Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Four Economic Flavors

It occurred to me that are 4 sets of opinions in the public discourse regarding our current economic situation:

  1. Republican. This viewpoint, embraced by current & former Republican leaders including Dubya and McCain, is totally disconnected from reality. These people had no idea that the economic crash was approaching, and I have no respect for their opinions. However, they remain a serious danger since they will try to regain power should the economy fail to recover in a timely fashion.
  2. Status quo. This includes most of Obama's economic team. It also includes much of the mainstream media including NPR (for the most part). While much better than the Republicans, this elite group failed to anticipate the severe economic recession we are now in. Erstwhile moderate Republicans are in this group along with the powerful Wall Street Democrats such as Summers and Rubin. This group was riding high in the latter years of the Clinton Administration, but now seems out of touch. There is a revolving door between the Wall Street investment firm Goldman-Sachs and the Treasury Department. These people mean well, but they also mean to keep their elite status. They are fat cats and many have inappropriately benefited from the recent government bailouts of the financial sector. There are numerous disturbing conflicts of interest in this group.
  3. Pissed off conservative. There are many conservatives who could see that the Bush Administration was screwing up, and now have the same opinion of the Obama Administration. Some of these people were correct in predicting the financial meltdown and ensuing economic distress. Think Ron Paul. So these people have a good track record in that respect. They hate the subsidies to the big banks and their voices will become more influential if the recession worsens.
  4. Progressive. Most of the media that I follow are skeptical of the Obama Administration's efforts to rescue the economy by providing subsidies to the giant financial corporations. Some are downright hostile toward the Obama Administration, but most are just plain worried that we are going in the wrong direction. I am in this camp myself. I half-heartedly want Obama to succeed in rescuing Citibank and Goldman Sachs so that he will continue to be a popular and powerful president. But I am worried that this will falter and that all hell will break loose as Republicans and conservatives smell blood and progressives won't really be able to defend the corporate elites behind the Obama plan.

Will the center hold? The progressives and conservatives that I follow have a much better track record in predicting the path of the economy than do the mainstream Democrats and their Wall Street teammates. The voices I respect the most are calling attention to the severity of this downturn and warning that it won't be over anytime soon. If this is the case, then the public may lose its patience with the status quo leadership. If Obama tries to ride out the storm with Geithner, Summers, and the other insiders, it could be his undoing. I love Obama and I think he'll be able to adjust should the current plans start to unravel. I hope to see him move strongly in a progressive direction should that happen. Then we'll be in for a real battle, but at least the lines will be clearly drawn...


legacyguy said...

Dan, I agree with you wholeheartedly as to everything you say in your latest blog piece. I think Obama has done a fantastic job in every policy area but the one you write about--the relationship between his economic team and Wall Street--and some of his actions (or lack of same) on national security and investigation of the prior administration for war crimes. Those are pretty big "buts".

Detroit Dan said...

Thanks for the feedback, Lewis.

I think the electorate is pretty evenly split among those 4 groups I mentioned (Republican, moderate, Libertarian/conservative, progressive).

Obama has overwhelming support on most issues, but I think his most wobbly base of support is with regard to the economy. That's because the economy itself is wobbly and he's embraced the status quo.

With regard to investigation of previous war crimes and spying, he's probably less vulnerable, since these issues are receding from the spotlight.

legacyguy said...

Dan, while the question of whether the Bush administration should be held accountable for its crimes--both war and otherwise--committed while they were in power may be receding from the public's consciousness, they shouldn't be. As John Nichols and others warned in 2007, to "look forward, not backward" means that powers that were taken up under the name of a "unitary executive" in times of war may well not be surrendered by Bush's successor, for at least as long as those wars continue.

We already have evidence that Obama may not be prepared to end warrantless wiretapping against Americans as president, even though as a US Senator, he opposed Bush's policy. Obama is clinging to Bush administration policy on denying habeas corpus to prisoners held in Afghanistan. His Justice Dept. has argued in court against releasing evidence that Guantanamo prisoners may have been tortured, on grounds of "national security". This is very scary stuff which should not be swept under a rug--and, perhaps buried--because we're in a deep recession.

Detroit Dan said...

Lewis, I agree with your comments regarding what Obama should do about Bush Administration shenanigans concerning wiretapping, habeas corpus, etc...