Paul Krugman, in his recent column in the New York Times was highly critical of President Obama for the way the debt ceiling debate was concluded but instead of blasting the President, maybe Mr. Krugman should have just written a column based on his last paragraph in which he states that “In the long run, however, Democrats won’t be the only losers. What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question; after all, how can American democracy work if whichever party is most prepared to be ruthless, to threaten the nation’s economic security, get to dictate policy? And the answer is, maybe it can’t.”
America is the only country I know that forces its President/Prime Minister to govern with one hand tied behind their back even after ascending to power with one of the largest margins of victory in history. In most countries, that President would have been able to govern with a free hand and their only limitation would be any major change to their constitution.
This debt ceiling debate reminds me of the story in the Bible of the two women who claimed to be the mother of a child. King Solomon threatened to cut the baby in two so that each woman would get half a baby whereupon the real mother declared that she was willing to give up the baby to the other woman to save the child’s life but the other woman supported the idea of killing the baby. Clearly the GOP and the Tea Party are prepared to kill the American economy whereas Obama is not prepared to put the economy at risk even if it means giving up things that he holds dear. Lets hope that the American people, like Solomon, are able to recognize who is the genuine article.
I also feel that Obama has damaged his Presidency but only because America seems to admire strength over common sense. The majority will not be reading the proposed bill or listening to the analysts as more information comes out as to what is really in the bill hence they will come away with the opinion that the President surrendered as Paul Krugman states. Facts are now emerging that the President was able to carve out a deal that upon examination is not as bad as was first thought but will the public realize this?
For some time, I have often been puzzled about the American political system which rewards the opposition for being obstructionist. Most countries do not reward the opposition for such actions as happened in the 2010 elections although that outcome was helped by Democrats who were not excited enough to come out to vote even after being warned by Obama of the consequences if they did not.
I have often wondered whether there are more, rich people in America than poor people for otherwise how could the GOP win elections or maybe it is that the poor people are expecting to be rich so they would rather leave the status quo hoping that they will eventually benefit. The GOP does not even pretend to care about the poor and the disenfranchised. And it should not matter that the GOP gets a lot of money from the rich and the powerful because it is not as if they spend that money on the poor to buy their votes. In Jamaica, at least the politicians would spend the money on the poor trying to buy their votes.
I remember Obama saying in 2008, that he couldn’t govern alone however after his election the Democrats went to sleep, seemingly thinking that their job was finished. Then, when the Tea Party began its ascendancy, there were no Democrats around to mount a counter offensive. They all seemed to be watching it on TV.
Since the GOP has so set them self up as the bastion of fiscal responsibility, one would have thought that they actually had a record of fiscal responsibility, yet the facts are that the last time that America had a budget surplus, it was under President Clinton, a democrat. They conveniently forget that President Reagan with all his talk of cutting spending actually tripled the federal debt in his eight years and he had no real wars to fight unless you count Grenada; and he also even raised taxes. Then George W Bush doubled the debt again but now the GOP has had this Epiphany about deficits and fiscal responsibility, which though important can be counter productive in a struggling economy, trying to recover from a deep recession. The GOP vehemently resist any proposed tax increases, ignoring the fact that taxes as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest level in 50 years. They like to say that their tax rate is the highest among the developed countries, ignoring the fact that due to all the tax breaks that the companies are allowed, the effective tax rate paid by American companies is much lower than the marginal tax rate and many companies pay zero taxes even though they are highly profitable. General Electric is probably the most notable example of a company that legally paid zero federal taxes even though they made a profit of $14.2 Billion worldwide, $5.1 Billion of which was in the United States.
The framers of America’s constitution seemed intent on limiting the power of the President in the event that a tyrant was elected but they had to have had higher expectations of the people who would be elected to office than is now the case. I do not think that they anticipated the Tea Party but it is not just the Tea Party, look at how even one Senator can put a halt to the proceedings of the Senate and how the Senate can turn what should have required just a simple majority into a 60% requirement, by filibustering everything. Obama cannot be blamed for all of that. One thing that I would criticize Obama for is his negotiating tactics. He should have played some of his cards closer to his chest but he wanted to appear to be the adult in the room, which he thought would appeal to Independents and that worked against him in the final analysis. It is left to be seen if it works against him in the upcoming elections. If you have to negotiate with crazy people, you either have to be a little crazy yourself or you have to have some crazy people on your team. I believe that one of the advantages that Ronald Reagan had with the then Soviet Union was that they thought he was a little crazy.
The way America operates democracy gives democracy a bad name. There is little incentive for the parties to work together because they are often rewarded for being obstructionist. Unless the voting public are prepared to oust those who put the nation at risk, as they did once before in the Clinton Administration, the future of America looks bleak. President Obama is often criticized for not taking the leading role in telling Congress what he wants but it has often been pointed out that when he indicates what he wants, even if it was a position previously advocated by the GOP, the GOP immediately take the opposing position. You cannot run a government that way. The elections in 2012 are going to be very important. America will have to decide whether or not it wants to support those who have no qualms about threatening the nation’s future so that they can dictate policy.