The Republicans wrapped up their convention in Tampa last Thursday. It was an impressively successful exercise in alternate reality. Indeed, it often seemed like “Alice in Wonderland.” Let me explain.
The beautiful Ann Romney as Alice; Clint Eastwood as an Albert Einstein-inspired Mad Hatter; former Massachusetts governor and GOP nominee Mitt Romney, with his incessantly cocked head and deceitful grin, as the Cheshire Cat; Paul Ryan, with his fictional Ayn Rand principles and his fact-check fails on Obama’s views, proposals and policies, as the wonderland itself.
Mitt and Paul also divined, especially for the GOP Fantasy Convention, an alternate history of America’s arrival here. The convention featured, courtesy of Mad Harry, a discussion with President Obama, who was “present” but not as an African American, but rather as a colorless man, or, I guess, an apparition.
What a show it was! It underscores the dysfunctional political three-ring circus that is “modern” America. I think such politics have raised the steep hurdles America and indeed as collateral damage, the global community faces too. What is at the core of this Wonderland, you ask? Well, it is the notion that President Obama is somehow an empty suit, or as Mad Harry illustrated in his circus like presentation, an empty seat at Mad Harry’s Tea Party.
It is the notion that the president of the United States has been AWOL from day one. Despite probably being a nice guy, he is incompetent, in over his head and incapable. You know, that despite all the prayers, blessings and support of the GOP, Obama is failing America. Somehow, the President should just step aside, accept his fate, and let a real man take over. Or is it a real corporation? In the form of Mitt Romney & Co. Sure, Obama inherited a bit of a tough situation from that other guy whose name shall never again cross our lips in public, but hey; that was then and this is now!
Well, let truth ring throughout the land! This situation America faces is like no other. Not even the Great Depression. While the Depression was economically worse, the 2008 meltdown and current long slow recovery is nearly as bad. And it is I believe, actually worse in terms of the politics, given the GOP war on all things Obama. Let’s apply the salve of truth to heal the wounds, to climb back up and out of the Rabbit Hole, or Romney Hood, or whatever…. and restore America and the American Dream……
The truth is that George W. Bush handed President Obama a colossal, intractable mess. It was borne of two fundamental things that Bush did as president. First, he set America on her Titanic course. He fundamentally altered the annual U.S. budget situation – taking a yearly income that was reducing America’s borrowing and turning it into a massive annual loss, thereby dramatically ramping up borrowing. He did that within his first two years in office. He did it by altering both sides of the budget equation – he enacted huge tax cuts, and also large entitlement and war spending increases. Less income, more expense.
This Titanic course, or perhaps more a Titanic curse – he cast in stone. The political challenges of reversing it are nearly impossible to meet. It requires either raising taxes or cutting spending on valued programs, and more likely both. Further, it is stymied by the new politics of filibustering and other obstructionist tactics by the minority against the majority – what I would call the anti-democracy.
The second thing Bush did is enable the engineering and installation of WMD in America’s financial system. For example, he enabled NINJA , or no-income, no-job mortgages and loans. And the creation and sale of trillions of dollars of mortgage and loan packages that were seeded with these toxic bad loans and related derivatives. These NINJA loans were thereby multiplied more than tenfold. And these economic WMD were duly set off just as Bush left office.
The impact, as we are all painfully aware, was near collapse of America’s and, by extension, the developed world’s, financial systems, along with George Bush’s ensuing America-led global recession. Like the Titanic rapidly taking on water and listing, America lost jobs at a rate of some 750,000 each month! And like the Titanic‘s iron hull colliding with the iceberg, the financial meltdown was especially damaging in a way that a typical business cycle recession is not. It was actually catastrophic. One of the main tools for dealing with a typical recession is the financial system. America’s confidence and the restorative leverage available from this tool, was not only damaged, it was very nearly destroyed.
Yet, the TARP program and Obama’s stimulus ended that dramatic death spiral in some 18 months. Unfortunately, this inflicted on America the painful loss of some 4 million jobs. And it robbed America of the principle tools needed for her recovery, such as a strong financial system and fiscal situation. If there is a president to fault, that absolutely is Bush’ fault. We all know that.
In the following two years Obama plugged the gaping hole in America’s hull. The stimulus, health care and other policies Obama has managed to get done have nearly recovered the 4 million lost jobs. The ship is nearly righted. Now, as President Obama has said that is hardly enough, and he is working to get much more done. I would say, given this full context, that it is hardly nothing, either.
The incredible thing is that Obama has walked pretty much alone here – ironically, a bit like the characters from Clint’s movies. Congressional leaders have failed him. Perhaps rather, they decided to be unhelpful in what they still think is a clever sort of way. The GOP’s war on Obama is effective given the tyranny possible by minority party filibustering and other blocking maneuverings. The GOP; the Party of anti-democracy in America.
This is no hypothesis or fantasy; it is fact. GOP leaders are candid, vocal and clear about this war. They are on record. It is their intention to stop Obama and what that has meant is slowing or even stopping America’s recovery. This, in hopes of – wait for it…. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and others being able to say what they said in Wonderland Tampa. Somehow its all President Obama’s fault. Mitt’s speech was, more or less, written in December of 2008, together with the GOP game plan to make it so Obama couldn’t build that recovery.
Its like the footprints in the sand…… you know, the parable, but paraphrased a bit. Looking back, Mitt and the Republicans see just one set of footprints in the sand where they were walking and Obama was trying to work together with them.
Mitt and the GOP look back and point to the one set of footprints, knowing full well whose they are. And, they cry “Mr. President, you have failed us! You have not led, and were not even at our side during our time of need! You are not capable of helping!”
Yet, in truth, we know those are Obama’s footprints. This whole time calmly carrying all Americans forward to a better future…..