Mr. Obama and the End of History

When President Barack Obama took to the stage this week, reacting to his party’s historic drubbing at the polls, he sounded almost pathologically reasonable.

Democrats had been kicked to the curb by a Republican movement that described Mr. Obama’s agenda as dangerously anti-American, while portraying the president himself as a racist, a foreign interloper, and a false Messiah.

Republican leaders made it clear before and after the vote that they had zero interest in compromising with the White House — unless “compromise” meant capitulation.

Yet here was President Obama promising once again to work toward some kind of bipartisanship, suggesting that he was open to deal-making, and promising to “reinvent” the way Washington DC works.

Everyone else has taken a stab at trying to understand the thinking that led the Democrats to this moment of fairly abject humiliation.

For my part, I say it all stems from Francis Fukuyama.  Who the heck is Francis Fukuyama?

He’s an academic philosopher who in 1989 published a highly influential paper called “The End of History.”

The core of Fukuyama’s argument was that all of human affairs had led us toward the establishment of Western-style liberal democracies.

In political and cultural terms, we had arrived at a kind of evolutionary end-game.

From here forward, “history” would amount to very small tweaks and adjustments of the system, designed to make it a little more fair, a little more efficient, and a little more sustainable.

Fukuyama’s text fit very neatly into the progressive, liberal worldview held by a lot of Democrats.  Big vision thinking was passe.  Shining-city-on-the-hill style rhetoric was to be distrusted.

The future would belong to a class of technocratic policy-wonks, who would use a complex system of institutions to mitigate the world’s problems, from racism to global recessions.

I’m convinced that this is largely the view of the world that Mr. Obama, like a lot of Democrats, clings to.

He sees the economic recession the way a very smart car mechanic would see an engine that’s running rough.  He plans to try various tune-ups and and tweaks until the motor runs smoothly again.

He sees the deep corruption and villainy on Wall Street not as the objects of a moral crusade, but as a system that is functioning poorly and needs refinement.

If I’m correct, then Mr. Obama sees his relationship with the Republican “opposition” in much the same light, as a political ecology that needs a bit of pruning, a bit of a trim.

After all, we’re all reasonable people right?  And we all want more or less the same thing.

The trouble for the Democrats, of course, is that Republicans see the world entirely differently.  They don’t think history has ended at all.

They see the United States in bluntly Biblical and even millenial terms, as a nation that is following a very specific trajectory, one that is divinely inspired.

Thinkers on the right from Ayn Rand to Rush Limbaugh have outlined a very nearly utopian vision of a world-to-come in which dangerous “enslaving” institutions — from welfare to Social Security — are no longer needed.

Personal liberty and entrepreneurship will replace the liberal state.

Ronald Reagan spoke of of this Better America as a “shining city” upon a hill, and in his victory remarks Tuesday, John Boehner – the new House Speaker — echoed that passion.

Boehner laid out an aspirational vision for our society, one so beautiful (in his eyes, at least) that he wept.

Put simply, conservatives believe devoutly that the great fight of history is not over.

They are convinced that existential challenges (communism, socialism, secularism, Islamic facism, etc.) surround them on all sides.

And given those stakes, losing is not an option.  And it is crucial to note that in their estimation the Democratic vision for America represents defeat in no uncertain terms.

That’s why thinkers such as Limbaugh were so comfortable hoping out loud that Mr. Obama’s efforts to fix the economy would fail.

“Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails?,” Limbaugh argued.

“Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it?”

My guess is that in the short term at least this kind of passion and conviction will win out over Mr. Obama’s more technocratic, tidy-up-the-accounting world view.

After all, Mr. Obama has already made it clear that he doesn’t have any particular principles upon which he is unwilling to compromise.

He appears convinced that global warming (to name one issue) is a threat to our society and our planet, yet he has drawn no lines in the sand in terms of doing anything about it.

He seems to think that economic unfairness is a growing problem, but he hasn’t offered a single visionary plan for reducing the gap between rich and poor.

He seems to think the American middle class is truly imperiled, but where is his great Marshall Plan for restoring it to security and prosperity?

He seems to think that expanding renewable energy is crucial for our economy, our national security, and our environment — so where is his Manhattan Project, his quest for the moon?

Mr. Obama’s fiddle-and-adjust approach might have worked a decade ago, when we were a more prosperous and patient people.

But these days Americans of all political persuasions don’t particularly like the country as it exists.  We desperately want the next chapter of our history to deliver us a big step closer to that shining city.

Unless Mr. Obama and his party begin to think very big about their dreams for the Next Great American Century, more and more of us will look elsewhere for leadership.


