obama to prove himself not racist, and then to stay quiet to ensure that he was still not racist? *
Readers will add here the end of an investigative media , ObamaCare, the new Solyndra and Fast and Furious scandals, 'lead from behind' foreign policy, spread-the-wealth demonization of business, crony capitalism, punitive measures against everyone from guitar makers to plane manufacturers, distrust of oil and gas producers, Eric Holder's politicized Justice Department, and so on.
OK So Why the Optimism?
Why, then, do I see blue sky and a break in the present storms? For a variety of very good reasons.
Quite Exceptional, In Fact
The American Constitution remains singular and ensures a stable form of government of the sort absent in a Russia, China, the Islamic world, and even (or especially) the EU. Yes, I know Obama has mused that democracy is suddenly 'messy' and he lamented to the La Razistas that he couldn't quite enact legislation by fiat. And, yes, the governor of North Carolina, in revolutionary fashion, just wondered why we could not suspend congressional elections for a bit, while former budget director Peter Orszag (did he not get his trillions in 'stimulus'� from a Democratic Congress before he fled to Citicorp?) now dreams of a way of running around democratic gridlock. But for all that sudden liberal lamentation that the noble ends cannot be achieved by any means necessary, our system of government remains. And it will ensure us a stability abjectly absent elsewhere in the world.
Second, even Barack Obama cannot stop the oil and gas industries. Their brilliant new technologies and entrepreneurialism may well turn us into a fuel depot like Saudi Arabia, doubling our proven oil and gas reserves. Soon someone is going to see that our own natural gas can power millions of cars, freeing our foreign policy from Gulf authoritarians. We are poised for an oil boom not seen since the age of Texas and Oklahoma wildcatting. With a friendly new administration and more exploration out West, offshore, in the Gulf and in Alaska to augment the Dakotas oil renaissance, we will soon save hundreds of billions of dollars in imported fuel costs, stop subsidizing our enemies, perhaps help to lower energy prices worldwide, create millions of new jobs, and give a larger window of opportunity for solar, batteries, and alternative energies to become more efficient and cost competitive in the free market.
Pressure Is Building
Third, private enterprise is hoarding cash, uncertain over the costs of ObamaCare, in fear of more regulations and higher taxes, stung by at some point you've made enough money harassing bluster, and still convinced that equally cautious consumers are simply not buying. Yet, the country is still growing, still needs new homes, more food, and more energy. There are few strikes. Americans remain more self-reliant than our competitors. We are not a shrinking nation with the demographic crises of a Europe or Russia. Soon the mounting pressure will be released by a new change in government and we will see a recovery that should have occurred more than two years ago when the recession officially “ended� in June 2009 ” only all the more enhanced due to its delay. When Obama leaves office, there will be a sense of psychological release in the business community that will lead to a far greater 'stimulus' than printing more money.
Tempered by Fire
Fourth, that psychology of catharsis that accompanies the end of this administration will last for sometime. The next time Keynesians lecture us on more borrowing or greater spending  (fill in the blanks), Americans will perhaps ask, So we need to borrow at least $5 trillion within three years? Keep interest rates at near zero? Vastly inflate the money supply? Extend unemployment insurance to over 100 weeks? Exceed 50 million on food stamps?
With an inept Carter, the left's lament was weak messenger.
With the triangulating Clinton, it was weak message.
With Obama, despite the recent defections and liberal angst, there were both the messianic messenger and the true-blue message.
What's left? The American people turned on both in less than two years. That change of mood will lead the way to necessary reform in a way a less harmful McCain administration could not have achieved: greater revenue from tax simplification, tax reduction, and greater tax compliance, less regulations, entitlement reform, and budgetary discipline. Obama is doing to liberal politics what no right-wing activist could dream up.
Lead from the Front
Fifth, we tried UN multilateralism. We asked permission from the Arab League to intervene in Libya. We celebrated treating enemies and friends alike as neutrals. It did not quite work. Israel is still a democracy; its neighbors still are not. Europe's leaders still accuse Obama as much as they did Bush. Hussein as a middle name means nothing to the Middle East. Putin is still Putin, and China still is China. Soon we will return to a quiet sense of American exceptionalism, but this time more so, given that the naysayers have had their naysay. Proper appreciation of U.S. global power and moral international citizenship likewise will restore confidence. I don't think we will hear anymore that Bush turned off theocratic Iran, that Bush radicalized the Palestinians, that Bush destroyed relations with Turkey or Pakistan, or alienated Russia. In all these cases, things are about the same as in 2008 ” or much worse.
Finally, the U.S. military has only improved in the last decade. It secured Iraq against all odds . Its Predator drones, in challenge and response fashion, have outpaced the new terrorism.
The domestic critique of the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols has been rendered mere partisanship by the Obama embrace or expansion of nearly every element that was once demonized between 2002-8. Obama's unintended legacy is to legitimize Guantanamo, Iraq, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, the Patriot Act, and so on. A Barack Obama who demagogued waterboarding won't again ” unless waterboarding three self-confessed mass-murdering terrorists is a â€œwar crimeâ€� while blowing up over 2,000 suspected terrorists (and any in their vicinity, including U.S. citizens) with judge/jury/executioner missiles is not. (I think the current administration's idea is simply that the more we vaporize in Waziristan, the less hassle we have with live suspects at Gitmo ” again, on the rationale that a current senator, posing like Obama in 2007, can always have a field day with a captive live person in U.S. custody, but not so much with a dead one on foreign soil.)
I, like many, am worried about the Republican field ” as is the custom at this early stage. There is more to be endured in 2012.
The Obama decline will spark venomous politics of the sort we haven't seen in years.
This time hope and change will be even more Bush did it!/You're all racists!/They will take your Social Security.
The financial crisis is not over.
We are not yet at the beginning of the end for statism, but the Churchillian end of its new beginning.
Still, let us cheer up a bit. The country always knew, but for just a bit forgot, that you cannot print money and borrow endlessly. It always knew that bureaucrats were less efficient than employers. It knew that Guantanamo was not a gulag and Iraq was not â€œlost.â€� But given the anguish over Iraq, the anger at Bush, the Obama postracial novelty and 'centrist' facade, and the Freddie/Fannie/Wall Street collapse, it wanted to believe what it knew might not be true.
Now three years of Obama have slapped voters out of their collective trance.
The spell has now passed; and we are stronger for its passing.
There is going to be soon a sense of relief that we have not experienced in decades. In short, sadder but wiser Americans will soon be turned loose with a vigor unseen in decades.
Victor Davis Hanson, PhD is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.
He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008.
Article printed from Works and Days: http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson
URLs in this post:
 has sadly become a caricature of itself: http://pajamasmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2011/09/26/disband-the-congressional-black-caucus/
 the end of an investigative media: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/print/226135
 lecture us on more borrowing or greater spending: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703453804575479681171258218.html
 It secured Iraq against all odds: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123241360913796235.html
 Obama is demagoguing: http://althouse.blogspot.com/2011/10/obama-must-serve-something-to-assembled.html
 to disassociate himself: http://pajamasmedia.com/eddriscoll/2010/06/23/mcchrystal-out-petraeus-in/
 Shutterstock.com: http://www.shutterstock.com/
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90% of success is showing up. Getting the math right is the other 50%.
90% of success is showing up. Getting the math right is the other 50%.