Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stimulus Package - Not a Victory

Only by partisan and non-progressive standards can the preliminary passing of this week's stimulus package be called a "victory" for the new Obama administration.

Both the political process and its analysis and commentary in the media were a feast for the demons of politics as usual.

Since 1992, (save the forces and advantages of incumbency), Americans have lurched to and fro voting through a fog of desperation and disgust. The 1994 Gingrich, congressional "revolution" resulted from embarrassment at dog-in-heat-concupiscence and raw ambition in the people's house. By 2000 enough Americans longed for the return of dignity to the White House, the return of meaning to words, and return of the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. This longing for "ground" (moral, semantic, and juridical) created a "reaction-vote," a "bring me the opposite" vote. The 2000 election reflected the nation's desperate longing for a "straight-shooter."

No sooner were foundations "restored" (truth - what the meaning of is is), decency (fewer teenage orgies in the White House), than our other foundations promptly were attacked, goodness (the torture problem), and rights (the domestic spying problem).

Again the nation lurched in desperation, desperate for the return of foundations. This time we longed not for the meaning of is but for the ability to use the word correctly in a sentence, we longed not for a black and white world full of those not with us but against us, but a black and white person who IS us.

For all the historical beauty of the tearful and miraculous milestone full of sweetness and light, the governing since has failed to reflect the promise. There are the horrifying parallels in W's opening times and Obama's. Last week a legislative majority bullied the opposition. And again "emergency" was used to rush and ramrod through massive decisions with long term consequences.

Typically the political right is considered "strong on national security." From a cynical and political standpoint, W was "handed" the "Republican's dream"at the start of his presidency, a "security emergency" of consuming magnitude and a Republican legislative majority. Democrats were all but forced (politically) to violate the ideological impulses of their party, eventually voting to authorize the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation.

Conversely the political "left" is typically considered strong on domestic social welfare. Eerily this Democrat president was "handed" his own 9-11, a domestic "emergency" of parallel magnitude (global, economic collapse, job loss, education, health care, and welfare under threat). Eight years ago a Republican was "given" an "attack on America." Today s Democrat was given a trillion dollars to spend on domestic programs and a country teetering on such full blown socialism as the possibility of nationalizing banks! As if this perfect political "gift" were not enough, the Obama administration even tried to exploit the convenient "national security" fear tool in the service of governing heavy-handedly
The most immediate threat to U.S. security interests is the festering global economic crisis, the nation's top intelligence official told Congress on Thursday... Blair's remarks reflect both the depth of the unfolding recession and the Obama administration's more expansive definition of national security.
Every president comes into office promising a "new era of bipartisanship."
George W. Bush also insisted on uniting Americans. He wants "to serve one Nation" and not only his Republican supporters... Bush has the best abilities to be able to reunite America because of his Texas record where he successfully dealt with a Democratic legislative majority. [Says W] ... the bitter divide in American politics which has marked the entire Clinton presidency... should come to an end for the sake of America's future...

Bush as president is the best outcome of this election in the sense that he is a Washington outsider and not implicated in the intrigues and unfair battling which took place in the capital. [Sound familiar?] Moreover, after eight years of Democrats in power, the time for a change has come. Austria, France and Germany are examples of the 1990s which show what happens if one party dominates the executive for too long: its leaders are burned out, collusion, corruption and abuse of power become dangerous."

"I am a uniter not a divider."
Similarly
Candidate Obama campaigned for president as a different kind of politician. Candidate Obama was all about change, about shaking up Washington and the political establishment. He appealed to the young and the politically disenchanted with calls for bipartisan solutions to the nation's most vexing challenges, energy, health care and getting the economy going again."

"We are not red states and blue states, but the United states of America."
We have not seen this in the approach to the passing the stimulus package. We have seen governing as did W leading up to the invasion of Iraq. We still see bullying by the manipulation of fear and "emergency." Fort Myers is the new USS Abraham Lincoln, Julio the broadcaster is our latest Joe the Plumber, enough in the minority party once again vote in violation of their traditional strengths, and ideologies, and fear and haste continue to infect what should be managed with extreme care and deliberate decision making.

The president must engage respectfully leading ideologues and veterans in the legislature, especially those from across the aisle. He must stop campaigning. We have already suffered and paid dearly from the Rove version of that same addiction.

Frank Kaufmann is the director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace. These opinions are his own.

25 comments:

Patrick Hickey said...

