Grownup Talk for Obama : Not such Simple Arithmetic

Hard choices are upon us. The political costs of candor will be high. The political costs of a lack of candor will be higher…

By Steve Russell / The Rag Blog / September 14, 2009

My favorite thing about Obama is that he sounds like a grownup talking to grownups. Most of the time.

But when he fails that aspiration, he fails big time.

In the primary (and, yes, I pointed it out at the time even though I was supporting Obama), Clinton said that the only way to get a handle on health care costs is to get everybody in the pool with a mandate. Obama said no, he could support a mandate only for children and adults should have the right to go naked.

The problem with his argument, which Clinton pointed out, is that the choice to go naked is just a way to game the system at the expense of us all, because we are not as a matter of political reality going to let people die in a highly visible way. The only reason we let people die now is because they can’t get treated AFTER they are stabilized in the emergency room. We Americans have that much understanding of health care as a test of national character, but we lack the attention span to follow the chronic as well as the acute.

The next failure is this. Everybody knows that we must either cut spending or raise taxes to get out of the ditch the Reagan Revolution put us in. But the truth is we have to do both.

Taxing the top 5% at 100% would not save us.

The only budget items that can be cut and have an impact are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and Defense. We could literally chop the entire rest of the budget and that would not save us.

The Obamites tell us, probably correctly, that the next economic wave will be clean energy. They have not, however, been able to pass the policies that could put us on top of that wave. While Europe is better positioned than we are, the leader of innovation in the face of American default is becoming… China, our principal creditor.

Did we reply with a carbon tax to move away from waste and fire up creativity? No, we have cap and trade pending, which would better be labeled smoke and mirrors, since in practice it manages to lack both carrot and stick. This was a case where we could have learned from the European mistake but instead chose to repeat it.

Hard choices are upon us. The political costs of candor will be high.

The political costs of a lack of candor will be higher and they will be insignificant compared to the economic costs.

The Rag Blog

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6 Responses to Grownup Talk for Obama : Not such Simple Arithmetic

  1. dospesentas says:

    Just can’t resist running off the road into partisan trees. “get out of the ditch the Reagan Revolution put us in”. Funny, when we hear about the great economy under Clinton, seems that Regan ditch gets forgotten, only to be resurrected when a partisan slam is needed.

    Thanks to this lame irrelevant reference, author’s credibility = 0

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are you speaking of yourself when you say can’t resist running into the partisan trees? Because I think most readers of this blog clearly understand Steven’s meaning, which is that Reagan’s counterrevolution ran us into a ditch that we haven’t yet gotten out of, including during the Clinton years, and that it was only radically worsened by Bush’s blowing of the surplus and wars for the purposes of growing U.S. debt toward the goal of doing to the U.S. what Schwarzenegger has done to California. It’s like Hightower says that it’s a vertical paradigm of them on top versus the other 99.999999999% of us. Reagan pretty much started it and made it semi-permanent. Clinton made some headway against it, though undermined his limited progress with his Rubin/Summers/Gramm economic hit men. Bush II did a Thelma & Louise with the nation after that. Obama is doing whatever can be done with the Reagan establishment (and its army of real hit men) still in charge for the foreseeable future and not foment an assassination/coup.

    – L. Piltz

  3. dospesentas says:

    Mr. Pilts: SURPLUS!! We never had a surplus under Clinton. This country has had a continuous ‘national debt’ for over 50 years. What’s really comical is the statement: “Bush’s blowing of the surplus”, how do you ‘blow’ a surplus that never existed. Might want to check the U.S. Treasury accounting that shows the following National Debt/ Annual Deficits for the Clinton years:

    FY1994 $4.692749 trillion/$281.26 billion
    FY1995 $4.973982 trillion/$281.23 billion
    FY1996 $5.224810 trillion/$250.83 billion
    FY1997 $5.413146 trillion/$188.34 billion
    FY1998 $5.526193 trillion/$113.05 billion
    FY1999 $5.656270 trillion/$130.08 billion
    FY2000 $5.674178 trillion/$17.91 billion
    FY2001 $5.807463 trillion $133.29 billion

    Do you see a surplus? The ‘surplus’ you likely reference was ‘projected’ in Clinton’s end years, but never existed. When you have no facts, make things up, blame Regan, Bush and Cheney. I can back up my claims with fact – can you?

