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March 06, 2009

The Barack Obama Sell-Off Continues

Can we blame this on Obama? Sure can.

At the very center of our economic near-depression is a credit bubble, a housing collapse and a systemic failure of the entire banking system. One can come up with a host of causes: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed by Washington (and greed) into improvident loans, corrupted bond-ratings agencies, insufficient regulation of new and exotic debt instruments, the easy money policy of Alan Greenspan's Fed, irresponsible bankers pushing (and then unloading in packaged loan instruments) highly dubious mortgages, greedy house-flippers, deceitful homebuyers.

The list is long. But the list of causes of the collapse of the financial system does not include the absence of universal health care, let alone of computerized medical records. Nor the absence of an industry-killing cap-and-trade carbon levy. Nor the lack of college graduates. Indeed, one could perversely make the case that, if anything, the proliferation of overeducated, Gucci-wearing, smart-ass MBAs inventing ever more sophisticated and opaque mathematical models and debt instruments helped get us into this credit catastrophe in the first place.

And yet with our financial house on fire, Obama makes clear both in his speech and his budget that the essence of his presidency will be the transformation of health care, education and energy. Four months after winning the election, six weeks after his swearing in, Obama has yet to unveil a plan to deal with the banking crisis.

What's going on? "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," said Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. "This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

Things. Now we know what they are. The markets' recent precipitous decline is a reaction not just to the absence of any plausible bank rescue plan, but also to the suspicion that Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions -- the sense of crisis bordering on fear-itself panic -- for enacting his "Big Bang" agenda to federalize and/or socialize health care, education and energy, the commanding heights of post-industrial society.

Clever politics, but intellectually dishonest to the core. Health, education and energy -- worthy and weighty as they may be -- are not the cause of our financial collapse. And they are not the cure. The fraudulent claim that they are both cause and cure is the rhetorical device by which an ambitious president intends to enact the most radical agenda of social transformation seen in our lifetime.

Shorter version: He's fixing the things that do not need to be fixed -- and even if they need to be fixed, they can certainly wait -- while he fucks about doing nothing much at all to stanch the economic bleeding.

But he claims that "fixing" health care is what the economy needs.

Funny, health care wasn't "fixed" ever before and yet we've had prosperity in most years.

Thanks to Mom.

And Here's What Obama is Up To: From Kaus, but actually quoting Ross Douthat:

Obama's spending proposals would ... create new spending commitments and run up large deficits, in the hopes that the dollars poured into health care and education will create a new baseline for government's obligations, which in turn will create the political space for tax increases on the middle class. Like the starve-the-beast approach, the Obama strategy puts off the hard part till tomorrow: Give them tax cuts today, conservatives said, and they'll swallow spending cuts tomorrow; give them universal health care, universal pre-K, subsidies for green industry and all the rest of it today, liberals seem to be thinking, and they'll be willing to pay for it tomorrow. ...

[I]f you can change the baseline of social spending that Americans expect from their government before that day of hard choices arrive - and once created, government programs are awfully hard to get rid of, whether they're actually effective or not - then you've tilted the landscape of negotiation in liberalism's favor, and ensured that a post-Obama entitlement compromise will look a lot more like social democracy than a pre-Obama compromise would have.

Even if one concedes that this is a legitimate ideological goal for The Leninist One to pursue, should he be pursuing it so vigorously when there's a thirty percent chance of the economy turning into a depression?

Yeah, thirty. A commenter tells me the economist who previously figured it at 20% has now upped it to 30%. It was 20% when the markets lost a quarter of their value; now that they've lost 50%, it's a 30% chance.

Roger Kimball is starting to wonder if this isn't mere incompetence but rather the whole plan.



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posted by Ace at 03:23 PM

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