That Sinking Feeling

However the elections turn out, Democrats must focus far more intently on the economic plight of ordinary Americans.

Comments: 125

  1. During President Obama's presidential campaign, change was in the air and hope was spreading among the populace like a California forest fire. The young, especially, who embraced President Obama so enthusiastically, infected older, more cynical generations to see wider political possibilities as we were reminded of our own youthful enthusiasm for change so long ago. There was so much hope for systemic change.

    President Obama, I fear, was not the man for the job. It was not only Republicans who doomed his presidency, it was also Democrats who produced an incomprehensible health care bill that looked like politics as usual. Over 62% of the American people wanted a single payer health care system and this bill is what we got without even a public option. And that was thanks to Democrats who looked out so well for their rich friends in the health care insurance industry.

    In another media, the "person in the street" was interviewed in France where there are massive demonstrations against raising the retirement age from age 60 to age 62. One of the young people interviewed said that he was demonstrating because he did not want to live a country like the United States where there were few social benefits. He pointed out that his schooling in university was free. He also pointed out that retirement at age 60 opens up more jobs for the young. But we in the US will raise the retirement age to 70, or so, in a time of deep unemployment and under employment.

    And President Obama, with his rabidly anti-entitlement deficit commission, has the effrontery to include Social Security as a place for cuts when Social Security is not part of the budget and will run a surplus until 2037 even if nothing is done and can also pay 75% of benefits well into the next century, if nothing is done.

    Our list of grievances with this president is long. He wants to stimulate an economy so it will produce jobs when this economy does not need to be stimulated. It needs to be restructured. With a snide disdain for the left, his spokesman tells us to be happy with what he got for us.

    Thanks, Mr. President. But it was not enough.

  2. I think that the dissatisfaction in the country is attributable to the fact that many constituencies believe that their needs were not addressed by the administration. The Health Care Bill deprived quite a few seniors of Medicare Advantage which was an unfair subsidy for the insurance companies. It had to go. Also, many young people who are just scraping by with part time jobs will be forced to buy health care insurance severely limiting their disposable income. But the dissatisfaction goes deeper. Young people are having a difficult time starting out. Jobs are scarce, and they feel that even if they get a job they will be forced to support the increasing social programs of the older generation. They need answers now. Unfortunately, their future was lost by the very people they are about to elect. I cannot press a button and create a full-employment economy, and neither can Barack Obama. It is going to take time and the commitment of well-meaning Congressman who want to work together to solve our problems. Electing extremists will only delay the process and make the situation worse.

  3. Mr. Herbert, the bottom line is that the fundamentally flawed economic system set up by the elite for their benefits has no real place for or impetus for the plight of the ordinary and the poor, be they Americans or others. As it stands, these malignant narcissists, chronic scapegoaters, uncorrectable grab baggers and the misled others among them have no qualms if some over 50 million ordinary / poor Americans were sacrificed with coercion, reckless abandon and impunity. Our history is solid proof of that scapegoating, when the 39 conservative white men , the representatives of the 12 colonies carved out the constitution for the benefit of their slave owned plantation and the speculation of the vast lands to the west. All the property of the Native Indian tribes, who along with all minorities, black folks, free or slaves were left out.

    The founders, in order to form the so called more perfect union, no doubt wanted to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty and posterity for themselves. But they with deliberation left of the three words "equal and for all". To that end nothing has changed and that is precisely why we are a nation ideologically divided, polarized and on a fast track of self destruction from within.

    The few owners of the power, wealth and influence that control each and every aspect of how the country is run, managed, operated for the benefit of there kind, have no intension to change the status quo.

  4. The fallacy here, and what will eventually cause the downfall of America, is that government can run an economy. We have destroyed our capital base with Keynesianism and deficits. We have destroyed the incentive for productivity because the moochers basically control the government. No one in their right mind is going to hire right now, because every small business is now facing an extra two thousand dollars per employee minimum for health care. Our system of employee financed healthcare came about due to government interference and wage caps in WW2. Our government has interfered so much, distorted so much of the economy, and distorted incentives so much so that it is better for the lower classes to mooch off the disability system or go on welfare. We need to incentivize productivity, not with new government programs, but by ending a whole bunch of incentive killing programs. There are plenty of opportunities for jobs. We are the only country that routinely puts its servant class on disability and welfare. Loosen the employment and liability laws a little bit and we would have full employment, no problem. It might not be jobs that people like but tough.

  5. One important aspect of unemployment is that the individual may not be buying junk because thay are afraid of the future. Remember since the drunken spending philosophy of RR where we were told to spend, enjoy the good life they was no savings by the lower and middle classes. After the 9/11 attack one of the first things we were told by Bush was to go out and spend. Just this week we are told to spend. Our economy runs on purchase, purchase, spend etc., when people decide to save or not buy junk then the nation job market suffers. China has a problem of sorts by saving, the excuse by the Gov. of China is that the individual saves for the future and if a better pension system is developed than the averagee Chinese wll spend and buy products. I doubt that the Chinese will be buying much American made goods. Also I thought communism took care of you from cradle to grave?

    We cannot have it both ways, 1) save and make the nation
    strong or 2) spend and make the nation strong. Take you choice.

    One of the major reasons that I was disappointed by BO, but will still vote for him, is that so many of his appointees were tax slugs, he should have dropped them immediately and asked the IRS to prosecute them. Oh well, if we were to build jails for tax evaders then the nation would be bankrupt. BO has a vision for the future and that is something the repubs do not have. We do not need to go 40 years in reverse. But our sharing of the economic pie to bring communist countries into the private enterprise system has impacted on our jobs in the USA. These USA jobs starting with trinkets and moving on to electronics and autos were given up to win over the Far East that in part is the price the labor force in the USA has had to pay. Everything is done on the backs of the poor. RR showed how to accumulate wealth, just open the trade doors to Japan and then after leaving office go to Japan for a 6 million dollar speaking tour in front of the Japan business groups. He also benefited by sharing the economic pie.

  6. This is the first article I have ever read by this author with which I did not entirely disagree- amazing!

    However, he is still wrong- the Progressives did formulate a policy which they felt would save the economy and generate jobs- they essentially nationalized large sectors of the economy [banks and car production] and began the process for healthcare, while instituting smothering and debilitating financial regulations, all the while running up huge deficits, believing in the end that would force eventual tax increases. The net result would be, in their vision, a complete redistribution of income and power from the capitalist class to the governing group and their supporters, and the arrival of Paradise on Earth.

    The truth is that Progressives don't, and intellectually cannot, recognize the importance of the market and capitalism in creating wealth, which is the final arbiter of job creation. Their belief in "equality" is the death knell for a dynamic, growing economy, and the Electorate is beginning to understand that.

    Nov. 2 will be the day that American exceptionalism and optimism will announce they are not going quietly into the night. For all our sakes we should pray they are right!

  7. Voters wanted change. We were promised change and transparency in the way things are done in DC. Instead we get a host czars who are not vetted in public. We get bills the size of phonebooks no one has read that require arm twisting and bribing to get passed when the president's party has super majorities in both houses. We get blaming the previous guy and the other party for failure to show promised progress. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Meanwhile, the preferred interest groups get special treatment, federal spending goes up, unemployment goes up, requests for public assistance go up, foreclosures go up, and the wars go on. Large companies are dropping their health coverage. Seniors are losing their Medicare Advantage. Federal employees now have better compensation than the general public. Somehow, I don't think that's the change the voters had in mind.

  8. I would have thought that Obama's big chance was to tack to the center, build a center-left bloc and thereby create a truly popular, but perhaps less dramatic change. You know, the sort of thing that he was saying out of the right side of his mouth during the campaign.
    One more comment - "...a bold and creative employment initiative, tied to long-term investments in infrastructure and green energy...". Can someone explain to me how "green energy" is supposed to create jobs? What I see is an inherenly inefficient energy generation process that apparently will require permanent government subsidies. Jobs created in such an industry are not an asset to the economy, they are expensive make-work. Take ethanol, for example - without the rest of us pitching our tax dollars into subsidies, it simply wouldn't exist on any significant scale. If it were a matter of government subsidizing research for an industry that would eventually be self-supporting, well that is fine. But that isn't really what we are dealing with here. What we have is an industry that is less efficient than the industry which it wants to replace, thereby making energy more expensive. And, to add insult to injury, it requires subsidies!

  9. "President Obama and the Democrats blew an important opportunity at the beginning of the president’s term. That was the time, with the economy in virtual free fall, to rally the American people behind a grand plan to rebuild the nation and its economy for the long term."

    This quote assumes that enough of us are amenable to a shared vision of how the economy could be fixed, and that sufficient numbers in Congress would go along. But we are an ever-more fractured society. I think it might have helped if the stimulus bill had been as large as Dr. Krugman proposed, then at least unemployment would be down substantially more--so much so that even some Republicans would have to admit it worked. (Though the GOP would be shouting even louder about generational debt, and weeping for the fate of hard-working wealthy people who would no longer have the incentive to create jobs, since not earning as many millions each year would be too depressing for them to bear.) As it happened, the stimulus bill we got, pared down from what the administration asked for by the Blue Dogs, was only big enough to keep things from getting worse, and left the action open to the bogus claim that it did nothing at all except increase the deficit.

    Look at the health insurance bill: Most of us who hail it as a great achievement would like to see it improved in the future, and of the big proportion of people who hate it, many of them hate it not because it is too "socialistic", but because it ceded far too much to the insurance companies.

    In this kind of fractured Wonderland political environment, what could the president really have done differently that would get better results--short of allowing and encouraging the Red States to secede?

  10. While I couldn't agree more with the general conclusions provided by Mr Herbert (whose commentary I find deeply moral and righteous) I must ask, what kind of system do we live in where the collective voices of these 44 million in poverty will very likely not be heard? These people will most likely not vote in large numbers. It's the middle class with a tax break to lose that are energized this election cycle. The system is stacked against the poor as it has been since the very beginning. This is a nation founded by land-lording aristocrats mind you.

    I must also note that Mr Herbert gives us the benchmark of 11 million jobs to get back to where we were when the great recession began- but that is and always was a completely unrealistic number precariously balanced on the bubble that popped ( as was inevitable.)

