Monday, February 23, 2009

"Comrade" or conservative? (Updates on Sullivan and Krugman)

Comrade Alan Greenspan has endorsed the idea of nationalizing B of A and other massive troubled banks.

Obama won't do it. Such a move is against our culture, or so sayeth he.

Once again, the hip young post-racial president whose very name once sent progs into prog-gasm has proven himself to be more conservative than is an arch-conservative like Greenspan. We have two explanations for this phenomenon:

1. Obama is playing the proverbial game of 11-dimensional chess. Wary of being demonized as a "socialist" (and I am fully aware that just such a demonization program is underway right now), he won't go ahead with a nationalization plan unless and until the Republicans beg him to do it.

2. Obama's instincts really are conservative. He's no progressive; he simply knows how to play the progs for suckers.

One can make a good case for option 1. Unfortunately, a number of factors suggest that option 2 more accurately describes the sitch.

Obama's careful moves toward Social Security "reform" provide us with our best indicator of the man's true ideological bearings. During the primaries, I warned the Obots repeatedly about this disaster-in-the-making. I frequently reminded readers that one of Obama's two chief economic advisers during the campaign, Jeff Liebman, advocates privatizing Social Security. Other bloggers sounded the same alarm.

The bots called us liars. Well, who is the liar now?
But Obama is also playing footsie with the conservative advocates of "entitlement reform" (their euphemism for cutting benefits). The president wants the corporate establishment's support on many other important matters, and he recently promised to hold a "fiscal responsibility summit" to examine the long-term costs of entitlements. That forum could set the trap for a "bipartisan compromise" that may become difficult for Obama to resist, given the burgeoning deficit.
The point man for the "entitlement reform" movement is 82 year-old ultra-conservative billionaire Pete Peterson, Nixon's Commerce Secretary and the prime mover behind a new documentary called I.O.U.S.A.
The major media treat him adoringly. Most reporters are too lazy (or dim) to check out the facts for themselves, so they simply repeat what Peterson tells them about Social Security.
Peterson's proposal would essentially dismantle the Social Security entitlement enacted in the New Deal, much as Bill Clinton repealed the right to welfare. Peterson has assembled influential allies for this radical step. They include a coalition of six major think tanks and four tax-exempt foundations.
The astonishing thing is that Peterson's privatization initiative is gaining momentum at the precise time when everyone is learning that their private retirement plans are worth little or nothing. Has the world seen a more formidable triumph of propaganda over reality?

Jane Hamsher, at Firedoglake, argues that Peterson's draconian revisionism serves to move the 50 yard line. In order to resist "Petersonism," Obama may endorse the Orzag-Diamond proposal, which Ezra Klein of the American Prospect tries to sell as the more liberal alternative. That proposal was first mooted when Dubya tried to privatize Social Security more than five years ago.

Hamsher notes that the majority of progressives did not support Orzag-Diamond back in 2003, when it was first made public. Why? Because it calls for the gradual reduction of benefits.

Dig it: A Social Security plan that liberals rejected in the Dubya years now becomes the "acceptable" alternative during the Obama years. The public may soon confront a false dichotomy: Either accept Peterson's radical proposal to scrap Social Security as we know it, or accept a plan which slowly slices away benefits.

Obamafolk insist that the President plans to reform health care before approaching Social Security. They also insist that nothing drastic will happen to entitlement programs. Of course, Obama also once promised that he would not run in 2008.

Never forget: During the primaries, the Obama cultists attacked Paul Krugman and embraced Andrew Sullivan.

Update: On cue, here's Andrew Sullivan on Obama's great "opportunity" to reform Social Security. Read and puke:
It seems to me that a key sign of the Republican party’s maturing back to sanity will be a willingness to join Obama in this endeavor.

The current market has scotched any “private accounts” diversion from the social security debate, removing the ideological impediment placed before this pragmatic reform by the last president. The Democrats are resisting, giving the GOP a chance to reclaim its serious fiscal credentials by actually focusing on big-ticket entitlement costs rather than their asinine “pork” fixation - a way to appear fiscally prudent while avoiding any real action. The left seems adamant in refusing any reforms until they have us all in their national health scheme, from birth to death. The right therefore has an opening to appeal, for a change, to the sensible center.
Remember, bots -- Andrew Sullivan is the guy with whom you jumped into bed during the primaries. And Krugman is the fellow you demonized. Remember that. You can bet your ass that I'll never forget it.

