Friday, April 29, 2016

The Passing of the Crown

As we wind up our election season it can be said it is always one inevitably with high drama and bizarre antics that defines our Presidential electoral politics another tradition also occurs and that is , the building of legacy and defining the outgoing Presidency.  For Obama that  legacy is one that has  that has been all over the place in both domestic and foreign policy ideas, beliefs, accomplishments and failures.

 The New York Times Magazine this Sunday has Obama weighing in on the aspect of voter anger and his legacy with regards to the economic uptick that marks the end of his Presidency.   He of course does so in the same eloquent manner and poised manner in which he assumed that role nearly 8 years ago.   At that time both the tone of that campaign between both parties, even with the crazy factor that Sarah Palin offered, seems now to foreshadow all of what has become the campaign crazy of 2016.

 I am in the midst of reading Thomas Frank's new book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?  In this must read book, Frank explains how the Democratic party, once a representative of the working class, liberal, progressive and populist became the party of the Professional Class or as oft referred to in the case of Obama, the Technocrat.  And this current party is  placing as successor or heir apparent to the House that slaves built, either - Hilary Clinton - or Clinton 2.0 or well Donald Trump, with I am sure remodeling designs on the plans already. Gold window glazing anyone?

As we wonder what and how that scepter is passed, this article in the American Prospect explains it is one done in secret, behind closed doors, in an undisclosed location, or was until Obama decided to change that process and open the curtain of Oz. I will believe it when I see it frankly.

The Presidency of Obama is one I will never be quite satisfied with. If there is one Democratic former President he reminds me most of is that of Jimmy Carter; Carter, a one term President whose legacy as an ex President was way more substantial and meaningful than his actual Presidency.  President Carter and his legacy of massive fuck ups gave us President Reagan and that door is one that we need to also shut as we move into this last stages of again, the most bizarre campaign I have seen in my lifetime. To understand why this season of the strange, you have to tap into the anger of the voter clearly.  And then tap into a keg to further digest it.

As I read Frank's book I get it I really do. I urge many be you conservative or liberal to read to learn the history of how the Professional Class has more in line philosophically and politically with both parties. The idea of thinking Democrats are these screaming liberals is an utter fallacy and is in line with the belief that Donald Trump personifies the Republican party in the same way Ted Cruz does. In the New York Times last week they tried to analyze and offer explanations as to why the extremes on both ends, with numerous articles and opinion pieces on what has now become the new normal.

But regardless of the color of our ballots all of us really know Politics is about the money, stupid! When we elected Obama in 2008 he had such opportunity and momentum to make sweeping change in the banking system, to eradicate fraud and move away from money in politics. But as we found out early on while professing to take only public funds, that became largely words vs deeds while raising the largest campaign war chest in history and pushing that campaign to new height of campaign expenses. So is surprising that the two outliers - Trump and Sanders - are two sides of that very different coin with regards to funding.

As it has to be realized that our reflection on the Obama Presidency will be marked primarily and largely because Obama was the first black President and that was to demonstrate to the world that we had transcended our racist history and that legacy to show we are now progressive although not that progressive as we lobbed the Muslim card and accused him of also being "not American" different than being Un-American, so that honeymoon was over before sundown inaguration day. And this was marked by the declaration of a Kentucky Senator no less that he would not let one thing pass in the house of Congress ever, then promptly dressed in velvet ate a rotten carrot and threw up. Or maybe I am confusing that with Gone with the Wind, but anyway.

So only the worst piece of legislation was passed, the ACA and then the party was over, from that point on almost all of his policies and concepts were blocked and then came the rise of the Tea Party which led to some of the angry divisiveness that still exists and we can firmly and rightly place some of that blame on racism but sadly I am afraid it was still all politics.    So yes we need a leader to make America great again,  but in reality we cannot even decide when America was great as this study shows.  Beauty, like history, is in the eye of the beholder.

I find it appropriate that we can mark the Obama Presidency with two large movements that will define the largest American hashtags in history - Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.  One that reflects the economic failures the other the social failures that truly show how disconnected this Presidency was from the poor/working class and it cannot be overlooked that this to was due to the entire team and manner that defined the Obama White House.   I cannot think of one member of the Cabinet to his advisers that I have any respect for and that includes the VP in Joe Biden, he to me epitomizes an utter idiot.  And as that door closes another opens and that has led to candidates from the Donald to Sanders and why voters are galvanized behind what is not been the norm for the last 40 years.