    I concur with Herbert and support a jobs program- principally in infrastructure investment- but that is politically unlikely unfortunately. Still, that is a stop gap measure while we undergo a deep structural change in our economy and correspondingly a change in our culture.... when are we going to "man up" and face the realty of that?

    probably not any time soon.

  11. President Obama deserves credit for giving us a third Clinton administration and it's attendant spin.

    During the nominating campaign he presented a clear choice from what Bill Clinton gave us and Hillary could have been expected to: someone who looked took the long view on problems and solutions versus someone focused on today. During the campaign against McCain this translated into someone focused on policy versus a Republican and their religious focus on politics.

    His administration during the first two years, whether on not it's because his staff is filled with Clinton acolytes is irrelevant, has rarely looked beyond the immediate future. Watered-down health-care, the stimulus, neutered financial legislation, Guantanamo, don't ask don't tell and the wars--none of the things he now calls accomplishments resemble what they could, what they should, or what we were led to believe they would.

    What's even worse is that they also show that he's learned nothing about the Republican party's endless campaigning, everything is politics approach to governance, which is particularly sad considering he's had the opportunity to watch the stimulus from start to finish. How long before the new financial is blamed for the continuing economic malaise, and perhaps far more important do you truly believe the health care legislation will be allowed to take effect before it's 'declared' a failure?

    The only thing that can truly combat the Republican party's complete neglect of governance is an equally committed adherence to it, and that requires the long view he offered in his campaign. He campaigned like someone more than willing to serve one term, but he's performed in office like he doesn't want to lose the next campaign.

  12. That Sinking Feeling…

    James Madison long ago questioned if we were utterly without civic virtue? “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.” If it is so, then we are truly wretched.

    Former British Labour MP Tony Benn clearly elucidated how the majority of Americans, whose interests are so grossly being underserved, and because they have lost their political will, have forgotten what it means to have a truly representative government:

    "Because people in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don't vote.... If the poor...in the United States turned out and voted for people who represented their interests it would be a democratic revolution. So they don't want it to happen. So keeping people hopeless and pessimistic.... See I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people. And secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern, and I think there's an element in the thinking of some people- we don't want people to be educated, healthy and confident because they would get out of control. The top 1 percent of the world's population owns 80 percent of the world's wealth. It's incredible that people put up with it, but they're poor, they're demoralized, they're frightened and they think perhaps the safest thing to do is take orders and hope for the best."

    “However the elections turn out, the Obama administration needs to begin focusing much more intently on the economic plight of ordinary Americans.” I wouldn’t count on that Mr. Herbert. They are complicit tools of the corporate oligarchy, the one percent, who now control this country.

    What do you suppose it will be like when voters realize that, because defense and national security, as vital parts of our “debt-and-credit industrial complex,” are exempt from deficit budget issues, Social Security, Medicare, and other social protections are being tossed over the side, and they find themselves unable to stay above water, after the elections?

    France’s transport ministry last week issued an advisory that a fuel shortage at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris required airlines to arrive with enough fuel to get home, as hundreds of thousands took part in another national protest against President Nicolas Sarkozy's bill to raise the retirement age. This week the protests are escalating, adding to widespread travel disruption, alarm about petrol supplies and the closure of schools. One has to admire the French. Unlike us, they don’t let their economic and political masters run rough shod over them without a huge protest.

    What is needed is what our political and economic masters fear the most, an educated, healthy, confident nation willing to initiate large and clamorous protests, like the French, willing to deny all support to these corporate toadies. If the majority of Americans simply acted out of self-interest and voted only for people who represented their interests, it would be a democratic revolution.

    Are we so utterly without civic virtue? If so, then we are truly wretched.

  13. I do think Obama has accomplished a great deal in just two years, but like all the Presidents before him since JFK--with the possible exception of Ford--he is suffering from what we might think of as "Presidential narcissism." This is the position recent presidents have assumed when they convey the view that they believe they have the truth and if it means being unpopular, so be it. As this gets rolling, they then become more entrenched and self-ennobling. They also become more passively aggressive. The less popular they become the more merit they derive, in their view, from such antipathy.

    They are surrounded, of course, by brilliant people who become unwitting enablers of this kind of addiction to oppositionalism, which accelerates an "attitude" into the mentality of an entire office: The White House.

    North Americans are not known for their insight into themselves, or indeed for any wish to gain insight into the way people tick, but one hopes that somewhere down the road those who lead the country might find it of use to be more self confronting and to gain greater knowledge about their own psychologies so that they can help a nation through its own profound psychological difficulties.

  14. "The problem for President Obama and his party is that logic does not always rule the electoral roost."

    And for that very reason we are where we are today. Thanks to inattention to details and facts, a deafening media echo chamber, and legitimate but misdirected anger about our country's current situation, a large swath of voters rally against those who would help them and support those who have created policies that are destroying the middle class. It seems that logic, understanding, compromise, and most importantly empathy have been sucked out of U.S. politics. In such an environment we will end up the pathetic, divided government we deserve, and not the strong leadership we need.

  15. Well something has to be done about the high cost of health insurance. When the Democrats had the chance to really make a change, like adding a public option, they didn't do it. Instead it appears what they passed is a gift to the health insurance companies at the expense of business and ordinary taxpayers.
    And, when the president had the chance to ramp down the Afghanistan war after all these years, he ramped the war up. In my estimation, every "terrorist", woman, child that is killed or maimed has a father, brother, cousin, etc. that wants revenge so in a sense we are creating more potential "terrorists". And for what purpose?
    When the Democrats had the chance to change the tax code that helps to encourage U.S. companies to move their companies abroad and create jobs in foreign companies, did they do it?
    And has anything been done about naked short selling, the uptick rule and the futures exchange?
    The million and billionaires are still making out like bandits with their 15% capital gains rate and low income tax rate on obscene income while they invest in emerging economies. Did the Democrats step up to the plate to sensibly try to help remedy this imbalance when the country has such mounting debt?
    Count me as one American who is very discouraged by what is happening and I will not vote Republican.

  16. Did the president truly seek consensus with the Republicans? Or did he create the obstructionism with his "I won" proclamation and his consistent ad hominem attacks on the previous administration and current minority party leaders?

    Did the president truly have the welfare of the citizens in mind when he signed the stimulus and the health legislation? He now admits having no real understanding of what constitutes "shovel-ready jobs." If he were truly honest, he must admit the consequences of the health legislation are imperiling the current insurance coverage of thousands, if not millions, of employees.

    The president has ignored the fact that in making a decision, not only the final decision is important but also the means by which it is reached is important to the functioning of the group affected. In promoting his policies and legislation, the president adopted a competitive orientation; he blatantly neglected listening to the truth in other's positions and shunned honest compromise. He stubbornly ignored the areas of disagreement and disparaged those who disagreed. Consequently, he's now seeing "his wins" mutate into losses.

  17. Having aroused an unprecedented euphoria among the diverse sections of people through his agenda for change, and a break from the past in the form and substance of governance if, after two years, Obama finds unable to connect with the people, and the latter don't share his sense of accomplishment, let alone the feeling of participation in Obama's nation building project, which to the vast multitude of them does seem to have gone completely awry, what purpose then Obama's self-patting or deriving comfort from his self-felt correctness of his policy course would serve? For, what Obama seems to be refusing to acknowledge is that when millions of people are without jobs, homes, and hopes, while the perpetrators of the economic/financial trouble, instead of being held accountable and punished, do seem to be fattening each day, how could the common man be faulted for having felt cheated by the very person who claimed to be one with them?

  18. Members of the electorate need to focus on the economic plight of most of us before the elections and get our votes right. The many wack jobs out there, generally labeled "Republican" although a number have "Democrat" written on their label, need to be discarded in favor of politicians of any label who will take action to improve the economy. This means shutting down our foreign adventures, raising taxes, and working to build the infrastructure of the country,ie rail lines, clean energy, improved housing and food production. The election of those voodoo-shouting windbags will pretty much signal the end of our noble American experiment and we can decide whether we want to learn chinese or spanish as our new langage. Americans need to get out and vote in their locality and need to find out something about who they really are voting for! Often the choice is hold your nose and pick the least rancid candidate but despite the reality that most politicians aren't very nice people, there is a real choice and the wrong choice is going to have pretty dreadful consequences! Tbhink first and vote!

  19. There is a lot of validity in what you say but that's not everything. My take on what Obama's analysis was back in 2008 was that our economy was in a mess and to restore it, and restore job creation, we needed 3 fundamental changes;
    - get banks to make loans again
    - reduce health care costs
    - new energy sources to replace fossil fuels

    Stimulus spending can create temporary jobs but real jobs are created by a healthy and growing economy and that's what I understood that he was after. But it didn't communicate.

    The health care bill was a big accomplishment but I don't expect much cost reduction in our future health care costs so the question will be was it all worth it. Maybe the bigger issue than our economy was whether this country was even fixable.

  20. It is not just employment. The people who voted for Obama were expecting him to take a stand against the Republican pluto/kleptocracy. We didn't send him to office to debate the merits of change, we sent him to office to effect change.

    It is ironic that he believes his legislative achievements were "great". To the man on the street they were nothing but disappointments. My health insurance premiums went UP not down. I saw nothing in the bill to guaranty that I would actually receive the coverage I have paid for. I did not get a bonus this year, even if Wall Street executives did. CEO's in this country still make more in ONE DAY than I make working all year. Services are being cut, school teachers furloughed, police officers sent home --and Warren Buffet still pays less in taxes than his secretary. We are still at war, and spending more in Afghanistan alone than we spend on the Food Stamp program for the neediest Americans.

    It isn't a question of selling his achievements, it is a question of what he thinks he should be achieving.

  21. We are suffering the loss of a delusion. Credit card debt allowed masses of us to live beyond our means, and many of us are still not reconciled to reality. No political party can solve that. Jobs will continue to migrate overseas. The only halp would be mssive make-work projects financed by government, but many of those complaining about the economy also complain about big government, leaving a stale-mate. This country is losing its place in the world on the one hand and becoming a land of, by, and for the rich, on the other. I don't see how a political solution can be found. It's too late already.

