Left Outside

Barack’s in Massachusetts

Obama has made some unpopular choices. Even if we ignore the unpopular bailout of Wall Street, Obama’s problems are still legion.

There is a humanitarian crisis in Haiti where he risks the ire of the American right if he does too much, the left if he does to little, and the far left if he does pretty much anything at all.

Under Obama’s watch an ugly war in Afghanistan entered its 8th year while Pakistan draws ever nearer to the abyss. Iraq has suffered massive suicide bombings, perhaps partially because these bomb detectors don’t work.

The economic malaise – largely the doing of Bush but which would hurt any incumbent – is worse now than many predicted a year ago.

Fourteen months ago, just after Barack Hussein Obama’s election, most of us would have bet that the U.S. unemployment rate today would be something like 7.5%, that it would be heading down, and that the economy would be growing at about 4% per year.

A 5% unemployment rate as of the end of 2009 would have been seen from a late-2008 perspective as a very good and lucky outcome, and a 10% unemployment rate would have been seen as a very bad and unlucky outcome.

Well, we have been unlucky. Unemployment is not going down but going sideways—we hope that it is still not going up. And the unemployment rate is not 7.5% but 10%. More important, perhaps, is that the expectation is for 3% real GDP growth in 2010.

This week it turns out “Ted Kennedy’s seat” is in fact the seat of the people of Massachusetts and they wanted a Republican Senator.

As a result of all the above and more, the biggest healthcare reforms in American history now hangs in the balance. While he never had the highest hope for Obama, the increasing pessimism that characterises Paul Krugman‘s blog is palpable.

Lenin has declared that the dream has died for Obama and I’m running out of reasons to disagree with him or evidence to back it up even if I wanted to.

Obama has failed because he was not radical enough. The majority of Americans disapprove of the healthcare plan in front of Congress. It is worth noting that the clear majority of those unhappy with Healthcare disagree with Obama from the left.

Although the single largest political grouping in America are self described conservatives they are outnumbered by those that consider themselves liberals or moderates.

The above polling backs up the observation Krugman made in his “Conscience of a Liberal” that although self identified liberals are few in number once you unpack the values of those moderates they are liberals too.

The toxification of the socialist brand in America is so complete that people don’t even want to associate with a euphemism for it. Not even the justifiably blighted Tory Party have it that bad.

This is the mistake Alex Massie makes when saying it is bananas that Obama should have been more radical. The healthcare plan is not a radical proposal, for example Nixon tried to introduce something similar. The Healthcare Bill boils down to a few simple and interrelated measures.

To ensure that everyone is covered you are obligated to buy insurance. In order for this to work, there is a new law banning insurance companies from dropping or refusing to ensure the unhealthy.

This would increase premiums to crippling levels for the already unhealthy so to prevent this there is a measure to ensure premiums are set across a given population to keep them down to an average. And to help those who can’t afford it there are subsidies for those under or moderately above the poverty line.

This is far less than most people are happy with and there are some serious deficiencies in the Bill I haven’t yet mentioned.

For example, it offers an implicit subsidy to the Insurance companies by compelling people to buy their mediocre product. It offers a further give away by including no measure to centrally administer drug purchases to bargain down prices. It offers no public option to compete with the private insurers.

Worst of all, the possibility of a single payer tax funded service like we have in Europe was never really on the table.

Despite all this I hope Obama can get this Bill passed. Its warts can be smoothed later, it can be built upon and frankly the Democrats won’t get given another chance. Not that it seems they really deserved this one.

The Obama camp were dealt a massive psychological blow in Massachusetts after a gruelling year. They are left with a Healthcare Bill that no one really wants and they may not even be able to get it passed through all their dithering.

Sadly, this may have been the honeymoon period. The future legislative onslaught which must break up the banks and better regulate finance pale in insignificance when compared with the monumental task of organising Congress into something which could write a Bill to control Carbon emissions.

I expected little of Obama because he promised little. So far he has delivered less.

Filed under: Economics, Foreign Affairs, Politics

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