Babbling in the Mirror – Obama Supporter Interviews Future Self

July 31st, 2012 by Tim Leave a reply »

I received a link to a YouTube video today. The video is a mock up of someone from 2008 interviewing their current selves and dealing with all the crushing disappointments of the Obama Administration.

The link came with a request:

“Please, please, somebody tell me where she is wrong. I really want to know!”

I’ll try to suspend my skepticism that anyone circulating this sort of propaganda is truly interested in facts, or even willing to accept them, but I’m up for the challenge anyway.

The video contains a scarcity of actual data, but there are a lot of general claims.  A few are fairly accurate, many are directionally incorrect, and a few are outright false. In the opening, the 2008 woman is going on about the utopia that would surely result from 4 years under Obama.  Granted, there was a lot of optimism from his supporters upon his election, but anyone who believes any President can effect a utopian transformation of the country is delusional. If you think it can be done in the midst of the second largest economic downfall in the last century, you’re just plain nuts.  It’s unfair to compare Obama to some vision of Nirvana. Rather, the accurate comparison is to the alternative, a McCain administration. Unfortunately, we’ll never know what that might have been. Maybe it would be better, maybe worse, but we can be pretty sure, based on the previous 30 years of mostly Republican administrations, that it wouldn’t quite be utopia.

Obama Supporter - Self InterviewThe initial substantive claim is that the 2012 woman’s father died because his asthma medication was outlawed. This is flat out false.  No asthma medications have been outlawed.  Starting this year, CFC based inhalers were banned. Keep in mind that CFC propellants have been banned since the 70s in everything else in an effort to save the ozone layer. Civilization survived. Further, HFA inhalers are available as an alternative. Same medication, same dose, different delivery mechanism.

Next is a general lament about high unemployment. There’s no doubt that unemployment remains unacceptably high. However, looking at the data, private sector employment bottomed out in early 2010 and continues to climb steadily upward.  But public sector employment is plummeting at a rate the private sector in a minimally expanding economy can’t ameliorate. Look at a comparison of Bush’s first term compared to Obama’s. Bush responded to the economic downturn in 2000 with stimulus by expanding government payroll.  Obama responded by slashing government jobs in favor of private sector stimulus. Hmmm…

But Obama had a super-majority! Why didn’t he fix everything? Obama’s super-majority in Congress hinged on one man, Ted Kennedy. A man who had the gall to be suffering terminal brain cancer upon Obama’s election, and who died in August of that first year.  Kennedy made special and heroic returns to the Senate floor to cast votes on the stimulus and on Obamacare, but otherwise was incapacitated. After his death, Scott Brown was elected and the Obama super-majority vanished.

Oh, the executive orders! There’s no specific complaint over any specific executive orders, but the implication is that Obama is issuing them all over the place.  The data from the National Archives would disagree. Obama has issued 129 EOs so far.  Pro-rating that for his entire first term puts him on pace to issue 147 by January.  G.W. Bush averaged 145/term. Clinton averaged 181, Bush Sr. did 165, and Reagan comes in at 190.  So Obama’s on the low end of recent history.

Why didn’t the stimulus fix everything as promised? First, we have to accept the 2008 woman somehow magically knowing about the 2009 stimulus package, but I’m nit-picking. Most stimulus proponents now agree the stimulus package was not up to the task. The enormity of the economic hole was much larger than anticipated and the level of stimulus was insufficient to achieve the desired results.  However, it probably was the largest package that would have been politically do-able.  But even then, did it have a positive effect? There is arguably legitimate debate here, although the consensus is that the stimulus did improve things. But even if it didn’t, there’s no one claiming it did any harm excepting a brief blip in the debt curve.

Next up is the assertion that all of Obama’s investments in green energy have gone bankrupt. One company, Solyndra, went bankrupt.  That’s not quite all.  There’s ample room for debate on whether the government should be subsidizing commercial energy companies, but the fact remains that the vast majority of the loans have not defaulted. Further, the $535M Solyndra debacle is a relative drop in the $34B DOE loan bucket. So minimally, this claim is blowing things out of proportion.