Good piece Frank.

I especially like the Carl Rove comparison. Can Obama rise above the partisans of his own party? He has the opportunity to, but the passage of this is not a good sign.

The country's well-being for the foreseeable future is probably at stake. Keep it up

Bret Moss said...

Wow! Very poetic, insightful and objective. I am impressed by your ability to transcend partisanship and offer a perspective from above which not only looks to the left and to the right but also encapsulates a penetrating understanding of the past and present with a clear vision for the future. Thanks for holding President Obama accountable to his word for his and our own good. Brilliant!

Gary said...

Nice take, I hadn’t thought of the parallels. What Obama presents in terms of governance (full blown socialism) and his circle of friends (particularly Ayers) make it too frightening for me to listen to daily news. I have to think of him merely as a providential bi-racial and bi-religious figure, with seemingly a good intact family, with the knowledge that God is trying to use him on a personal/human level. Or am I being too pessimistic?

David said...

Thanks, Dr. K.,

This morning in the NY Daily News, columnist Mike Lupica, suggested that someone tell Nancy Pilosi that the stimulus scenario is not about her and her partisan colleagues getting their wish list fulfilled (or getting even.) It would be nice if the President or David Axelrod or Rahm Emanuel would do just that. I had hoped for firmer leadership from the Obama team but it does seem like their winging it on many fronts. For the good of the country they do need to get on to the business of governing and not trying to dominate the daily news cycle ala Mr. Rove.

David Eaton

Gordon Anderson said...

Frank,

Obama is repeating the problems that occurred from Johnson trough Carter in the attempt to build the Great Society. He promised change and to learn from mistakes, but it seems he is either too young to remember the 1970s and 17 percent inflation, or the Party just pulled the wool over his eyes.

The 1970s reveal the problems that develop when Democratic special interests are in charge of the country. The period from Reagan to W taught us the problems that develop when Republican special interests are in charge.

The main problem is that special interests, not the people, are running the country through these two parties that have been bought and paid for by them. In the present system no one is easily elected unless they promote the special interests of party supporters. It has not been a government "of the people" for a long time. The "forgotten man" (i.e., the individual citizen) has virtually no influence in Washington.

We have to hold Obama's feet to the fire and make him see what works and what doesn't or by 2012 there is a very good chance we will need a military coup to install a different government that is not run by special interests, and reflect the constitutional principles are armed services have taken an oath to support.

Claude said...

Yes, obviously.

Your comment also gives me the opportunity to share something I have been thinking about lately on the issue of bi-partisanship. I might sound pessimistic, but don't intend to be. Just questioning.

Assume you have a dilapidated house, unfit for use. One side thinks it should be demolished and another should be built instead. The other side insists that the building should be preserved and restored.

What can bi-partisanship lead to in this case, besides refusing to demonize the other side and accepting to discuss the disagreements in a friendly manner? There isn't really an in-between on which both could agree. Eventually, votes will have to be cast along lines of belief and mostly it will not even take party loyalty to make these coincide with party lines.

There is little doubt that neither side today is really interested in being bi-partisan, at least in most cases. I do feel that initially President Obama did want / wish to get the other side to join him as much as possible, there was some sincerity there I feel. And certainly, the bill was complex enough to allow for a more subtle intermediate arrangement than my house example would allow for. And the will to aim for that, if ever present, vanished quickly. Hybris on one side and stubbornness on the other.

Still, had they wanted to, could the two sides have been able to find common ground? Within the present framework, I am not sure. I think that is the much more important question. What would it take to create a context where the discussion partners don't automatically default to their respective convictions once it appears that there are fundamental obstacles to bi-partisanship?

Andrew Wilson said...

I intend to wait and see if the President recognizes that he made a mistake in abandoning his effort at bi-partisanship in the face of an intransigent Republican congressional caucus, or a mistake in relying on partisan House democrats in crafting the bill to begin with loaded with Democratic goodies. Political culture changes slowly, and partisan rancor in Washington is a hard nut to crack.

What I see not enough of in commentaries about the stimulus is a balanced economic analysis. The Democrats' insistence that a stimulus is an absolute necessity to rescue the economy (the exact shape of the stimulus being less important than its size) is based on Keynesian economics. Keynes said that government spending to stimulate the economy is a useful tool to curb recessions. Republican fears that the stimulus will ruin the country's economy is based on monetarist, anti-Keynesian economics. They rely on the Fed's monetary policy to do the job. That's why they reluctantly supported the Wall St. bailout, because it oiled the monetary gears, while now they oppose a fiscal stimulus.

