Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bloomberg vs. Bloomberg

Paul Krugman today points to a strong piece by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute, "Regulatory uncertainty: A phony explanation for our jobs problem," which completely debunks the GOP's beloved confidence fairy dust. This chimera and the "invisible bond vigilantes," have been our Cassandra's Homeric epithets for the past two years -- truths that cannot, it seems, be uttered in public frequently enough to penetrate the miasma of lies in which we live, or to which our putatively Democratic administration dovens.

The piece closes thus:

"In conclusion, when looking at both what employers are doing in terms of hiring and investing and what they (and their economists) are saying in private surveys, it’s nearly impossible to make the argument that uncertainty about regulations is holding back the economy. A Bloomberg News editorial makes the point even more broadly:

'There is no doubt that certainty is generally preferable to uncertainty, in the economy as in most aspects of life….But there is no evidence that uncertainty has increased during the Obama presidency, or that, if it has, the president’s policies are responsible for it…The charge of “creating uncertainty” is a way to blame Obama for the U.S.’s economic trials without having to explain the connection.'”
Bloomberg News, eh? So, here's what the eponym himself said on Meet the Press this past Sunday, from MSNBC's transcript:
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, nobody has any confidence. If you're a bank and you have money, would you make a loan when people are talking about putting you in jail for what happened in the mortgage crisis three, four years ago? You hunker down. If you're a business, would you go take a loan and expand and hire more people when every day there's talk about different regulation, different tax policy? Business has to know what it's going to be in the future to plan because hiring people is a long-term commitment. If you're an individual, would you go take that extra vacation, buy a new house and that sort of thing when you're not sure whether Washington is going to do what's right to keep job creation going in America? That's the--in the end, it is confidence, confidence, confidence.
So much for our great Third Party hope. What it does suggest, though, is that he may actually be thinking seriously about running. Nonsense of this crassness is usually a harbinger of that.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bill of attainder - Updated II

Ron Suskind is a terrific journalist, and I trust the things he reports here, even if some of those quoted are now walking away from what they said to him. The picture he paints is exactly what PUMAs predicted -- including lack of leadership, misogyny and failure to understand the meaning of this moment in history. And the public verdict is now pretty well established.

We don't have to say, "We told you so." He told you so.

Update: A deeper dive into the book here. The money quote:
“'The administration’s domestic policy was fast becoming a debate society run by Larry Summers,' Ms. Suskind writes. 'Obama would sit on high, trying to judge if there was any shared ground between the competing debate teams that might coalesce into a policy.' Mr. Suskind asks whether this was 'a model for sound decision making, a crutch to delay, or avoid, the decisions only a president can make, or a recipe for producing half-measures — a pinch of this matched with a scoop of that — masquerading as solutions.'”

I would love every Obot who derided us for pointing out precisely these palpable leadership deficiencies... who claimed that even talking about "leadership qualities" was a strange, obsessive affectation... who claimed that the policies of Obama and Hillary Clinton were about the same... who told us he really did believe the same things she believed, because, look, it's there on his website... and who, btw, said it was simply deranged to claim that he was at least a garden-variety sexist and maybe worse, and insisted that it was neither representative nor important that his fratboy speechwriter could publicly deride Hillary Clinton in a borderline date-rape way (and that that didn't at least presage a hostile work environment for women)... I would love for every one of them to read Ron Suskind's book and then take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Update 2: More grist. Not ready at 3 am. Not ready in (or for) prime time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Age of Stasis

We’re living a comedy of errors – but they are overwhelmingly and repeatedly errors of omission, rather than commission. That’s why there is a broad consensus about a crisis of leadership – across all sectors of civil society. Yes, the best lack all conviction. Yes, the worst are full of passionate intensity. But neither of them actually does anything, much.

Where and why did this start? One candidate would be 9/11. Whatever else the collapse of the Twin Towers did, it froze us in place. Obviously, we undertook a charade of active response in Afghanistan and Iraq – but we didn’t really commit to those (certainly not broadly). We avoided plans that would produce large-scale American casualities. Mostly, it’s been pouring money down the toilet – and money seemed funny, not tangible. Even now, in the midst of the deepest recession since the 1930s, we can’t get our mind around economic choices.

America has been a deer in the headlights in the face of terrorism – it has essentially stopped most trajectories of building, investment, social progress. In Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s new book, That Used to Be Us, they identify five “pillars of prosperity,” long-term behaviors that were key to America’s past success – all of which have taken a nose-dive since 9/11: 1) support for broad education up to the potential of the latest technology; 2) building of critical infrastructure; 3) government support of research and development; 4) support for immigration; and 5) the rule of law to ensure well functioning markets. Whatever you think of Friedman, or his list, it serves as a not-bad index of long-term governmental/societal/commercial trajectories. Pick any list you like, the pattern is the same. America has just sort of stopped. (So, of course, has Europe.)

Confronted with planet-scale, complex-system challenges, we are flummoxed, and we’re standing before them, blinking. Of course, China, India, Brazil et al. aren’t standing still – they’re charging ahead, fueled by historically unprecedented growth. So maybe this is just another example of one dying species having reached the end of its reign, and the new one sprinting to take over.

Or maybe it’s something deeper than that. Maybe those emerging-market sprinters don’t really have a long runway ahead of them. Maybe sooner rather than later they’re going to bump up against the same global complexity, and stand before it in something like the same perplexity.

Or, to be more hopeful, maybe there’s a genuine new frame working its way through the birth canal, underneath this surface combination of frenetic activity and static depression (in both senses). Maybe a new generation of global citizens is feeling its way toward different ways of making decisions, toward more collaborative ways of working, toward a more whole-systems mode of thought, toward a post-corporate form of capitalism and a post-nation-state form of polis. It’s not out of the question. Nobody in the 14th century, when the Renaissance was moving from gleam-in-eye to toddler, would have been able to predict its revolutionary impact just a couple of hundred years down the road… nor could the Medicis have figured out how the Renaissance would help spawn the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

At the moment, though, Obama may be the perfect emblem of our culture and our politics. Maybe we can only elect a George Segal statue of Chauncey Gardner.