  22. Both parties are trouble. They have both forgotten what they are elected for; to represent the will of their constituents and to govern in the interests of their country. They are not elected in order to experiment with half-baked theories that they learned from some academic who never stepped outside of academia.
    The U.S. must produce goods. We cannot compete with slave labor. We must produce energy. we cannot be dependent on foreigh sources. We must control our supply sources of raw materials. We cannot be in thrall to foreign powers. The benefit of all this internationalism is not clear. Our jobs have gone overseas and we run a constant trade deficit. Where's the advantage?
    The New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Square Deal, the Great Society; they don't work! Individual initiative, reward for work, opportunity; that is wahat works and has always worked.
    Neither party gets it. Hands out of our pockets! Nose out of our business!

  23. Government can't create real jobs, only temporary ones. The first step to creating jobs is for private business to become optimistic about the future. Then, they will hire people again. Instead Obama keeps on changing the rules of the game. Employers are frightened by what the new health care program will really mean. Business hates uncertainty.

    All of the new programs Obama has ushered through Congress may turn out to be a blessing in the future, or a curse. Nobody knows for sure. But as a businessman, I am not going to bet the farm that everything is going to be rosy in the near future. The Great Depression lasted 10 years. How long will this great recession last? As long as that question lingers in the air, the only way you are going to get jobs back is by offering business some real incentives - make it worth my while to take the risk of hiring new people.

  24. For congress to convene without addressing a vote on taxes is emblematic of the problem here. Consumers and businesses are trying to set budgets and make plans for working through this recession. Knowing their respective tax bracket is critical in planning for 2011. The issue is fundamental. These elected lawmakers largely have never managed a budget or a business. They are focused on getting re-elected. Our President has consistently championed legislation that allows the government gradual steps to control our personal lives and businesses. Putting plans in place to repair the economy requires an understanding of business. Mr. Hebert we have a non sequitur here.

  25. Overall, a pretty perceptive piece, especially for an Obama true believer. I think the writer missed a couple of points, though. First and most obvious, a large part of the public's anxiety is a belief that the President's legislative agenda has made things worse by vastly increasing the national debt and taking on huge new entitlements, with little or no real benefits.

    Mr. Herbert repeats the Democratic trope that Republicans have been "unwilling to work with" the President, but I think the real tone was set by Mr. Obama in his first meeting with congressional Republicans, when they suggested several stimulus provisions they could support, and he dismissed them, saying "but I won".

    Mr. Herbert faults Mr. Obama for not clearly laying out a vision of where he wants to take the country, but I think this is unfair. Mr. Obama has laid out a pretty comprehensive vision, which includes government-guaranteed access to health care, government-supervised doctors, regulators defining how financial markets should work, government support for financially unfeasible "green energy" - really the whole liberal laundry list of causes that has been pretty unpopular for the last 40 years or so.

    And then, Mr. Herbert echoes Mr. Obama by blaming voters' unreasoning fear, rather than reasonable skepticism over the competence of government, for their resistance to these ideas. It is this last attitude that makes me fear that Mr. Obama and his supporters will be unable to learn from the thrashing they're about to take, and will become even more doctrinaire in their pursuit of a society that the American people consistently reject, leading ultimately to a failed presidency.

  26. The message is right, but the prescription is flawed. Can we please declare a moratorium on pundits calling for more spending on infrastructure? Not everyone looking for a job is a carpenter, cement truck driver, or ironworker. Factory workers and white collar workers are looking for jobs too. Yet the only "creative" ideas to emerge from the editorial pages of The Times are "invest in infrastructure" and "more green jobs". As if the software engineer whose job got outsourced to India is going to start filling potholes and the load off tool and die maker is going to start installing solar panels on houses.

    What middle class America needs, and what no one in Washington has to guts to propose, is a trade policy with teeth that punishes China, a tax policy that ends breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas (see: Obama campaign promise, empty), a renegotiation of NAFTA (more campaign rhetoric), and a return to the progressive income tax rates of the 1950's.

  27. Ah ,the arrogance of the intelligentsia rears it/s ugly head. Investing in infrastructure and green energy as a way to economic rebirth? That kind of thinking is the way to failure. Here is a op-ed columnist who is deciding how to make the economic engine of america roar again. Maybe he should actually start a business and create some jobs before he spends americas money on a business he clearly knows nothing about. The way to renewed growth is by using the power of government to create a fair climate for businesses to compete. Some will fail and others will thrive. Predicting which ones will do what is impossible and when the government starts to do it it becomes tyrannical and is doomed to failure. Some regulation is necesary for fairness but government has no business starting business.

  28. Its all over the net that after the November election Ben Bernanke intends to unleash his full blooded Cheap Dollar policy. And the American governments devaluation of the Dollar will continue until the American economy's growth results in lower American unemployment. In short expect more tax cuts and growing government spending funded by the printing press. This will be the last American Government that doesn't embrace full scale protectionism. Globalization is about to decompose into a network of hostile regions.

  29. As usual, Mr Herbert is completely in the tank for this administration and the democratic party. The complaint that the Republicans "would not work with Obama" stands in contrast to a newly minted president whose first words were "we won", when presented with ideas from opposition party. So the opposition let him have the ball and run the game, and now we see the the mess Obama has created - confusion, concern and consternation.
    Finally, the seeds of our current destruction are not from the last 2, 8 or 30 years. This is the result of government continuing to give away or subsidize goods and services - mortgages, food, housing, heath care, etc. When you give away something for "free", that item or service has no value...and we the users of those services expect these gifts, but do not take care of them.

  30. When I randomly ask if individuals feel that they were personally helped by the stimulus package ($875 billion is almost $3,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country), the overwhelming majority say no. Ditto TARP. Ditto the auto bailout. No "rich" were asked. What will the answer be if I ask the same question re: the Health Care package? In the last 10 yrs. U.S. GDP as increased about 50%. Non-defense total gov't spending has doubled. For the last 3 yrs the figures are 3% and 30%. While these trends may please some, this nation is center to center-right, where neither the Republican or Democrat bases want to be. For those in the middle the lesson is clear. Split control has the best shot of moving in the direction they want to go.

  31. It is a sad state of affairs that we can only look to one party to attend to the economic health of the country. Too bad that both political parties put together do not represent a majority of the population. When do we get legislators that are not tied to some out of date party platform based on cultural warfare and zero sum arguments? Will the current crop of tea party extremists manage to bring sense to our lawmaking? Early indications and results from the debates promise more rancor and vitriol regardless who wins. It seems apparent that this political landscape will provide no winners at all.

  32. For heaven's sake, Bob! As a supposedly well-informed opinion-shaper at the New York Times, you, if anyone, should make the distinction between the bank bailouts, which were proposed and accomplished under the Bush administration by Bush appointees, and the stimulus bill, which in fact was an Obama initiative. You can't blame the American people for having a short memory if you yourself can't remember the past two years clearly, and conflate two separate and distinct responses to the financial meltdown.

  33. This Democrat Congress bailed out the bankers, with no strings attached; and then wasted almost a trillion dollars on so-called stimulus that caused unemployment to go from eight percent to ten percent. No rational person should vote for a Democrat.

  34. President Obama's accomplishments have indeed been huge, if you're an insurance company executive, or the CEO of a bank who got those generous bailout funds. Let's face it - our President might as well be a closet Republican. He feels our pain, does indignant hand-wringing really well, and nobody does a town hall or a backyard schmooze fest better.

    But actions speak louder than words. The same week he lifted a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, he said a moratorium on foreclosures in the wake of massive bank fraud wouldn't be such a good idea. That mortgage modification program he touted was a PR stunt to placate distressed homeowners. It hasn't helped. He has "suggested" that banks work with strapped consumers, and that they make loans to help small businesses. Hasn't happened. He can't make them. And Congress is obstructive.

    The Republicans aren't playing fair - but why should they? The President should have guessed a month after he took office that consensus building wasn't going to work - and yet he kept up the charade. Instead of fighting for a public option in health care reform, he dealt in secret with the insurance companies, and nonchalantly tossed the ball to Congress. Turns out the public option was never even on the table, if you can believe a recent interview with Tom Daschle. But Obama "supported" it. That was supposed to make us feel better.

    Maybe the reason Obama hasn't been able to sell his accomplishments to middle class voters is because the sales pitch is empty, and everybody has caught on. When the Republicans win the House, he can blame the whining left and the enthusiasm gap and the car in the ditch. Maybe he should just blame himself.

  35. I have that "sinking feeling", Bob. Everytime I hear the President Obama's voice and his ceaseless nonsensical platitudes. The country is falling apart and creating massive debt daily, and Obama keeps droning on about "yes we can", and ditches and drivers and other drivel referring to several years ago. We need to elect some people with vision in November, because we sure don't have any, anywhere in sight, right now.

  36. What accomplishments?

  37. He stuck in his thumb,
    And pulled out a prune,
    And said "What a good job I've done!"

  38. “I don’t know where we’re headed,” said a businessman named Chuck Carruthers, who chatted with me in a coffee shop in Atlanta last week. “But I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s anyplace good.”

    I think it may be time for serious journalists to begin to help us consider what the "places" none of which is good will look like. The more I think about it, the more I fear that the place to which we are headed is a place called CHAOS.

  39. The last time I looked President Barack Obama is a Democrat. Is he looking after the interests of ordinary Americans? His Justice Department certainly is not. It is appealing the DADT decision and is supporting former Attorney General John Ashcroft in the case that the Supreme Court is going to hear. In that case, Obama's AG is arguing that Ashcroft has permanent immunity from any lawsuit that might arise from his wrongdoing as the AG. Since Elena Kagen has to recuse herself from the case it is almost certain that the court will rule in favor of Ashcroft.

    Here's my question for Obama and Holder. What is it that your AG has done, Mr. President, that you need to ensure that the supremes provide him and all future AGs with immunity? The kind of activity that Ashcroft engaged in is exactly what the framers of the constitution wanted to prevent when they crafted the Bill of Rights.

    I could go on about Obama's lack of care for middle class America but any of them that read this already know that what was promised was not kept.

    www.johnnewlinart.com

  40. The question is are the uncomfortable feeling of some or is it many Americans independent or are they dependent on the negative nabobery of writers like Mr. Herbert? I say its dependency.

  41. Jeez, ya think??!!!

  42. Democrats are also in trouble because Mr. Obama campaigned as a different kind of politician, one who could be trusted. He then proceeded to break his promises on issue after issue, without even the courtesy of an explanation. Now he expects his former supporters to still trust him? Many of us, especially the young who actually thought this time would be different, may simply give up on voting.

