Barack Obama has only been president for six weeks, but there is a surprising amount of ire, anger, even outrage that he hasn’t yet solved the problems of the U.S. economy, that he hasn’t saved us from the increasingly tragic devastation wrought by the clownish ideas of right-wing conservatives and the many long years of radical Republican misrule.
This intense, impatient, often self-righteous, frequently wrongheaded and at times willfully destructive criticism has come in waves, and not just from the right. Mr. Obama is as legitimate a target for criticism as any president. But there is a weird hysterical quality to some of the recent attacks that suggests an underlying fear or barely suppressed rage. It’s a quality that seems not just unhelpful but unhealthy.
Mr. Obama is being hammered — depending on the point of view of the critics — for the continuing collapse of the stock market, for not moving fast enough to revive the suicidal financial industry, for trying to stem the flood tide of home foreclosures, for trying to bring health insurance coverage to some of the millions of Americans who don’t have any, for running up huge budget deficits as he tries to fend off the worst economic emergency since World War II and for not taking time out from all of the above to deal with — get this — earmarks.
More than 4.4 million jobs have been lost since this monster recession officially got under way in December 2007, and we’ve got people wigging out over earmarks. Folks, get a grip. Some earmarks are good, some are not, but collectively they account for a tiny, tiny portion of the national budget — less than 1 percent.
Freaking out over earmarks is like watching a neighborhood that is being consumed by flames and complaining that there is crabgrass on some of the lawns.
In the midst of the craziness, conservatives are busy trying to blame this epic economic catastrophe — a conflagration of their own making — on the new president. Forget Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and George Herbert Hoover Bush and the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth and Phil Gramm and Newt Gingrich and all the rest. The right-wingers would have you believe this is Obama’s downturn.
The bear market would no doubt have magically turned around by now, and those failing geniuses at the helm of our flat-lined megacorporations would no doubt be busy manufacturing new profits and putting people back to work — if only Mr. Obama had solved the banking crisis, had lowered taxes on the rich, had refused to consider running up those giant deficits (a difficult thing to do at the same time that you are saving banks and lowering taxes), and had abandoned any inclination that he might have had to reform health care and make it a little easier for ordinary American kids to get a better education.
As the columnist Charles Krauthammer was kind enough to inform us: “The markets’ recent precipitous decline is a reaction not just to the absence of any plausible bank rescue plan, but also to the suspicion that Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions — the sense of crisis bordering on fear-itself panic — for enacting his ‘big-bang’ agenda to federalize and/or socialize health care, education and energy, the commanding heights of post-industrial society.”
That’s a more genteel version of the sentiment expressed a couple of weeks ago by the perpetually hysterical Alan Keyes, a Republican who was beaten by Mr. Obama in the Illinois Senate race in 2004. “Obama is a radical communist,” said Mr. Keyes, “and I think it is becoming clear. That is what I told people in Illinois, and now everybody realizes it’s true.”
I don’t know whether President Obama’s ultimate rescue plan for the financial industry will work. He is a thoughtful man running a thoughtful administration and the plan, a staggeringly complex and difficult work in progress, hasn’t been revealed yet.
What I know is that the renegade clowns who ruined this economy, the Republican right in alliance with big business and a fair number of feckless Democrats — all working in opposition to the interests of working families — have no credible basis for waging war against serious efforts to get us out of their mess.
Maybe the markets are down because demand has dried up, because many of the nation’s biggest firms have imploded and because Americans are losing their jobs and their homes by the millions. Maybe a dose of reality is in order, as opposed to the childish desire for yet another stock market bubble.
Maybe the nuns in grammar school were right when they counseled that patience is a virtue. The man has been president for six weeks.