Patterico's Pontifications


Chait: Don’t Know Much About History

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:04 am

The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait writes about “Why the Democrats Can’t Govern”:

The last Democrat who held the White House, Bill Clinton, saw the core of his domestic agenda come to ruin, his political support collapse, and his failure spawn a massive Republican resurgence that made progressive reform impossible for a decade to come. The Democrat who last held the White House before that, Jimmy Carter, saw the exact same thing happen to him.

At this early date, nobody can know whether or not Barack Obama will escape this fate. But the contours of failure are now clearly visible. In Obama’s case, as with his predecessors, the prospective culprit is the same: Democrats in Congress, and especially the Senate. At a time when the country desperately needs a coherent response to the array of challenges it faces, the congressional arm of the Democratic Party remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege. Obama has made mistakes, as did his predecessors. Yet the constant recurrence of legislative squabbling and drift suggests a deeper problem than any characterological or tactical failures by these presidents: a congressional party that is congenitally unable to govern.

George W. Bush came to office having lost the popular vote, with only 50 Republicans in the Senate. After his disputed election, pundits insisted Bush would have to scale back his proposed massive tax cuts for the rich. Instead, Bush managed to enact several rounds of tax cuts that substantially exceeded those in his campaign platform, along with two war resolutions, a Medicare prescription drug benefit designed to maximize profits for the health care industry, energy legislation, education reform, and sundry other items. Whatever the substantive merits of this agenda, its passage represented an impressive feat of political leverage, accomplished through near-total partisan discipline.

Chait may be frustrated by the current situation, but not surprised.  That a Democratic Congress would pose problems for Pres. Obama’s “too much, too soon” agenda could have been predicted from the history of presidents elected on Hope and Change about every 16 years since WWII.

But Chait’s ignorance of history does not stop there, as his review of the Bush era demonstrates.  The Bush tax cuts were passed on partisan votes, but the rest of his examples fall apart on examination.  The first war resolution passed with broad bipartisan support.  The Iraq war resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 77-23.  The Medicare prescription drug program passed the Senate by a vote of 55-44, but 11 Democrats voted in favor and nine Republicans voted against it.  The 2005 energy bill passed the Senate 74-26, with help from then-Sen. Barack Obama.  The No Child Left Behind Act, on which Pres. Bush collaborated with the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy, passed the Senate 87-10.  To the extent that partisan leverage was involved in the passage of these items, it was largely in terms of pressuring conservatives to expand the size and power of the national government.

Chait’s lack of grasp of history leads him to argue that the key to Democratic success is for Congress to blindly follow Pres. Obama, to project the image of strong leadership.  What history ought to teach him is that focusing on the immediate economic issues matters, and barring a foreign policy crisis, not much else does matter.


26 Responses to “Chait: Don’t Know Much About History”

  1. Chait also talks in bumper stickers: “massive tax cuts for the rich”, “maximize profits for the health care industry”, etc.

    Even when the guy has something to say, he can’t step away from his talking points.

    JayC (ea6c07)

  2. Karl, can we have an Amen? Well said sir, well said. The facts on the ground is that neither a Democrat President nor the Democrat Congres has the slightest idea how to govern. Governing of course being the courage to lead in conjunction with policies that help!

    GM Roper (85dcd7)

  3. … sigh … facts on the ground are that… and Congress have the… just not enough coffee yet today, and here it is 1:15 PM where I live and breathe!

    GM Roper (85dcd7)

  4. I think Clinton created his problems since the Democrats had controlled Congress for decades and the country was pretty well run by Reagan and Bush I. Carter was feckless and allowed the most radical Democrats, the 1974 Watergate babies, to run things. He didn’t have to but he was a nit picker who worried just as much about the White House tennis court schedule as about the fate of the Shah.

    Clinton was a great politician and was able to maneuver against Gingrich once Newt got too big for his britches. If Clinton could have controlled his weenie, he might have been a great president, once his policies were filtered through a truly conservative Congress. He was weak on foreign policy but nobody wanted to believe it was important anymore.

    Obama has one string on his guitar. It meshes perfectly with Pelosi. Reid is more an opportunist. They are the greatest threat to the country since World War II. The one hope I have is that, like the Warsaw Pact nations, Americans will learn that socialism is bad for us.

