The youth of America unified and helped Barack Obama become the U.S. president. During the campaign — which seemed to last forever — there was tremendous excitement across college campuses and young people were on fire. Even mainstream older Democrats caught the fever, partially generated by savvy Internet work and what seemed sensible rhetoric in Obama’s “the speech,” which swept him into office. There was also enough unhappiness over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the mess on Wall Street that Republicans were clearly the underdogs.
With Obama as president, it was thought we would soon be out of the wars, and unemployment and financial problems would dissipate quickly.
What happened — as we close in on the beginning of the third year of the new administration — is it’s now harder for Obama to blame the “failed policies” of his predecessors. Unemployment is still high (according to “60 Minutes” last Sunday, San Jose, Calif., has entire empty office buildings and lots of folks with graduate and undergraduate degrees, who have used up their 99-week unemployment benefits and are hunkered-down for agony ahead); the wars’ maximum effort has been shifted to Afghanistan, a place that the Russians pretty much proved a few decades ago is an impossible place to fight; the shining sword of health care for all is so watered down that it mostly makes people angry; and the Republicans may be poised for significant gains in voting booths in a few days.
America’s young Democrats and many mainstream true believers, are now, in my judgment, bored. They thought they were getting a new Camelot, and what they got seems like politics as usual, a bias toward unions; problematic (surgically altered by the political process) health care; and a president who seems, when doing anything but “the speech,” to really need a teleprompter — in short, a reader more than a communicator. In general, nothing worked out quite the way they had hoped. Even the prison at Guantanamo Bay still exists — who knew the idea of bringing the most dangerous terrorists in the world to justice in the U.S. would have serious problems in the practical application of finding a location here that would want to house them? It seems the liberal idea was only a one-step idea: Step No. 1 — bring the terrorists to the U.S. for trial. There was no step No. 2, like where to keep them.
All of this proves nothing, except voters in the U.S. — even new younger voters — have short attention spans. President Obama did not do everything wrong. I believe some government intervention (Ben Bernanke and the Fed) was necessary, and we did avoid Armageddon. I don’t believe regulation works much — few people are actually crooks, and those who are don’t pay much attention to the rules of the road, do they? We have a lot of new regulation and regulators (read: more government and political jobs), and, in the end, none will probably have much of an effect on business as usual, except it will create more expense (read: more taxes), which will result in higher prices for consumers. Business never pays for such things — they just pass the charges along in higher prices.
While some billionaires suggest higher taxes would be OK, Bloomberg says Google, by using legal offshore ways to handle foreign income, avoided $3.1 billion in U.S. taxes. That’s a lot of money for one company to maneuver into its coffers, yes? Google is not alone in legal tax avoidance, but it is worrisome to watch companies dance around taxes when the U.S. needs money badly, and it is irksome the government looks to the rank and file — even couples with incomes over $250,000–to pay the taxes while corporations enjoy the good life. Would you think Google contributed more to Democrats or Republicans in 2008?
I see some signs of positive things happening. The aforementioned Google has — after a two-year hiatus of waiting for the economy to show some green shoots — decided to forge ahead with its data center in Pryor, Okla., about 50 miles east of Tulsa, Okla., a $600-million facility. However, companies will generally be slow to let go of cash hordes. Most are afraid of uncertainty, so we happily note each green shoot and hope the consumer begins spending again. As I’ve written before — the enemy seems to be uncertainty: Will taxes increase? Will the Bush tax cuts expire? Will people get jobs and queue up to buy merchandise again? There seems to be a real cry for leadership, yet so far, do you see any great and good answers, programs or ideas? Is there anyone at work in Washington? Anyone with answers?
Have a great week and look for green shoots.
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