Monday, October 11, 2010

The Audacity of Disappointment

Why are we so disappointed with Barack Obama? A recent piece in the Boston Globe blamed it on our brains. "Research suggests that even when people know that someone has nothing but bad options to choose from, they still blame the decider for a bad outcome." Even worse: as time goes on, we think in more and more glowing terms about "what might have been if different decisions had been made, different policies pursued, or different politicians elected," and therefore feel even more disappointed with what actually happened.

The psychological explanation of "the big letdown" is a conservative explanation. It implies that things never could have been as much better as we think. Hope and change are delusions. As Hegel said, what is, is right--because TINA (There Is No Alternative).

How about a political explanation instead? We are disappointed with Obama because as a candidate, he seemed to get it that radical change in this country is urgently needed, and then as President, he forgot all about that. We are disappointed because he and his advisors said, in so many words, that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste--and then proceed to waste it, by failing to explain to the country what got us into this mess and what it would take to get us out, permanently. We are disappointed because it doesn't matter what options it seemed he had: the reason we elected him was to create new options. We are disappointed even if we knew all along ( as many of us did, and wrote) that Obama was a cautious technocrat by training and inclination. We are disappointed because we need and deserve better--and because not to be disappointed would be to accept the unacceptable state of affairs in which we continue to live.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Extreme Words about Smug Moderates

I hate smug moderates.

Scott Lehigh of the Boston Globe recently ended a column on taming the deficit by saying, "But even if you’re a left-winger insistent that it all be solved with taxes or a right-winger adamant that spending cuts are the only acceptable remedy, the Pew report is still well worth your while."

Has Lehigh ever met a real left-winger? If he had, he might know that we do want spending cuts: on wars of choice, and military hardware we don't need that mainly fattens the wallets of military contractors. We also want to end tax giveaways, like the ones that let many millionaires and multi-nationals avoid paying a nickel for the common good. If you want those things, maybe you're a left-winger too. Welcome to the club!

We also want taxes, on the right things, for the right purposes. A war surtax on the people with the highest incomes would be reasonable and fair--and it might also prevent future wars. A small wealth tax could go a long way toward closing the deficit that has middle-of-the-roaders so worried.

But the fact of the matter is that when millions of people are out of work, or working part-time, or doing two or three jobs that don't pay enough individually to support a family, this is not the time to be worrying about deficits. Franklin Roosevelt listened to people like that, and it extended the Depression for years after it could have been over. People like that: good, sensible, cautious people who thought they knew what left-wingers stood for and opposed it.

Moderates. Pfui. As a real left-winger, Jim Hightower, says, "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos."