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I just listened to the latest of the endless Ron Johnson (secret donor) campaign ads running here in Wisconsin. In the ad, Johnson grimly quotes the latest stats on job losses, proclaims that the stimulus/Obama admin. is a failure. Then music rising in the background, he extols Wisconsonites that the only way to get the economy going again is to cut spending, eliminage the red tape which is holding our business back, blah fucking blah.

Why is this boilerplate Republican rhetorical excrement resonating only two years after EVERYONE fucking saw where Republican economic policies lead - (the road to disaster)?

My realization today is that Americans on the whole lack the imagination to think in terms of counterfactuals. That is, what would have happened without these policies.

Paul Krugman's (who I am fan of) criticisms of the administration has many progressives hanging their heads and lamenting that the stimulus was too small, the financial and healthcare reforms too tepid but the bottom line is these interventions moved a considerable way in the only direction that could have averted a total economic meltdown. Without the stimulus, without TARP (which I readily concede could have been managed)and without the asset infusion to GM, Ford, and Chrysler, the economy would have completely tanked. Most voters can't get that things could have been much much worse and they sure ain't getting any help in recognizing that fact from Fox and the MSM.

While there is still time, I would love some ads reminding voters about Herbert freakin' Hoover and helping them envision the economic implosion and cascading job losses that could have been.  

Originally posted to madtownpopulist on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 09:08 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  From the excellent Rolling Stone piece (5+ / 0-)

    Averting a Depression

    Any discussion of Barack Obama's performance as president starts — and frequently ends — with one number: 9.6 percent. That brutal, stagnant unemployment figure cries out "failure."

    But contemplate for a moment the abyss that Obama's leadership steered us away from — where we would be today if laissez-faire Republican radicals had succeeded in allowing the economic collapse to take its course. According to a study by economists from Princeton and Moody's, more than 16 million jobs would have been lost without the interventions of TARP, the Recovery Act and the Federal Reserve — double the damage actually suffered. Unemployment would have spiked to 16.5 percent, and next year's federal deficit would have more than doubled, to $2.6 trillion. "With outright deflation in prices and wages," the study concludes, "this dark scenario constitutes a 1930s-like depression."

    Obama played a pivotal role in the economic interventions that staved off disaster. He renominated Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve, backing the central bank's use of record-low interest rates to prop up the banking system. He demanded unprecedented transparency of both the Fed and Wall Street in administering "stress tests" that restored the confidence of panicked investors, allowing "zombie banks" to return to the living without resorting to nationalization. Thanks to such stewardship, the Treasury now estimates, the price tag for the TARP bailout has dropped from $700 billion (the equivalent of the Pentagon's annual budget) to $29 billion (about one-fourth the spending on veterans). Above all, the president drove the passage of the Recovery Act, which the Princeton-Moody's study concludes has created nearly 2.7 million jobs.

    "The stimulus did what it was supposed to do," says Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's and a former adviser to John McCain. "It ended the Great Recession and it jump-started a recovery."

    Republican critics have blasted the Recovery Act as a failure because it did not hold unemployment below eight percent, as the president's economic advisers had promised. And liberal economists accused Obama of failing to fight hard enough to enact a bigger stimulus that would have saved more jobs. But since the original stimulus squeaked through, the president has won a series of stand-alone measures — including three extensions of unemployment benefits, the Cash for Clunkers program, a second round of aid for states and a package of loans and tax cuts for small businesses — that have infused another $170 billion into the economy. The Recovery Act itself, meanwhile, has grown from $787 billion to $814 billion, thanks to provisions that were smartly pegged to metrics like unemployment.

    In fact, should Obama secure passage of two new programs he has proposed — $50 billion in infrastructure spending and $200 billion in tax breaks for investments in new equipment — he will have surpassed the $1 trillion stimulus that many liberal economists believed from the beginning was necessary.

    "

    http://www.rollingstone.com/...

  •  Facts are irrelevant (3+ / 0-)

    More than irrelevant, in fact.  They get in the way.  The American electorate -- especially this year -- is like a small child.  They respond to pitch and tone.  It doesn't matter what words you use.

    "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

    by Jon Stafford on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 09:29:56 PM PDT

    •  I agree with the assessment of the American (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sharon Wraight, JG in MD

      electorate.  What they were expecting Obama to do is create another bubble and right now we are all out of magic tricks.  The FED is about to try that with QE.

      "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

      by lakehillsliberal on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 09:34:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The msm is over playing their hand,with polls and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JG in MD, FiredUpInCA

      bias story lines.  One poll out a day to keep the liberals away!  That is their moto!  Mind fucking us right to what the kgb did to their countrymen!