Each side has economists to propound its views of what will best help the country. Yet there is not enough recognition that the political dispute is rooted in this honest disagreement within the field of economics itself.

Economics is not an exact science, and I think that there needs to be a little more humility about what measures might work or might not work. I for one hope that in this case, Keynes is right, and that the stimulus will be helpful.

Peter Duveen said...

Well, Frank, it always amazes me that people take the federal political process seriously. I have always felt that there was a tacit power-sharing agreement between the two parties, eight years of one, eight of the other. When Obama surfaced as a kind of media darling long before the election cycle, I knew something was up, so I basically wrote him off. He, as was Bush, was a put-up man for powerful but, at the time, undeclared Washington forces and political blocks. It is not about Obama. It is more about Emanuel and Biden. The new presidency is merely a face. The power behind the throne are the staff.

Unfortunately, fraud is institutionalized in America, particularly in its monetary system. If we want change, we had better pay more attention to local politics. The national is pretty much insulated from the electorate, and is merely a self perpetuating closed club.

Steve Evans said...

Thanks Frank another thoughtful piece.
I was on an emotional ride during this election cycle. Who is this cat really? Not enuf information. OK, who does he consort with? Hum, that's interesting. What about what he says? Stimulating, populist, sufficiently inviting maybe. Your assessment rings true to me, samo- samo, same s__t different day, as we used to say in the military. For all my patriotic zeal, tempered now by more "reality" I dearly hope this payback to his admirers, both in the beltway and "left coasts", will end now and he can see himself free to govern. He is a constitutional Lawyer, but still a lawyer and obviously a consummate politician...so...oh, I'm still confused.
Ohm... Maybe more meditation will help.

Daniele said...

Thank you for your insight, I despise injustice! This is an historic mistake,=. I resent the so-called journalists, whom have NO intestinal fortitude, & will not therefore speak the truth! Mighty proud of you Dr K.
The Stimulus Package is a revolting development.

David Belfort said...

Thanks Bret for sharing this article and Dr. Kaufmann for your effort in this post: "Stimulus Package - Not a Victory".

As a Viet Nam veteran, the statement,
" . . . the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country." shook me and it shook me further to see this statement untested. A minor point? Perhaps.

Your conclusion was, "The president must engage respectfully leading ideologues and veterans in the legislature, especially those from across the aisle. He must stop campaigning. We have already suffered and paid dearly from the Rove version of that same addiction."

You may have more knowledge of Carl Rove and the invasion of Iraq than I. Yet, for me, these two entities represent aspects of the leading ideologues across the isle. The result: a sense of disrespect. Since 'mind body unity' and labeling 'thought trains' is not yet flourishing in congress the outcome is . . . partisan.

Why not strike hard to find, refine and hold up the principles which are pivotal in this 'defining moment' (Yeah Bret). For example, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. "

When Jefferson wrote this there were many points of view which where hotly debated, almost exhausting their attempts to unite. Through prayer encouraged by Benjamin Franklin, enough unity was found to form a new nation, so conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. . . began the course of becoming a reality.

God centered, root principles have to be rediscovered by both sides of the isle. This is not religion. These principles are self evident truths and part of the core of the American Covenant with God. Failing this . . . I believe we are seeing the beginning of other, newer efforts to secure these rights because governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

So, what principles can be brought forward to be respectfully, wholeheartedly engaged in heated debate from both side of the isle? I believe the people here have that ability and I look forward to time when our nation can soon arrive at that point we all, humbly bow our heads and pray for guidance and to ask for blessing up the decision(s) made. Just as they on the Mayflower.

Pardon me, I have to get this sand out of my shoes (illusions to the Israelites and the Desert).

Deborah said...

Frank—thanks for sending the article. Yes, it is sad that Obama was “given” a crisis. We thought that he was ready to take office because of the great job that he did with the campaign. But we have learned that he, like others before him, has stumbled a bit. He has not been able to shift in the directions he has promised and he is pushing the stimulus through. Many new presidents take a year or so to “learn” the job. The problem here is that the stakes are so high that we have to get it right. Best, deborah

Kathy said...

Dear Frank,

Thanks much for your message. I read your article and am very impressed by the depth and clarity of your observations.

