But it’s hard to avoid the sense that a crucial opportunity is being missed, that we’re at what should be a turning point but are failing to make the turn.
That’s the last sentence in Paul Krugman’s column today, All the President’s Zombies. And that sentence goes a long way to show why our President Obama and the Democratic Congress have lost significant support with the Democratic base. It’s their inability, so far, to enact the changes that voters voted for last Fall. Without enacting the changes Democrats ran on in 2008, it’s hard to understand how they could expect, or think they deserve to hold onto power in 2010. But there’s still time to turn it around.
Krugman goes through why Reaganism was a failed ethos, which was more an attack on the New Deal than anything else. It eventually rolled back many of the protections of the New Deal, took us back to the rules that preceded the Great Depression, and damn near caused the next Great Depression.
Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism — by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.
Call me naïve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.
Let’s talk for a moment about why the age of Reagan should be over.
First of all, even before the current crisis Reaganomics had failed to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the “magic of the marketplace” were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn’t happen.
To be sure, the wealthy benefited enormously: the real incomes of the top .01 percent of Americans rose sevenfold between 1980 and 2007. But the real income of the median family rose only 22 percent, less than a third its growth over the previous 27 years.
Moreover, most of whatever gains ordinary Americans achieved came during the Clinton years. President George W. Bush, who had the distinction of being the first Reaganite president to also have a fully Republican Congress, also had the distinction of presiding over the first administration since Herbert Hoover in which the typical family failed to see any significant income gains.
And then there’s the small matter of the worst recession since the 1930s.
There’s a lot to be said about the financial disaster of the last two years, but the short version is simple: politicians in the thrall of Reaganite ideology dismantled the New Deal regulations that had prevented banking crises for half a century, believing that financial markets could take care of themselves. The effect was to make the financial system vulnerable to a 1930s-style crisis — and the crisis came.
“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. “We know now that it is bad economics.” And last year we learned that lesson all over again.
Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.
The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity. Opponents of the option — not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson — have offered no coherent arguments against it. Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance — which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing, rather than as what should happen if the government plan was, in fact, better than what private insurers offer.
The over reliance on the some people’s hate of government by many politicians is ignorant, lazy, and self-serving. The vast majority of people in our country favor a “public option” for health care and understand goverment has a needed role to play in our lives. And if “public option” is more efficient than corporate insurance than so be it. Isn’t that what competition is all about after all?
As Atrios stated, here’s what should be front-and-center in Democrats minds.
Aside from pleasing the industry players and interest groups and sucky bloggers like me, voters have to like this [...] health care plan. By voters I don’t mean nutty Larouchers and Teabaggers and conservatives who would never vote for a Democrat anyway. They’ll claim not to like whatever it is. If it sounds and is sucky, Republicans will run against it and retake Congress. And they’ll deserve to.
Democrats need to hunker-down and pass a bill that will be best for the American people. Maybe they should even call it the “American Plan” for health care? If Democrats are going to have to defend a new health care plan next year it’ll be much easier to do if it’s a plan that will benefit the American people, then if it’s one that benefits insurance corporations.
That would be a turning point. And as Gov. Howard Dean said last week:
So let’s get our bill on, let’s do what Franklin Roosevelt did, let’s pass the program, people are going to be very happy with it, and this will be forgotten, and we’ll pick up seats in the Fall of 2010 just like Franklin Roosevelt did
If Democrats, thirty years later – despite the massive demographic changes – are still going to worry about “Reagan Democrats”, then they really have forgotten what happened last year. The country voted for change last year, now it’s time for the Democrats in Congress to enact it. They may be starting to turn make that turn, White House is “devising a strategy to pass a measure by relying only on the Democratic majority in each house of Congress”. That’s what FDR and LBJ would have done.