      •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

        I am not one who believes the mainstream media is "out to get" anyone in particular.  Remember, the right thinks the MSM are their enemies too.  The media wants a story, something to sell newspapers (proverbially, of course, since actual newspapers are a dying medium).  Other than clearly partisan outlets like Fox and, if we are being fair, MSNBC, I don't see them as being particularly ideological.  Vapid, sure.  But not really ideological.

        "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

        by Jon Stafford on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 09:40:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Oh please, the polls are what the polls are. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jon Stafford, DeepLooker

        Stop trying to fight the numbers.  Unless you have proof those numbers are bogus, stop blaming the media for them.  

        The only thing that will save the sorry asses of the Democrats is the Republicans.

        by ThAnswr on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 12:54:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Here are the facts (4+ / 0-)

      Unemployment is still high.  Jobless claims have gone up.  Jobs are nowhere to be found.  The mortgage crises is getting worse due to rampant fraud.  OTOH, the Obama's Treasury Secretary thinks a moratorium on forcloseure would be harmful.  Social Security recipients aren't getting a raise for the second time in a row during a Democratic administration.  Wall Street is about to give out record bonuses again.  

      The public is not stupid.  OTOH, the politicians are if they thought they were going to get away with the "bait and switch" and time would magically stop.  The fight for the midterms should have started on January 22, 2009 and not 6 weeks ago.  

      The only thing that will save the sorry asses of the Democrats is the Republicans.

      by ThAnswr on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 12:59:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The administration is completely out of touch. (4+ / 0-)

        In these circumstances, they could definitely campaign on "This isn't what I wanted, but it could have been much worse, and I am still pushing in the right direction".  Or even "I thought Republicans would cooperate, and they stabbed me in the back.  Never again -- next time they die."

        Instead we get fantasyland happy talk on economics out of them.

        -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

        by neroden on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 01:33:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Au contraire (4+ / 0-)

          "I thought Republicans would cooperate, and they stabbed me in the back.  Never again -- next time they die."

          How out of touch is Obama? From his New York Times interview:

          "It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they (the Republicans)feel more responsible, either because they didn't do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombes didn't work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way."

          Sweet Jayzus, make it stop.  

          Who in their right mind actually believes the GOP is going to work with Obama, other than Obama that is.  

          The only thing that will save the sorry asses of the Democrats is the Republicans.

          by ThAnswr on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 01:43:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I heard him say this (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ThAnswr

            in person at a rally. I'm a fan, but it cut me deeply that the President could possibly believe the Rethugs would ever work with him. I used to think he was setting up a message to the American people.

            I gave the other party a chance, but see what they've done? The gloves are off now. I will work for you and make your lives better no matter what it takes.

            Now, all I can do is weep.

            Two good rules of life: Don't brake on a curve and don't drag the gears.

            by JG in MD on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 07:04:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  TARP stunk (0+ / 0-)

    but Feingold voted against TARP.

    I can't understand why he is behind since he voted against TARP.

    •  Its the stimulus and heath care reform (0+ / 0-)

      hat Johnson is using to tar Fuss (most particularly the stimulus package and the deficit). Of course Repugs had no problem with debt when it was funding war profiteers.

      Honestly though, having been out canvassing, the Johnson support really does not have much more thought than "ah, throw the bums out" Plus, Johnson is really blanketing the airwaves. I have never seen anything like this.

      The situation is pretty dire. I am just hoping the base will wake up in time.

  •  Listen to yourself. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD, chira2

    "My realization today is that Americans on the whole lack the imagination to think in terms of counterfactuals."

    That is not unique to Americans.  It's  a big part of the human condition.  Some can and some can't.

    I spoke in front of a continuing education class a week or so ago not long ago, (meaning older retired folks trying to keep their minds active).  One guy in the back raised an interesting question.  In China they just make decisions and do things and don't worry about elections.  His implication was that the very idea of democracy might not be able to keep up.  

    I've thought for some time that the real question boils down to something very simple.

    Many of the the Tea Party folks are fascinated by Ayn Rand.  Ironically she was a total believer in "survival of the fittest" and was quite comfortable with letting the "unfit" drown like unwanted kittens. She was also a dedicated atheist who had no use for Christian teachings.

    The simple question is this.  In the end, are we all in this together? Or are we all on own, may the "best" among us win and the rest don't matter? Which is it?  

    I believe the former and here's why.  In the end those who realize they are being left out and left behind will eventually bring it all down if we follow the Ayn Rand philosophy.

    •  LIke the bible, they like Rand selectively (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JG in MD, chira2, FiredUpInCA

      They throw out the implications you raise as well as all that Christianity charity business and revamp it this way - They are God fearin' blessed ones who will rule the roost once the social liberals stop redistributing wealth to those undeserving people (everyone that they deem to be different from themselves).

      Its Klan logic

    •  I hate to say it but what I've learned (4+ / 0-)

      from psychology, anthropology, and biology tells me that in the end, we "win" by forming groups which effectively cooperate, and, as a group, crushing those who refuse to cooperate.  "Best" in evolutionary terms for a social animal often means the ones most able to form a cohesive group.

      Which kind of breaks that dichotomy you assumed in your question.

      I would like our group to include as many humans as are willing to even slightly try to help out with society.  Those who refuse to play fair, however, who treat everyone else as if they don't matter... it's actually important for the main group of society to retaliate against them.  This is why we have a prison system.  Right now, that's where megabank executives should be going, for starters.

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 01:28:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Which is Why FDR Continued the Fireside Chats (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, JG in MD, winkk, ThAnswr, chira2

    he'd begun as NY Governor into the White House through his 3+ terms. He knew that governing a democratic society was part accomplishment and part salemanship. He knew his country was in bad enough shape after the crash that his accomplishments couldn't be enough for the people by the time his first midterm election came around.

    He knew that he couldn't go into his first midterm race fighting for increased majorities instead of fighting to cling to any majority, unless he'd have already been fighting for increased majorities from the month he took office.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 10:03:45 PM PDT

    •  Exactly. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, JG in MD, chira2

      He knew that he couldn't go into his first midterm race fighting for increased majorities instead of fighting to cling to any majority, unless he'd have already been fighting for increased majorities from the month he took office.

      Which is the polar opposite of what this administration did.  While simultaneously pursuing policies that bled constituencies, they made it policy to insult the ones they still had.  Do we need to be reminded of "fucking retarted" in response to MoveOn, "fuck the UAW", the professional left, etc.  

      Instead of building bridges, this administration decided to pick a fight with its friends.  Of course, that didn't stop the brilliant eleventy dimensional chessmaster Obama from trying to simultaneously court his enemies.

      So now it's 16 days to the midterms and the Democratic party is acting like their heads are on fire and their asses are catching.  Time stops for on one including eleventy dimensional chessmasters.  

      The only thing that will save the sorry asses of the Democrats is the Republicans.

      by ThAnswr on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 12:52:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  He also ended Prohibition off the bat. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, JG in MD

      Obama's 1st message as President was to ridicule the vast majority of questioners on "Ask the President" who wanted him to end Prohibition. No "Change."

      Agricultural hemp is "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs."

      by ben masel on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 01:23:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hmm (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden

    TARP was under Bush. The economy may well have been in much worse shape without it but I doubt Republicans would have done much different with respects to the Wall Street and Bank bailouts.

    The stimulus would have been different and may well have hurt the economy more. BUT it is worth focusing on why it didn't not help more than it did (as Krugman suggests) and looking at given the amount spent more Americans did not notice it (which was partly a PR issue but also the choice of where the money went perhaps provided fewer benefits because it was less noticable than programs like the CCC and other such programs in the Great Depression (and the PR value of such visible programs had real economic impacts since they boosted consumer confidence).

    •  Glass half full or half empty is the issue (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden

      Per TARP, indeed a Bushco deal but Candidate Obama endorsed it and about half the funds were distributed under his administration.

      All that aside, the Dickson RS article, noted in another comment and a rec list diary, makes a compelling case that Obama may really have gotten as much as he could given Repug opposition and the Blue Dog enemies within. Per Tim Dickson and what I had not realized is that after the initial 700 million stimulus package, Obama was able to get other supplemented infusions that in total crossed the magic trillion dollar margin that Krugman had endorsed.

      So, the Repugs in this election cycle have been able to define success in impossible terms (bringing back boom times) rather than the more realistic cushioning the fall and laying ground work for future work. And this tea party rebranding has proven to be no joke. It allows Republicans to claim we are different even though their plans are to return back to Bush era craziness.

      •  the lack of visibility I think has an effect (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        madtownpopulist

        Even if the places where the funds were spent were designed to be the best to help the economy ignoring consumer confidence there is an element of the lack of visibility than it itself made the spending less successful than it could have been. If you walk around on the street and ask people where the stimulus went I doubt many people would know and that would not have been the case if you look at jobs programs during the Great Depression.

        Ultimately it took the massive spending of WWII to end the Great Depression and there is no way the Obama administration could have done anything on that scale. At the same time the lack of popularity of the stimulus (which makes it impossible to have another one) is because few people directly saw the money making more jobs available. A more open direct government program hiring low income workers is in many ways more successful in making people see the government doing something about jobs than giving funds to existing programs or areas where incomes are higher. Yes there are websites people can go to and see where the money was spent and many of the things listed are ones the general public would support but that s very different than running ads on TV letting unemployed people know the government is hiring (and the jobs being hired for are clearly part of the stimulus).

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