64 Comments on “Mr. Obama and the End of History”

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  1. JDM says:

    Obama is like a clueless novice who has never held a wrench in his life before trying to fix a 2011 Mercedes. He’s totally clueless and in over his head.

    Sorry to interrupt your picture of a glowing Messiah.

    I don’t know why you throw in “while portraying the president himself as a racist” without evidence.

    The signs being held up in India indicate hatred for America. Obama was suppose to “tweak” our image by now, and it is getting worse. But, then again, he isn’t the social mechanic you make him out to be.

    He has no plan on how to work within the context of “three equal branches of government” so the next two years will be even more of a disaster than the first two.

    What we have is a totally inept president. You can paint him with high and lofty words to sooth your soul, but he is in over his head.

  2. roady says:

    he talks a good game about bipartisanship but he needs to walk the walk instead of talking the talk

  3. George Nagle says:

    Excellent post, Brian.

    I especially like your phrase “almost pathologically reasonable”.

    What would Obama have said if asked, “Senator McConnell is quoted as saying that his priority is to make you a one term president. What will you do if the Republicans are no more willing to cooperate in the next congress then they have been in the current one? What is your Plan B?”

    It’s telling that I, an Obama supporter, during his news conference had trouble keeping awake.

  4. Brian Mann says:

    JDM –

    First, I don’t see how anyone could read this post and think that I’m suggesting that Mr. Obama is anyone’s messiah, or even portraying him in anything like lofty terms. On the contrary.

    Secondly, Glenn Beck and other prominent conservativfes have specifically called the President racist. Just last week, Fox News suggested that by suggesting that Republicans weren’t ready to “drive the car” he was making some sort of racist statement about sending people “to the back of the bus.”

    –Brian, NCPR

  5. JDM says:

    Just last week, Fox News suggested that by suggesting that Republicans weren’t ready to “drive the car” he was making some sort of racist statement about sending people “to the back of the bus.”

    You think he wasn’t apparently.

  6. JDM says:

    Brian Mann,

    You actually missed the main part of his quote. It wasn’t about Republicans driving the car. No wonder you slide right past the racist implications.

    He said, “They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back”

  7. Bret4207 says:

    Actually Brian, if you look back through his recent speeches over the past few weeks I’m sure he did use the “get to the back of the bus” line. He also referred to the right as “enemies”. Now he want’s to cooperate? Pathological is a good term. Lets not forget the “typical white person” line, etc. Seems like that would be racist if a white guy said it. Why the double standard?

    I would alter your mechanic analogy a bit- He’s looking for the flux capacitor on a 56 Dodge Power Wagon. No clue…

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The real question is, why do Republicans get to cry like big orange effeminate babies and it it isn’t all the talk in the media for 48 hours straight?

  9. JDM says:

    I guess it’s worth one more look, given that Brian Mann is so willing to dismiss it by misquoting it.

    He said, “They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back”

    you can finish this sentence with “of the bus” or “of the car” or “of the Congressional courtroom, it doesn’t matter. It refers to a time when blacks were made to sit “in the back”.

    It was a racist remark.

    This president has a chip on his shoulder. He spent 20 years listening to Jeremiah Wright. He used part of Wright’s sermon as the title of his pre-presidential book.

    The guy thinks he is supposed to correct the racial inequalities of decades past.

    The only problem is, he is a few decades too late. Most of what he is doing is taking us back to a divided time.

  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Okay everyone go check out Jon Stewart who has all the clips and shows that Brian M is correct. Sad that it takes a comedian to correct the record.

    And why is Boehner such a cry-baby?

  11. oa says:

    Brian Mann,
    This post is simply ridiculous. The part about Obama not showing the same “passion” as Boehner is fine, as far as TV-character analysis goes.
    But equating Fukuyama’s End of History with progressivism? That’s just plain wrong.
    Fukuyama was a Reaganite neo-conservative who studied at the knee of Conservative superstars Allan Bloom and Paul Wolfowitz. He was a hard-core invade-Iraq hawk before it was popular. The End of History was a document of triumph, of history being written by the winners in the Cold War. And those winners, in his eyes, were the conservative hawks fighting for “Liberal Democracy,” which is different than what Rush Limbaugh calls liberalism today.
    His opinions have become a bit nuanced lately, beginning with Our Posthuman Future, and his latest book on how inequality ruined Latin America. But he’s an example, and a good one, of a high-quality, very smart, CONSERVATIVE academic. Neither he, nor the ideas he espoused in the End of History, were ever embraced by what we know today as liberals or progressives.
    Come on, yer better’n that, Bri.

  12. Notinthevillage says:

    Really Brian, it would far more productive as a discussion if you didn’t construct so many straw men with sweeping generalizations and unproven assumptions. There is so much I could respond to but it is difficult to decide where to start.

    I think JDM makes a point worth repeating. President of the United States is quite possibly the hardest and most demanding administrative job in the world. I would dare say that if you were in charge of hiring a station manager for a really large radio station you would not even consider an applicant with no prior management experience in radio. Yet, we hired a man with no prior experience to administer the single largest organization (financially speaking) in the world. It goes much deeper than that. It is the tribal mentality that gave us McCain as the alternative choice. The sad part is that none of the elites in either party give a hoot about the little people. Nowhere was this more evident than when tea party candidates challenged incumbent Republicans. In my opinion there is another dynamic here that pits the party elites against the little people. Call it the cocktail party vs. the tea party.

    Reality is enormously complex. We all know this is true in our everyday jobs and we also know that experience is a very valuable commodity. Experience is something that can’t be taught in school. There are some things that can simply not be grasped until you have actually experienced them. Every parent that has raised kids through the teenage years knows there is no way to convey an understanding to a young parent the trials and tribulations a teenager will put their parents through. Simply can’t be done.

    From the outside looking in what we perceive as reality is always grossly simplified. It is simply not possible to absorb all the details so we simplify. This trap of simplifying that which we are not intimately involved in is the trap Fukuyama has fallen into. The “technocratic policy-wonks” with the capability of absorbing all the relevant details of a complex world simply don’t exist. And they never will. The real downside to Fukuyama’s solution is it concentrates power incrementally over time. When the “technocratic policy-wonks” solution doesn’t work, which is inevitable, a scapegoat is identified and blamed for the failure. This is quite human. No one likes to admit to their mistakes even to themselves. It is much easier to find someone else to blame. And if you are in power it’s even easier to blame a scapegoat. The fix of course is always giving the “technocratic policy-wonks” more power.

    Back to the auto mechanic analogy. If I get and inexperienced wanabe mechanic who attempts to fix my rough running engine with a sledge hammer I don’t think it is prudent to allow him more time to fix it. Like a wanabe mechanic with a sledge hammer I view President Obama’s agenda as dangerously naive. I have zero interest in compromising with someone whose solution cannot work. A smaller sledge hammer will not fix the engine, it will only lengthen the time it takes to destroy it. I do agree that some have bought into Fukuyama’s world view. On the other hand, there are some that will tell you whatever you want to hear to maintain power. They will, without believing it themselves, preach Fukuyama’s world view or some shining city paradise. There is no solution that will give us paradise. Promises of paradise are always a request for more power which humans have never shown an ability to use without abusing.

  13. Brian Mann says:

    This is Brian Mann checking in.

    1. I’ve listened to the Obama statements in context and I think the notion that he was making a racist statement is simply, factually ludicrous. Obama is a technocrat. The reason he doesn’t want the Republicans to drive is that he thinks they’re incompetent ideologues. It has nothing to do with the color of their skin. The vast majority of Obama’s own cabinet, including his economic team, are white men. It simply doesn’t make any sense to suggest that what he’s suggesting here has anything to do with ethnicity.

    2. I know Fukuyama’s background. But I also know the influence that his ideas have had in liberal/progressive/academic circles. My read of Fukuyama’s influence on Obama’s political-historical worldview is, obviously, completely subjective.

    –Brian, NCPR

  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Hey, did you know that when John Boehner cries orange juice comes out?

  15. Pete Klein says:

    I just love that word Fukuyama. I dare you to pronounce the first three letters as a word, followed by the u, and then pronounce the last four as one word.
    Okay, so much for the joke. Now to what I really wish to focus on – “the Next Great American Century.”
    What is this need for greatness? How about good or decent? “We’re number one!” Who is? A sport team you like wins a game and “We’re number one.” Amazing! You never got off the couch except to get another beer and you claim to be number one?
    Christmas is coming. Why does it need to be the “Best Christmas Ever?”
    I’m sorry but I don’t see any Great American Century in the near future and this will probably not be the best Christmas ever for many people. The very idea vanished when we substituted “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” for “Land of the Willingly Enslaved and Home of the Coward.” That change took place on 9/11. It was then that we (or many of us) decided our safety was more important than our freedoms. It was then that all you had to do to be a hero was to wear a uniform.
    During the Viet Nam era, you could get spat upon for wearing a uniform. Now, just put one on and you become “Our hero.”
    Don’t get me wrong. I am not knocking anyone who wears a uniform. I did and I respect anyone who does. But just wearing a uniform doesn’t automatically bestow heroism.
    The time we now live in reminds me more of the early 50’s when “Your mommy is a commy and you got to turn her in.”
    There are those who seem to want to define who is and who isn’t an American by some standard they set. They wish to divide and conquer us.
    Dear America, stop being so darn afraid. Fear is not the cornerstone of greatness.

