May 31st 2013

When Will Conservatives Admit Defeat?

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

"Home prices are surging, job growth is strengthening and stocks are setting record highs. All of which explains why Americans are more hopeful about the economy than at any other point in five years." This is the headline today from the Associated Press. This is not a missive from a hopeful liberal press, but the conclusion from independent organizations broadly accepted as disinterested and honest researchers. In some cases the reports are directly from the industries themselves (car sales for example):

1) The Conference Board, a private research group, reported on Tuesday that consumer confidence is at 76.2 in May, up from 69 in April, the highest level since February 2008.

2) U.S. home prices jumped about 11 percent in March compared to the previous year, the biggest annual increase since April 2006. This from the S&P's Case-Shiller report.

3) The Dow has risen 18 percent this year alone; the S&P 500 will this month hit the longest winning streak since 2009. We must not forget that in March 2009 Stanford economist Michael Boskin opined in the Wall Street Journal that "Obama's radicalism is killing the Dow." The markets have almost doubled since then. The DJIA was at 7,949 the day Bush left office; as of this writing the DJIA is at 15,400.

4) The national unemployment rate is now not at 7.5 percent, down from the high of 10 percent in 2009; the rate continues to fall. The economy has added, on average, 208,000 jobs per month since November. Remember that the economy was losing 700,000 jobs per month when Bush left office. Let us not forget the rather creepy conspiracy theory that Obama was manipulating the unemployment figures prior to the election; where are Matt and Jack now?

5) According to Bloomberg Government, manufacturing has its best showing since the days of Bill Clinton, arresting the long slide seen under Bush. U.S. factory positions have grown since early 2010. Fox & Friends soiled themselves trying to discredit this reality: even theWall Street Journal called Bush's job creation history "the worst track record on record," admitting the obvious growth under Obama.

6) American automobile sales have not only recovered from catastrophic loss, but have accelerated into strong growth. GM reports sales up 11 percent from last year; Ford reports an annual increase of 17.8 percent; Chrysler is up 11 percent.

No matter how much Fox and the Republican leadership in Washington might want to discredit the president, the numbers above are not in dispute. The gains in the stock and housing markets have enriched Americans to the tune of $16 trillion lost to the great Bush recession. To put Obama's performance in perspective, let us not forget that the Dow showed a loss of 25 percent during the eight years of G.W. Bush; the S&P fared worse under Bush -- the index dropped 40 percent of its value during the Bush reign. The NASDAQ lost 48 percent of its value. The stock market under Obama showed a positive 20.1 percent annual increase in his first two years in office and was up 85 percent at the end of his first term. In our nation's history, Obama ranks third in first-term stock performance. And his second term continues the expansion: the DJIA was at 13,881 on the day of Obama's second inauguration.

While the right wing embarrasses itself with dire warnings of hyperinflation and conspiracies to manipulate economic indicators, the rest of us enjoy a solid economic expansion. Of course we have much more that needs to be done. Which brings me to the central question: is there any circumstance, any result, which would enable conservatives to admit they were wrong about Obama and his economic policies?

Concerning national security, few would argue that Obama is soft on terrorism. But the challenge remains the same here as with economic policy: what outcome would yield an admission from the right that Obama's policies work, and are good for America?

Given the positive economic trends we see, let me propose a reasonable hypothetical: at the end of Obama's second term, the United States is enjoying a robust, healthy economy with low inflation and a declining debt. If this became a reality, would conservatives allow that Obama was a success? And if not, what outcome would?

If one argues that any success cannot be attributed to Obama's policies, then so too one must argue that any failures are not his. Inversely, if Obama's policies can be blamed for a bad economy, and the GOP is never shy about that, then those same policies must be credited when we enjoy strong economic growth. One of the most aggravating aspects of right wing zealotry is the idea that all things good are due to the Republican Congress (or to a previous Republican president no matter how far back in time), and all things bad caused by Obama (or a previous Democratic president, no matter how far back). That absurdity will not stand. This ridiculous selective attribution of success and failure is the clearest sign of right wing disintegration.

Let's be real. We all know that, most likely, no possible outcome would cause conservative foes of Obama to admit they were wrong. No matter if the economy were booming along; even if the debt were totally erased; even if unemployment was at 3 percent; even if the stock market tripled. Nothing, no outcome, no success, will cause conservatives to admit that Obama and his policies were and are good for the country.

If my conclusion is wrong, then show me. I challenge any conservative to list any metric by which Obama could be judged a success. Could he do anything, achieve anything, that would bring lie to your claim that Obama is a radical, a socialist, a big-government advocate out of control? What if after eight years the country is clearly better off than when he took office? Would anybody on the right admit to being wrong? Of course any hypothetical metric of success must be put in context of past presidents, Republican or Democrat, to keep such measurements in the realm of the possible. Saying that Obama failed because he did not make everybody millionaires would not qualify as a response here.