What is odd is that was the norm politics by party and the idea that compromise, confusion and well collaboration was possible until the parties decided to become representative of the Professional Class. And  again  how that evolved is well explained by Frank's book and its from there we had Gary Hart the precursor to Obama, until Monkey Shines (both literally and figuratively) brought him down to variations thereof, Clinton, Gore, Edwards, Kerry to finally the true epitome if not the perfect prototype of the Technocrat in Chief - Barack  Obama.

 I will assume that like Carter who opened that door on this type of new Democrat, the door on Pennsylvania  avenue will close on this style of Presidency.  And perhaps in time we (or some of us) will like Obama more as an ex President then we will ever did as President.  But the time to pass the scepter is upon us, so how exactly is that passed?

Obama did avert financial catastrophe. But his economic legacy is mediocre
       Telling us ‘it could have been worse’ is not a very compelling legacy 

Michael Paarlberg The Guardian UK April 29 2016

 It’s hardly surprising for an outgoing president to be preoccupied with his legacy, or to gripe about low approval ratings. It’s more surprising for a president to blame them on his lack of communication skills, especially when that president is Obama.

Obama has been on a legacy-building press tour lately, most recently talking up his economic record in an interview with the New York Times. His main regret, reminiscent of the classic job interview cop-out “my biggest flaw is that I’m just too hard of a worker!” is that he failed to tell voters what a great job he did in managing the recovery: “If we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter, then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate”.

 Obama has been called a lot of things – aloof, imperious, over-intellectual, secret Muslim – but poor communicator is not one of them.

No president has been a better orator, or more media-savvy, since the Great Communicator himself. Obama and Reagan, in fact, share a politically remarkable but economically dubious accomplishment, winning reelection with unemployment over 7%, a feat otherwise unmatched since FDR.

Both presidents understood that economic voting is more a matter of how you feel than how you’re doing, and even voters who are out of work can rally to your side if they’re convinced things are getting better, that despite everything, it’s “Morning in America.”

US economy grows at slowest pace in two years as Obama defends legacy Read more But the opposite is true as well. Voters who are better off in absolute terms can turn on you if they feel worse off relative to others, or to where they feel they should be at this point, now 8 years past the financial collapse.

Sociologists talk about the J-curve; political scientists talk about revolutions of rising expectations. The lesson is that people who do better tend to demand more, and punish politicians who fail to deliver. Obama may feel it’s unfair, but it’s a healthy thing for democracies not to settle. And when you think in relative rather than absolute terms, there’s a lot of legitimacy to that discontent, more than Obama is willing to admit.

The chief accomplishment Obama has been touting is job growth: somewhere between 9.3 and 13.6m new jobs over two terms, depending how you measure it, with unemployment falling from 10% at the height of the recession to 5% today. Advertisement Donald Trump has disputed these numbers, saying he “heard” real unemployment to be as high as 42%. But even the Labor Department’s broadest unemployment measures, the U-5 and U-6 rates – taking into account discouraged workers, those who have given up looking for work – are around 6 and 10%, respectively, and have been declining as well. But job growth isn’t everything.

Job quality matters a lot, and wage figures paint a less rosy picture. Real median hourly wages have risen as well, but barely: just 7% over the past 7 years. One can see this in where job growth is happening. Those jobs projected by the Labor Department to grow the most over the next decade are concentrated in low wage service industries: personal care aides (median income, $20,980), fast food workers ($18,910), retail salespeople ($21,780), customer service reps ($31,720). A greater share of jobs today are part-time than before the recession.

 Then there’s the question of how well those gains have been distributed. Over half of all income growth between 2009 and 2014 went to the top 1% of all income earners, who saw their incomes rise 27%, while the bottom 99% got a raise of 4%, according to Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez. Median household incomes have only recovered to what they were in 1996, meaning for the vast majority of Americans, the recovery has been one in name only. As a president who arrived at the White House in the midst of the worst economic crisis in generations, Obama deserves credit for staving off catastrophe.

As one who leaves seeking a legacy, he might look for a more compelling one than “it could have been worse.” There’s good reason for presidents not to pin their legacies on jobs: Obama’s average job growth rate of 1.1% may not match that of Clinton (2.5%) or Reagan (2.1%), but all three pale in comparison to Jimmy Carter (3.1%) and Lyndon Johnson (3.9%): both enormously successful job creators, and both one-term presidents.

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