Politics is like booze. What matters is perception.
Mediocre vodka in a fancy bottle, widely advertised, ludicrously overpriced is perceived as “premium vodka.” But the expert tasters at Proof66.com are scathing: “If there was ever an example of all marketing and no quality, this is it. We find the vodka to have a very poor taste.”
Hyped-up marketing overwhelms the perception of our senses. Republican strategists understand this. That’s how they succeeded in deceiving Americans about President Obama’s economic stimulus of 2009.
Lest we forget, the entire world was then heading for a 1930s Depression. Lest we forget, this country lost 8.7 million jobs in the Great Recession (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). Lest we forget, this mess was caused by Republicans. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, snuck through laws favoring Wall Street that stuck us with those dangerous financial derivatives. Those supposedly safe investments threatened the entire global economy in 2008. Industrial output plunged worldwide and millions lost everything.
Finance ministers around the world met urgently and agreed on stimulus policies to pull the global economy out of its nosedive. But Republicans opposed President Obama’s stimulus fanatically. They hyped up tiny items to discredit the whole policy. They conflated it with the hated 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (the bailout of banks and Wall Street) enacted by President Bush Junior, mark you.
Democrats were blindsided. They don’t understand perception. They fought back miserably, making things worse. Right-wing goons equated “stimulus” with “bailout,” “fraud” and “waste.” Obama didn’t seize the headlines. He didn’t marshal prominent economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman into the public eye. He lost that crucial swagger, vital in American politics. The “narrative” and “framing” were driven entirely by Republicans. Their Noise Machine blasted out whoppers, parroted by the media, making Americans believe that the stimulus was a failure.
Obama expected that Republicans would come to America’s aid in her hour of peril. They threw sand in the gears instead. These tactics are chronicled in The New New Deal by Michael Grunwald. Don’t read it. It’s sickening. You’d vomit. There are pages of blatant Republican lies. Even Sen. George Voinovitch, R-Ohio, was revolted: “Instead of doing what was right, partisan politics always came first.” Wrecking America for political spite was more important to Republicans than nursing America back to health. If you think I’m outraged at this treachery, you’re right.
Krugman commented (Sept. 16, 2012): “But because it fell short of its goals, and was roundly ridiculed by Republicans and inadequately defended by Democrats, who should have trumpeted its success, the president’s stimulus plan is now widely considered a stumble.”
But how did Obama’s vodka actually taste? The experts loved it. CNN Money stated (Sept. 8, 2011): “Despite nonstop criticism from Republicans, the Obama administration’s effort to help the economy has created jobs.” Krugman, a Nobel-prize-winner, loved it (Feb. 22, 2014): “It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years.” In his opinion it prevented a depression. Financial markets loved it.
The conservative Economist magazine concurred (March 8, 2014): “When he became president in 2009, Barack Obama’s job was pure fire-fighting. His huge package of bail-outs and stimulus was justified by the awful symptoms of the slump: a jobless rate approaching 10 percent and a deficit of $1.4 trillion. It worked: The economy was growing again by late 2009; the deficit soon tumbled.”
So Obama produced great booze and got the party going again, but was out-sold by goons flogging lousy vodka that was “all marketing and no quality.”
Warren Buffett called the stimulus “half a Viagra.” Democrats had only 58 votes in the Senate (breaking a filibuster needs 60 votes), however, and the two remaining moderate Republicans wouldn’t allow a bigger stimulus (to get to 60). And no emergency program could possibly have cured America’s problems resulting from 35 years of Reagan’s “voodoo economics.” Polls showed that Americans wanted more government spending like FDR’s New Deal, but no more of that nasty “stimulus.” That’s … pathetic. If you think I’m outraged at this travesty, you’re right.
The conclusion is depressing. Lies work in America. Integrity has gone. Gridlock is the new norm. Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, attacked Obama’s stimulus publicly but requested stimulus money privately. These hypocrites calculated that American voters are fools and don’t demand integrity. They calculated correctly. Republicans won back the House in 2010. They demanded insane spending cuts and shut down government to get them. America’s bond rating fell for the first time. The cuts undid many of the gains from the stimulus, so the recovery was slow.
But here’s the good news. The world’s largest bookmaker, Ladbrokes of London, is taking bets that Hillary will win the presidency. As of this writing, her odds are 11/8; Bush’s, 11/2; Rubio’s, 7/1; Trump’s, 8/1. The rest we can forget. Here’s a toast to Hillary!