If I am correct, nobody will meet this challenge. And if so, then we know everything we need to about the conservative movement today. If the right cannot give me anything or describe any set of circumstances that would qualify as a success, then conservatives admit openly that they simply hate Obama, and that absolutely nothing he does can ever be right, no matter how good for America. Nihilism is not a long-term viable strategy for any political movement; sacrificing the American people on the altar of hateful politics is not a winning game plan. Opposing a president leading a country to economic ruin makes some sense; the opposite is not true. Hating Obama no matter how good he may be for the country, no matter how well the economy is doing, is nothing but turning a blind eye to reality at the expense of the country. And as divided as we are as a people, such blind hatred will not lead to long-term political gain.

So, conservatives, go ahead: give me something, some economic criteria, that would hypothetically have you admit you were wrong about Obama. Go ahead.

Ah, the sound of silence




 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "That long path, though, has from the start had within it one fundamental flaw. If we are to make sense of wider global trends in insecurity, we have to recognise that in all the analysis around the 9/11 anniversary there lies the belief that the main security concern must be with an extreme version of Islam. It may seem a reasonable mistake, given the impact of the wars, but it still misses the point. The war on terror is better seen as one part of a global trend which goes well beyond a single religious tradition – a slow but steady move towards revolts from the margins."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."
Aug 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, they have focused on their agenda, which is totally misguided—not by our own account but by the account of the majority of the American population, who view the Republican party as one that has lost its moral footing to the detriment of America’s future generations, who must now inherit the ugly consequences of a party that ran asunder."
Aug 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States. Afghanistan was always a sideshow."--- "....the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency,..." --- "Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined,..."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Taliban’s virtually uncontested takeover over Afghanistan raises obvious questions about the wisdom of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US and coalition forces from the country. Paradoxically, however, the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance only reaffirms that Biden made the right decision – and that he should not reverse course. ...... The ineffectiveness and collapse of Afghanistan’s military and governing institutions largely substantiates Biden’s skepticism that US-led efforts to prop up the government in Kabul would ever enable it to stand on its own feet. The international community has spent nearly 20 years, many thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to do good by Afghanistan – taking down al-Qaeda; beating back the Taliban; supporting, advising, training, and equipping the Afghan military; bolstering governing institutions; and investing in the country’s civil society. .... Significant progress was made, but not enough." ....... "That is because the mission was fatally flawed from the outset. It was a fool’s errand to try to turn Afghanistan into a centralized, unitary state. "
Aug 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "But even in the US, which is more lenient than most countries, the principle cannot be absolute. Inciting imminent violence is not permitted. Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, urging the mob to storm the US Capitol, certainly came close to overstepping this boundary. It was a clear demonstration that language can be dangerous. What the internet media has done is raise the stakes; “fighting words” are spread around much faster and more widely than ever before. This will require a great deal of vigilance, to protect our freedom to express ourselves, while observing the social and legal bounds that stop words from turning into actual fighting. "
Jul 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "When it comes to the Chinese economy, I have been a congenital optimist for over 25 years. But now I have serious doubts. The Chinese government has taken dead aim at its dynamic technology sector, the engine of China’s New Economy. Its recent actions are symptomatic of a deeper problem: the state’s efforts to control the energy of animal spirits." ---- "... the Chinese economy, no less than others, still requires a foundation of trust – trust in the consistency of leadership priorities, in transparent governance, and in wise regulatory oversight – to flourish. --- Modern China lacks this foundation of trust ."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "It seems that they are, as the last 18 months have seen a remarkable expansion of the central banks’ fields of activity, largely driven by their own ambitions. So they have moved into the climate change arena, arguing that financial stability may be put at risk by rising temperatures, and that central banks, as bond purchasers and as banking supervisors, can and should be proactive in raising the cost of credit for corporations without a credible transition plan. That is a promising new line of business, which is likely to grow. ---- Central banks are also trying to move into social engineering, specifically the policy response to rising income and wealth inequality, another hot button topic with high political salience."
Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "The EU’s ambitious unilateral climate strategy will transform Europe into a trade fortress, encourage green protectionism worldwide, and give other regions the opportunity to develop using cheaper energy. And without China, India, and the United States on board, other countries will be careful not to follow the EU in its self-appointed role as the world’s green guinea pig. If Europe is not careful, it will risk finding itself in a climate club of one. "
Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. ..... if projected to 2050 [beef production], would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature."
Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "