Peter S. Goodman:
This is where the Great Recession has taken the world’s largest economy, to a Great Ambiguity over what lies ahead, and what can be done now. Economists debate the benefits of previous policy prescriptions, but in the political realm a rare consensus has emerged: The future is now so colored in red ink that running up the debt seems politically risky in the months before the Congressional elections, even in the name of creating jobs and generating economic growth. The result is that Democrats and Republicans have foresworn virtually any course that involves spending serious money.
This is what the mushy middle of bipartisan consensus brings you - timidity and paralysis. You know what's politically risky? Doing nothing.
Greg Dworkin (that's me):
Therein lies the Republican dilemma: you can’t have your tax cuts and deficit reduction at the same time (the public prefers spending on jobs over deficit reduction by 57-37, and what’s highlighted here is true in other polls, including blaming Bush for the economy).
While Democrats will be blamed for not doing enough on the economy, Republicans are disliked and mistrusted, and the public fears having them in charge again, with good reason: they drove us into this ditch in the first place. Expect that to be highlighted from now until November (and it's political malpractice if it’s not).
There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the "death panel" warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.
Five years later, one might think that Washington has realized the importance of preparing adequately for the next major hurricane on the Gulf Coast. Not so. Yes, the levees have been strengthened, the evacuation plans have been improved, and many of the logistical kinks surrounding emergency food, water and shelter have been worked out. But this isn't enough. Much of the heaviest lifting ultimately involves helping people go home again and pick up the pieces; to be effective, planning for reentry and recovery must begin before a storm ever strikes. Barring urgent action, if the gulf region is hit by another big hurricane this fall, its communities will be knocked down -- and this time, many will not be able to get back up.
No one likes reading about disaster prepearation pre-disasters. "Alarmist!" "You're crying wolf!" Then disaster hits, and the cries are "why weren't we ready?"
But five years after a hurricane that ranks as one of the worst natural disasters in American history, the storm seems less like an aberration and more like a prelude to themes that have continued to shake our national life far from the shores of the Gulf Coast.
Overnight, Katrina left thousands of homeowners with property that was worth much less than they owed on it. Back in 2005, the thought of such a phenomenon seemed surreal, a stark blemish in an otherwise booming real estate market across the country.
But in the wake of a subsequent global recession – and a meltdown in the housing sector – homeowners throughout the United States have felt an eerily similar reversal of circumstances.
Our maddening times demand that the truth be forthrightly stated at the outset, and not just that the president has nothing in common with the führer beyond the possession of a dog. The outlandish stories about Barack Hussein Obama are simply false: he wasn’t born outside the United States (the tabloid "proof" has been debunked as a crude forgery); he has never been a Muslim (he was raised by an atheist and became a practicing Christian in his 20s); his policies are not "socialist" (he explicitly rejected advice to nationalize the banks and wants the government out of General Motors and Chrysler as quickly as possible); he is not a "warmonger" (he promised in 2008 to withdraw from Iraq and escalate in Afghanistan and has done so); he is neither a coddler of terrorists (he has already ordered the killing of more "high value" Qaeda targets in 18 months than his predecessor did in eight years), nor a coddler of Wall Street (his financial-reform package, while watered down, was the most vigorous since the New Deal), nor an enemy of American business (he and the Chamber of Commerce favor tax credits for small business that were stymied by the GOP to deprive him of a victory). And that’s just the short list of lies.