Free Markets, Free People

Rudderless and Sinking

Here’s about as succinct a summary of the Obama administration to date that I’ve seen:

President Obama still enjoys the popularity that comes with not being George Bush, especially in a city top-heavy with Democrats. But his initial response to the global calamity that he found on entering the Oval Office has not inspired popularity’s more sober elder brother, confidence. Large constituencies, notably business, are voicing their scepticism openly. The President’s much-vaunted $787 billion stimulus package is being widely interpreted, even by some of those (such as Warren Buffett, America’s second-richest man) who openly supported Mr Obama for the presidency, as a serious failure.

And I don’t foresee it getting much better. Of course the summary comes to us via the British press (Simon Heffer) who have the luxury of being once removed from the situation and therefore have the ability to be somewhat more objective than much of our own media.

For instance, the much more perceptive analysis of the AIG mess:

Conscious that he has made mistakes, and conscious especially of the increasing perception that he is simply throwing cash at unreformed institutions in the hope that something will happen, Mr Obama is trying to raise his game. He had a soft target two days ago, when he joined in America’s outrage at the paying of bonuses to executives of AIG, the sinking insurance giant now buoyed by public money. This provoked further attacks on him from the Right. Why was he using US taxpayers’ money to bail out a company whose main investors were French, German, Swiss and British banks? And wasn’t he merely jumping on the bandwagon of attacking the bonuses to distract attention from his own policy failings – creating a bogeyman in the same way that Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman did with Sir Fred Goodwin last month?

And of course, we’re witnessing how poorly that’s turning out (you know there’s a political problem when the CEO of AIG comes off as a more sympathetic figure than Barney Frank and Chris Dodd).

Heffer says that instead of concentrating on what ails us financially, Obama has another much broader agenda:

Instead he has been trying, on a broad front, to fulfil the reformist ideal that informed his election campaign. Rather like a would-be government in Britain that talked of “sharing the proceeds of growth”, the candidate who wanted to redistribute wealth now, as President, has no wealth to redistribute. A $3.6 trillion budget showed little sign of addressing the problem of stimulating demand. Both big corporations and small businesses feel overtaxed, their competitiveness hampered, and incapable of creating jobs at a time when they are desperately needed. Mr Obama’s green agenda, which was also a significant part of his election promises, entailed higher taxation that will retard the economy just when it needs to grow. His greatest ambition – of starting a national health service – seems impossible in the present climate. As he seeks to move forward on this broad front Warren Buffett himself has attacked him, saying that his first three priorities should all be the economy. Paralysed by inexperience and a Blairish desire to be liked, and hampered by inadequate senior staff, he is now finding that even some of his own party in Congress feel he has gone too far in the socialist experiment. Mrs Pelosi admitted at the weekend that a second stimulus package – which leftist Democrats are calling for, to the horror of much of the rest of America – was not yet on the cards.

Dead on right. The line “paralyzed by inexperience and a Blairish desire to be liked, and hampered by inadequate senior staff”, strikes home. It is a particularly lethal political combination which we’re seeing displayed in spades. It is no longer a comedy show, it has become a horror show. And with the move by the Fed to buy back long-term bonds, the horror is only deepening.

And we’re stuck looking to Timothy Geithner, Barack Obama and Chris Dodd for salvation? Lord help us all.


[HT: Joel C.]

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14 Responses to Rudderless and Sinking

  • It’s not his fault he has inadequate staff. He doesn’t have the time to fill those positions, he’s got more important things to do like fill out his NCAA bracket on-air for ESPN.

    But at least his wife has great toned biceps

  • And this is from an article that says “With the aid of the conservative media” that alerts the public of the pork and the Tea Parties.

    Only in the UK will our media ever be referred to as Conservative.

  • Well, compared to the UK… they are.

    Another prophecy comes true: The Second Term of Jimmy Carter.

  • It’s not even the 2nd Carter term…’s like the 1st term of Huey Long.

  • And what is The Clown’s™ prescription for fixing things?

    Let’s appear on Jay Leno’s show! Yeah…that’s the ticket!

    • Will it work?

      Obama is an effective speaker as long as his teleprompter is working. Not with me or most here, but with many Americans. The stock market may tank after he speaks, but his approval ratings tend to go up.

  • ” I want to organize the people an splain to you so you quit complaining about going to hell.  You’re being unpatriotic if you don’t like hell.  The problem isn’t that we’re going to hell, the problem is we’re complaining about it and are worried about it.   If you all just adopt my hopey changeitude view of life, we’ll learn to enjoy the flames eventually and I  promise Nancy and Harry and I will get the air conditioning back on any moment, and…besides we inherited these flames.  Ignore the gasoline can in my hand, it’s only three quarters full now anyway, and I’m against big flames too, and we got this can from George Bush, and if the AC isn’t working it’s because of a cabal of Republicans and greedy rich people (but I repeat myself) who are working against us.”

    See, it’s about convincing us we’re wrong to think they’re screwing up.  It’s US that’s screwed up! 

  • I think I just had an epiphany.  That is Obama’s true problem — he campaigned for years on the idea that he would have a never-ending boom that allowed him to buy his way through re-election with bread and circuses.  Then, two months before the election, the wheat molds and the giraffes die.  He’s rudderless because the years old plan is now completely defunct.  Rather than coming up with a new plan, he’s just trying to bake mouldy bread and give the giraffes the Weekend at Bernie’s routine.

    • Actually, he’s literally giving the giraffes Weekend at Bernie’s.  The US DVD edition, of course.

  • Almost from the outset this administration looked like it had problems that could not be fixed, fixed in any sense that would mean, “it’s working much better now.” You can say this is “incompetence” or “absence of experience” manifesting itself, but step back for a second and take a fresh look before you hoe that row too far down the field.

    What if this administration isn’t interested in competence or the benefit of experience? Or getting itself “working much better?” Those are measurements taken for the benefit of satisfying the values of bourgeois ideology.

    Those are upstream concepts and, friends, we are heading downstream, and toward what? Perhaps to a place where up is down and down is up? Where good is bad and bad is good? Where terrorists are released from their maximum security prison into the general public? Where soldiers are responsible for their own war injuries? For starters.

    How familiar some of this territory is, and yet how unfamiliar, to Americans, even more of it is.

  • I am not an Ayn Rand fan but I find myself living in an Ayn Rand novel.