We are told there are lots of reasons why borrowing $5 trillion in less than three years and federalizing health care have not yet restored prosperity.
The residents of George Orwell’s Oceania daily screamed at the infamous visage of arch-enemy of the people Emmanuel Goldstein. In the same way, almost every week for the last 140, Americans have been reminded just how nefarious and lasting was the work of George W. Bush. Now ensconced somewhere in Texas, Bush, in insidious ways, somehow still blocks our collective recovery.
Wall Street likewise continues to conspire to thwart Americans. “Fat-cat bankers,” “millionaires and billionaires,” people who fly in “corporate jets,” and those who “don’t pay their fair share” and who junket to Las Vegas or jet to the Super Bowl “on the taxpayers’ dime” have all ignored the president’s warnings. Did they not hear that “now is not the time for profit” and “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money”?
There are other guilty parties. The president also reminded us that there are fewer bank-teller jobs because of ATMs. And he added that online ticketing has meant that there is likewise far less employment for travel agents. Such accelerated automation after January 2009 apparently helps explain why unemployment is still over 9 percent.
And if technologically induced instability were not enough, there is the culpable Republican-controlled House. Until November 2010, a considerable Democratic majority in the House and a super-majority in the Senate were supposedly allowing the president to make headway. But then, for still poorly understood reasons, the people foolishly voted in a Republican majority in the House. The new Congress that was seated in January stopped the Obama success of the prior 24 months in its tracks. Since then, for the last nine months, the president has had to “fight Congress” in a way he had apparently not had to in his first two years of triumph. “They need to do their job,” the president remarked of the mysterious congressional ennui that started in January of this year.
The president also noticed that sometimes even the gods conspire to derail the expected recovery. In August, in a series of speeches, Mr. Obama outlined the perfect storm that had hit us — a veritable quadrafecta of unexpected bad news. First there was the Arab Spring, which created global uncertainty. Then oil prices spiked and sidetracked the nascent recovery. To top that off, the Japanese tsunami did its share to halt the president’s plans for economic restoration. Nor, he reminded us, should we forget the financial uncertainty in Europe.
Former top Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee best summed up the weird alignment of the stars: “Earthquakes, tsunamis, revolutions in the Middle East, financial crisis, and now we even have earthquakes outside of Washington, D.C.” Other administration spokesmen noted the deleterious role of Hurricane Irene, which interrupted the president’s vacation and paralyzed the East Coast. Earlier they had noted the damage done by BP and the seemingly unending oil spill. In other words, if Republicans in Congress and ATMs were not enough, we also had Arabs, Japanese, Europeans, and the angry earth shaker and tidal-wave maker, Poseidon, all in league against this administration.
But Bush, Republicans, foreigners, high tech, and divine retribution do not alone explain the continued economic stagnation. Most recently, a reflective President Obama told us he now thinks our problems are even more existential. We, the American people, he concluded, are also the problem: “The way I think about it is, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.” Apparently, our lackadaisical natures have been eroding even more since 2009, and so they also do their part in preventing us from restoring economic growth.
Note that the president believes that citing such extraneous causes is not blame-gaming. That’s why, not long ago, he warned high-school students that “It’s the easiest thing in the world to start looking around for someone to blame.”