The results from the midterm election are in. Liberals, progressives and independents now get to experience the consequences of abandoning Obama. The president's pace in cleaning up the mess from the last eight years was not sufficiently rapid for an American public addicted to instant gratification.
In a childish tantrum of impatience, liberals have through neglect and apathy brought back the fox to the hen house. For eight years the lead farmer on our co-op let the foxes run free, killing as many hens as they could sink their teeth into. Our ecosystem and food supply were devastated. Eventually we got hungry due to the egg shortage. So we voted in a new farmer with his soaring promise to build a fence to exclude the predators. But this process was slow, and our hunger lingered. In fact, this fancy new farmer who had almost completed the building of his expensive fence to outwit the fox was not producing eggs fast enough to our liking. So we fired the farmer in order to tear down his fence. Instead of working to build a better barrier, we once again exposed our hens to unfettered predation, recreating the very circumstances we wished to avoid. We somehow forgot that our fancy farmer's egg production was severely curtailed because the hen population was decimated by his predecessor who let the fox run wild in his ideological disdain for fences. Not because of the slow pace in building a fence. In the perfect demonstration of blind ignorance our perverse idea was to blame the new farmer and bring back the fox. We have managed to embrace the problem as our solution.
We blame Obama for not cleaning up Bush's mess fast enough. Our solution is to re-elect the very people who caused the original problem to reinstitute the same policies that led to the crisis. We have collectively gone insane.
Our politics have become divorced completely from reason, objective truth and facts. Worried about climate change? Populate the House Energy Committee with GOP representatives who deny the reality of global warming. Frustrated with the pace to eliminate DADT? Elect a group of homophobes. Want to cure horrible diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and cancer? Put in place representatives dedicated to killing stem cell research. Care about women's reproductive rights? Create a majority in the House that is anti-abortion. Want to reform Wall Street to prevent another meltdown? Install politicians who oppose all financial regulation.
The GOP demands fiscal responsibility but is the Party responsible for the country's largest debts and deficits. The Tea Party agitates for smaller government but is unwilling to cut defense spending or consider revoking Bush's $700 billion tax cut for the wealthy. None mention that fact that Obama's debt is more than ten percent smaller than Bush's. Yes, you heard that right. Bush bequeathed to us an unprecedented deficit of $879 billion (in 1983 dollars). In the first fiscal year that fell entirely under the Obama Administration (2009-2010), the deficit was $120 billion smaller, at $758 billion (in 1983 dollars). The Tea Party wants smaller government but votes against the Party giving them just that. Consider then that the most important platform of the Tea Party is based on a lie about the national debt. By their own calculation they should be Obama's biggest supporter.
This dissociation from reality has had real consequences. We had a serious candidate for the U.S. Senate, Christine O'Donnell, publicly admit that she did not know the First Amendment included the idea of separating government and religion; she later tried to recover by saying the "actual language" of separation and church and state is not written in the Constitution. But in her attempted recovery she exposed greater ignorance claiming that the founder's had no intention of separating church and state, thereby ignoring the extensive correspondence on the subject between the Founding Fathers. Rand Paul, who won his seat, believes restaurants should have the right to exclude African Americans at whim, based on the idea that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal government overreach. Sharron Angle said there are "domestic enemies" in the Congress. Joe Miller opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest; he believes unemployment benefits are unconstitutional, ignoring the fact his wife collected such benefits.
These positions were well aired during the campaign, and plenty of people objected to their extremism. But what is new to our body politic as demonstrated in these examples is the celebration of ignorance. We rejoice in it, revel in it. Never before in our history have we elevated ignorance to a qualifying characteristic to lead. But Tea Party candidates basked in the glory of their ignorance, wearing stupidity like a badge of courage. The dumber the statement, the further from reality the utterance, the more "authentic" the candidate seemed, a "real" person we can send to Washington to clean up. Even just one generation back these candidates would have been relegated to the lunatic fringe, never taken seriously as candidates for high office. We have entered new territory.
The so-called liberal media actively contribute to the dissemination of disinformation. The media have made two gross errors that have skewed the political debate: first, the talking heads claim that Obama has accomplished little; and second that he misunderstood his mandate and exceeded his moral authority by expanding the government too quickly. Both assertions are factually incorrect. Let's take a look at and debunk each in turn.
Myth 1: Obama has done little
Plenty of blogs on the Huffington Post and elsewhere have created comprehensive lists of Obama's real accomplishments. I will only list a few as illustrative. Obama withdrew 100,000 troops from Iraq, eased restrictions on stem cell research, signed sweeping credit card reform into law, expanded health coverage to millions of children (a total of 11 million, 4 million of whom were previously uninsured), allowed children to be covered by their parents' insurance until age 26, cut taxes for more than 3 million small businesses to help defray the cost of health insurance, cut taxes for 30 million Americans to help pay for health insurance, cut taxes for 95% of working American families, signed financial reform laws prohibiting banks from engaging in trades that conflict with customer interests, led the effort to enact a law allowing shareholders of publicly traded companies to vote on executive pay, created more jobs in the private sector in one year (2010) than during all eight years of the Bush Administration, appointed the first Latin American woman to the Supreme Court, gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, signed a new treaty with Russia to further reduce nuclear arms, protected women against pay discrimination, reversed Bush's Orwellian ban on media coverage of the return of dead soldiers, signed legislation that for the first time targets assistance to paralyzed Americans, ended the practice of torture, and established a viciously fought Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama rescinded the obscene so-called Mexico City Policy first instituted under Ronald Reagan (abandoned by Clinton, reinstated by Bush) that prohibited U.S. aid from going to organizations that provide or even discuss abortions. These clinics provide primary health care for tens of millions of women and children. These are just some of his many accomplishments.
