Friday, August 10, 2012

"Whither Conservatism" Redux

The greatest benefit of writing a blog-- since hardly anyone ever reads it but me- ha!- is to review some of the columns to see where my thoughts were on a given date. Four years ago today I penned a blog called "Whither Conservatism." This was during the 2008 election cycle shortly after the Democratic nomination had chosen Sen Obama (not my first choice) and still two weeks before anyone had ever heard of Gov. Sarah Palin. Hard to fathom.

The country's economy was flattening in August 2008, the housing market was punk, but few saw anything like the collapse we were about to experience. I wrote a blog post about George W. Bush's policies, calling them neither conservative or liberal, but coining a new term: "anti-conservative". I predicted how we would have hell to pay at some point very soon, and I rarely make predictions here but that day I did. My basic premise was that we were f**ked and the next President (Obama or McCain) would take the blame. You tell me if I was correct.

I quoted University of Chicago economist Charles Wheelan who said:
...Seven years of fiscal recklessness hasn't solidified a tattered safety net, or fixed a broken health care system, or upgraded the skills base of America's working class, or improved our crumbling infrastructure, or updated our outmoded international institutions... We're spending like drunken sailors, but we're not even getting the hookers and booze...
...Republicans are starting to distance themselves from Bush. There's something pathetic and unprincipled about that, given that they were complicit in the policies that have made him unpopular. If the Republicans truly stood for sensible conservative policies, they would have ditched him six or seven years ago -- and we'd be better off for it...

Wheelan is a smart guy. And I'll repeat this categorically: if you voted for George W. Bush in 2004 then you need to just shut the hell up about spending, any spending. Just shut up, you're only embarrassing yourself. 

I concluded the post:
I would add that the Democrats have been complicit as well to some (albeit lesser) degree. Upon gaining leadership in the House and Senate in January 2007, I would liked to have seen a barage of subpoenas and testimony about the various alleged illegalities perpetrated by the Bush administration. Sure, Conyers, Feingold and a few others have been vocal in this regard, but the Congressional majority leaders have been almost giddy in their silence.
The next president will inherit the worst situational maladies since Carter took office in 1977. Obama or McCain, upon being sworn in, will need to confront two stagnant theaters of war, a worldwide recession of our making, poor relations with our allies, record budget deficits, spiraling health care entitlements, lack of confidence in US capital markets, palpable governmental incompetence-- all of which have been either unaddressed or mismanaged during a lame duck presidency.
The opposing party of whoever wins in November will be quick to tag the next president with the culpability for these problems as they percolate and explode in the next 18 months.
The anti-conservatism of George W. Bush.

Indeed. Of course, it didn't take 18 months, only 2. The market collapsed, triggered by subprime loans and credit default swaps, but it doesn't matter what triggered it, the die had been cast. Spending begot more spending. Bush and his Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson backed up the truck and transferred the Treasury to their banker buddies. TARP and the auto bailouts were a done deal before the next president and Congress took over.

Commenter Eric said at the time-- and remember this is August 2008-- said:
That is how it works: after fucking everything up (Nixon)...the conservatives will blame the democrat for all the problems (Carter)... Then they boot him out of office, elect a new conservative (Reagan), who takes credit for turning things around.... Which was actually done by the Democrat......
You can think that they are stupid.... but it's a Beautiful cycle the Republicans have the Democrats running in... It's like being a rat in a Maze for most Democrats.
The Democrats are worried about making things right.... When the Republicans are just worried about "Getting away with it."
Spot on. And Barack Obama is the latest rat. How come he didn't see this coming? 

So do I have any predictions today? Not specifically. I'm amazed that the American voters have not given up on Obama given the electorate's usual short attention span, but then even in 1980 the polls were still pretty tight until Reagan pulled ahead of Carter in the last month. Still, I will be surprised if Romney does not win this thing in November. That's how the pattern works.

The economic statistics-- and let's face it, every election is about the economy-- are showing signs of life and the US is leading the world out of this malaise, but there is still a a lot of infection. I doubt the developed economies can grow enough to make up for the slowdown in China and India, and Europe is not helping with their bickering and austerity. The most worrisome long term issue in the US entails the structural non-discretionary spending that is cooked into every budget projection. We all know that taxes will need to be raised at some point just to cover the government-mandated entitlements, especially when interest rates start to creep up...but that's another blog entry.

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