  43. Does anyone else have the feeling they've seen this very same column eight or ten times now?

  44. Swamped by debt, elderly Americans have been seeking bankruptcy-court protection at sharply faster rates than other adults, a study to be released Tuesday indicates.
    From 1990 to 2008, the rate of personal bankruptcy filings among those ages 65 or older jumped by 153%, according to AARP. The most startling rise occurred among those ages 75 to 84, whose rate soared 483%.
    Is American Dream the Greatest Fraud in human history?

  45. The simple fact is that Obama inherited a no-win situation.

    He was so thoroughly sandbagged by Warpresident Bush and the GOP-controlled media (Fox News, every talker on AM radio national and local, the inexplicable GOP apologists at the Washington Post, the conservative-leaning CNN) that anything he did would be criticized from the opposite point of view.

    If he had done nothing to rescue the auto companies, he would have been pilloried as anti-American jobs. He tries to impose some meaningful regulations on the corrupt American banking industry and he's declared "anti-business." He tries to save the American auto makers and he's a "socialist." If he had ignored the automakers he would have been declared anti-American jobs.

    Use renewable energy as a jobs creator? My god, man! He talked up that subject until he was green in the face! He invested tax dollars into renewable energy and launched major new projects! It was all ignored or ridiculed. What more does he have to do?

    Obama's major political defect is his skin color. But even if he were as white as pearl-handled revolver, he would get nowhere as a Democrat. The media and the money men of the corrupt Republican Party will not let any Democrat succeed.

    They played their trump card with the Supreme Court's 5-4 Citizens United case. Now, no one can regulate or control the wealthiest most powerful corporations in the world. It would be political suicide to even suggest that ExxonMobil try not to spill any oil on our beaches or to hint that maybe greenhouse gases will cause environmental disaster.

    I applaud your efforts to help with your suggestions, Bob. But it's over. The Republican Party and their corporate masters have "the people" in checkmate.

  46. Mr. Herbert, I agree that jobs and economic recovery are the fundamental issue facing our country right now. But let's keep in mind who got us into this mess - President Bush and the conservative policies promoted by Republicans (and a few Blue Dogs) - and that the Republicans have launched an all-out war to prevent the Democrats from addressing the mess. For example:

    * Republicans Eliminated 130,000 Jobs by filibustering the extension of the TANF Emergency Fund, which provided funding for small businesses, non-profits, and local governments to employ people.

    * Republicans Obstructed Small Business Aid by filibustering legislation that provides a $30 billion small business lending fund and $12 billion in small business tax breaks. While the Democrats first proposed this legislation in February 2010, they were not able to overcome the Republican filibuster until September 2010.

    * Republicans Filibustered the Most Effective Stimulus Available delaying the extension of unemployment benefits on multiple occasions. The Congressional Budget Office and other experts have identified unemployment benefits as the most effective stimulus policy because it puts money directly in the hands of people who will spend it almost immediately on necessary staples like food, gasoline, and rent.

    * Republicans Triggered Layoffs of State and Local Public Servants by removing aid to state and local governments from the stimulus bill and filibustering an aid package proposed last summer to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers. While the private sector has seen job growth throughout 2010, overall job numbers are down because cash-strapped local governments are laying off tens of thousands of people.

    * Republicans Obstructed the Appointment of Qualified Nominees for 20 positions in the U.S. Treasury and three Federal Reserve Board of Governors positions, delaying the ability of the Obama Administration to operate at full capacity as it seeks to fix our economy.

    Yes, President Obama could have been more aggressive. But with a Republican Party willing to sacrifice our economy for two years in order to have the President fail, and a media that was more than happy to play right along with the Republicans' efforts, increased aggressiveness most likely would not have mattered. What would matter is for the voters to roundly reject Republican obstructionism by returning Democratic majorities on November 2nd. Then, on November 3rd, we can get back to the work of pushing the Democratic majorities to fixing the mess that the Republicans created.

    http://www.winningprogressive.org

  47. Why should Obama care? His life, and the life of his entourage (people like Valerie Jarett)has been a dream. A dream that would be much harder to have in Europe (certainly careers such as Jarett's or Rahm Emanuel's, or even Obama's own spouse, are not imaginable in Europe, because this sort of rich mix between politics, money and self advancement would end them in jail there... In Europe there are explicit laws against this... In France hospital administrator requires special studies and a competitive exams, one cannot just be a connected lawyer, like Valerie or Michelle and be paid extravagant sums to administer health care, while being simple lawyers).

    Thus, for Obama, if you play the game of the plutocracy right, your dreams will come true. So he made it so that the dreams of the military-industrial, financial, health care, big pharma, big oil, big everything plutocracy would keep on coming, to keep his own dream alive.

    When one lives off the cancer, why would one want to excise it from the body?

    It's all very sad.
    http://patriceayme.wordpress.com/

  48. Obama has been the best president the United States have had in the last 50 years. It is Washington that is the problem. Congress is a puppet theater run by lobbbyists and special interest.

    Unfortunately, there is no simple or fast solution. I certainly cannot think of one. May-be we should ask the Europeans how they did it?

  49. Mr. Herbert adds, almost as an after thought: "And the country is still at war."
    This could well be the cause of the ongoing malaise afoot in the land. The President should declare, this week, an end to this ridiculous war and then note the results that will automatically follow. Not a bad experiment to dabble in for offsetting the prevailing "........ headed in the wrong direction" description that currently plagues us.

    The endless arguments about where we should be headed are debilitating, to say the least. However, one thing is certain; until we solve the unemployment problem we shall remain dead in the water. The time has come for the government to begin to develop 1930's type job programs such as the WPA and the CCC.

    During the Great Depression job creation programs put people to work and provided greatly needed improvements to the infrastructure. Our infrastructure is certainly in need of attention and the government in its entirety has an obligation to address both the unemployment situation along with the needs of the infrastructure. Could anything be more obvious?

    The monies for these greatly needed efforts can be realized through the following actions:
    1.) Bring to an end all job outsourcing by Corporations, either by way of applied laws or more quickly through strong taxation of the difference in labor costs realized by the Corporations practicing these destructive programs. Bring the jobs back home or pay up. Also apply tariffs to all goods brought back to the US by these destructive Corporations. (Provides stimulus monies for job creation programs.)

    2.) Bring to an end the occupation of Afghanistan and make serious efforts to reduce the budget of the Department of Defense. Efforts have already begun in this area and should continue. (Provides stimulus monies for job creation programs.) We cannot afford this military indulgence any longer. Note the link: www.costofwar.com

    3.) Raise the top tax rate from 35% back to the 39.5% that it was under President Clinton, who managed to balance the budget and then began to pay down the National Debt. Let ALL the irresponsible Bush tax cuts expire. (The median income is around $50,000 and the tax reduction for that median income was $909. This amounts to $75/month. All incomes below $50,000 received lesser amounts as tax cuts. Time to sacrifice, fellow citizens.) Address the neglected matter of the Inheritance Tax . (Provides stimulus monies for job creation programs.)

    The President and the Congress should address these issues immediately and we should harass them until these issues are given serious attention. Any Congressman/Senator who advocates the above should be voted into office in November.

    Rest assured that Republicans will be opposed to any and all efforts to solve our current problems. They thrive on unrest, tension, and frustration for they count on these factors to return them to power. Therefore do not return them to office. Do not vote for these obstructionists, who also thrive on promoting warfare and keeping the military-industrial complex in business. Let us get off this road to nowhere but endless trouble and the great waste of resources.

    All of the above are rather obvious, if one is capable of clear thinking and has a desire to put us on a road headed in the right direction - for a change. Now there is real "change", obviously.

  50. Yeah, Obama's big problem is that he hasn't tooted his horn enough.

    GOOD GRIEF!

  51. Escalating the war in Afghanistan would appear to be the only "jobs" program goin' these days.

    Praise the lord and pass the ammunition...

  52. A massive jbs program should have been first on the Obama agenda followed by rescuing people losing their houses because of exploding mortgage rates, placed there by corrupt mortgage brokers.

    These two things more than anything else should have been done.

    It's no use crying now though.

  53. okay

  54. Your messiah is waiting or divine intervention. He's going to get it all right.

  55. Perhaps you are right that the Democrats didn't push for a large enough response to the economic crisis, and in the short term the cost of pushing a health care bill through Congress was too high. However, you sure sound removed from Congressional reality in your recent commentary -- as though you believe Obama and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate exist in a world free to mold to their will. (And simply blaming out of touch congressmen and women won't help your cause, given the schizophrenic behavior of the voting public in America...). I guess I just miss the old Bob Herbert, before his Chicken Little days and shrill - no bitter - complaints about the current administration. Mr. Herbert, perhaps a vacation is in order, or maybe a position is opening at FOX News?

  56. Obama needs to stop listening to 'Lord Browne's British tax policies and the OECD.

    Let's think for ourselves and what is best for OUR American people.

  57. We have to face this future. The anger and sarcasm of the tea party is no solution. I'll take the Obama approach. It's not as snappy but will result in a solid foundation for the future. We need brains, innovation, hard work and respect for one another. We need that high road.

  58. Why would the president think he has a great list of "accomplishments" when the American people were/are strongly against these said accomplishments in increasing majorities? Healthcare, wasteful Stimulus Bill, bailouts, rising unemployment, record debt and deficits, etc., etc. Our President is living in La-La Land. It only shows how out of touch he is with the American populace. It's not the messaging or politics.

  59. Hey Bob. I tend to agree with your assessment. I just doubt that anything more aggressive would have made it through Congress. I mean, your suggestion "long term investment in infrastructure and green energy" would be a very large "spending bill". And spending that money on anything "green"??? FOX would have a field day. And a lot of those poor Americans you talk about do nothing but watch crazy people on Fox.

  60. There is no sinking feeling whatsoever. Obama has overpromised and underdelivered.

    The Tea Party has been been generically and collectively assaulted and defamed in the main-stream media as Neanderthals, rooted in a 1787 fixation vis-a-vis the Constitution.

    To the vexation of Upper East Side liberals, I have two engineering degrees, love classical music and whole-heartedly support the Tea Party platform of rolling back Big Government with respect to taxation, individual liberty and getting the Federal government off my back.

