Now is the time when all good progressives and people with brains are supposed to line up behind President Hoover. After all, where else can we go? The Republican theocrats and plutocrats have made their dangerous irrelevance clear through an endless series of "debates," and Willard Romney still can't close the deal with his own party. Washington Monthly tries to rehabilitate Mr. Obama in an article that contains this paragraph:
Measured in sheer legislative tonnage, what Obama got done in his first two years is stunning. Health care reform. The takeover and turnaround of the auto industry. The biggest economic stimulus in history. Sweeping new regulations of Wall Street. A tough new set of consumer protections on the credit card industry. A vast expansion of national service. Net neutrality. The greatest increase in wilderness protection in fifteen years. A revolutionary reform to student aid. Signing the New START treaty with Russia. The ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
And if you missed it, "he shifted counterterrorism strategies to target Osama bin Laden and then ordered the risky raid that killed him." Another Washington Monthly piece lists the president's top 50 accomplishments. Yet each one requires an asterisk.
* It is not universal coverage paid for by the government, as is the case in virtually every advanced nation. People can't quit their dead-end jobs to do a promising start-up because they'll lose their employer-provided coverage. All Americans still won't be covered. States are opting out and the courts may yet strike down the whole thing. And, dirtiest little secret, Mr. Obama's signature achievement, which he wasted a precious year on, a year that could have been focused on investing in jobs and infrastructure, is a huge windfall for the for-profit insurance and medical establishment.
"Passed the Stimulus: Signed $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to spur economic growth amid greatest recession since the Great Depression. Weeks after stimulus went into effect, unemployment claims began to subside. Twelve months later, the private sector began producing more jobs than it was losing, and it has continued to do so for twenty-three straight months, creating a total of nearly 3.7 million new private-sector jobs."
* The stimulus was too small. The administration knew it at the time. Reagan showed that a great orator and politician can go over the heads of Congress, particularly in a crisis, and make Congress go along with his plans. Mr. Obama chose not to. In addition, almost half of the "stimulus" went to ineffective tax cuts, and much of the rest bailed out state governments that had been cutting taxes for 30 years. We didn't invest in forward-leaning industries, R&D and infrastructure that would have put people to work, given America a competitive advantage and showed how government indeed can help people.
"Passed Wall Street Reform: Signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2010) to re-regulate the financial sector after its practices caused the Great Recession. The new law tightens capital requirements on large banks and other financial institutions, requires derivatives to be sold on clearinghouses and exchanges, mandates that large banks provide “living wills” to avoid chaotic bankruptcies, limits their ability to trade with customers’ money for their own profit, and creates the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (now headed by Richard Cordray) to crack down on abusive lending products and companies."
* Mr. Obama's unwillingness to enforce the rule of law and prosecute the banksters who brought on the Great Recession is his second most shameful failure. The too-big-to-fail banks are bigger and more dangerous than ever. All the derivative and shadow banking swindles are still being cooked up. Executive compensation and incentives are outrageously high and encourage bad behavior. He did show that losses would be socialized and profits privatized. The bankers have taken note. They got away with it. No Glass-Steagall (37 pages), which protected the financial system for decades, was passed. Instead, we get Dodd-Frank (2,300 pages), hopelessly compromised by industry lobbying.
"Ended the War in Iraq...Began Drawdown of War in Afghanistan..."
* The Iraq timetable was a legacy of George W. Bush. Now Iraq is beset by sectarian fighting and Americans are most unwelcome in what didn't turn out to be a democratic beacon for the Middle East. Afghanistan is turning into a monumental disaster with our Afghan "allies" killing their American "partners" and the Americans so tone-deaf and cayo-stupid they would burn Qurans (and get caught). Nuclear-armed Pakistan, meanwhile, is alienated and probably irredeemable. Mission accomplished, baby. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has continued the massive Military Industrial Complex with little wars around the globe. Iran awaits. And he has extended the one-step-from-tyranny national security state. Gitmo is still open and predator drones are coming to a locale near you. So glad we have a former "constitutional law professor" in the Oval Office. This ties with the total lack of action on climate change as his most shameful failure.
"Turned Around U.S. Auto Industry: In 2009, injected $62 billion in federal money (on top of $13.4 billion in loans from the Bush administration) into ailing GM and Chrysler in return for equity stakes and agreements for massive restructuring. Since bottoming out in 2009, the auto industry has added more than 100,000 jobs. In 2011, the Big Three automakers all gained market share for the first time in two decades. The government expects to lose $16 billion of its investment, less if the price of the GM stock it still owns increases."
* Good on him. Liquidation of Detroit — it wouldn't have been a managed bankruptcy, Willard — would have been a calamity. But Mr. Obama failed on any wider transportation vision. High-speed rail, badly proposed, was quickly jettisoned, and rebuilding our passenger-train system was never considered. Neither was retrofitting suburbia with transit. These measures would have created many permanent jobs, particularly if we required, as China does, that the equipment builders do their work here and share their technology. They would have cushioned the country against high energy prices and helped the environment. Instead, we saved the automakers and have a 1970 transportation system
And so it goes. Mr. Obama has not compromised. He has accepted the positions of the extreme right as the starting point of his agenda (even Obamacare is modeled on a proposal from the Heritage Foundation). Mr. Obama has not been a savvy leader of his party. Instead, he presided over a cowardly and aimless Democratic majority for two years, then helplessly saw it wiped out in 2010. There are echoes of the Napolitano governorship in Arizona: Constant defense, one or two "achievements" that can be quickly reversed by the next office-holder, and an unwillingness to take on the elites and plutocrats. Or to tell the American people the truth.
So we will hold our noses and vote Obama come November. Maybe. Then four more years of the same or worse, as the Democrats have no fire or strategy to retake the House. And then...? The theocrats and plutocrats will have their Jan Brewer moment.
*Yes, they can.