From time to time, I find it worthwhile to take a good look at the liberal point of view. It’s important to avoid getting stuck in conservative echo chambers and taking a look at what our liberal friends have to say. The other day, I stumbled upon this little gem by Drew Westen.
The overarching theme of the article is that liberals are disappointed with Obama because he hasn’t taken a leadership role in demonizing conservatives or Wall Street. I’ve had a hard time understanding the liberal narrative that Obama is too conservative or why liberals aren’t happy with Obama. But if this is the kind of leadership that liberals are looking for, it’s no wonder that they are disappointed. The president has a lot more work to do if he is going to match the level of vitriol demonstrated here, here, or here.
I don’t want to get into the author’s claim about the growing gap between rich and poor. Thomas Sowell has done an excellent job of pointing out the problems with that claim, and I have nothing further to add to the conversation.
I do want to pick apart the author’s narrative for the causes of our economic troubles and the liberal solution.
“’This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out.’”
You can’t blame investment bankers on Wall Street for rationally acting in their own self-interest. The root of the problem doesn’t lie with the moral failings of investment bankers, but with the incentives for risky speculation provided by the government and the marketplace. Attempting to place all of the blame for deregulation on Republicans is also problematic (see the vote tallies for the repeal of Glass-Steagall, for example). The claim that only Republicans are in bed with Wall Street doesn’t pass the smell test either. Despite the problems with Mr. Westen’s analysis, let’s temporarily suspend our disbelief and take a look at the rest of his argument.
“Yet instead of indicting the economic policies and principles that had just eliminated eight million jobs, in the most damaging of the tic-like gestures of compromise that have become the hallmark of his presidency — and against the advice of multiple Nobel-Prize-winning economists — he backed away from his advisers who proposed a big stimulus, and then diluted it with tax cuts that had already been shown to be inert. The result, as predicted in advance, was a half-stimulus that half-stimulated the economy.”
It’s not like we didn’t see this one coming. First they tried to claim that the stimulus worked, but that narrative was quickly overrun by reality. Aside from admitting that Keynesian economics is a sham, the only other option is to double down and claim the stimulus wasn’t big enough. It’s hard to tell if this is solely the product of delusional thinking or a shrewd ploy, knowing that there’s no chance in hell that another stimulus will be passed to test this hypothesis.
But even if more money had been wasted on stimulus, where would that money go? There weren’t any enough shovel-ready jobs for the money that was spent. Would any of that additional stimulus go towards rewarding more of those greedy and reckless corporations by bailing them out? I thought that only Republicans were interested in rewarding greed and recklessness. Or is Mr. Westen only referring to the second stimulus, since Democrats had nothing to do with the TARP bailout (despite controlling both houses of Congress)?
Let’s see what else the president could have done to make things right.
“When he wants to be, the president is a brilliant and moving speaker, but his stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability.”
“Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it.”
Let me see if I have this right. The economy is in the tank, people are out of work, and our nations credit rating has been called into question. And the solution is to demonize conservatives and put Wall Street bankers in prison for greed? I hate to break it to Mr. Westen, but this plan isn’t going to solve any of our problems. Liberals can scream all they want about conservatives bringing about some kind of “Christian sharia”, but it sounds like liberals are the ones who want to criminalize greed, one of the seven deadly sins. Although I think it is important to engage the liberal point of view, I can’t help but thinking these people lack any capacity for critical thinking.
Cross posted at The Right Stuff