Saturday, August 6, 2011

America Humiliated

Back in the early days of his administration Barack Obama set off on an apology tour. Imagining that America was insufficiently humble, Obama set out to correct the perception by bowing down to foreign potentates and by publicly admitting to what he perceived as America’s myriad faults.

Heaven knows where he got the idea, but Obama seemed to have thought that America was the cause of the world’s problems and that a diminished America would produce peace and prosperity across the globe.

It was a bad idea then. It still is.

As the old Chinese saying goes: be careful what you wish for....

If Obama wanted humiliation, he got a good dose of it yesterday when the independent  ratings agency S & P downgraded United States government debt, from AAA to AA+, with a negative outlook.

Immediately thereafter our largest creditor, the government of China, started lecturing us about fiscal responsibility.

Regardless of the real consequences of the downgrade-- most of which will be decided by the markets-- America is being humiliated.

Considering how much the Obama administration and its cronies are wailing and gnashing their teeth, you have to assume that the downgrade is a political liability for the president and his party.

Iowahawk succinctly noted that Obama inherited a AAA credit rating from George Bush. Hmmm.
Everyone knows that S & P is not the most reliable agency on earth. In the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, it gave AAA ratings to worthless mortgage backed securities. Thereby, it compromised its own credibility. That does not mean it's wrong this time.

As a second line of defense left thinking pundits are attacking the Tea Party and Congressional Republicans for manufacturing a crisis over the debt ceiling and failing to raise taxes on the rich.

Before last night we had been told that there was no credit rating crisis. No less than Timothy Geithner assured us that our AAA rating was not at risk.

We had also been told that the Tea Party was playing hardball over the debt ceiling in order to do something nefarious, like cut government spending.

Now, however, it seems like the Tea Party and the Republican Party were worried because there was a serious problem. And they seemed to have understood that without a credible threat, the Obama administration would never have addressed the problem.

S & P downgraded our credit rating because it despaired of our political leaders ever finding a way out of our debt crisis.

It looked at the debt ceiling negotiations and decided that our political system is broken.

It looked at the compromise hammered out by Congress and the White House and decided that it did not go far enough toward reducing the deficit... to say nothing of the debt.

Why is the political system broken? Who poisoned the air in Washington so much that it became impossible to reach any agreement on entitlement reform?

Left thinking people have been quick to blame George Bush and the Tea Party but all sensible people know that leadership, or lack of same, comes down from the top.

Despite what Obama seems to think leadership is not about giving orders or imposing yourself on the opposition. Leadership involves bring people together to get a job done, not tearing them apart in the name of conflict and drama.

When Obama took office in 2009, backed by strong majorities in both houses of Congress, he declared that, since he had won, he could now do as he pleased. He did not need to negotiate with the loser Republicans.

Obama thus set the tone for his administration. The stimulus bill passed with three Republican votes. Obamacare passed with no Republican votes.

In those situations we saw the real Barack Obama, doing things exactly the way he wanted to do them.

When the American people voiced their displeasure at the Obama administration in November, 2010, the administration dug in. During the negotiations over the debt ceiling bill, the president refused to consider any modifications to Obamacare.

Beyond the fact that he is in over his head on matters of fiscal policy, Barack  Obama, as I have been at pains to point out, does not know how to negotiate.

Obama knows how to sharpen differences. He does not know how to smooth them over in order to reach agreement.

If the political system is as poisoned as many people think it is, if the parties are so far apart that they can never come to agree on a plan of action, the reason must be that this is the essence of Obama’s leadership.

As it happens, Obama seems to have singled out House majority leader Eric Cantor for special scorn. Perhaps, he still retains some of the lessons he learned at the feet of Jeremiah Wright.

I grant that Cantor is not the most objective observer of the Obama negotiating style, but his description is consistent with what the rest of us have observed in Obama’s public performances.

Cantor describes Obama as especially thin-skinned: “It's almost as if someone cannot have another opinion that is different from his. He becomes visibly agitated. . . . He does not like to be challenged on policy grounds."

By his account Cantor was willing to negotiate on increased revenues, but not on raising taxes. He was willing to work toward overhauling the tax system to make it more fair and to produce more revenue. He was even willing to allow the president to say that he had been able to raise taxes.

Obama responded by obsessing about corporate jet owners and people who earn $250,000 a year.

Cantor and the Republicans refused to discuss income redistribution. As they saw it, this idea was the only thing that Democrats really believed in.

During the debt ceiling negotiations the Democrats had no economic arguments, no solutions to fix the problem... all they had was income redistribution, social justice, and some nebulous idea of “fairness.”

In Cantor's words: “ The assumption . . . is that there is some kind of perpetual engine of economic prosperity in America that is going to just continue. And therefore they are able to take from those who create and give to those who don't. We just have a fundamentally different view."

You cannot negotiate and you cannot compromise when one party is driven by ideology and the other is driven by policy considerations.

As it happens some Democrats do know how to negotiate. In the first rounds of negotiations, Cantor met with Vice President Biden. He found their talks to be substantive and productive.

He explained to National Review: ““I had almost seven weeks with the vice president, and those talks were substantive. He and I spoke weekly. Our staffs met daily. The agenda was set. Our staffs had done the initial ‘tolerance test’ as to probing how far either side could go on a particular issue. And if it was too far, we tried to stay away from it.”

Sad to say, Joe Biden knew how to negotiate. Barack Obama did not.

As the old saying should go: Be careful who you vote for....


Bizzy Brain said...

From a Biblical perspective, the country has been under "judgment" for some time now. Condemnation of Israel, outlawing of public expressions of Christianity, abortion, normaliztion of homosexuality. etc., etc. - all of these are an affront to the God of the Bible. And any student of the Bible will tell you, God DOES judge. said...

It will not truly have success, I feel like this. said...

It cannot succeed as a matter of fact, that's what I suppose.