There’s a healthcare mandate, she says with a voice dripping in desperation. Yes there is. And unless we’re content with 30-50 million Americans going without medical care or getting it by indirectly increasing the costs of those of us who do get it, there should be.  Even Mitt Romney (the unwitting father of Obamacare), was recently praising the Israeli heathcare system as being cost effective—apparently unaware that it achieves those results through government controlled universal coverage. If there’s a workable alternative solution, someone should put it on the table.  Otherwise

There’s a middle class tax hike, she says.  No, there isn’t. Taxes are at historic lows.  That is, unless you count the Obamacare individual mandate as a tax increase, in which case they are still at historic lows.  But viewing the mandate as a tax increase is a spurious argument that also requires you to acknowledge the effective tax cut the rest of get for not having to pay for the care of those without insurance through our insurance rates, paycheck deductions, and co-pays.

Obama promised transparency! Yes, he did. And the record so far is abysmal by pretty much any measure. Transparency seems to decrease year after year regardless of who’s in office.  This may be a result of the 24×7 instant news culture we live in.  Be that as it may, this is still our government and we have a right to know what’s going on in there.

There are loads of lobbyists in the Administration. Yes, there are, and Obama promised there wouldn’t be.  This is more than a little disappointing. It may be the reality of modern government. It may be that other administrations have done much the same thing, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a fundamental campaign promise on which Obama has failed badly.

African American suffer the highest unemployment rates.  Well, yes. But historically that’s always been true. That doesn’t make it a good thing, but it’s hardly a remarkable thing.

Internationally we’ve never been more hated. This is simply pants-on-fire false.

But I thought the Muslim world would follow our lead to democracy? Well, yes and no. The Arab Spring has certainly been a profound and recent movement toward democracy in much of the Muslim world. However, in many cases it has resulted in the democratic election of parties and leaders that are not so very friendly toward the USA. The unfortunate reality of letting people choose is that you may not like their choices.  Nonetheless, to say they followed our path is a little ludicrous. Further, Obama didn’t promise to bring democracy to the world. That was G.W. Bush.

Instead, we’re following Europe’s lead into debt.  Yes and no, but mostly no. First, we aren’t following Europe. We aren’t racking up debt because they are or because we view them as some sort of economic mentor. Second, not all of Europe is debt ridden. Greece, Italy, and Spain are at particular risk. This crises was created because of the European Economic Union, which joins all the countries’ currencies without linking their economies. This is not the situation in the USA. we are not going the way of Europe. We may still get sucked down by them, but that’s not a function of debt, just a reality of global economies.  Yes, the debt in the US is unsustainable. However, current debt levels are not a result of runaway spending. Spending increases are growing slower than at any time since the 50s. Instead, what we have is an unprecedented loss of revenue as a result of tax cuts, high unemployment, and a sluggish economy. Further, the US government is currently considered the most stable financial bet on the planet. At present, the Treasury is able to sell debt at negative yields. That means people are paying the US government to keep their money safe. This is beyond free money.  Yes, we can’t rack up debt forever. When the economy recovers, we absolutely need to pay it down rather than giving ourselves tax cuts like we did in 2001. But there is no evidence that debt is an emergent risk to our economy.

I recognize this has been long, and I’m flattered if you muddled through to the end. If you have any energy left, I strongly encourage you to click through and read the reference material, or dig up your own. But please, dig up facts and not emotional appeals and sound bites. The video is a cute concept, but it is a message largely without substance.

6 comments

  1. Keith Mosher (via Facebook) says:

    Actually, the company that produced “Primatene” The number one OTC inhaler did stop producing it because of the CFC ban and did not come out with an HFA alternative.

  2. Keith Mosher (via Facebook) says:

    of course, I don’t think anyone died as a result of Primatene not being available, but it was very effective, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

  3. Fair point. I have a personal and unsubstantiated notion that the pharma lobby was behind the ban as a way to push people to more expensive inhalers. They do that sort of thing all the time to push people away from OTC and generic drugs. But the notion that Obama banned an asthma drug is still bull.

