Wednesday, September 28. 2011
Illustration from Paul Krugman:
His original context concerns the Euro, but it actually does a nice job of encapsulating the Obama administration's view of the economy: they've locked themselves in the bubble of "things that are considered politically feasible" -- a definition that they've generously allowed to the Republicans to make, and then to remake in order to keep it constantly out of reach, and not coincidentally ever further from those "things that might actually work."
It bears repeating that the main reason the left is so ticked off at Obama isn't because he's abandoned so much of his campaign rhetoric and turned out to be a closet conservative. It's because he keeps doing things that won't work, selected mostly because they fall into his limited understanding of what is "considered politically feasible." And this has become even more frustrating as the Republicans have consolidated ironclad power to disrupt anything Obama proposes: the main error in the diagram is the suggested size of the "things that are considered politically feasible" -- in the real world that bubble is vanishingly small as it turns out that nothing is actually feasible.
What distinguishes the left from Obama is not just a stubborn insistence on defending principles against the constant assault from the right; it's also the belief that it's possible to do something even when the right seems to hold all the cards.
By the way, I think that the set of "things that might actually work" is broader than the set of things that the left actually wants and supports. It is possible, for instance, to stimulate the economy without making it substantially more equitable -- the approach I'd prefer. It is possible to regulate banking without massively shrinking the finance sector. It is possible to fix some of the most dysfunctional aspects of our health care system without adopting a single-payer model. It is possible to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan without dismantling the entire system of imperial overreach. In each of these cases I'd prefer the more radical solution, and I think such a solution would ultimately work better. But Obama is not only not doing the right thing; he's rarely does anything that would work, and on occasion he actually makes things worse. And worse for himself and his prospects, by not proposing and not selling policies that might actually work, he's let the self-appointed guardians of the "politically feasible" move the debate ever further into the realm of the ridiculous, half-baked nonsense spouted by the far right.
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