If you ever write about Asia I will be delighted to publish it on my site -- or U.S. relations with Asian countries.

I hope our best and brightest minds will be ever more visible!

Wishing you all the best as always,
Kathy

Gene Hart said...

Bush was a uniter while governing Texas but was wacked over the head for trying to do the same in Washington.

Obama was not a uniter while serving in office before, and this is just proving his face to all.

US citizens, we are taking a hard left turn. Get used to it.

David Burgess said...

Frank,

I had the opportunity to listen to Eliyahu Goldratt yesterday. He's an Israeli physicist/business guru. His books on business have sold millions. His take on the economy was completely the opposite of all the economists and journalists. While there was a significant meltdown of the financial system, he argued that the doom and gloom in the economy is based on pure extrapolations, not the mechanisms of the economy. In the last few months, retailers have done what they're supposed to do in a slowdown - but inventories. But that strategy will only work a few months. When inventories get too low, they will start ordering again and business will continue as before. There are still messes to clean up in the finance and mortgage industry, but the doom and gloom is being oversold. I don't know if he's right or not, but if so, the majority of this stimulus package will be nothing more than so much pork to reward those who put the Dems in power. That is really the bigger issue of your piece. Both parties treat the budget as a "slush fund" to reward supporters. This is not "change we can believe in." Obama will succeed only if he meant that, and it was not merely an effective campaign slogan. But to make good on that, he'll have to take an entirely different approach than the one used for this package. When Goldratt was asked about the stimulus package, he said something very profound. He said when are you going to realize that the success of America doesn't depend on what the government does, but what you and your businesses do.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kaufmann-
Thank You for the article. I agree with the last comment. I've been telling all of my customers to have hope...,because we are each our own economic stimulus package. All of my customers agree that we will just have to get more creative, diversify our business a bit, do a little more marketing and networking in new ways, figure out what the people need, create it and sell it. Did Obama ever run a business or create jobs?
I also reassured my customers, that, having been a missionary in Russia, I can teach them how to survive under communism if it gets that bad. In fact, we might even be able to preserve some of our religious freedoms. We are all entrepreneurs who knock on new doors every day exercising the creativity of our Lord.
I am currently tilling up a larger portion of the backyard expand my crop of sweet potatoes, which I won't pay taxes on, and the local guys will agree with me.
Jack Whedbee

Laurence Baer said...

The economic crisis is the result of decades of living beyond our means. For years the country has been borrowing, first domestically, then internationally to support an unsustainable level of affluence. Americans have maxed out our credit cards and then taken out mortgages that were above our ability to service. The federal election system has become a competition to give away more. Whoever can promise to give the most of someone else's money gets elected. Even though entitlements are unsustainable, the elected officials are unwilling to anger voters by taking away what we could never afford. Our system reached a crisis because it was so strained by deficits and debts, it couldn't sustain the additional fraud. We can no longer borrow our way out from foreign lenders, who increasingly see us as not creditworthy, so now we are borrowing from our grandchildren who have no way to say "no". It isn't a party thing. Both parties are alligned behind the concept of laying yet another trillion on our grandkids. The issue is, are Americans ready to cold turkey and start living within our means, which now includes servicing an $8 trillion debt.

Dan Bozarth said...

Dan B says;

Excellent, Frank. One of your BEST assessments.

Though I personally gave Obama a 'clean sheet' to start with, this Stimulus is the first blot. I hope he does better with time to counter-balance this and get the people & me back on his side.

I liken him to having received the full eight horse stagecoach to his charge, and has all reins firmly in hand, racing out of town with the wind in his hair, only to discover the coach is still empty, he left without the passengers and cargo and needs to come back to the depot, load up and start over.

I shutter to think that Gordon’s prophesy of an military coup is our future, 'delicious' as it may seem in its 'advertisement as a colorful ad', the full dimension of the 'horse pill' will be TOO difficult for America to swallow in the end.

Pam said...

I don't think starting to untangle the Gordian knot of the economy should be framed in bellicose terms such as 'victory' and 'defeat'. Passing the bill is a needed bold initiative, but it will require ongoing creative response from the grassroots as well as regulation from the top to assure long-term success.

To put the onus of bipartisan compromise solely in President Obama's hands is not fair. Not even a month has passed since the inauguration.

Compromise as "the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everybody believes he got the biggest piece," is not something the Republicans are likely to swallow easily no matter who in the administration cuts the cake. The Republicans are still, shall we say, rather 'testy'.

