Monday, January 29, 2024

Obama’s decline reflects the perils of democracy…

February 8, 2010 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( I’ve never in my life questioned the value of having a democratic society. I still don’t question my democracy, since I believe that in most cases, democracy works quite well. But the textbook on democracy needs to have a chapter describing exceptions to the rule, and that chapter would read something like this: “Democracy works quite well except when you attempt to elect the first black president in the history of a nation that has spent most of its time hating black people. In that rare and highly improbable reality, democracy turns into a bunch of angry conservatives creating deliberate gridlock at the expense of the American people. Racism makes people so angry that they will destroy their society in order to prove a point.”

Ok, the chapter might not read that way, but during these tough economic times, I sit on airplanes and quietly wonder if China’s ability to get through this recession has been driven, at least in part, by their ability to get things done. If they need a jobs plan, the government simply demands one. If they want to raise taxes, they order the people to pay more. At the very least, they don’t have Democrats and Republicans spending more time fighting for power than acting on behalf of the American people. But then again, maybe Chinese disrespect for human rights and elimination of many key civil liberties ultimately undermines my utopian description of a Communist society. I am certainly not a Communist, but usually democracy, Communism and socialism are present in every modern society, at least on some elementary level.

In our great American democracy, President Obama is trying to play quarterback for a football team where every position player wants to do his own thing: The wide receivers (liberal Democrats) want to go left, the running backs (Republicans) want to go to the other end zone, and the offensive linemen (the American people who got Obama into office) are sitting on the sidelines, watching the game with a beer in their hands. When the American team loses the game by 40 points, everyone is going to wonder why the quarterback didn’t do his job. Well, the quarterback can’t score touchdowns if he has no one to whom he can pass the ball and his linemen are allowing him to be sacked.

The president is being told to create jobs, and lots of them. Following suit, the president has communicated that job creation is his top priority. The problem, however, is that job creation costs money and that money comes from either additional debt or tax revenues. The president is being told that he can’t have access to either of these things, at least not in the magnitude necessary to artificially create economic growth. If he increases the deficit by another dollar, America is going to go bananas over it (for good reason). If he tries to raise taxes on the bulk of the American people, he’s going to catch hell for that as well.

When I heard that the president has chosen to manage the deficit by freezing all discretionary spending for three years, all I could say was, “woopty doo.” Freezing discretionary spending to cut the massive national deficit is like saving money in your household budget by purchasing cheaper salt shakers. The real back breakers in the president’s budget are entitlement programs: Medicare/Medicaid and social security, line items that are ultimately off limits to President Obama. Defense is also an ugly money-eater, but Al Qaeda has gotten us spending money we don’t have to protect the American perception of invincibility (which we don’t quite have either). That portion of the national budget can’t be touched either.

When you break it all down, the president has been given the simple, yet impossible task of improving the economy while being given no resources in order to get the job done. He certainly doesn’t have the help he needs in Congress, as petty legislators fight to protect their own interests like NBA players taking one-legged jump shots to beef up their own statistics. Perhaps Obama should ask magician David Blaine to help him conjure up new jobs with his economic hands tied behind his back. His only hope is that the business cycle will naturally recover. The problem is that the US economy has not created one net new job since 1999, which argues that the unemployment numbers are not going to improve enough to satisfy those who’ve become disappointed with our president. Additionally, massive declines in home values make the situation that much more dire and complex, since housing prices are not going to recover anytime soon.

It appears that the bright days of Democratic power are soon going to come to an end. If only they could have seized the moment. In preparation for the mid-term elections, President Obama needs to practice reaching further across the isle. If he doesn’t find a way to work with the Republicans, we could be see Obama’s power whittled way until he has become another Jimmy Carter.

Written By Dr. Boyce Watkins

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