  61. Bob, here's how Obama has failed.

    1. His stimulus package was supposed to keep unemployment from going above 8 percent. It didn't. He failed.

    2. Thanks to Obamacare, my old insurance plan is not longer available. Obama lied when he said, "If you like your current plan, you'll be able to keep it." Wrong. My company no longer offers the old plan, and under the new plan, my family deductible has gone from $300 per calendar year to $2,800 per calendar year. So much for bending the cost curve downward. Or maybe Obama meant: Bend over and face downward.

    You need to WAKE UP, Bob.

  62. Hebert's got it wrong. At the beginning of his term, Obama did do something about jobs. He pushed through a $800B stimulus plan that was supposed to keep unemployment below 8%.

    What is the problem? His policy didn't work. Why? Instead of stimulating the economy, he wasted nearly $1T on a 8 years of Democratic pet projects that they couldn't pass under Bush.

    Voters think the country is going in the wrong direction because it is. Obama's economic policies aren't working; he is bankrupting the country and spending our children's money.

    Both Hebert and Obama need to get a clue.

  63. It's been almost two years since Obama was elected president. Although I saw him as an empty suit long before the election, I resigned myself to the fact that he was my president and I would be open-minded. As George H. W. Bush said after he got beat by Clinton in 1992... "if he runs the country as well as he ran his campaign, we're gonna be alright".

    Only one national conservative stood his ground as Obama began unrolling his agenda, even though many of us knew he was off track with his Keynesian economic and 'share the wealth' philosophy. The rest believed the rhetoric that conservatism was dead, or at the least, were afraid to speak up lest they be targeted by the media for their views.

    This man was universally villified for his position and even though he was right and still is.

    Here's what has since transpired:

    In two years we have spent 3 trillion dollars plus the future interest payments, money my children and grandchildren will never have available to eat, purchase their dreams, travel or live the lifestyle you and I have enjoyed.

    In two years we have propped up two failing auto manufacturers who make products Americans do not want to or will not purchase.

    In two years we have committed my heirs to a lifetime of debt to bail out bloated state public unions; their excessive pay, unnecessary jobs, health care plans and pensions.

    In two years we have created a class warfare, where the middle class and poor are being goaded into hating the people who could someday hire them and in many cases, who pay the taxes that pay for their food, housing and education.

    In two years time, I have watched race relations deteriorate as my president speaks directly to people of color and tells them that because of their color, Republicans (aka rich, white men) do not want them to vote this November.

    In two years time, I have seen public unions, the leading banks, the insurance companies and others make special deals with the majority, feathering their bed for the future, yet I am incorrectly led to believe that conservatives are actually the only ones they are bed with.

    I could go on, but i'll save the other shameless problems that are getting worse under this leadership for people similar to me who wished they had spoken up and listened to the only conservative who dared to speak out.

    This morning, to him, I tip my hat and thank him. He knows who he is and so do all of you. Peace.

  64. The author is disingenuous when he says, "Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have come to grips with this fear, although the Republicans have done yeoman’s work exploiting it." How can Republicans do anything about as the minority, when every amendment or proposal they make is smacked dead in a perverse show of Democratic partisanship. The American public knoows all too well that this is a mess that Dem's did all by themselves, without any help from the other side.

  65. You're right, Bob. Obama's response to our national emergency has been tentative from the beginning. He did more than a Republican president would have done, but not enough to distinguish himself as someone fighting for the middle class and poor. The Democrats could have pushed through significant legislation on jobs, healthcare, education, etc. They didn't because either they were afraid or they didn't want to. Now the Democrats are in trouble. Obama should have pushed his agenda harder, should have refused to compromise with obstructionist Republicans. If voters return Republicans to power in Congress, which seems likely, Obama's presidency will be effectively over. And he can blame himself.

  66. Another near-perfect column by Mr. Herbert. Why don't more people affiliated with the U.S.'s "elite" institutions get what's going on here?

    My one quibble:

    "Democrats are in trouble because they have not been nearly aggressive enough in confronting this profound economic crisis facing so many millions of ordinary Americans."

    I'm sorry, but a slight edit is called for in that sentence, like so: "... they have not confronted in any way, shape, or form this profound economic crisis ...." Everything the Dems have done has been exclusively aimed at helping out the worst players on the field - megabanks, insurance conglomerates, the fossil fool corporations, et al. -- or at the very best, rewarding them more than handsomely from the public purse for minor concessions (and I do mean minor) to the public good.

  67. Too late! Ordinary Americans would rather vote the racist, fundamentalist imbecile line because it makes them feel better about themselves.

    It was apparent long before 2008 that the US economy was in a mess, mainly because of Republican and Republican inspired policies that favored the wealthy speculators over the investors. It took 15 years for the Democrats to see the needed changes bear fruit after 1933 and everyone knows that Americans don't have such patience anymore.

    Prepare for Third World status within a generation.

  68. Bob-

    It's not just about jobs, jobs, jobs. What about self-starting small businesses like ma & pa shops and the self-employed? The entire outlook for small business is abysmal. We have empty storefronts across America. Corporate franchises are doing well but they are NOT REALLY small businesses.

  69. Very short-sighted, this viewpoint. Yes, the nation is headed in the wrong direction, but this is something onsetting over 30 years. Most of the people wondering why we head in the direction voted for the people who put us in bad shape. And one man is going to fix this? Nope.
    If you haven't noticed America is losing to the rest of the world. Obama is trying to catch up us. Please notice that.

  70. No! The Dem's are in trouble because the people now see them for who they are, elitist socialists.

  71. Bob, we know how you feel about unemployment and poverty. You write the same column twice a week. But with each rant you place more of the blame on Obama. In your frustration with the president, you're starting to sound like one of the morons who, disappointed that Obama has not personally perfected the economy, plan to vote for Nazi re-enactors, gold-standard enthusiasts, Right to Life wackos and Club for Growth plutocrats.

    Since logic has proven ineffective, as you say, you're apparently suggesting that the president ditch more far-sighted goals (health care comes to mind) in order to pander harder. Even dumber is your naive supposition that a simple-mindedly populist Obama could have prevailed against the Republicans' campaign of economic sabotage. Widespread misery is exactly what they wanted.

    Sure, voters want change. Their impending tantrum will bring them exactly what they deserve, which is government by the viciously self-interested and the clinically insane. And I guess you'll blame that on Obama, too.

  72. The Democrats should be driving home the point that American global leadership depends on keeping them in power. The events of this decade have proven that you cannot lead the world from Crawford, Texas. What I mean is that America will not wield soft power (which is the kind that matters most) if it's dominated by a small-town Bible Belt party that talks morality while making global war, ignoring climate change, and allowing kids to go without health care. We know this from experience. Bottom line, a vote for the GOP is a de facto vote for a return to anti-Americanism and a global power vacuum -- and this can't be good for anybody, least of all the United States.

  73. I read the interview to which Mr. Herbert is referring. I finished it believing, and not for the first time, that Barack Obama is just another educated fool, the country's latest version of the Best and the Brightest whose hubris ruined our armed forces in Vietnam. I'm now praying that he is challenged from the left in the Democratic presidential primaries leading up to 2012. Obama's a bad joke.

  74. Hate to scuttle your narrative Bob--but already in the first two years more jobs have been created by this president than during the eight years under the previous one. What else do you call a stimulus bill if not a "jobs package"? Oh ... you forgot about the stimulus package you say? Well, forgive me then for pointing out that this president DID have his priorities in order. Things can be difficult, however, when the scale of the disaster one faces is of monumental magnitude and the obstructionists one has to work around so obstreperous.

  75. rather than accepting that they massively overreached and misread their mandate, pundits are still trying to spin the idea that Obama is just too brilliant for the backward masses to understand, and we should all be so grateful to our Ivy League elite betters in their attempts to remake our lives in their image. Especially those at the cabinet level or above who have never worked a single day at a profit making job creating private enterprise. The level of condescension and arrogance are only matched by the almost unbelievable level of incompetence by people who should know better.

  76. Just think, if McCain had been elected president the Republican party would now be on the brink of extinction for driving the country into a depression every bit as bad as that in the 1930's. The Republicans would have liquidated the big banks instead of bailing them out. The liquidity and value of the dollar would have crashed, pauperizing millions of individuals and businesses. They never would have offered loans to Chrysler and GM, contingent upon sensible reorganization, ensuring that those two giant companies and all the ancillary businesses dependent upon them would fail and an additional 3 million jobs would be lost. There never would have been a Stimulus bill. Therefore there would not have been about $400 billion in tax cuts to small businesses; moreover, state and local government could not have covered hundreds of billions in salaries to teachers, police, fire protection, paramedics, emergency room personnel and many similar jobs. The long-term jobless would have had their unemployment benefits cut off long ago, leaving them only crime as a potential mechanism to feed their families and pay their rent. The tough-talking jingoistic McCain Republicans would most probably have had us enmeshed in yet another war in Iran by now. There never would have been any legislation to improve the health care crisis in America, because there would have been a guaranteed veto from McCain. In fact, based on their current rhetoric, the GOP would have made efforts to privatize social security and cut back Medicare, Medicaid and the minimum wage. If they had been able to find enough ConservaDem sell-outs in the congress, like Max Baucus and Ben Nelson, they might actually have made some headway even without majorities in either house. Remember, only the Republicans vote in lock step. A substantial number of Dems always sell out their party and its principles. It's the reason Bush always got whatever he wanted. Oh, and not to forget, the Bush tax cuts for the rich would have been made permanent under McCain.

    Does any of that sound like it would have been winning policy over the past two years? It would have been a catastrophe. The GOP would have been banished from this country forever, instead of being welcomed back to power for having sabotaged and obstructed whatever Obama and the Democrats tried to do. Yeah, things might have been a bit better if Obama had chosen somewhat different priorities, but the country would now be a full blown disaster if McCain had won that election. Now Obama is about to be rewarded by an ungrateful nation for saving us from the brink. He'll be presented with a congress made up of a majority of lunatic right wingers trying to complete the demolition job that they started under Dubya. As they say, virtue is it's own punishment.