As an investment friend told me, spending 7 1/2 billion to 14 trillion total spending is like spending about 3% on the economy. In other words, would you spend $3,000 in order to save a $100,000 company? The economy *must* to be saved - not only for the US, but also for the world markets. Are there items in the bill that Congress should have eliminated *before* submitting it for signing? Undoubtedly. But overall, the bill is necessary. Pres. Obama reached out to across the aisle. He did what he said he would do. Congress has a portion of responsibility for passing the bill. The most pressing need for the President is to act and deal the overarching problem that faces the nation and the world.

Contrary to any other administration I've followed over the past thirty years, Obama's hit the ground running long before officially coming into office. He was working throughout the lame-duck period of the previous administration. In fact, he was acting presidential on the campaign trail even though many in Congress are even now still campaigning rather than buckling down to work. The President has set the tone for a bipartisan working environment, but it is up to Congress to take him up on the offer.

I concur with Andy Wilson's wait and see on the economic infusion while continuing to tackle the other issues of the day.

Pamela A. Moffatt

Samvel said...

Dear Dr Kaufmann,

Your remarks and samples on the similarities of Bush and Obama campaigns are so keen and exact!

Similarities between Bush and Obama go on in many respects. Both of them have two daughters and both of them love their Families so much!

Both of them are advocating socialism “Obama advocates socialism with human face, and Bush used to advocate socialism for the sake of homeland security. Both of them are humane."

Let me in brief give my futurological predictions: US Economy will first go worse before it grows better; the clash between civilizations will become sharper before the nations start true cooperation; the war in the Middle East will become a war in the Far East and elsewhere before true peace comes; the ideological warfare will enter our homes before we truly enjoy the love of our families; Russia will successfully build a "silk wall" between the West and the West before new types of energy emerge. And Obama, the baby-faced genius (I've called him that way since the start of his campaign) will be on the forefronts of all these events.

Both long-term and short-term history has taught us that we are able to learn only something from History. That something is well-developed in Your article
"STIMULUS PACKAGE - NOT A VICTORY."

Samvel Jeshmaridian

David Belfort said...

Related to Burgess's comment:

Goldratt is great. Actually, his theory applied nationally could harmonize our country's two philosophical extremes in this country. The only loser would be unions. His theory is understandable enough to let everyone, worker and management alike, see how their unique contributions are essential for the accomplishment of their common goal.

Goldratt wrote, 'The Goal' in 1994.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goal_(novel) in 1992 and started the Theory of Constraints (TOC)project management school.

It is all about achieving your goal using scientific method and logic and using 'throughput accounting' to support management of the bottleneck (constraint.

Here's a l i t t l e s t o r y.
When you want to get your Boy Scout Pack from point A to Point B by 5pm Sat. you have some fast and some slow members of the troop. If you don't manage the troop then they will be strung out for miles, the fat boy with his food and back pack at the end and the fast agile boys far out of sight and ahead, with obvious pitfalls to this liaise fair leadership. How to TOC manage? Realize that the slow, fat boy with the big pack of food on his back is the constraint. Manage by having all the troop stay behind Fboy with food. To speed up, if necessary, have some members of the troop carry his food and pack. And the troop arrives on time, together.

Hmmmm. Goldratt would make a good secretary of commerce, if people would follow his lead. To keep up with the opportunity he presents 'cost accounting, would change significantly becoming 'throughput accounting'. Example: Inventory as an expense when it is idle, sitting still. When idle inventory is seen as an expense, financial reports can actually aid management in identifying where the constraint is located. A win win for both sides of the aisle.

Gunnard said...

Agreed this "stimulus package" is "not a victory"; agreed the dance between one end of the spectrum counterpointed by the opposite end is living proof that the "Dialectic" is not entirely dead, yet.

So, now what? For years we've heard about "Head Wing" thought, but, like all bold, new, and great ideas, nobody has been able to embrace such a lofty ideal, and proffer it to the movers and shakers who have so much influence behind the scenes. It's as if the powerful men behind the curtain dread the unknown and would rather slavishly continue this macabre minuet to nowhere.

...Sigh...

"When will we ever learn? When will we learn?"

Obama still can make something out of nothing: but he can do it only by sincerely embracing the opposition as he campaigned on his theme of "not red, not blue, but United as One". Then, TOGETHER with the loyal opposition, we must climb the final peak of true openness, true equality, true fairness for all, regardless of race or religion. To truly make one nation under God means to level the playing field for ALL ideas and proposals to be given the fair hearing they deserve.

