by: Ian Welsh
Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 22:00
After visiting Victoria for a week, let's do a quick roundup post
Healthcare: I remain convinced that nothing that will come out of this Congress won't be pretty awful. My current belief is that what will be passed will mandate everyone buy insurance but because of inadequate cost controls and subsidies will leave ordinary people forced to buy insurance which will increase in price faster than wages. The optimistic view would be that once everyone is in the system, pressure will build to make the system actually work. We'll see, even if true, there'll be a lot of pain in between.
Unemployment: According to the BLS, the economy lost 274,000 jobs, but the unemployment rate dropped from 9.5% to 9.4%. Welcome to the world of statistics that don't mean what you think they do. People who want jobs, but who are convinced they can't get one and so aren't looking actively don't count as unemployed. So the number of employed people can go down and the unemployment rate can go down. In other words, we're a long way from things getting better, they're just getting worse more slowly.
Resistance: The American right has decided on a policy of resistance to Obama which can be summed up as "thuggery". People are being trained and financed to go out and shout down Democrats or intimidate them. There has already been some violence, there will be more. The Obama administration thought they could avoid the rise of the refusnik right by refusing to act on most social issues, which is why they abandoned their promises to gays and have generally been unwilling to move on other social issues. They took the lesson of the Clinton administration to be "don't inflame the fanatics on the right-avoid social issues, and don't slash the military". They were, of course, wrong: the radical right (and there is hardly a non-radical right left) will oppose Obama no matter what he does and if Obama is unwilling to use to the full might of the administrative apparatus against them, they will simply take advantage of his weakness to escalate. Tactics which are seen to work, will not be abandoned, to the contrary, they will be used more and more.
Obama: Obama's active period is about over. Health care "reform", if he gets it through, will probably be the last major policy. While there are rises and falls, his overall popularity is trending down and that will probably continue. The "honeymoon" is over, and it was used primarily to shove through a lousy stimulus that won't lead to enough of a recovery, and with luck (for him) a bad global warming bill and health reform that isn't. Fortunately, banks and financial firms have been bailed out and are making lots of money, and should be in a position to reward Obama with significant funding in future elections.
Unless they decide that the Republicans will give them everything they want, too.
Add to that Republican weakness, and Obama's inner circle may think they're still cruising for reelection. I'm not so sure. Counting on your enemy's weakness is a dangerous tactic, especially when you are doing little to ensure that they remain weak or that you remain strong.