    I got the references, you missed MY point. It’s silly to blame Reagan (who hasn’t held office in two decades) while simultaniously extolling the virtues of a Clinton economy that occurred a decade later. It’s stupid. I’ll agree Bush II blew a bunch of money, but that hardly justifies more of the same.

    Then you go on to blame Arnold for California’s problems, LOL. Might want to go back and learn who devises and passes the legislation that spends and appropriates the money – (hint; it’s not the executive branch). What’s bringing Ca. down is a rapidly declining skilled workforce, greedy inflation (and deflation) of housing values and an addiction to spending, particularly on social services like MediCal.

    I did like your use of the old stale US vs. THEM (with reference to the village idiot – hey but he has a ‘home spun’ style). Does that old tactic still work? Speaking of ‘hit’ men, isn’t Larry calling the shots for Obama now? What’s really sweet is capping things off with the conspiracy stuff. I like it.

  4. Steve Russell says:

    Sorry to interrupt but my piece, the alleged subject of the argument, said nothing about Clinton.

    Since you more or less asked, I will say that Clinton gave us a paper surplus by the corrupt accounting methods everybody used, using the Social Security “trust fund” as convenient. (Gore wanted to change that in the next election and got ridiculed for it.) The “Clinton surplus” was as much a projection for the near term future as the “Obama deficit.”

    It was not my intent to reform the accounting rules but that would not be a bad idea.

    The two biggest transfers of wealth in the history of this country accomplished directly by the government were under FDR, form the haves to the have-nots, and under Reagan in the other direction.

    The other aspects of the Reagan Revolution were the devolution of social services from the feds to the states and a new emphasis on the arms race, which the Repugs claim bankrupted the Soviet Union but not us (right).

    Obama was hosed from the left during the election for recognizing the Reagan Revolution as a major political accomplishment, which is was. I just got hosed from the right for the same thing.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Judge. This is a fine line in the seamless Web of the Law. But also strong -and important a support- as tungsten-vanadium wire.

    – The Mole

  6. Steve says:

    to me, we are NOT still paying off the Civil War, World War 1 or 2, Vietnam, the Reagan Revolution, the Clinton bubble, or any such thing.

    We can if we wish to — but we are NOT bound by past financial arrangements. these are useful fictions to create orderly economic arrangements, but periodically they emerge as fetters on our imaginations and a forced draft on the living by the dead and the unborn.

    We are neither able nor unable to pay the promises of Social Security or a future health bill that hasn’t been incurred yet. We will in fact pay out of the resources available and on hand at that time.

    Of course, what is being suggested by this article above is that we will encounter much difficulty in paying off past promises. not necessarily given reasonably skilled management.

    I would say that the US is still a rich land given its natural resources and its position geographically and historically.

    Besides land, labor, and know-how, other countries in the Western Hemisphere need our trade and all benefit strongly from our cooperation w/ them.

    we still have bargaining leverage in the world system as well. we’ve squandered a lot of resources and goodwill from our imperialism, but the US is still the indispensable nation in the world trade and financial system.

    with continual improvement in productivity it is possible for fewer people to work, yet support more nonworking dependents. A rich nation can afford to pay the health and retirement needs of all its citizens.

    Unfortunately, a lot of the means to do so were squandered, but there is still a chance to rebuild those means. Many will have to work past age 65, but now many more are capable of physically doing so.

    Many resources are perishable anyway. We were always going to have a challenge with paying off baby boomer health and retirement needs.

    But I think the key is not to panic, and understand that the resources are there if we manage wisely. Morally we need to not shred the intergenerational compact.

    We need to re-tool for the industries of the future which are health and alternate energy and other more resource-efficient industrial practices.

    It also means more equitable sharing between classes and countries. It means less squandering of resources on militarism.

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