We cannot have super-rich and super-influential who can get away with things that the rest of the vast majority cannot. The so-called "sanctity" of privacy and "individual freedom" has become the hiding nest of the devil, and all the evils he does. (Just reading about the latest massive rip-off by the Standord fellow in Texas; Bernie Madoff II.)

We cannot keep preaching "no child left behind", "fair and equal opportunity", "full funding of X, Y, Z, and their subsidiaries (choose your personal favorite: education, health care, job creation, etc., etc., etc.) while the way to wealth and richness is locked in by the current rulers of the media, education, and politics. Ain't never gonna happen that way. Never.

In short, the new president needs to take a completely fresh attitude and approach, and I'm not sure he considers himself in the pay grade to get it done.

Prem said...

Dr. Kaufman:

Great article! However, all is not black and white in this world. Bipartisanship on all issues is a dream that cannot be completely acheived due to the inherent nature of differences in parties, their loyalities, and their aspirations. If the loyalities were to the country before the party, then perhaps there is a hope for more bipartisan decisions.

I echo Claude's comments of Feb 16, and hope that Obama succeeds in his efforts to bring both parties closer in the decision processes, than before, and not drive them further away from each other than they are. Dealing with issues is some times easier than dealing with the humans and their ideas and philosophies. But I do believe that a sincere effort to obtain collective bipartisan descisions will certainly result in the progress of the country and the world in general.

Sincerely,
Prem Dadlani

Gary Jarmin said...

This piece in Forbes may best sum up the problem. FYI. Gary

http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/18/depression-financial-crisis-capitalism-opinions-columnists_recession_stimulus_print.ht

Lloyd Eby said...

Maybe now it’s appropriate to say, “We told you so”?

Those of us who did not support or vote for Obama warned the rest of you that Obama was unprepared by experience or habits of mind or political associations to be president of the United States. He was the most leftist of senators, and had his roots in the leftwing of the Democratic Party – in fact, in the sewers of Chicago Democratic machine politics. He had a long association as a member of the church of an America-hating black racist (Pastor Wright) and he also worked with leftist terrorists (Ayers). He had no business or free-market experience, but was instead a disciple of Saul Alinsky and Alinsky’s notions of community organizing and of gaining political power through manipulation of poor people. Obama’s instincts and attitudes are socialist and communitarian instead of free market and libertarian.

Obama is a master of rhetoric and crowd-pleasing and campaigning, so he ran a superb campaign and during the campaign he gave great speeches and moved crowds; in fact he had even the mainstream media – people and institutions that are supposed to be neutral and skeptical of political rhetoric and promises – treating him as the Messiah. But those speeches were vacuous promises of “Hope” and “Change.” Hope and change, however, are blanks to be filled in. People can and do base their hope on things that are unworthy of hope, and change occurs even when things change for the worse, so the promises of hope or of change are unworthy as a political program or as a reason for anyone to support a political candidate.

Now that he and they have their hands on the levers of power without real opposition, Obama and the Democrats in Congress are using that power to subvert market forces and to socialize and nationalize as much of the American economy as possible. But socialism is unethical and even evil: It rewards (subsidizes) failure and sloth and lack of planning, and penalizes (taxes and regulates) success and productive work and foresight. Moreover, the alleged effort at being bipartisan was a sham – it meant that the opposition (the Republicans) was supposed to give up their own positions and attitudes and roll over in support for the Democratic onslaught.

In any case, bipartisanship has hardly ever been true in American politics, so holding it up as a great ideal is a mistake. The various parties have their views and positions, and it is wrong to ask them to compromise this for some supposedly lofty notion of bipartisan agreement.

The so-called “stimulus package” is a grab-bag of government spending programs, social-welfare supports, sops to labor unions that support the Democrats, and social health-care measures that leftists (they like to call themselves “progressives”) have been wishing and trying for years to put in place. They welcome the present economic crisis because of the opportunity it gives them to do all this; as they say, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Who should be surprised at their doing this, as it was as predictable as sickness following a drinking binge.

Will this “stimulus” package work? I doubt it.

The night of election day, after it was clear that Obama had won, I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “Oh foolish Americans! Who has bewitched you?”

I see no reason to change that sentiment now.

Lloyd Eby