Saturday, September 3, 2011

Obama the Appeaser

Obama has just scrapped a smog bill due to Republican and business resistance. While I do not know the details of the bill or whether I would have agreed with it, I've become put off by Obama's repeated inability to stand up to Republicans in any strong or consistent way. It's not that I think standing up to Republicans is in itself a good thing, but their often unjustified and willfully counterproductive stance during the last seven years has really turned me off. A week or so ago, I read this article in Newsweek and I think the writer makes very smart observations about what's wrong with Obama's presidency. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/08/14/barack-obama-as-neville-chamberlain-portraits-in-appeasement.html

The piece hits the nail right on the head and puts into words what I thought but could not express. There have been several times during Obama's presidency that the Republicans took stands against the people of this nation to protect their wealthy financial backers. In doing so, they stood in the way of measures Obama had proposed that would keep America afloat. And despite all the Tea Party rhetoric, it is justifiable to keep pointing out that it was Bush and the Republicans who got us into this mess because it is a fact. They ran headlong into two massively expensive wars we could not afford while cutting revenue by giving tax cuts to the rich so as to deliver continued economic growth and job creation.

Where did it get us? The wars were pointless (Iraq) or drawn-out debacles (Afghanistan), we're trillions of dollars in the hole as a result of them, and there has been no economic growth or jobs after nearly a decade of 'tax cuts for the rich'. And let's not also forget that the Bush administration literally did nothing at the end of its regime as the banking crisis sent the US economy skidding towards a catastrophic meltdown. They were too busy financing a new branch of big government called the Department of Homeland Security (which spends billions so we can hear airport announcements that "the security level is orange"). It was left to Obama to push the stimulus needed to halt the imminent crash. Which it did. After all that, the Republicans have had the nerve to make it a policy to stand in Obama's way by defending tax cuts to the rich, low regulation on banks, government subsidies on big oil, while at the same time claiming to represent small government and the financial high road of tightening our belts (by cutting unemployment benefits to the 10% of Americans who were out of jobs). Then they grouse that the stimulus wasn't a magic wand that returned America to economic stability and, suddenly holding deficit spending as anathema, precipitate an economic slow down by refusing to raise the debt ceiling without an embarrassing display of bickering that caused America's debt rating to be downgraded.

During all this, rather than making the Republicans actually vote down measures that would help the vast majority of Americans and keep us on the road to recovery (and reveal the Republicans as the representatives of the wealthy that they so clearly are), Obama has repeatedly caved into them and let them get away with being obstructionist cry babies, a few of whom are driven merely by fear their 'good ole boy' tactics will be trounced by a black man. The Republicans have several times been glaringly in the wrong on these issues, yet Obama never calls them on it. I think if he had done so early on, they would have backed down under pressure from the people. Then we would likely have had a more constructive dialogue in Washington these past few years since there would have been some incentive for it. Instead, he's encouraged dissension by rewarding their cry baby tactics and giving them whatever they want in order to have - as the writer puts it - 'peace in our time'.

If Obama loses re-election, I don't think it will be because people really embrace the Republicans (Michelle Bachmann? Donald Trump? Rick Perry?). It's too clear that the Republican economic program is about balancing the budget and financing tax cuts for the rich by cutting everything that benefits anyone who make less than $250,000 a year. If Obama loses, it will be because he did not take a tough enough stance against these positions so as to bring life to the change he promised.

Can Obama turn it around? Given the parade of clowns the Republicans are market testing for 2012, I hope so!

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