You probably know the old joke, how many psychotherapists does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: only one, but the bulb has to want to change.
I find myself wondering how those who believed Obama would change things are explaining the current situation to themselves. Hopefully we’re all learning about the limits of the American system, and thinking about how we might change it. But the real question is, do we want to change? If not, we’re likely to repeat the same behavior.
In his new book Come Home, America, William Greider opines that
One damaging myth Americans ought to abandon is the naive notion that the celebrity power of the presidency can somehow solve our problems. That faith has been disappointed again and again in recent decades. First, the new leader is built up with miraculous powers, then cast down when he fails to prevail.
Then we search for a new one.
The one we’ve got has finally turned his attention to the problem of finding jobs for the millions of Americans without one. With the official unemployment estimate topping ten percent, the real figure is widely considered to be about twice that, possibly even more. Unfortunately for our purposes, but fortunately for those who made the changes, the methods of calculating unemployment have changed a lot since the Depression, so we can’t readily compare our unemployment figures with theirs. Certainly our general economic situation is dire but not as bad as theirs was. Many people now are in as bad shape as people were then, it’s true; all we can say is that not as many are that badly off now. But it ain’t pretty.
First order of business, naturally, was buying off the bankers. Then the drug companies, then the insurance companies, then the so-called defense industry. That was $787 billion for Wall Street, untold billions throughout the foreseeable future for the insurance and drug companies, and tens, probably hundreds, of billions more for the weapons and logistics required to support the Peace Prize-winner’s war. So now that jobs are finally front and center, the rest of us will get an equally large slice of pie. Right?
Speaking at a White House forum to a panel of business and labor leaders, economists, and others,
Mr. Obama said he would entertain “every demonstrably good idea” for creating jobs, but he cautioned that “our resources are limited.”
The Times article talks about a House initiative to spend some real money on real people. The enormous sum of $70 billion was proposed to ameliorate the suffering of tens of millions, presumably with a straight face. No White House reaction to that plan at print time.
Mr. Obama’s jobs event captured the political and policy vise now squeezing the president and his party at the end of his first year. It came on the eve of a government report that is expected to show unemployment remaining in double digits, and two days after Mr. Obama stressed as he ordered 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan that he did not want the financial burdens of the war to overwhelm his domestic agenda.
Fortunately, the administration has devised a plan, based on one that worked in the recent past.
…a program of weatherization incentives for homeowners and small businesses… [c]alled “cash for caulkers,” it would enlist contractors and home-improvement companies like Home Depot — whose chief executive was on the panel — to advertise the benefits, much as car dealers did for the clunkers trade-ins this year.
Yet that relatively modest proposal underscores the limits of the government’s ability to affect a jobless recovery with the highest unemployment rate in 26 years — and Mr. Obama acknowledged as much. Just as he said in Tuesday’s Afghanistan speech that the nation could not afford an open-ended commitment there, especially when the economy is so weak and deficits so high, Mr. Obama emphasized at the jobs forum that the government had already done a lot with his $787 billion economic stimulus package and the $700 billion financial bailout that he inherited.
“I want to be clear: While I believe the government has a critical role in creating the conditions for economic growth, ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector,” he told his audience, which included executives and some critics from American Airlines, Boeing, Nucor, Google, Walt Disney and FedEx.
Yeah, that’ll work. The booming airline and steel businesses, plus search engines, cartoons, and package delivery. That’s the kind of thinking that made America great. Greider again:
We live in a country where telling the hard truth with clarity has become taboo. Its implications are too alarming. Any politician who says aloud what some of them know or feel in their guts is vilified as defeatist or unpatriotic. Many are clueless, of course, and others are too scared to raise forbidden subjects. I understand their silence and I do not forgive them.Posted by Chuck Dupree at December 03, 2009 10:41 PM