Monday, July 6, 2009

Fear and loathing in the US

A bit of irony, if you will, in this particular post. Recall, not too long ago, one of the primary arguments the Democrats used during the 2008 presidential campaign to rail against the policies of the Bush administration was that fear, rather than prudent considered decisions, was used to justify and push many initiatives which were harmful to the country. Ultimately unfounded fear, it was said, was what justified the invasion of Iraq, and the toppling of the brutal and oppressive regime there. Fear, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, was used to push through the "Patriot" Act, one of the worst abuses of civil rights ever propagated on the American people. Fear was the justification for illegal wiretaps, shadow courts, capturing and holding prisoners secretly and indefinitely, torture, and many other degradations of the nation and its principles, debatable and sacred alike.

... and the criticisms were justified. There were, indeed, many abuses of civil liberties under Bush, many things enacted which were not properly or adequately scrutinized, and several attempts to advance agendas using fear as the justification. Although I didn't personally favor Obama, I did think this particular criticism was valid: there had been many abuses under Bush, and the promise of a government which did not use fear to push agendas, and allowed everything to be openly debated and judged in the absence of deceitful fear-mongering was appealing.

How ironic, then, to look at the first few months alone of Obama's term. Let's look at the Obamanation's major initiatives, in this light:

- The "Stimulus" Plan, a $800 Billion "fix" for the collapsing economy. If we didn't pass it, unemployment might soar to 10%; if we pass it we can keep the rate under 8%. It will save millions of jobs, but it must be enacted immediately, without time for debate or scrutiny. Most members of Congress didn't even have time to read the bill before passing it. The bill spends more money on pork agenda spending than the entire cost of the Iraq war at the time it was passed.

- The Global Warming (tax and cap, jobs to China, pork and crap, whatever you want to call it) bill, the payoff for campaign promises to the environmental lobby. This is so important to pass now, without debate or scientific input, that we don't have time to listen to anyone who has differing opinions. In fact, its such a pressing problem that we need to suppress the already-prepared report from the EPA questioning the scientific basis for the whole religion. It's so important, it got 300 pages of extra pork tacked on literally less than 24 hours before it was passed by the House, such that nobody had actually read the legislation. If we don't pass this right now, the environment will suffer irreparable harm; never-mind that China is now the largest polluting country in the world, Global Warming, fear it!

- Health care reform, the latest attempt to socialize medicine in America. We must pass this plan this year, apparently, or spiraling health care costs will bankrupt the country (never-mind the exploding deficit spending by the Obamanation, that's a different category of wasteful monetary hemorrhage)! If it doesn't happen this year, we won't be able to get it done; so it must happen, we must push it through, or it's over the edge into the undefined abyss of unregulated Capitalism!

- Financial regulation; we must not let another asset bubble decimate our economy again. The Fed did such a good job inflating the current bubble, it's only fitting that Obama propose they get additional powers to help stop the next one. Not too many, though, as we wouldn't want them to get too powerful: I guess the rest of the new broad regulatory and oversight powers need to be vested in the Treasury Department, under the authority of the President. Why would the American people consent to such a sweeping and general vesting of power in the executive branch? Well, if they are afraid enough of another economic catastrophe, they might tacitly consent to anything...

I'm reminded of a line, which is something like "... so this is how Democracy dies, to thunderous applause." Lack of fear, transparency, openness of government, preserving individual rights, helping the economy, controlled spending, smaller deficits, not trying to take over industries, expand power, and rule the people: all good promises, good ideals, and all stinking globs of irony in the cesspool of lies which characterizes the first few months of the Obamanation... and we have many more months to go. How many more of our freedoms and how much more of our prosperity will be shoveled into the pool, devoured by the black abyss of despicable corruption and malfeasance, before the final decision in the epic battle of the Obamanation against the principles and ideals of the United States of America? And will we the people, in this latest challenge, turn back from the abyss, or welcome it was thunderous applause?


  1. You are completely right about the uncanny similarity between the way fear was used to promote the stimulus package and the way President Bush used fear to promote his agenda. In both cases people were scared to death for vague reasons.

    I have not noticed fear being used to promote environmental measures, healthcare overhaul, and financial regulation, although I may just have missed the fear-stoking rhetoric.

    Environmental measures: I hear facile solutions to this rather than fear. "Stop global warming" "Save the planet". Actually putting a dent in global warming is a huge task. Al Gore rightly likened it to the task of entering and winning WWII when the US was starting with no air force. Moreover, we won’t "win". The "victory" will be lower costs for future generations. So I don't blame politicians for boiling that down to "save the environment".

    Healthcare overhaul: I hear more sob stories about people who can afford their medicine than fear. When you dig into the stories, you find pieces are missing. They focus on healthcare, but these people are spending the same amounts on transportation and food. Why aren’t they carrying on about transportation or some other cost of living?

    Financial regulation: They don't need to use fear. If you accept that we'll keep bailing out people who screw up, then it's obvious we need more regulation. Giving government responsibility for people's lives means gov't needs authority to manage their lives.

  2. Nick,

    Great post. For everything they've learned from Bush, they've figured out how to one up him though. The stimulus was an investment in the US, cap and trade is a jobs bill, health care is a way to cut deficits, and financial regulation is a way to bring fairness and accountability to the private sector.

    If Bush had the press in his pocket like Obama the Patriot act would have been an improvement on phone quality and the war in Iraq an investment in middle eastern peace.