Our Present Anxieties

These guys are really sensitive, aren't they?

I thought that former Vice President Al Gore’s vein-bulging attacks on Bush & Co. marked a new “no rules in the arena” era of politics. Fine—if the Left wished to write novels, make films, and write op-eds about doing in Bush, and if Nazi/brownshirt was to be on everyone’s lips, from Al Gore's to Garrison Keillor's, then I thought surely they would be immune to criticism when their turn to return to power came.

But no. Instead we are getting this hysteria about the evil Cheney criticizing Obama, or furor that “bipartisanship” has ended, or mania about the archaic filibuster. It is sort of like the retiarius throwing his net every which way while stabbing with trident—only to cry foul  and “how dare you!” when nicked back by the sica of the Thracian.

“Jobless Recovery”

I am delighted as anyone that the latest unemployment figures show a slight drop in joblessness to 10%. Much of the media is upbeat as well—which raises the question: in 2004, John Kerry ran on the theme of a “jobless recovery”, a charge resonating through the major media outlets. Yet unemployment in the last quarter of 2004, when these accusations were most frequent, was 5.4%— and soon dipped to average 5% for 2005. If 5.4% is termed “jobless”, what is 10%—job-full?

Reset button/'they did it’ diplomacy

Barack Obama, nearly a year into his term, is still talking about Bush culpability for everything from unemployment to Afghanistan.  At what year will it ever stop?

Bush inherited a nuclear Pakistan, a firewall between the CIA and FBI in matters of counter-terrorism, an appeased and ascendant Osama bin Laden, unsustainable no-fly zones over Iraq (the French had already bailed), al-Qaeda with a safe zone in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and an intifada-prone Mideast—in other words, no more than the regular stuff. But I don’t remember Bush talking of the creepy Clinton pardons—Eric Holder  being at their epicenter—after a year in office.

When Clinton arrived in January 1993, the Balkans were a mess, and no one knew what to do about Milosevic. Eastern Europe and the former republics had been promised varying degrees of NATO membership. And we were running staggering trade deficits, and in a recession. But even Clinton got over blaming Bush soon enough.

Bush I had to deal with an invigorated Saddam Hussein, the Kuwait mess, a Noriega who was out of control, easing the Soviets out of eastern Europe, a divided Berlin reuniting—and, again, the usual stuff.

Reagan inherited a demoralized military, an insane regime in Khomeini’s Iran, a bellicose and appeased Soviet Union, and communist expansion in Central America.

In other words, nothing Obama has seen overseas is, by past standards, all that unusual. Iraq was mostly quiet when he assumed office. We had not been hit again since 9/11. The Patriot Act and anti-terrorism protocols were in play and working. The fact that he has not yet closed Guantanamo and kept Predators, tribunals, renditions, etc. apparently means he finds them useful—despite the reset rhetoric.

But what is different from past Presidents is the serial, incessant whine of "poor me", "Bush did it", “we have to hit the reset the button” with the Russians, the Arabs, the Iranians, the Europeans, etc. I thought all this would have the usual shelf-life of 6 months. But here it is nearly a year and we are getting more, not less of it. We are back to the lamentations of Jimmy Carter, who, 30 years after his disastrous leadership in 1979-80 on the Iranian hostage crisis, is still talking about how others would have done worse, and how he had saved thousands of lives.

Suggestion: a 10-day-free-period in which no one in the Obama administration says “they did it” and “we had to reset…”

Debt will do us in…

Either Obama will stop the  astronomic spending and spiraling debt, or he will not only destroy his presidency, but take his party—and many of us— down with him. He apparently did not understand that the fury against Bush was not just due to Iraq, but the unprecedented $300-400 billion annual deficits. But rather than address that, Obama has scheduled a number of trillion-dollar-plus annual deficits for the rest of his term.

Obama’s legacy is to reduce the word “trillion”—which used to be a mind-boggling concept—to the equivalent of “billion”, as in a “trillion here, a trillion there.”

There are solutions, of course.  Don’t laugh: the ridiculous can become the real when the money runs out. We can furlough federal employees 1 -5 days a month. We can inflate our way out by expanding the money supply. (I started farming with 12% inflation, and 19% interest rates and 10% unemployment, and watched the price of raisins go from $1,350 a ton to $480 in a single year: ergo, anything, I learned, is possible. [There is really no "they" who will step in and save us.])

E.g., we can default on Social Security and Medicare—as in saying “those who make over $150,000 will not be eligible for Medicare” or have 50% of their Social Security withheld as tax. Don't laugh, worse may be in store.