President Obama has Tea Party and other GOP congressional obstructionists rocking back on their heels from his “We Can’t Wait!” offensive, making deft use of the power of the presidency to show how lives of average Americans can be improved by Washington, and his determination to accomplish just that.
The empty ideological sophistry, smoke and mirrors of the same tired old GOP rhetoric is sounding hollow by contrast, and if anything, the president needs to push harder and harder. It also didn’t hurt that he announced all U.S. troops will be out Iraq by the end of the year, and that Khaddafy is gone. All in a single week.
While the world is far from perfect, many “underwater” homeowners will avoid foreclosure, and many Americans will cease watching all of their meager incomes gobbled up by student loans. Moreover, we are “free at last” from the incredibly destructive quagmire that was Iraq. Two tyrants have been effectively deposed, this week’s developments remind us, and while transitions might be messy and even reactionary, at least the opportunity has been created for empowerment of the people of these nations.
After a while it becomes evident who is just whining, pouting and standing in the way, and who is getting things done. Bravo, Mr. President!
Still, however, there looms the imminent danger of a financial unraveling in Europe that could quickly, almost instantly, plunge the world back into a 2008-style crisis. Italy’s problems have eclipsed Greece’s. As the third most highly indebted nation in the world, Italy’s meltdown will trigger a domino effect flashing deep into the U.S. banking system in a nano-second.
It is, in fact, the nature of the problem that owes its roots directly to the unprecedented, international financial orgies of the Bush years, wreaking systemic and structural chaos far beyond what’s been manifested so far.
It’s like the impact of the famous 1906 earthquake on San Francisco, something my grandmother lived through and told me about. There was the earthquake and the terrible destruction it caused. At first everybody thought that, bad as it was, was it. But then came Phase Two, the not-initially-evident hidden rupturing of gas lines in the city’s downtown. Not evident at first, those soon sparked a conflagration that burned the city to the ground.
There are those in the highest corridors of power aware this is what the world financial system faces. For them, it is a race against time, as if a giant asteroid were heading to Earth and efforts are desperately but quietly, to avoid panic, being marshaled as quickly as possible to do something, if only to buy time and hope for a soft landing.
From the standpoint of the ability of the U.S. economy to weather this coming series of events, eerily similar to the way climate change is encroaching, there must be a fundamental shift in the core calculus of the national economic process.
That is, there must be a shift away from the consumer-based economy that evolved in the U.S. following World War II, back to a producer-based one. It begins with people thinking of themselves not as entitled to be selfish possessors of things, but as producers, those who put out, work hard and, yes, sacrifice for the future and the general public good.
We must stop defining everything in terms of individual self-interest, and revert to old-style challenges to “think not what the country can do for you, but you can do for the country.”
The economic debate is not between Keynes and Hayek, because both are consumer-based. It is between consumption as national economic policy, and the production-based, national dirigiste economic theories that built America, from Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures” to the translation of Lincoln’s chief economist, Henry Carey, into national policy.
Those “American System” practices focused on the development of infrastructure, investment in research and development, jobs with decent living and working conditions, and universal, science-based public education.
Under that system, government was rightly seen as the collective will of the people to achieve a common good. So it must be seen again, and anti-government obstructionists ushered back into the dustbins of history.