  77. Message to Obama, and to all 2012 presidential contenders: It's the economy, stupid!!! It was in 1992, it is now, and it always will be. Before I can care about the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, or abortion rights, or any other social or political or even religious issue, I have to have a secure source of income. I have to know that I have a secure job with decent wages. I have to know as a retiree that I have a safe pension, that Social Security is funded and that Medicare is secure, all part and parcel of what most Americans consider to be the economy. As bad as I hate to admit it, even healthcare takes a backseat to what I have loosely defined as the economy, because as long as I have a secure source of income, whether it be during my working years or in retirement, I'll figure out how to pay the doctor, or at least for insurance. I voted for you Obama, and I'll do it again, if you quit spending billions in Afghanistan, trumpet your legislative victories up to now, and then spend night and day dedicating yourself to getting people back to work at a living wage. I won't vote for the obstructionists from the other party, but that doesn't mean I have to vote for anyone, does it?

  78. Yes, Obama was not bold enough or focused enough on working people. So the obvious answer is to give the country back to the Republicans so that they can turn everything over to their corporate CEOs, increase income inequality and take down the safety nets. That should really do wonders for workers.

  79. Several large counties across US are experiencing unprecedented increases in the number of unclaimed deceased – apparently because more people simply cannot afford to bury or cremate their loved ones. The phenomenon has increased costs for local governments, which have to dispose of the bodies.
    The Los Angeles County coroner’s office has seen a surge in the number of bodies that are not claimed by families for cremation or burial because of economic hardship, according to the Los Angeles Times.
    The coroner’s office in Clark County, Nev., which includes Las Vegas, saw a 27% increase in burials and cremations of unclaimed bodies this year…
    So it looks like even the dead are getting bailouts in America. For decades, US media always claims Americans have enjoyed prosperity unprecedented in human history. I travel to US almost every other year, on personal level, my impression is Most American just practice Keep Up with the Jonese, constantly project a FAKE wealthy image which mostly back up the dozens credit cards. There is just huge gap between ordinary Americans life and flash images on TV. I sincerely believe vast majority of so called American middle class are just 2 or 3 paychecks from jail.

  80. I usually don't agree with Mr Herbert, and he certainly beats around the bush, but what he is saying is that Obama and the Democrats have failed miserably at what the American people elected them to do! Mr President you were elected to repair and restore the economy! You were elected to put people back to work! You and your party have failed! What's worse you have failed out of arrogance and ideological determination to use the power the people gave you to restore their jobs to cram your left wing agenda down their throats while you ignored their misery and joblessness! While millions were losing their jobs you ignored the economy and spent all your efforts forcing the corrupt healthcare bill down our throats! We could have accepted small changes to reform healthcare, but leaving millions of Americans without jobs in a sinking economy is unforgivable. We've had enough arrogance and contempt for a lifetime, and we are going to the polls in Nov and fire every Democrat on the ballot. You'll have two more years to work with the Republicans to restore the economy and put people back to work. If you don't we'll decide who to blame, and fire you or the Republicans in Congress, or both! After the election knock of the arrogance and ideology and get the economy moving again and the American people back to work!!!

  81. You've got that right, Bob. Voters across the spectrum know the same thing: Wall Street got bailed out, and Main Street got hung out...to dry. Without knowing any of the dirty details, Joe Six Pack knows this: ALL of the politicians involved are either dupes of Wall Street or simply indifferent (I hate to say it, but I think Obama has a little of both).
    The unfortunate footnote to all of this is that the time has come to transition out of a consumer and military-oriented Industrial Age. What does that look like? Japan.

  82. How about walking a mile in O'Bama's shoes? He's elected to repair an economic sewer left him by the Bushies and get out of an expensive war engineered by them that is draining both the Treasury and the lives of our children. Add to that a health care system so inefficient and non-cost effective it is taking the country toward bankruptcy. Not to mention that the major players needed to fix the economy are mostly bandits wearing suits, eager to dump you should you punish them or regulate their exceses. Enough whining - should the Democrats lose Congress, it will in large part be due to media afraid to stand up for someone trying to do a decent job and kow-towing to an evil cabal whose only interest is their own, and to hell with their country's. Get off the soap box and get down with the decent folks trying to save this country.

  83. Well said, Bob.

  84. I actually think that the administration has been focused on the economic plight of ordinary Americans (accounting for the number and scope of the other problems they've been tasked to take on). I'll grant you
    their communication strategy could be better. They've also been somewhat constrained from less than enthusiastic support from within the democratic congressional caucus, not to mention the difficulty in generating any small amount of bi-partisan cooperation.

    And then of course even if ALL of the right policies, decisions and implementation of these policies is made there is still a > 2 year lag before results are seen.

    On the other hand, this probably all stuff the administration should have known coming in....

  85. With all due respect, I don't think Democrats must focus more intently on the ecomonic plight of ordinary Americans, but ordinary Americans must focus more intently on the three wars they are losing: the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the class war in America.

  86. As usual, Mr. Herbert has put his finger directly on where Obama and the Democrats have failed. They will pay dearly, as will the nation.

  87. It's not all President Obama's fault. Congress took the month of August off for a recess. Now they are taking the month of October off for another recess. But after the election they will not return until mid November, so there will be two more weeks of recess. But Congress will remain in Washington for only four days and leave again for a Thanksgiving recess.

  88. That's a BINGO!

  89. This column really shows the mentality that has gripped our nation. The entire suite of government assistance programs (started of course with good intentions) have lead millions of Americans down a path of hopelessness and despair. Given the option of striving to be independent and working thru hard times or turning to the government for apparently never ending assistance, a growing number of people are choosing the latter. People are not forced to be accountable for their actions and /or choices, and are instead told that they are not responsible, or it is someone else's fault. A quote that I recently came across I think says it all:
    "The lessons of history ... show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit."
    Who said it..... Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his 1935 State of the Union address. That's right... the godfather of American socialism even knew what government assistance would lead to.

  90. You are far more clear-sighted in this matter than anyone in the president's administration, including alas Obama.

  91. unfortunately, what you say is true

  92. Bob: I know that I sound like a broken record, however, I have been advocating for a 21st century Works Progress Administration (WPA) to put people back to work fixing the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure in this crumbling nation for the past two years in New York Times blogs. You can pay for this WPA with the TARP monies that are being paid back by the banks, unused TARP funds, repealing the tax cuts for the rich, and new taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. The use of alcohol and cigarettes costs this nation enormous sums of monies in health care costs. Of course, the Republicans will oppose the creation of a WPA because all they care about is greasing the skids for the rich, destroying the environment, keeping Americans ignorant so that they will believe their lies, and shipping jobs to foreign nations.

  93. Well said, Mr Herbert! I think the Democrats would have done a much better job over the past two years had they focused on jobs (and not term 'shovel-ready' jobs that Obama recently conceded do not exist, but a long-term improvement in the economy).

    Looking back at both the Obama and Bush administrations (both of whom face election cycles calling for fundamental change), if there was any lesson I would have gleaned, it would be this: Political parties cannot try to ram policies through Congress that the public are not comfortable with -- even if, in someone's eyes, those policies are for the public's own good.

    Immigration reform in the Bush administration was one example, which led to the Republicans losing Congress in 2008. The Bush stimulus was another policy (which passed Congress) that demonstrated a disconnect between public and policy.

    Let's not forget that Obama came to power on a mantle of hope and change--making Washington a place where policies reflected the needs of people rather than the special interests. It didn't help that one of his first policies was to create a stimulus that dumped money on his union supporters and the NEA (all the while increasing future obligations for states at a time of financial shortage).

    Obama set himself a high bar and people held him to that standard; sadly, he has failed so far and lost trust. Some might argue that Obama was simply being a politician in making such claims. However, I would liken it to politicians on the right preaching family values whilst having an affair. The bar is, whether we like it or not, higher for those politicians than for others--because they themselves set the bar that high as a reason for their election into office.

    In the end, we need (in my view) to appreciate that politicians *represent* the public, and are by their nature public servants. Those who forget this simply strengthen the cynicism and fear that have made movements such as the Tea Party possible.

  94. In 14 days the nation will repudiate the Left, which includes just about every defeatist notion that Bob Herbert has ever advanced. Government will begin its retreat from our lives and businesses will begin to hire again. And if he does not begin to move toward the Center, in two years the nation will fire this poor excuse for a President and Commander-in-Chief.

  95. If the American public is stupid enough to give the Republicans control of Congress, we deserve what we'll get. To paraphrase Lincoln, this nation cannot endure half-coward and half-crazy.

  96. Mr. Herbert seems to be correct. The most interesting question is why Obama made the errors he did and I suspect it's because he feels bigger than the job the people gave him. In a way he feels as though his presence in the office of President honors the office rather that him having been honored by having been given the job. This is demonstrated by his disgraceful and shameless campaigning for the mid-terms. His unfounded accusations that the Chamber of Comm. has illegally used foreign money demeans his office.

  97. You left out the part about what their 'accomplishments' did. They rewarded the predators in the financial, insurance, energy and war industries instead of reining them in. I ain't happy, and I'm a progressive!

  98. Bill Clinton's campaign office is said to have had a sign saying "it's the economy, stupid". This is always true.
    I have been doing political research for many years and the number one public concern in good times or bad is always the economy. Any administration that does not know that is incerdibly incompetent.

  99. We cannot solve unemployment by a continuous process of exporting jobs. Why not give serious consideration to what was suggested by Warren Buffett years ago. Grant $ trade credits to U.S. exporters that U.S. importers must buy on an exchange, before releasing equivalent $ to pay for imports? Alternately we might place a tax on transfers from U.S. bank accounts to foreign bank accounts and use those $ to fund our health insurance -- taking the burden off employers.

  100. Obama's arrogance and self-delusion never cease to amaze. The more the public dislikes him, the more he's convinced he's right.

  101. So, it's the Republicans' fault that Obama and the Democrats couldn't get absolutely everything they wanted? What the heck? Nancy had (and still has) a huge majority in the House and after Specter left, Harry had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. How, again, is it that Cap and Trade and everything else didn't pass? Come on, you're smarter than this. These things didn't fly because Democrats opposed them, and they did so because they could feel the heat from their constituents. The majority of Americans don't want what you're selling. We don't want what you're selling. WE DON'T WANT WHAT YOU'RE SELLING. That's the message you should be getting. Presumably you will get it two weeks from today.

