A lot of the voices on our side repeat the absolute truth: the Republican Party is simply not telling the truth about the seeds of the economic disaster we are dealing with and that it is in fact the government--our government--that prevented things from getting a lot worse AND we would be in much better shape if we actually had had MORE government stimulus and MORE government action. But, it's really nice when we can wave around the voice of the Financial Times, one of the most respected, leading financial papers on the planet.
Today, the Financial Times' Martin Wolf has very revealing column entitled "Why the voters are suing Dr. Obama". I really recommend Wolf, the paper's chief economist, to folks--I don't always agree with everything he says. But, he is, more often than not, on the money:
That is the situation in which Dr Barack Obama finds himself. A large part of the American public has long since forgotten the gravity of the financial heart attack that hit the US in the autumn of 2008. The Republicans have convinced many voters that the intervention by the Democrats, not the catastrophe George W.Bush bequeathed, explains the malaise. It is a propaganda coup.
Does President Obama deserve blame for this outcome? No and yes. No, because his treatment was right, in principle; yes, because it was too cautious, in practice.[emphasis added]
Wolf explains that we have been going through "by far the biggest financial crisis since the second world war" and has the charts to prove it. He, then, makes this point about the Administration's policy:
The truth is not that policy was foolhardy and failed, but that it was too timid and so could not succeed. A big mistake was the failure to address the labour market directly, perhaps by temporarily slashing payroll taxation. There were other mistakes, too: the effort to reduce the overhang of household debt should have been stronger.
Certainly, the point he makes is one that I agree with, and many, notably Paul Krugman, have emphasized: we did not do enough.
I would add to the too-small stimulus argument that people like Angelo Mozilo, the former head of Countrywide Financial who was a central player in the collapse of the housing market due to fraud and greed and is now going to walk away a rich man after cutting a deal with the SEC, should be instead slapped in irons and hauled away for long jail terms; the anger raging across America is partly a reaction to a feeling by those on "the outside" that the people on "the inside" (like Mozilo) can rob us, line their pockets and get away with committing crimes for which regular people would end up in prison.
But, let's stick with Wolf:
Unfortunately, the Republicans have succeeded in persuading a large enough portion of the American public that if the patient had been left entirely alone, he would be in perfect health today. This is surely a fairy story. But voters naturally pay little attention to calamities averted. They focus only on how far experience falls short of what they desire. Mr Obama gains no credit for the former and much blame for the latter. His aspirational rhetoric no doubt worsened the disappointment.
The president's willingness to ask for too little was, it turns out, a huge strategic error. It allows his opponents to argue that the Democrats had what they wanted, which then failed. If the president had failed to get what he demanded, he could argue that the outcome was not his fault. With a political stalemate expected, further action will now be blocked. A lost decade seems quite likely. That would be a calamity for the US - and the world.
A lost decade. That is what awaits every voter, every worker, every citizen in this country--and the planet--if we let the Republicans take over.
I, for one, am perfectly comfortable living in a world where I can say the president should have done more and we, progressives, must push him even harder after November because the facts--the economic facts--are with us. And in that world it is perfectly reasonable to say that the choice is clear:
A lost decade OR a chance to fight for a better future.