Update 2: Krugman. Glen Greenwald's latest tears into a masturbatory NYT piece on Rahm Emanuel. Note these bits, which tie into the argument presented above:
Rahm, you see, is -- as his good friend Stan put it -- "not an ideological Democrat. He’s not ideologically liberal. He comes out of Chicago politics, which is more transactional." He gets things done.
Lizza even allows Emanuel several paragraphs to attack and mock Paul Krugman, who had been critical of the concessions the administration made as part of the stimulus package. Yet Lizza didn't include (and, apparently, didn't seek) any reaction from Krugman (or from anyone else critical of the White House's negotiating tactics), and as a result, Emanuel was permitted to glorify himself and rail against Krugman's critique without having even to describe the criticism accurately.
Let me say it again:

Remember, bots -- Andrew Sullivan is the guy with whom you jumped into bed during the primaries. And Krugman is the fellow you demonized. Remember that. You can bet your ass that I'll never forget it.


Anonymous said...

some links of obamatons dislike of krugman would be a nice update to this piece.


Joseph Cannon said...

You're kidding, right? You want links for that? It was common knowledge at the time! Do you also want me to provide a link to prove my assertion that the sun sets in the west?

Oh hell, start here...

Then hit Google. I'm not here to do your homework for you.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was still getting calls asking for money for the Obama machine, I got one from an energized woman from North Carolina just before that state's primary. She came close to sounding like Meg Ryan in that scene in "When Harry Met Sally". Anyway, I tried to tell her that her dream lover was not all she thought he was and suggested that she check out the backgrounds and beliefs of Obama's advisors. While still polite to me, it was obvious that she would not let reality enter into her world and she continued to talk about all the change Obama would bring but couldn't name anything specific. I wonder if she's making excuses for him now.

It does seem as if it is Emanuel (and not Obama who picked Emanuel) who is getting the blame/credit for the proposed changes in "entitlements" in some media and blogs and that Emanuel thinks he is safe hiding behind the "but Democrats only have 57 fully functioning senators" nonsense.

old dem

Anonymous said...

Well, you know that Krugman's son worked for Hillary so that was why the Obots couldn't trust the Shrill One.

Gary McGowan said...

Regarding national and international economic policy, Obama effectively has no instincts; he’s going to do what the office and the committees and the relatively few who get his ear come up with. He is not dependably or predictably an economic conservative, progressive, socialist, or any other flavor. Actual economic policy is a swirling maelstrom in a relatively small area of his mind.

The office and the committees of this presidential administration are chiefly of two camps, with a third—the noisiest and getting the most attention—being the pundits. The two real camps, mostly out of sight, are the Let’s-Pinochet-America Gang and the Emerging Patriots. The Pinochet Model Gang relentlessly pushes at every minutiae of an opportunity to further their lust to suck the American people’s life blood, fatten themselves and have their way; what they can’t privatize now they will cut and carve and damage so they can buy it up later cheaper. They are immensely powerful, deeply dug in and persistent beyond belief. They are also very predictable.

The Emerging Patriots (I admit that’s a poor name, but I can’t come up with a better one just now) are NOT predictable. Which is not to say they are incompetent. They are like the Army Corps of Engineers of decades past who find themselves with a barely sufficient stock of material for the job at hand, competency born of many difficult experiences (wins and losses), many potential leaders among the ranks, and they have just started to gather at the site and get their bearings.

“Emerging” is a process. It is the creativity of the sovereign human mind impelled to action by the American conscience—it is the instinct to fight and to die if necessary to drive forward the progress defined by Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Lincoln, and armies of others who have built thus far. As one of them famously said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Other nations, our potential allies, have their heroes and their languages and their trail of progress. They certainly are no less human.

The rats have their incestuous cabals. The pundits will never tire of kicking up dust and making noise while the real work gets done and the wars for the minds of men, women and children are fought.

Obama… well, he’s just Obama. But he’s what we have to work with for now.

Anonymous said...

The Obots got into bed with a loooot of ugly folks during the primary. Now they look like they will have to chew their own legs off to get out of it.

Anonymous said...

As to advisors, I remind the gentle readership here that LBJ took the same advisors that JFK had on national security, and the two men did entirely different things with regard to escalation in Vietnam.

Yes, JFK was also being advised to commit US ground combat troops in that role-- repeatedly. He refused, just as he refused to bomb Cuba under strong advisement to do that from SAC and LeMay and others, and just as he refused to greenlight the Northwoods operation unanimously recommended to him by the JCS.

After LBJ was re-elected on a no-war in Vietnam pledge, he used the Gulf of Tonkin (non-) incident as a casus bellum to ramp it up to a full scale combat operation.

The difference between two presidents using the same advisors was less than 20 Americans dead in Vietnam as of 11/23/63, and something north of 20,000 US dead soldiers as of late '68.

In a different, but related, point, consider Harry S Truman's background coming from the wholly corrupt Pendegast political machine that dominated Kansas. Truman never distanced himself from his patron, even choosing to attend his funeral after Pendegast had been convicted and jailed some time before, but by most accounts, was not himself a corrupt politican.


Gary McGowan said...

Well done on the graphic, Joseph.