The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which staved off utter disaster for the US economy and which started and has kept it along the road (albeit at a sluggish speed) to recovery, is in need of recovery itself. Because at the moment, it is being falsely represented as a failure. It’s not surprising to hear that come from conservatives, who are against any spending that actually benefits people, but the real damage is being done by idiots on the left who scream that because it was ‘not big enough’, it was a total failure. No ifs, no buts, just 100% fail (naturally, these same people also whine about President Obama giving into right-wing framing, while achieving the exact same result by battering the stimulus from the left. Such is the hypocrisy of this crowd).
Today in the Guardian, in an article entitled ‘Obama’s Stimulus Failure’, Dean Baker, a liberal American economist, basically lays the blame for the size of the stimulus entirely at President Obama’s feet while lying about the effect the stimulus had:
If President Obama had been doing his job, he would have immediately begun pushing for more stimulus the day after the first one passed. He should have been straightforward with the American people and said that the stimulus approved by Congress was an important first step, but that the severity of the downturn was so great we would likely need more.
It’s not surprising that they don’t have the political support for more effective stimulus when they abandoned the effort to make the case almost two years ago.
As you can see, Baker simply cannot comprehend why President Obama could not simply create enough stimulus to feed the battered economy, like Jesus created enough food from 2 fishes and 5 loaves to feed 5000 people. And he has a point…if you ignore the obstructionist GOP which necessitated 60 votes for the bill, the fact moderate Republican votes were needed due to the ongoing battle in Minnesota over Al Franken’s seat, that the Democratic Party caucus in the Senate includes conservatives who wrongly view spending with scepticism, and pretend for one moment that President Obama is not Dumbledore. And then he talks about how this is why he has no political support for ‘more effective stimulus’ now, when he didn’t actually have it 2 years ago either. Although he doesn’t use the by now hackneyed term, what you see here is the Bully Pulpit Fallacy – the deluded idea that if only President Obama took the case to the American people, votes would suddenly appear for his policies in Congress. Let’s just say Baker has as good a grasp of the realities of politics as his better-known fellow economist, Paul Krugman.
Baker’s views on the bank bailouts are equally revealing. But before we get into discussion of the bailouts, let’s observe the opening paragraph:
Most authors of books on politics or economics are happy when they get one or two prominent members of Congress to endorse their work. It looks like I’m about to get majorities of both chambers to endorse my book, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (free download available). There is no other way to describe Henry Paulson’s $700bn bail-out deal.
This could be the first paragraph of any article written by any professional media liberal at any point during Obama’s presidency. In fact, you could summarise everything ever written by the professional left in three words: “Buy my book!”
The rest of Baker’s anti-bailouts column is an argument that the bailouts were wrong, that the banks should have been left to fail because the Federal Reserve would have taken over and all would have been well:
The best argument that the bail-out proponents had was that the failure to do the bail-out could lead to a collapse of the financial system, leaving us unable to use credit cards or ATMs, or otherwise conduct normal financial transactions. This would indeed be scary, since it would imply a complete economic collapse. (I had actually accepted this line.)
Actually this was entirely an idle threat. In the event the banking system really did freeze up, then the Federal Reserve would step in and take over the major banks. (It had contingency plans for such a takeover in the 1980s, when the money centre banks were saddled with billions of dollars of bad developing country debt.)
I don’t pretend to know much about economics, but to argue that nothing serious would have happened if the banks hadn’t been bailed out is completely insane. Putting ideology above everything else at either end of the political spectrum is dangerous, and while they may be more common on the right, left-leaning ideologues must be equally marginalised.
I chose to blog about this piece not because it’s particularly outrageous, but because it’s symptomatic of a wider problem among media liberals – a tendency to ignore fact, reality in favour of misty watercoloured memories of a non-existent past where Utopia could have been a reality, if only Barack Obama had done X, or Y, or Z. It’s been going on for literally his entire presidency, and I’m fucking tired of it.