    Mike K (8df289)

  5. Forgive me, but I have yet to run into one bad subject Karl has written of. His stuff is so on beeyotch.

    Karl, the King.

    Jimminy'cricket (637168)

  6. I don’t know much about the French I took, either.

    Karl, this link is marbled with unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo, but it does have some intriguing scenarios regarding history in the making regarding principally UST bonds and the US$. Thought you might get some ideas for future posts from it. In particular, the fading sun on the dollar, and the oblique wordplay on the yen is intentional even if trite.

    And Dmac…per your acknowledgement some days back, this writer presents some good examples why I have been keeping an eye on the Chinese and their loss of appetite for US govt bonds, specifically long bonds and agency issues.

    allan (8f90c8)

  7. allan,

    I’ve noted the concern about China’s jitters before, but I’ll read the link later. I have a lengthy draft on related matters that may not see the light of day, but we’ll see.

    Karl (f07e38)

  8. Allan, I think the dollar is the reason why oil is inching up again. People don’t understand that the oil spike last year was about the dollar, not “peak oil.” It crashed when the rest of the world currencies crashed and the flight to quality drove the dollar back up. Of course, Obama may not care much about inflation because he wants oil to be expensive. Then he can sell those Obamamobiles.

    MIke K (8df289)

  9. Scary stuff indeed, Allan – if the Chinese decide to call in their chips on the US, look out below. I have a feeling that most folks in this country have no idea how leveraged our economy is with theirs at the moment.

    Democratic Party remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege.

    I don’t agree with much in his article, but this one is spot – on.

    Democrat Congres has the slightest idea how to govern.

    Yes, but as we saw with the question of Obama’s record of actual accomplishments in his career, all we heard ad nauseum was how brilliant his campaign was being conducted. As if that has anything to do with actual governance and responsibility for your actions, making hard decisions, etc. Among the many ridiculous and inane analogies we heard about Teh One, that one was truly the most egregious.

    Dmac (49b16c)

  10. If the Chinese call in the chips they literally gave away a few years of nice Chinese goods for free.

    China needs to use all those dollars to buy American goods sooner or later unless they want their currency to greatly appreciate (USD depreciate).

    Simply buying TBills (dollar bills in the fuure) makes no sense either. All that is, is doubling up a bad bet as far as the Chinese go.

    Repeat, the best thing China can do is spend those dollar here buying American goods that they are COMPARATIVELY DISADVANTAGED at producing.

    Jimminy'cricket (637168)

  11. The Chinese need the US to create the illusion their economy is experiencing real growth.

    The US needs the Chinese to create the illusion we are not living beyond our means of production.

    Jimminy'cricket (637168)

  12. Good point, Mike K, that was a major factor along with the huge long positions that the big hedgers took on which created a turbo effect of its own much like a fire storm creates it own wind. The wind was large institutions and small investors alike piling in. The deep and mighty crash of oil, basic metals, and the PM group was as much the collapse of the hedge funds as it was the US$. And combined with the Wall Street bank debacle the rush to safety put the US$ on stereoids. Oil tanked today punishing some early responders to the foreshadowed dollar demise and commodity resurgence. An age old strategy to determine a ‘real’ commodity wave is to price each asset in a variety of currencies, gold as a prime example. That will somewhat back out the dollar bias. When the euro was going nuts last year gold was hardly budging in terms of euros, but oil sure was.

    J cricket: Yes indeed, and the article pointed out which American goods they are likely pining for…RE, financials, and industrial/manufacturing. But the writer seemed to think the Chinese would be biding their time waiting for some distressed deals in the indeterminate future. In the interim, we have seen how they are doing their fare share of jaw-boning to keep the dollar up while they keep renmimbi down.

    allan (8f90c8)

  13. People don’t understand that the oil spike last year was about the dollar, not “peak oil.” It crashed when the rest of the world currencies crashed and the flight to quality drove the dollar back up

    I don’t think the spike was entirely about the dollar, nor was the crash entirely about the dollar.

    Last year, oil pretty much doubled in price, from ~70/bbl to ~145/bbl. The dollar didn’t lose half its value in that time. Since summer, oil went down to <40/bbl; there’s no way that the dollar more than tripled in value.

    Steverino (69d941)

  14. barring a foreign policy crisis… Given widely communicated weakness & vacillation, this bubble is unlikely to last nearly as long as the economic bubble did.

    sierra (4be1ff)

  15. Never fear. Barcky and Timmy are going to start calling for CEO’s to step down, or be fired.

    JD (0ecdbf)

  16. Steverino, The price spike and crash overshot both ways but allan pointed out there was speculation going on at the same time. The dollar merely indicated the direction. “The trend is your friend,” but not always if it reverses on you.

    Thinly traded items can move a lot more in price than the value of the whole volume. There is an old joke about a guy who buys some stock on a tip and it goes up 100%. He calls his broker and tells him to buy more; it goes up another 100%. This goes on a couple more times and finally he calls the broker and says “Sell!”

    The broker says “To who ?”

    The Chinese have serious problems that will go far beyond the t-bill issue. The Japanese did exactly the same thing in the 80s. Remember when they bought Rockefeller Center ? People were worried as if they would dig it up and ship it home. Old Marvin Davis showed why he was an old fox. He sold Pebble Beach golf club to a Japanese buyer for $841 million to the horror of the NY Times. Then, a few years later, he almost bought it back for a song. Seven years later, the Japanese sold it back at a $340 million loss. The buyers were Arnold Palmer, Clint Eastwood, and Peter Uberroth.

    So much for foreigners buying RE.

    The Chinese have major problems with their interior regions; thousands of miles of poor peasant land. They’ve laid off 20 million workers from factories the past six months. I don’t think those jobs are coming back. Americans will be saving until Obama is gone.

    MIke K (8df289)

  17. Excellent post, Karl. Either I learn something or I think about things in different ways every time I read your posts.

    Anon (eb4fed)

  18. MIke K – Plus when banks started pulling lines of sredit from hedge funds and traders last fall it became a lot tougher to maintain all those long positions in oil.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  19. […] Pontifications asserts that they definitely were not, and adds that Chait is “ignorant of history“: … The Bush tax cuts were passed on partisan votes, but the rest of his examples fall […]

    "A Congressional Party That Is Congenitally Unable to Govern" (46f498)

  20. Mike K. excellent posts. I agree with you on Clinton’s presidency. He ran on a domestic platform, something the American people really wanted. People were tired of dealing with foreign problems. Although the ignoring of world events caused this country a huge headache, it was what the people wanted and they got it. Clinton’s domestic agenda was filtered through a conservative Congress, so the people got a balance of power, what the true intentions of America is supposed to be and the country was better off for it. People even ignored the fact that Clinton was supposed to be like us, but obviously like every Democrat really enjoyed his privilege and power.

    The trifecta of Pelosi, Reid and Obama is truly frightening. There is no control and the Republicans left are the feckless ones now. We are under another great experiment, one tried over and over again and has proved failure each time. Well, at least failure for the average people. The government biggies and the rich are going to come out okay.

    Bill (8833ae)

  21. Liberals are so convently ignorant about everything becuase they have been going to schools run by the NEA

    Krazy Kagu (b60bda)

  22. There is no “left” vs “right” anymore. There is only state vs liberty. The left/right thing is only which group of statists are currently on top, and what they are going to control today.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  23. Last year, oil pretty much doubled in price, from ~70/bbl to ~145/bbl. The dollar didn’t lose half its value in that time. Since summer, oil went down to <40/bbl; there’s no way that the dollar more than tripled in value.

    There was an oil bubble, much like the earlier real estate bubble. It led to a such a spectacular crash that we are experiencing a negative bubble.

    Michael Ejercito (7c44bf)

  24. Thank you, Karl – I had read enough of that to know it was dumb just not enough to where I could explain why to anybody. You could just tell.

    happyfeet (20bcab)

  25. […] made the effort to be a uniter, not a divider. Peter Wehner notes this, and I recently noted the bipartisan support Pres. Bush got on many of his major initiatives. Moreover, as Wehner notes, Pres. Bush actually […]

    The Greenroom » Forum Archive » Obama polarizes, while the media whitewashes (e2f069)

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