  4. Brian says:

    For full disclosure I’ll admit that I haven’t watched the you tube video and I don’t intend to. However, I don’t think you’ve entirely given that side of the story a fair shake.
    You quote a survey from 2010 on world opinion. 2012 has a different story.
    http://www.pewglobal.org/2012/06/13/global-opinion-of-obama-slips-international-policies-faulted/
    You say Obama responded with private sector stimulus? You mean the 48.4 billion that went to education? The 58.4 B that went to state and local government? The 26.7 B that went to public service jobs? The nearly 200B (98.3 + 48.3 + 50) that went to infrastructure? Characterizing the stimulus as private sector makes me think that you’re not being objective.
    Taxes are at an historic low? Now I’m going to give the liberal response whenever a conservative complains that 51% of the people don’t pay taxes. “That’s federal income tax! That’s federal income tax!” It doesn’t include state taxes, use taxes, local taxes, school taxes, sales taxes and others. I don’t have data on the total tax bill, but I have a tough time believing that everything included, taxes have never been lower.
    Now of course the president gets too much credit/blame for the economy. I also realize that the Fed doesn’t seem to be doing him any favors. However, Obama promised that we would be approaching 5% unemployment if the stimulus bill passed. He was wrong. He was wrong in a big way. I realize that there were many others who missed this as well. The question is, if he was so wrong then, why should I believe him now? Was Fiscal stimulus the only remedy? Why did he tell Christina Romer that monetary stimulus has shot its wad? Does he bear any responsibility at all for the magnitude of recession? The fact that he takes credit only for the good things and blames all the bad on George Bush does not endear him to me.
    Then there are the transparency/lobbyist issues. You are correct in your analysis, but really it is understating how I feel about it. Obama was supposed to be different. He was about change. It wasn’t supposed to be politics as usual. These were the areas where he really could have shown that he was different. This is why he got the independent vote. When I ponder whether he couldn’t or wouldn’t do these things, I get depressed. One is a bad reflection on him; the other is a bad reflection on the whole system. Is there no hope for change?
    The video is just an example of the usual election year garbage that gets sent around. It was probably a pretty easy target for you. That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate reasons for being disappointed in Obama.

  5. Tim says:

    You should watch the video. Any notion that it fairly represents a side of the story, or even a coherent story, would quickly fade. I’ll more than grant that there are policy arguments to be had. This video doesn’t make them. It’s simply an emotional condemnation, rife with inaccuracies.

    To your specific points:
    The video asserts that Obama has created a world opinion of the US that has never been lower. Thanks for the updated stats. They show that even though opinion is less positive than it was in 2009, it is still far above where it was under Bush in all but a few Middle Eastern countries. That’s not a different story. It’s exactly my point.

    As to the stimulus, I did not assert there was no public stimulus. Rather, that the employment numbers in the public sector moved lower under Obama and higher under Bush. The point was about the unemployment rates, not the stimulus in general. To the extent conservatives favor government spending, they like to see it in the private sector rather then by expanding the government workforce. The point was that Obama actually took a more conservative track than Bush in this regard.

    Taxes are at historic lows based on total tax burden according to the data. That it feels different is largely due to wage stagnation over the last several decades.

    You ask, if Obama was wrong about how to fix unemployment then, why should you believe him now? It’s hard to know whether he was right or wrong since other than the (inadequate) stimulus package, his efforts to do anything about the unemployment rate have been completely blocked by Congress. Ultimately, the question has to come down to the two choices on the table for how to proceed. Most of us will not align completely with either party’s plan. I believe you’re in favor of monetary stimulus, and I’d like to see more of that as well. But right now, that’s not on either party’s platform.

    You say Obama only takes credit for the good things and blames the bad on George Bush. Yes. He’s a politician.

    And yes, perhaps I’m understating the transparency and lobbyist issues, but the point of the video was how much more horrible they are now. They are horrible, and Obama promised they would get better. But it’s hard to argue they’re a lot worse than under Bush.

    There are legitimate reasons to be disappointed in Obama. I’m only too happy to have those aired. I share more than a few. But the video doesn’t make a reasoned argument or offer legitimate grounds for disappointment. Anyone making voting booth decisions based on this video or its ilk is woefully uninformed. That is the point. That’s quite different than claiming there’s no reason to be disappointed in or not vote for Obama—a point I have never and I’m not trying to make at all.

  6. Brian says:

    About the only way you could get me to watch the video is to tell me that its so bad that its funny.

    Thank you for the tax data. The data shows that the tax burden has been lower. If you want to tell your mother that she raised you in prehistoric times, that’s up to you.

    I never recall any previous president blaming his predecessor as much and as often as Obama does.

    Obama proposed employment bills to Congress that he knew wouldn’t pass. I’m not about to blame that all on them. I also don’t think he had much to do with the decline in public sector jobs, that was mostly at state and local government levels. Federal employment grew at the same rate as the population, mostly due to the DOD.

    George Bush was a total disappontment as president. That he won a second term will always amaze me. If Obama only has to be better than Bush, then give him the election now.

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