Mitt’s campaign thus far has been all about the politics of success. The guy running a national company who started it in his garage. The office worker who wanted to be his own boss, struck out on his own and founded a multi-million dollar concern through sheer grit, determination and bloody-minded refusal to give up. These people epitomise the Republican understanding of the American Dream – decide what you want to do and get the hell out there and do it. Don’t ask for help – help yourself. I’m not wholly opposed to this attitude – in fact I think it’s a damned good one in most circumstances. Trouble is, this is 2012 – not 1812. The self-reliant stand on your own two feet thing worked on the frontier. It still does work mostly, but is less likely to in a world where we’re not members of down home frontier communities but citizens of a global economy and hence subject to forces we cannot hope to control. What do you say to the 55 year old who’s just been laid off after the construction company he worked for went into receivership? A year later he’s still jobless and the bank’s foreclosed on his house. He’s too expensive for most of the people hiring and too old (in the eyes of others) to retrain. It’s people like that, at the mercy of economic forces beyond their control, for whom Romney offers little.
So what about Obama? The most vitriolic attacks on his policies tend to come from the far-right of the Republican Party and the Tea Party, but as I said in an earlier post those guys are on a different wavelength entirely and best dealt with separately. That said, their influence has spread way beyond their particular political demographic and can be seen in the pronouncements of some otherwise mainstream political figures. (For that reason they can’t simply be written off as nutjobs, but I’ll talk about that in a later post). Thing is, when you look for balanced criticism of Obama’s policies you have a tough job finding any. When you check out the background to the website/blog it turns out the writer either thinks Obama’s a saint or that he’s the Antichrist in person – there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. Good old polarised American politics again?
Certainly, Obama has not delivered on his 2008 election policies. A comparison of recessions and recoveries since 1945 shows that America’s climb out of recession has been much slower than Obama promised (See http://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/one-year-later-another-look-at-obamanomics-vs-reaganomics/)
Even allowing for the fact that the 2007-09 recession can’t be blamed on Obama, surely America’s slow recovery can? The responses I’m reading again depend on the political persuasion of the writer, but the following point can’t be denied.
Economists Polack and Schott of Yale University point to the high levels of state and local job losses that accompanied the period 2008-11. Yes, the private sector has played its part – 4.5 million jobs is a pretty good showing (I wish to God they’d pull something like that off over here in the UK). However, this has been negated by massive public sector job cuts. Obama’s American Jobs Act of 2011 might have taken the sting out of this process, but it was blocked by a Republican filibuster. The money to fund it was apparently due to come from partially limiting access to tax deductions for families earning over $250000 a year. Since that was seen as penalising the successful it was a non-starter.
It would be simplistic to say that Obama has failed because the refusal of the American political class to work together hasn’t allowed him to succeed, but there’s a lot of truth in it. Whilst Republicans and Democrats misrepresent, stereotype and abuse each other the American economy is unlikely to get much better. At least, that’s the picture we’re getting over here…
Next up – Foreign policy