  102. Mr. Herbert,
    I would correct you on just one point. Toward the end of the article, you say, "11,000,000 million jobs would have to be created ... And no one sees that happening any time soon." I would say: "No one sees that happening - ever."

    Many of those jobs will never come back. They have been outmoded by technology, mechanization, or taken by immigrants, or moved overseas. Even if we do manage to create new jobs, many of them will not afford the same standard of living as the jobs that have disappeared. I believe that explains the current of fear and pessimism that is sweeping the country.

  103. You are absolutely right. "Average Americans" saw it very clearly already in the summer of 2009 that the health care effort, however essential, was using up the entire political capital of the Obama administration.

    How is to blame? Without question, I blame the Democratic politicians in both houses of Congress. They had only one incentive: to get re-elected again and again, regardles of where the country was headed. Because of them, Obama had to spend precious months trying to find compromises that would get enough votes for his proposals. With a hugh majority in the House? With 60 senators "on his side"?

    Have the Democrats ever heard of the term: party discipline? In my view, the party does not even exist any more -- it is only some kind of social club where members say and do as they please.

    Shame on them. They deserve to get thrown out for good.

    It is high time that we have a third, Centrist party, and then all those left and right radicals can talk big and get lost.

  104. No matter how you state it, no one of either party has any idea as to how to create jobs. The government can spend on programs and keep the unemployment rate from going into free fall, and creating jobs is a nice catchword, but it belies reality. Under previous administrations we have lost a large segment of our manufacturing sector. We keep getting told, small business employs the most people. What is missing, is these small businesses are the suppliers to big business. Where for instance does P&G get additives for their products? Where does GM get their door handles, or tail light lenses for instance? Where does Caterpillar get their fuel injectors for their diesels? Just a couple of examples. Many of us would like to see High Speed Rail throughout the country, but unlike the days of railroad expansion, tracks are laid by machine. Ties are cast in concrete and placed by machine, tunnels are bored by machines. It would create many jobs but nowhere near the number needed to put 5 million or more people to work. For the past 30 years, we had an economy based on credit. It assumed that people could continuously assume more debt as the value of their holdings grew. But those holdings were not capital goods, they were consumer items. Without an increase in capital goods, the economy became stagnant, but appeared healthy as prices continued to increase, and in particular the housing market.

    Once the bubble reached its peak and popped, there was noting to fall back on. Now there is a contingent of demagogues who are more than willing to take advantage of this economic decline, in order to gain a following of the disaffected who are looking for someone to blame for their problems. The obvious target is President Obama, who was and is, unable to produce those jobs, and who is being demeaned constantly by his foes, for the recession that they caused. It is a classical program of blaming the victim, and the conservatives know it well. Obama was just too ambitious and probably placed too much faith in the rationality of the pubic. Now we see, that trust was misplaced.

    So now many of these people are angry, but they direct their anger at someone else instead of them selves. They have to find a scapegoat for their own failures to do better. Anger is the emotion that is the result of frustration. They are frustrated that they are powerless to take charge of their own lives, and, unable to admit that to themselves, they turn it to anger. There are those who are more than willing to give them a target for their anger. Watch their faces get all screwed up and see them seethe at the mention of Rep Pelosi. It reminds me of those movies we see of the Fuhrer addressing the throngs of admirers. Ordinary Americans do not make physical threats to politicians no matter how much they disagree with them. These are not "Ordinary Americans", they are a sub culture of those who age easily led by any preacher that comes along and offers them salvation. In this case the salvation being, alleviating their frustration and anger.

  105. You have little optimism left and it is certain that you are joined by many millions of our countrymen. The optimism inherent in "Hope and Change" has evaporated and all that the slogan contained was hope; there never was any change, at least for the better.

    On a recent trip to Europe, many friends, strong supporters of the President and his policies, despite their anxieties regarding their own fraught economies, independently stated that America was finished and that the country they had fondly looked to for leadership for more than a century would within a generation be just a memory, a second or even third world country. Frightening prospect, indeed.

  106. Bob: We feel your pain. Uh...well...not ALL of us, of course...but anyone with an ounce of sense and compassion knows you are correct: The Bottom (gasp!) 80%...are either living in a State of Anxiety...or, Paycheck to Paycheck...waiting for the Axe...or...way down at The Bottom...relying on Food Kitchens, or whatever.
    With a couple of weeks to go...it really IS Nail Biting Time. What if the Other Side Wins??? Boehner has made it perfectly clear that it will be More of the Same!!! (And STILL some Americans are voting for them???)
    Obama is no Socialist. Obama is hardly a Liberal. He's certainly no Progressive. He IS a Clintonesque (gag!) Centrist...who somehow still believes he can work with the Other Side. Duh!
    I suggest we wait for another 14 days. Then let's count heads. After the Election...there will still be massive numbers of desperate Americans. And...Obama will still be President.
    THEN let's see where we go from there.
    I believe Barack Obama has gotten a HUGE Wakeup Call. Let's hope I'm right.

  107. I think it's too late for the Democrats even if I believed that they are interested in the lives of middle- and lower-class Americans. I don't. That ship sailed away from our shores with Clinton at the helm.

    Democrats apparently don't have enough brains in their leadership to figure out what is important and what is not. They reject the middle class. The Republicans have already rejected the middle class. What's left? The Tea Party of Rage.

  108. It has become increasingly clear that Obama has little or no empathy or compassion for ordinary Americans.

    He has moved into the same elite country club as his predecessor and probably will go down in history as a politician who had an "unfailing instinct to go for his opponent's capillary."

    Bush killed America; Obama killed hope.

    It is over. The United States has descended into the political and economic poverty of plutocratic corporate feudalism - and there is no way back to democracy.

  109. Aloha, The democrats and president Obama have all of the tools needed to bring down unemployment. They can do this without spending one thin dime. At every lunch counter in america the regular people know how to solve our economic crisis. What is the answer that the establishment fears so much? Stop all trade with China. Build what we now buy from them right here at home. The real question is why don't they do it? Who benefits from the current system that guarantees our decline? What will it take to force the establishment to protect american workers from unfair trade? The effort at currency manipulation will not work. What we need are high paying jobs with security. More people working means more people paying taxes and less people getting unemployment and food stamps. More people working means more demand for goods and services. More people working means more wealth being created. Following blindly down the road we are on will only lead to ruin. There is no other solution. The sooner our leaders face this reality the better. If Obama takes bold action today, in 18 months our economy will be back on track. That is the last best hope he has to salvage his presidency and the only way he could ever get reelected. America first is a powerful idea. It is also what every elected official is supposed to believe anyway. So it is time to stand up for america or get the hell out of the way and let someone with more courage take charge.

  110. Here's the correlation: As the size, reach, and power, of government grows, except in extraordinary circumstances like major wars, Americans become more apprehensive. Power tends to corrupt, and the US government is no exception to that rule, and Americans know it. And with awareness of the increasing likelihood of corruption, Americans become more concerned with the power of government to do harm.

    Corruption need not be the heinous acts of heinous men--an apple doesn't rot to spite those who would eat it. Corruption can come of age and accumulated inefficiency, of applying last year's solutions to this year's problems. Corruption can come of the best, if misapplied, intentions. And in those senses, there's no doubt that the US government is, probably benignly, corrupt. It's too big, too complicated, to be efficient. It does make mistakes, and given its immense power, even minor mistakes can have disastrous consequences.

    The US government is the single most powerful factor in American society, and thus the most potentially destructive element in it, and a very large percentage of Americans are seeing the present actions of the US government as not only economically destructive--on a frightening scale--but destructive as well of America's image of itself as a nation of free and independent people.

    The founders of this nation (some of them, anyway...) tried hard to avoid giving the federal government a dominant position in American society. They, as Jefferson put it, saw the states as something of social laboratories where different forms of governance could be tried, where a failure of any one of them would not be destructive of the nation as a whole, where the success of any one of them could be emulated by others. The founders knew that what was right for large states like Virginia might or might not be right for small states like Rhode Island. Now, two hundred years later, it's equally obvious that what's right for, for example, Chicago, New York City, or Los Angeles, might or might not be right for the vast spaces between those places.

    The rise to dominance of the federal government has destroyed that vision. There's now only one major experimenter in the role of government in American society and if the present experiment--and all governance is experiment--fails, it damages the entire country.

    The federal government is too big. Dangerously big. And Americans know that. And that's where "that sinking feeling" is coming from.

  111. Obama was able to inspire the electorate, and perhaps still is, but he does not seem able to inspire the congress. The Republicans have been almost 100% against him almost all the time and the Democrats have only partially been for him only part of the time.

    Now, we can look back and say "Jobs!", but it is not clear to me that Congress would have been as nearly amenable to real job creating legislation as it was to half- health care legislation.

    The determination among US policy makers has been much more steadily "No we won't" than any ups and downs of "Yes we can" within the electorate. It appears that the real policy makers, with the foolish complicity of the voters, are about to win another two years of not having to sacrifice.

  112. Much as one admires your insightful observations and journalistic excellence one cannot help wondering whether your article today as well the ones written of late, miss out on a few important intangibles.
    You are ofcourse right to point out the distress caused by unemployment and that due to loss of home ownership,factors clearly underestimated by Obama in his drive to get the Health Bill passed. But quite seriously if you asked an unemployed person whether he prefers his/his family's cancer to be attended to or to continue to face unemployment for a while, I believe he will choose the former. This is what should happen to 40 million or so Americans who previously did not enjoy Health benefits and who will do so unless the Republicans manage to kill off the bill post November. Speaking as a British citizen who has just been given the all clear on a possible Cancer scare by a London hospital, after a series of tests, mamograms, and ultrasounds, all free of charge, believe me Mr. Herbert, I know what I am talking about. It is legislation that shows America at its best.
    You write about Mr. Obama having spent too much time trying to woo the GOP in a useless endeavour. It is true that the endeavour has proved fruitless, but I believe he was right to try it.
    Any honourable politician, which Obama is, would have been entitled to assume that at a time of Nationl emergency- which is what Bush left him with- party considerations would take second place to critical national needs. That the Republicans would be so determined to sink him regardless of what it did to the Nation is not something a person who has embraced Public service as a career, could possibly allow himself to believe. All the same I believe he was right to try it and while it is probable that he will get a drubbing at the November elections, come 2012, provided he has made good progress with resolving America's problems, the electorate which is temporarily disillusioned by the present state of affairs, helped by incessant attacks and false propoganda about him, will return in huge numbers to re-elect him, because as intelligent people they will by then have seen through the veil of lies, prejudices and shallowness of his opposition.
    It is my belief that the Obama administration are now well and truly seized of importance of the employment issue and will be making rapid strides to develop run down and newly required infrastruture. I believe Mr. Krugman by his repeated calls for quantitative easing has got the message to sink in, and we are all in for a second helping of it, in the near future. (God help my Cash reserves as a pensioner).
    The one great mistake which I think the Obama Administration have not yet had the courage to rectify, is Afghanistan. I believe that however humiliating it may appear,it is time to leave the Afghans to their own devices and to concentrate energies in the near term upon domestic criticalities. America will not fail to thank him for that.

