Friday, June 19, 2009
Obama's strategy on this was flawed from day one.
#1. Obama allowed his Presidency to be hijacked by other issues & by leftist interest groups who have their own narrow agendas apart from the rest of the Country (It was Obama's fault for allowing and even playing into this hijacking). He took his eye off the ball...which should have been the economy. Gitmo, Torture, Gay Marriage, Don't ask don't tell.... and all sorts of other distractions took over his Presidency...and of course the media couldn't resist. By putting these divisive wedge issues at the top of the agenda...instead of keeping the focus on the economy (reminding Americans of who destroyed it) he provided the Republicans with the gift that they needed. This is partly due to the wingnuts on the left.... but it's also the fault of Obama for not dealing with his own constituency effectively. The Gay folks want everything their way...right away...and they should have never had that expectation to begin with. Same with the far left enviro/human rights nuts....who are focused almost exclusively on Gitmo (when there are so many other problems). Obama failed to communicate that to these people. Now they are all going nuts....and dragging down Obama and the Democrats in the process. This is something that I expected...but I didn't expect it to happen so soon and so dramatically. These failures have been huge.
#2. Obama should have never proposed massive healthcare reform in the middle of an economic crisis....when the nation is completely broke. It was one of the most stupid political moves that I have ever seen. Massive healthcare reform would be an uphill battle even in good economic times... but it's impossible during an economic crisis. There is no money to pay for all of these proposals...unless there is a tax increase...an option which is not on the table. You can't raise taxes in the middle of an economic downturn. But even in good times, it would be difficult to get a tax increase (but you could at least talk about one).
#3. Obama lost the PR battle (as I expected). The Republicans have the most dominant media apparatus in American history. I have been saying for years...that Progressives need to establish their own media if they want to have any hope of controlling their own message. Clearly the American people have bought into the Republican message, at least on this particular issue...and on Torture and so forth...the polls show that to be the case. The Republicans control the narrative on these issues. This is one thing that Republicans do well... controlling information... using their media dominance to their advantage and influencing public opinion. Of course their talking points don't have to be based on facts or common sense... they simply have to talk the loudest and repeat their point over and over again until Americans buy their arguments. And if you repeat a lie enough times... folks will eventually buy into the lie.
#4. Obama is trying to make reforms in a Country where Americans want to see changes...and want better healthcare, but they don't want to pay for it. Americans don't want to pay for anything. Republicans have successfully turned the Country into a tax-averse nation. Conservatives have successfully convinced Americans that investing in the Country is bad...that it is somehow unpatriotic to invest in our own nation and our own people. In other words...they have been taught that all taxes are bad....and that they should fight any efforts to raise them (even temporarily). This is why this Country is in the midst of a slow death and will continue to be so...with its crumbling schools, crumbling bridges and infrastructure, poor transportation (when compared to other developed nations), deteriorating health system and stagnant and now falling standard of living. Another reason for the decline is the nations incessant focus on foreign conflicts, instigating wars, and its support for a huge military industrial complex. Approximately 1/4 of this Country's annual budget goes towards defense or defense related costs, and that doesn't include the full costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans don't complain about that spending...because they are convinced that the nation needs to maintain its empire status in order to keep them safe. This is a nation that is more concerned with spending money to build more bombs than to build better lives. It is more concerned with investing in military hardware than investing in its own people. That's a recipe for disaster....and we are starting to see the results. America's priorities are still out of order. Until that is changed...the nation is doomed. (and this is a sentiment that comes from a man who believes in a strong military and a strong defense). But I firmly believe, that if we were to change our current aggressive, pro-war, Truman Doctrine based interventionist foreign policy... then we would be able to scale back military spending while still maintaining a robust defense. The U.S. could save in the neighborhood of $200 Billion to $400 Billion or more per year. That's half of your health reform money. The other half could come from creating efficiencies and raising revenues (modest taxes on income, tobacco, liquor, etc).
#5. It's not that Obama is trying to do too much. The problem is... he is trying to do too much at once. A better approach to this issue would have been to concentrate first on healing the economy. After a couple of years...once the economy had a chance to recover sufficiently...and after bringing more troops home (thus decreasing military expenditures and having more money available from that change) then he could have tackled healthcare. I never believed that he would accomplish this in his first term... let alone his first year. His strategy was far too ambitious... and his overly ambitious approach to problems is now catching up to him. But the bottom line here is that healthcare would have been an easier sell if there was more money available...and there was a better economic outlook. There would have been more options to deal with costs if the deficit and the total debt outlook were more manageable (which is what would have been the case in a few years).
#6. The American political system is thoroughly corrupt. Obama should have dealt with rooting out the systemic culture of corruption and should have fought for a campaign finance overhaul before actually trying to get serious healthcare or financial legislation passed. Obama failed to cut the cord between corporate America and politicians in Washington before he set out to do all of these changes. A recipe for disaster. Members of Congress (from both parties) are servants for corporate America... they act as lobbyists for private industry. And when I say cut the cord... I mean cut it completely. Obama should have been pushing for public financing of elections, the elimination of all Quid Pro Quo activities between politicians and private interests... but he failed to do so. This means that private corporations will continue to have strong influence over legislation and over members of Congress. In fact, corporations still write legislation (just like the Tobacco Bill from a week ago...which was written by the Tobacco companies). In this kind of environment, serious change really isn't possible.
Before real change can be accomplished, there must be fundamental changes to the underlying structure of business and politics in this Country...and changes to the way Congress operates. Without new rules of the road on that front... everything else is really a joke.
Like I have stated... if there is a healthcare bill... it will be watered down to something pointless by the time Obama signs it. And he will use what little PR system he has to celebrate the legislation as a victory... (IF anything passes at all).
The same is the case for the new financial policy proposals. That will be watered down too... because the banks and the financial firms don't want it... and they usually get what they want because they control much of Congress.