May 31st 2013

When Will Conservatives Admit Defeat?

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

"Home prices are surging, job growth is strengthening and stocks are setting record highs. All of which explains why Americans are more hopeful about the economy than at any other point in five years." This is the headline today from the Associated Press. This is not a missive from a hopeful liberal press, but the conclusion from independent organizations broadly accepted as disinterested and honest researchers. In some cases the reports are directly from the industries themselves (car sales for example):

1) The Conference Board, a private research group, reported on Tuesday that consumer confidence is at 76.2 in May, up from 69 in April, the highest level since February 2008.

2) U.S. home prices jumped about 11 percent in March compared to the previous year, the biggest annual increase since April 2006. This from the S&P's Case-Shiller report.

3) The Dow has risen 18 percent this year alone; the S&P 500 will this month hit the longest winning streak since 2009. We must not forget that in March 2009 Stanford economist Michael Boskin opined in the Wall Street Journal that "Obama's radicalism is killing the Dow." The markets have almost doubled since then. The DJIA was at 7,949 the day Bush left office; as of this writing the DJIA is at 15,400.

4) The national unemployment rate is now not at 7.5 percent, down from the high of 10 percent in 2009; the rate continues to fall. The economy has added, on average, 208,000 jobs per month since November. Remember that the economy was losing 700,000 jobs per month when Bush left office. Let us not forget the rather creepy conspiracy theory that Obama was manipulating the unemployment figures prior to the election; where are Matt and Jack now?

5) According to Bloomberg Government, manufacturing has its best showing since the days of Bill Clinton, arresting the long slide seen under Bush. U.S. factory positions have grown since early 2010. Fox & Friends soiled themselves trying to discredit this reality: even theWall Street Journal called Bush's job creation history "the worst track record on record," admitting the obvious growth under Obama.

6) American automobile sales have not only recovered from catastrophic loss, but have accelerated into strong growth. GM reports sales up 11 percent from last year; Ford reports an annual increase of 17.8 percent; Chrysler is up 11 percent.

No matter how much Fox and the Republican leadership in Washington might want to discredit the president, the numbers above are not in dispute. The gains in the stock and housing markets have enriched Americans to the tune of $16 trillion lost to the great Bush recession. To put Obama's performance in perspective, let us not forget that the Dow showed a loss of 25 percent during the eight years of G.W. Bush; the S&P fared worse under Bush -- the index dropped 40 percent of its value during the Bush reign. The NASDAQ lost 48 percent of its value. The stock market under Obama showed a positive 20.1 percent annual increase in his first two years in office and was up 85 percent at the end of his first term. In our nation's history, Obama ranks third in first-term stock performance. And his second term continues the expansion: the DJIA was at 13,881 on the day of Obama's second inauguration.

While the right wing embarrasses itself with dire warnings of hyperinflation and conspiracies to manipulate economic indicators, the rest of us enjoy a solid economic expansion. Of course we have much more that needs to be done. Which brings me to the central question: is there any circumstance, any result, which would enable conservatives to admit they were wrong about Obama and his economic policies?

Concerning national security, few would argue that Obama is soft on terrorism. But the challenge remains the same here as with economic policy: what outcome would yield an admission from the right that Obama's policies work, and are good for America?

Given the positive economic trends we see, let me propose a reasonable hypothetical: at the end of Obama's second term, the United States is enjoying a robust, healthy economy with low inflation and a declining debt. If this became a reality, would conservatives allow that Obama was a success? And if not, what outcome would?

If one argues that any success cannot be attributed to Obama's policies, then so too one must argue that any failures are not his. Inversely, if Obama's policies can be blamed for a bad economy, and the GOP is never shy about that, then those same policies must be credited when we enjoy strong economic growth. One of the most aggravating aspects of right wing zealotry is the idea that all things good are due to the Republican Congress (or to a previous Republican president no matter how far back in time), and all things bad caused by Obama (or a previous Democratic president, no matter how far back). That absurdity will not stand. This ridiculous selective attribution of success and failure is the clearest sign of right wing disintegration.

Let's be real. We all know that, most likely, no possible outcome would cause conservative foes of Obama to admit they were wrong. No matter if the economy were booming along; even if the debt were totally erased; even if unemployment was at 3 percent; even if the stock market tripled. Nothing, no outcome, no success, will cause conservatives to admit that Obama and his policies were and are good for the country.

If my conclusion is wrong, then show me. I challenge any conservative to list any metric by which Obama could be judged a success. Could he do anything, achieve anything, that would bring lie to your claim that Obama is a radical, a socialist, a big-government advocate out of control? What if after eight years the country is clearly better off than when he took office? Would anybody on the right admit to being wrong? Of course any hypothetical metric of success must be put in context of past presidents, Republican or Democrat, to keep such measurements in the realm of the possible. Saying that Obama failed because he did not make everybody millionaires would not qualify as a response here.

If I am correct, nobody will meet this challenge. And if so, then we know everything we need to about the conservative movement today. If the right cannot give me anything or describe any set of circumstances that would qualify as a success, then conservatives admit openly that they simply hate Obama, and that absolutely nothing he does can ever be right, no matter how good for America. Nihilism is not a long-term viable strategy for any political movement; sacrificing the American people on the altar of hateful politics is not a winning game plan. Opposing a president leading a country to economic ruin makes some sense; the opposite is not true. Hating Obama no matter how good he may be for the country, no matter how well the economy is doing, is nothing but turning a blind eye to reality at the expense of the country. And as divided as we are as a people, such blind hatred will not lead to long-term political gain.

So, conservatives, go ahead: give me something, some economic criteria, that would hypothetically have you admit you were wrong about Obama. Go ahead.

Ah, the sound of silence




 


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