Friday, November 7, 2008

The Obama Administration: Day 0 and Counting

It'll be almost two and a half months before President-elect Barack Obama assumes the reins of a very troubled nation but his 20 minute-long press conference today in Chicago offered and, up to a point, achieved some soothing stability and much-needed pragmatism that was felt from Wall Street to Main Street.

Surrounded by luminaries such as Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, former Fed Chairman Paul Volker and White House Chief of Staff designate Rahm Emmanuel, it was just enough of a sample to let America know that the incoming Obama administration will be staffed with both oldtimers and young guns who know how to get things done.

In his brief but friendly press conference, President-elect Obama refused to delve into who some of his Cabinet designates will be but he did address some of the key issues plaguing America, namely job losses and a second economic stimulus plan that doesn't merely involve throwing a little money at people who cannot pay their mortgages.

The economic stimulus package advanced by Congress was put on a back burner with news that the typically obstructionist Bush administration that broke its neck to bail out multi millionaire crooks would veto any stimulus bill designed to help taxpayers. Obviously, it will wait until the Obama administration is officially installed.

Just the very sight of President-elect Obama sitting at a table surrounded by many people experienced at doing their jobs seemed to give us a glimpse of what Obama will look like at a Cabinet meeting once he's in charge. It immediately seemed to send a signal that the 44th administration will not hire lackeys, party hacks, campaign contributors and roommates of old friends. In a promised reprise of the Clinton administration, an Obama administration seems destined to be one that'll be renowned for appointing positions based on merit and not money or friendship.

It'll be an administration that doesn't promise easy fixes ("Everyone has access to health care. Just walk into an emergency room!") nor one that pretends that America is all well ("I don't see any problems", Bush told Bob Costas during the Olympics).

Plus, this old cynic admits to a thrill at seeing in Obama confidence without arrogance, at being to write the word President without having to use quotes.


At November 8, 2008 at 10:59 AM, Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

without going into the way that john maynard keynes himself warned against applying a static approach to all economic problems (the economy we are watching tank now is far different from the economy that tanked in 29) there are enough parallels to warrant a keynesian approach.

the way to handle some of the problems is exactly what obama is proposing. build shit. this does not mean do it like republicans who would line up their cronies with quickie certificates and call them "contractors" who would then proceed to loot the system as thoroughly as they looted wall street.

no. it means government involvement, and action. put people to work actually building shit. start a program that goes to existing houses and helps to insulate and otherwise "green" them up. stick crews in the barren wastse of the west putting up wind and solar arrays.

rebuild the infrastructure of the railway. thing is, if they pay for it, and build it, we own that shit. not the railroads.

the biggest failure of the "trickle down" theory was the folks at the top themselves. they used the largesse granted by tax breaks to hoard and disgustingly enrich themselves. they took profits rather than reinvest. there was no trickle down, not even a lot of careless spill over. this shocked, shocked that wizened acolyte of rand, alan greenspan. he truly believed in the "goodness" of those fat motherfuckers. it's the same kind of blind belief that had our soldiers waiting for sweets and flowers in iraq.

frankly pitchforks in the hands of angry peasants is about the only remedy for this. standing up to the charges of "socialism" there are chunks of wealth that will need to be forced into the arena.

i live in a desert southwest area that exists only because of a huge public works project that dug canals to bring water hundreds of miles from the colorado river. it used to be that we, the inhabitants of the region, owned that fucking water. now, the folks who mangage the system (you guessed it, reagan republicans) are falling all over themselves in a rush to sell water to l.a. and san diego. they point out that farmers can get a bigger profit from selling water rights to the big cities than they can by actually planting shit.

of course, they gloss over the fact that anybody who isn't planting shit is not a fucking farmer. they fail to see the plain injustice of calling yourself a farmer and then not planting shit, just selling off the extra water that farmers are allocated under the distribution.

in many ways it reminds me of alexander's reaction to the babylonian system of irrigation and farming. he said "this breeds tyrrany."

At November 8, 2008 at 11:50 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Since economics was never my strong suit, I have to admit to being a lot more interested in what an Obama administration will do on a foreign policy front. That’s why I’m interested to see how much impact that an old foreign policy wonk like Vice President-elect Biden will have on this new administration (remember, he was the first or one of the first to propose training Iraqi security forces outside of Iraq on the soil of our allies).

And since you mentioned Alexander the Great, I think that we can learn a thing or two from him as regards our conduct abroad. Alexander was renowned for assimilating himself and his troops into the local culture. Rather than merely conquering foreign lands and imposing Greek/Macedonian culture on these people, Alexander immersed himself into their culture so that the indigenous people wouldn’t feel as if they were conquered and subjugated. Their officials remained employed, they were able to continue with their daily routine. Administration was, of course, controlled by Alexander’s empire but there was no radical shift in their quotidian lives. And if ever felt the temptation to slip, he had Aristotle by his side to kick him in the ass.

Now, that’s not to say America should conquer far-flung lands just for the hell of it as long as we put a velvet glove over an iron fist. But the problem with unilateral military might is that the arrogant, egocentric compulsion to impose that culture upon a conquered people is a very difficult one to resist. We have not even come close to doing that in Iraq. And if we must enter foreign soil, we ought to take Alexander’s example and respect the local culture.

At November 8, 2008 at 1:03 PM, Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

alexander was a military, but also a political genius. surviving his family set up alone took great delicacy and skill (his father had already killed one heir to the throne for lipping off to him in public and his mother was a poisoner of great skill and reputation).

alexander once wrote to his general ptolemy

when planning always think of battles before fights. think of campaigns before battles, think of wars before campaigns and always think of peace before war.

he had some very ruthless thoughts on the conduct of a guerilla campaign like the one he found himself caught up in afghanistan. he said "this isn't war as we know it. this is hunting. we shall harry and pursue and finally kill them all."

he finally gave that shit up after about two years. he was horrified at what his army was becoming. he quit the fight and married into the dominant tribe (through the glorious roxanne) and bought off the rest of them.

later, writing to his mother he said "i did not win this campaign, i purchased my victory."

there is a lot to learn from alexander. he found himself in the exact mess we are in, in the same fucking place.

At November 8, 2008 at 1:35 PM, Anonymous KathyG said...

Hey guys i'm just happy we have a president that can string together coherent sentences and can actually tell a joke or get off a crack well. Plus the fact that his humor can be self deprecating is an added bonus. I am content to sit back and let him do what he needs to do to fix our country. I know it will be painful and a hard slog for us as citizens but it wouldn't hurt for us to actually sacrifice so our country can heal itself.

At November 8, 2008 at 2:50 PM, Blogger Mike V. said...

Let's just hope the days of the neoliberal/neoconservative rule is over. Or rather, will be over soon.
What we saw happen here was the Chicago School/Friedmanite School of econ taken to the N'th degree and collapse.
Only when the collapse happened, it fell on the middle class. Again.
It's hyper-lazyfair econ coupled with extreme corporate welfare to socialize the losses.
And yet plenty of rubes in the flyover states are still buying it. Though in fewer numbers now.
Bottom up was the promise and I hope Obama delivers..


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