  113. There is just one very grave mistake that President Obama has committed and continues to commit. You said it, Mr. Herbert : " President Obama had a misplaced faith in the willingness of the G.O.P. to work with him". He initially was reluctant to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, but he thought that he could still get bipartisan support for his foreign policy by "escalating the war before ending it", as Maureen Dowd put it in one apologist's editorial. Well, that was an utter fiasco, and both sides, Republicans and Democrats, as well as foreign allies and critics, blame him. That was also why somebody threw his book "Audacity of Hope" at him. Hope can afford the luxury of only a smal dose of idealism; the most important ingredient of hope is pragmatism. And, yes, you're right, Mr. Herbert: From the start, job creation was the path of pragmatism.

  114. It's not all about the Administration vastly underestimating the Great Recession, because smart people have known for years now that Obama might be doomed by economic circumstance.

    For hells sake, this is the guy who had to sell President Bush's TARP plan to America, and by so doing made good on one promise before even taking office - to put preventing a second Great Depression ahead of re-election politics.

    Which is what he did.

    But yes Bob, his legislative agenda was poorly ordered, and he didn't need to focus on long term remedies to help the middle class, like government financed health care for everyone with a social security number (only 40+ million additional people).

    But you're right. He should have predicted the future, and been able to divine a perfect solution to the world's oldest problem: achieving utopia.

    Jesus Bob.

    Sounds as if you really bought into the whole "he is the one" thing, like a messiah turned president, making infinite loaves out of one.

    I could care less who wins this November, but I'm voting Obama in 12.

    nuancepolitics.blogspot.com

  115. amen, mr. herbert.

    add to this the perception by many people that justice and fairness are not in the picture. Mortgage and Wall street fraud go unpunished and instead we give the very people who caused the collapse billions of dollars, without any safeguards as to how the money is to be used.

    people go to jail for minimal drug use, while those who lied and stole live in mansions and provide funds to their lackeys who are seeking election.

    I do not see any evidence that this trend will be turned around any time soon.

  116. Saying that "bailouts and the stimulus package (however flawed) were essential" is true for the stimulus package but not for the bailouts. The Democrats are not simply "in trouble because they have not been nearly aggressive enough in confronting this profound economic crisis" but they have been operating within the confined of corporatist ideology. To really correct the situation in this country you have to have a different political economy with a different ethos; this one is not sustainable. First, you cannot leave the mega-rich in place and the means for them to perpetuate their status. Their wealth is ill-gotten, mostly as parasitic acquisitions. Plato and Aristotle said that without a strong and educated middle class democracy cannot survive. The corporatists have gutted that class. Second, the environment, natural resources, and increasing age of the population will make the production, growth, and consumerist processes unworkable. You need a steady state, cooperativist, and environmentally friendly political economy. On this particular note, peak oil and the running out of strategic minerals are prepared to bite us really hard. Neither faction of the corporatist party, the Democrats and Republicans are anywhere near having that ethos. Three, you have to have a value system that transcends acquisition and consumption. This means education, communality (bringing back meaningful interpersonal and social relationships), and other such non-material institutions and processes. That is, this collection of people in the US (and the world, for that matter) has to be socialized and civilized. They cannot be mindless robots in a consumerist economy. Human capital must be transformed into human beings. Frankly, I think this more than the Democrats can handle. It is surely the case out of the reactionary's purview. The social Darwinist Republican and Tea Partyers have demonstrated that beyond a doubt with their pre-Hobbian state of nature war of all against all ideology of "free enterprise and anarchy. What we really need is a third party. You are not going to get any change in November. It will be bad or worse. Yet, sometimes, it has to get worse before people "get it" so they can make it better.

  117. Obama just finished telling Americans they are too thick to understand his accomplishments and aren't thrilled to behold the massive legislation they passed. The Republicans were shut out of the secret health care meetings if you recall because of the incredible arrogance of these policy quacks. We are now left with a health bill few bothered to read and fewer still can understand. Many corporations (Boeing the latest) have realized the mess this has created and are calling for repeal to save their workers benefits. These legislative clowns deserve to be run out of town and if the new congress behaves the same way they will be dismissed as well. The American people are much smarter and perceptive than you and the rapper-in-chief give them credit for.

  118. Most of what you have written Bob i do agree with in principle. However, there is a sentence in your editorial that i have a real problem with. You mentioned that the financial bailout was necessary. Come on Bob, that is not the Mr. Herbert that I have become real admirer of over the past few months since I have been a regular reader of the NYT. I would like you to qualify that comment on how it has benefitted any of the folks who are doing it real tough in the US at the moment. Especially the 14 million who don't have jobs, the 44 million who are living on food stamps, and the 53 million who are living in economic poverty.
    I believe that the bailout was one of the greatest fiscal crimes of the modern era. How can you say that it was justified when the Congress voted 'no' initially, and then the democrats were 'courted' for their support and the bill was passed on the second time around. Also remember, it was that great President, George W. Bush, who used the scare tactic of alarming most of America on prime time by saying, that if we did not act now on this rescue package for the financial community, then our great country could collapse, in so many words. We also know how much 'clout and power' the Wall Street elite yield in Washington circles and how Goldman Sachs is synonomous with Congressional consent and lobbyists. Bob, I think that money would have been better spent on infrastructure and getting people jobs. But that didn't happen on Obama's watch. His presidency at best has been mediocre and there have been far too many embarrassing moments for the Oval office, such as the incident of the Harvard Professor, and the strategy of 'having a beer together' in the Rose Garden.
    I am sorry but I am a pragmatist and a realist. I never believed that Obama would get away with changing the culture of Washington. I also beleived that he was an agent of the Wall Street elite. I still stand by that assumption as i have seen nothing from him which would suggest otherwise. I would also suggest that some of your readers watch the documentary on Youtube called "The Obama Deception", and that may help people to understand what the real agenda is and how it is being implemented.

  119. Right again Bob. "It's the economy, stupid." It's ALWAYS the economy, never more so than when it is in the tank.

    I was and still am an Obama supporter. You have perfectly captured the frustration: that he had a chance to fix the things that really needed fixing, but spent his energies and political capital on worthy but undeniably lesser priorities.

    He tells us he cares about the hurt people are feeling, the economic disaster the nation is still going through, etc.

    However his emphasis and attention don't support that...

    When during the past two years did we hear about him laboring over a plan to rescue the economy... to the extent that he was reported to be laboring over the strategy for Afghanistan?

    When did we hear about an extensive arm-twisting, dealmaking, all-out expediture of political capital to launch a jobs creation/ infrastrucutre program... to the extent we all were inundated with coverage of the sausage-making that went into the healthcare bill?

    The most telling measure of what people care most about is not their words but where they choose to invest their time and resources.

    That implied message is one reason why even many of us who support him wonder if Obama really does care about regular folks as much as he might or ought to.

  120. The number, for this Nations unemployed is truly large. The scenario gets much worse, when you add the Millions, that are underemployed.

  121. Yes!

  122. Yes, he can "tweak" Social Security by cutting benefits and once-again reward those "savvy businessmen" in the banking industry with the inevitable TARP 2.

    Now that politics in this country consist of right and far right it's clear that what we need are some new parties with new ideas. And politicians that aren't bent on joining the upper ranks of an establishment bent on ever-widening income inequality and a return to feudalism.

  123. We know where the president wanted to take the country and did. Thats the problem. He took us toward socialism, less freedom, a ruined healthcare system, nationalization of private businesses, nationalization of student loans, and I hear, he plans to confiscate 401Ks. Normally a president like Obama would only be found in a third world country. And he wonders why Americans don't appreciate him. The guy lives in another universe. He and his supporters will get the message in a few weeks.

  124. I want to know what happened to Obama's promise to re-negotiate NAFTA and other trade agreements. I seem to think I heard a little something about him proposing a bill that would punish companies for offshoring jobs and reward those that create jobs here in the US. It was never publicized much, and I think the Republicans quashed it. Why don't we hear much about these things? Why aren't they well-publicized, and the public's attention kept on Republican obstructionism? I am sure there are just as many Republicans out of work or under-employed, who would put pressure on their senators and reps in the House to vote for something like that.

    It seems as though we are in a civil war of sorts. Americans who vote Republican act as though they are all rich and the Democrats are the only workers. The Republican party seems to be all right-wing now, with no moderates at all, and the people would rather vote for those who would work against the working class's self-interests rather than have Democrats in power.

    The whole situation we find ourselves in is quite perverse. Half the population would rather have their children starve rather than concede anything to the Democrats. On their side, the Democrats in Congress let them get away with it, and our erstwhile president seems to be off on cloud 9 somewhere. He seems to be expending more energy on things like keeping DADT in place so the Senate can vote to end it. Lots of luck with that.

    I see our job situation getting worse, instead of better, and the mortgage situation just keeps getting more complicated every day. Where can those of us turn who want effective leadership and a little honesty?

  125. It's ironic that the republicans are running on a theme that the democrats have done nothing to stop job loss and create more jobs when their core belief is that government can't do anything. If the economy prospers it's only because of the free market but if it fails it's because of the government........pretty much sums up their message. And they offer nothing but tax cuts. What good is a tax cut when you don't have a job? And by the way, taxes have been cut and it has not done much to stimulate the economy. The problem with democrats is that they don't know how to sell and market their accomplishments and ideas. Keep the message simple and keep repeating it over and over again.