29 May 2014

The Policy Errors of Barack Hoover Obama and What Happens Next

“Much like Herbert Hoover, Barack Obama is a man attempting to realize a stirring new vision of his society without cutting himself free from the dogmas of the past, without accepting the inevitable conflict. Like Hoover, his is bound to fail.”

Kevin Baker, Barack Hoover Obama: The Best and the Brightest Blow it Again, Harper's 2009

"Hoover quickly developed a reputation as uncaring. He cut unemployment figures that reached his desk, eliminating those he thought were only temporarily jobless and not seriously looking for work. In June 1930, a delegation came to see him to request a federal public works program. Hoover responded to them by saying, 'Gentlemen, you have come sixty days too late. The Depression is over.' He insisted that 'nobody is actually starving' and that 'the hoboes...are better fed than they have ever been.' He claimed that the vendors selling apples on street corners had 'left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples...'

Hoover was a stubborn man who found it difficult to respond to the problems posed by the Depression. 'There are some principles that cannot be compromised,' Hoover remarked in 1936. "Either we shall have a society based upon ordered liberty and the initiative of the individual, or we shall have a planned society that means dictation no matter what you call it.... There is no half-way ground.' He was convinced that the economy would fix itself."

Digital History, President Hoover

The policy errors being committed by Barack Obama and his team are all similar to that which J. Kenneth Galbraith cited in the Hoover Administration. That is, the 'trickle down' approach, which is treating a broken system as if it were still a functioning ideal, an ideal of the efficient markets hypothesis that probably never really existed in the first place.

If there is any corrective pain to be dealt, it will be delivered from the bottom up, and attributed to the inexorable necessities of 'The System.'  The powerful and favored few, however, will be fully cradled from its effects in a generous web of officially sanctioned protection. 

I find it striking that Hoover chose to crush The Bonus Army in 1932,  which involved sanctioned government violence against WW I veterans, and that Obama took the same draconian approach with the Occupy Movement which was a largely peaceful protest against Wall Street, for example.

His is a war against whistleblowers and dissent, with a generous free pass given to some of the most egregious misdeeds of those at the top of the financial pyramid in terms of both enforcement and indictment.  If there is anything that binds the elites in America, it is their urge for getting paid, and spectacularly and shamelessly so.

The only crime in Obama's America is to be both powerless and non-compliant.   And perhaps to speak of any of its secrets and sacred cows, of which there are many. 

Why does this happen? Because most of those who are in a position to reform the system at this time are creatures of the system, who are beholden to the system, who are caught in its credibility trap, and who see that system from a particular perspective and with a very selective bias. And that is, from the top-down.

This is a government of the system, by the system, and for the system.  And it is a system that is unsustainable except by increasing amounts of fraud and force.

What comes next depends on which type of leadership comes next. The range of examples from the 1930's provide some preview, from Roosevelt to Mussolini, from left to right, with a large assortment in between.

But for now it is hard to tell if there if there are any genuine differences amongst them, all these leaders we see nowadays, all these creatures of The System.  One might suspect that this is all a stage show, with the various factions and fights well scripted like the faux spectacles of World Wrestling Entertainment.  And once elected, they just take their orders from management, and collect their generous paychecks, often after their terms of 'public service.'  But at all costs, the show must go on.

This discussion below is from 2009. It is interesting to see this early days discussion from our own perspective, five years later. But I think the die was cast when Obama disclosed his appointments, especially to his economic team.

Related: Obama and Woodrow Wilson