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Bush, just like Chirac, was just a lefty

by Jerome a Paris Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 10:35:12 AM EST

One of the most fascinating pieces of history rewriting in recent years has been the transformation of Chirac into a raging lefty, now thankfully toppled by a 'real' rightwinger, Sarkozy. Sarkozy's election has been described as transformative, a clean break from Chirac's knee-jerk anti-Americanism (as if he hadn't been welcomed, when elected, as the most pro-American president ever), his unseemly hostility to the war in Iraq (as if he hadn't called that one correctly), the 35-hour week (promoted under Chirac's rule, but by a socialist government) and his caving-to-the-lefty-mob tendancies (as if the strongest person in his last several governments, and the all-powerful inspirer of his aggressive law'n'order and anti-immigrant policies had not been Nicolas Sarkozy himself).

Today, we are beginning to see the same rewriting of history with respect to president Bush - except that the goal is not to present the November election as a transformative one, but as a non-event whereby one president continues the same spendthrift policies of his quasi-Democrat predecessor. In a big opinion article today with a rather explicit title ('Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years, the Wall Street Journal seriously explains this:

these acts and edicts sound farcical, yes, but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and the "Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act." Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by $1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office.

The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies

I don't doubt that the Democratic Congress will be blamed and presented as the all-powerful driver of these bailouts, but, as the article makes clear, Bush and Paulson are going to be dumped into the same "government is bad" bag.

The debate will not be about where the crisis came from ("crises happen", in capitalism, it's a necessary, cleansing process, and do you really want communism back?), it will skim over the fact that the hard right completely controlled all branches of government over the first half the decade, could and did implement its tax-reduction, regulation-dismantling, big business-favoring policies. It will ignore the fact that Randian bot Alan 'Bubbles' Greenspan ran monetary policy thoughout and justifies to this day his choice of insanely lax cheap money which is at the heart of the current meltdown. It will gloss over the fact that the Paulson plan was initiated by ... Paulson, a Bush White House appointee, and rammed through Congress under threat of apocalyptic crisis.

Basically, voluntarily-badly run government leading (unsurprisingly) to catastrophe is used as an argument that "government" is evil, rather than the "voluntary badly-run" bit.

Thus, that Republicans (or Chirac) cannot or will not run government properly is turned into "all governments are bad" and, given that, of course, Republicans are the party of small government and Democrats of reckless tax-and-spend, the blame firmly rests with the latter - see, they are already running a trillion dollar deficit!

Will the public buy that sleight-of-hand? Hopefully not. But let's all be ready for that story to be relentlessly pushed by the right, which will suddenly rediscover virtue now that it is no longer in power and blame the cleanup crew for the mess they made. The gall should no longer surprise us, but it's still indispensable to point it out for what it is as loudly as we can.

I note how the right spends a hell of a lot of time mocking the notion of "class war" - something evil that only the hard left wages, in their view, and thus a concept to be viewed with the utmost suspicion: what better way to mock accusations that this is precisely whet they have been waging ovr the past few decades, with spectacular results?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 10:39:47 AM EST

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 10:40:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Heads, I win; tails, you lose."

I don't doubt that the Democratic Congress will be blamed

Which is why it's important that they step up and do things properly, and that goes well beyond the stimulus package.  Health care, the Employee Free Choice Act, etc, are all critical.

That way the Dems will be blamed for...improving the situation?  Good luck with that.  The Reps will look as out of touch with the public as they did during the Terri Schiavo incident in 2005 or Monica Lewinsky leading up to their defeat in the 1998 midterms.

Simply a matter of switching strategies: "Campaign competently, and let the Reps blow their brains out" to "Govern competently, and let the Reps blow their brains out."

The public is prone to bouts of stupidity, but it's not stupid in this case (in fact the 28%ers have actually been reduced to the 16%ers), and it will go along with you, so long as it can see that your efforts are making a difference for the better.  Ultimately, that's the test.

As for the WSJ -- who cares?  The WSJ will eventually go the way of the NYT.  Now that Lord Rupert is trashing the news division, the WSJ is being reduced to simply a bunch of nutjobs.  Good riddance to it.  I assure you: What the editorial really is, is panic fire.  You can rewrite important, opinion-making history down the road, when those who lived to see it are either really old or dead.  But you can't rewrite the history immediately -- not when the public has formed a clear memory, and when that memory has already hardened.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 11:11:45 AM EST
that "doing things properly" may not be enough to stave off a major recession (or worse) this time round.

I agree about the WSJ and the NYT, medium term. But for now they still shape the narrative. Oddly enough, it is even possible that the sheer variety of sources of opinion and information will actually reinforce their position as a gatekeeper, given their recognition as "serious" places.

We'll see.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 12:18:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It won't be enough to stave off a major recession.  It's already a major recession (worst since the Volcker Contraction), and it's going to get worse for a couple quarters.  As you know, Keynesianism is kind of like taking cold medicine.  (Not a great simile, but it's off the top of my head, so cut me some slack.)  The object isn't necessarily to cure you but rather keep you functional until cyclical recovery comes along.  In the meantime, you have the opportunity to look for a cure, which thankfully is a little easier in the current economic case than it is with the common cold.

In re: narrative stuff, a key problem I find with the NYT and, to a lesser extent in the liberal blogosphere, the WSJ -- the "Obama's Going to Destroy Social Security!" panic being, in all likelihood, a great example (insert my "We'll see" as always) -- is the way our medium can often inadvertently amplify the stupidity that comes out of the traditional press.

I think the gatekeeper problem is real, but not terribly significant in its impact on Average Joe.  And there's an element of "gatekeeper" to the Big Dawgs in the blogosphere.  If you're a news director wanting to know what folks on the blogs are talking about, you obviously aren't going to go sorting through Rude Pundit or Balloon Juice or any of the smaller ones.  You're going to hit Daily Kos, Red State, etc.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 12:47:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still impressed by the sheer political genius of running for political offices on an anti-government-ticket. If you fail in every single one of your stated goals it just proves your point.
by generic on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 11:58:37 AM EST
I'm reminded of a student friend of mine who stood for election as President of the Student's Union as the "Apathy Candidate".

When - as usual - only about 20% of students voted, he claimed he won by a landslide.....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 01:41:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the one hand, it's just frightening that anyone thinks referencing Ayn Rand is a good idea...

On the other hand, this is what a compliant press does.

Conservatism never fails, it is only failed...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 01:11:19 PM EST
is government bad or is the "shadow" government bad.
The lines between "our" republican vs democratic meld into the interests of global corporations.  

Confronted on the multiple fronts of peak oil, warming, other enviornmental pollution by high tech production methods the most profitable scenario involves wiping out the US and making it a gigantic nature preserve.  3M6B, or 3 million US vs 6 billion world.  You are the CEO of "Globo-Corp" and have the choice of re-allocating the energy use of a small minority of the planet in order to ensure YOUR own future profit margins.

by Lasthorseman on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 08:42:30 PM EST

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