In this last election many gays abandoned Obama and the Democrats because DADT has not yet been eliminated. They ignore that fact that Obama extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees and appointed more self-proclaimed gay officials than any of his predecessors. They also ignore Obama's clear, unambiguous and straightforward commitment to end DADT before he leaves office.
Environmentalists decried Obama's failure to get the House and Senate to pass climate change legislation, but ignored other major advances. A huge but virtually ignored accomplishment was his successful effort to increase vehicle standards from 27.5 miles per gallon to 35.5 (starting in 2016). Of course environmentalist would like more to be done; but turning to the GOP for help is like a mouse asking a snake for directions to the nearest cheese. He is not going to make the journey.
Myth 2: Obama has overreached
This myth depends on the assertion that Obama has expanded government through prolific deficit spending. We have already shown that Obama's debt is less than Bush's. The real disinformation campaign though surrounds Obama's $789 billion economic stimulus plan under the title of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. What critics willfully ignore is the fact that much if not most of that money will be returned to taxpayers with interest. Profits from banks that have already repaid their debt come to about $4 billion. For their investments in Goldman Sachs taxpayers made a profit of $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion on Morgan Stanley, and $414 million on American Express. JPMorgan Chase and Capital One yielded $3.1 billion in profits to taxpayers. Smaller banks paying off their debt contributed another $334 million in profits. So far about $120 billion of the original stimulus money has been paid back to the Treasury. A general consensus among economists, consistent with projections from the Congressional Budget Office, is that in the end Americans will recoup no less than 87% of the stimulus money. That means we invested about $100 billion to save trillions of dollars of loss, a good return by any standard, and hardly evidence of Obama's overreach. If an investment of $100 billion is overreach, how does the GOP categorize Bush's $700 billion tax cut? Nor can you look to Obama's extensive tax cuts for evidence of expanding federal power. The claim is not based in reality.
Another argument supporting overreach is health care reform under which Americans will be forced into buying insurance so that pre-existing conditions can be eliminated from all plans. Opponents argue that the federal government has no authority to make Americans buy a product. Mandatory insurance has resulted in much chest beating, accusations of socialism and fear of federal powers. But the arguments are absurd: we are forced to buy Social Security and Medicare with every paycheck. We are forced to pay federal income tax. What Obama proposed is no more intrusive. The only difference between creating a health premium tax (perhaps taken out of paychecks like Medicare), which the government would then use to purchase insurance on our behalf and Obama's plan is efficiency. Ironically the right is attacking Obama for using market fundamentals to promote policy.
But everything stated up to this point is trivial compared to Obama's most important contribution, for which he gets little or no credit. When the Tea Party is a distant memory like the Bull Moose or National Union Parties, history will show that Obama saved the world from a deep, widespread, long-lasting devastating global depression. Yes this claim will create a howl of protest from Tea Baggers shouting that the stimulus package did not work. But cooler heads know otherwise. We can ignore those protests secure in the knowledge that dispassionate analysis from future historians will proclaim the truth. Obama's precipitous actions and decisive leadership stopped the steep slide into the abyss caused by reckless Republican leadership, savings tens of millions of jobs here and abroad. Facing a crisis of historic proportions, Obama did what he had to do; his actions had nothing to do with his supposed false belief in a mandate to expand government. If Obama did not act as he did, he would have been guilty of dereliction of duty. The results are self-evident, and the fact that he acted smartly is seen in the relatively small final cost of the stimulus package. Because of Obama instead of breadlines we have a recovering economy at a trivial cost to taxpayers. Remember that when Obama took office voices of the far right claimed absurdly the stock market decline in the first weeks of his presidency was Obama's fault. Those voices are silent as the market tops 11,000. We are supposed to believe that Obama was somehow responsible for the state of the stock market upon taking office, but can claim no hand in its recovery. Yep, we have gone collectively insane.
So I say to all the Democrats, progressives and independents out there who voted for a Tea Party or GOP candidate, as you sow so shall you reap. Or as you sew so shall you wear, for those who disdain biblical references. You deserve everything you get in the next two years and after. In abandoning Obama mid-stream you have undermined any chance this country had to support a thriving private sector expanding through real production and not the sale of financial instruments; to protect the environment; to protect workers and worker health; and to secure the wall separating church and state. You let the fox back into the hen house. Good luck to you.
Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist, former White House senior policy analyst and author of, Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World (Jacquie Jordan, Inc)(http://www.tinyurl.com/CosmicDice). Follow Jeff Schweitzer on Facebook.