  16. For an inside look at the conservative agenda (shining city on a hill and all that) read “The Family”. What the author is talking about fits very well with what Brian M is saying above. While it is not true of all conservatives, there is a core group for whom this struggle is about an ‘end times’ scenario.

  17. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    When I start to think that the commentators on FoxNews are crazy I turn to Christian Radio for a reality check of sorts. There are guys on as I write who are saying that the Republicans and FoxNews commentators are being too conciliatory toward Obama.

  18. Bret4207 says:

    I am officially changing my mechanic analogy. Obama is not a mechanic, Obama is an “automotive technician”. Mechanics, in the sense most of us think, is a middle aged kinda crusty guy that learned by doing and looked, listened, pondered, tested and finally dove in and fixed the engine or told you straight out that it was toast. An automotive technician is a trade school graduate who plugs in a code reader and does what the computer tells him, replacing part after part (throwing money at it) until the computer screen stops telling him what to do. At that point he gets a blank look on his face and has no clue where to go next.

    And that my friends is precisely what we have in the Oval Office and have had for many, many years.

    Brian, I’ve listened to the Obama statements in context too. I think you’re wrong. To put it in another way, he’s using racially charged language to make his point.

  19. roady says:

    Barry knew exactly what he was saying with the ride in the back comment and if you think otherwise you need to remove your hand and quit touching yourself.

    He is in way over his head just like Patterson is.

  20. dbw says:

    Brian, I think you are overintelletualizing this. If you need a clear statement of Obama’s overarching vision re-read his speech after the NH primary in 2008. It is as bold, inspiring as anything that I have heard from anyone else. My own take is that this is NOT business as usual, that we are in the midst of a crisis of historic proportions. Our normal way of addressing and thinking about things is being overwhelmed by large forces that we have no control over, and frankly our options are pretty limited. I value his pragmatic, steady hand at a time when the background noise is not entirely rational or factual. Our political system is failing us. A House divided against itself can not stand.”

  21. oa says:

    I agree with most of your comment, but, in my self-appointed job of pushing back on overstated or erroneous assertions in this comment thread, I take issue with:
    “During the Viet Nam era, you could get spat upon for wearing a uniform.”
    That hoary old chestnut is, to put it lightly, controversial, with a consensus forming around it being an urban legend. See here:;f=48;t=000368;p=1
    and here, a whole book about it, from a spit-denying vet:
    Not saying it never happened (before my time), but the documentation is almost non-existent, and the extent of it, if it did happen, is a pretty open question.

  22. newt says:


    When you get done trying to prove that Obama is not a racist, please prove that Bush did not himself order the Twin Towers blown up, that we don’t need to help Israel rebuild the the Temple of Solomon so Jesus can return, and that independent-minded women should not have their ears and noses cut off because some Mullah says to.

    Or, please stop wasting all that valuable NCPR band-width arguing topics like “is Obama a racist?” with people who are so obviously outside the realm of rational thought. To do so is fruitless, pointless, and only demeans the level of discussion here.

    Fukuyama aside (and why would anyone pay attention to anything Fukuyama said about anything after 9/11/01?), I quite agree with your analysis of Obama’s failure to understand failure to inspire a transcendent “liberal” vision for America. Saddest of all, we have template in the actions and speeches of FDR, during both the Great Depression and movre successfully World War II (the latter being, accidentally, and with it’s record deficits, tax hikes, and non-voluntary government employment schemes, the only completely successful recession cure recovery program this country ever produced).

  23. Bret4207 says:

    “Saddest of all, we have template in the actions and speeches of FDR, during both the Great Depression and movre successfully World War II (the latter being, accidentally, and with it’s record deficits, tax hikes, and non-voluntary government employment schemes, the only completely successful recession cure recovery program this country ever produced).”

    Hahhahhaaa! That’s great! A guy who prolonged the Depression by 7-8 years is now a hero. Oh man, my sides ache I’m laughing so hard!

  24. mervel says:

    I would disagree that Obama is a technocrat. Obama is not a technocrat he is a professional advocate. Which is fine, but it is a style and a sensibility that is all about advocating against power, but how does that translate when you are in power? Which is why he seems mystified that his simply blathering on about things advocating for things is not the same as actually taking responsibility and accountability for getting things done. The Democrats lost because their solutions are failing, it is not enough to advocate for the poor and unemployed; when you are in charge of a government that is creating more poverty and unemployment. Now Bill Clinton there was a technocrat and a very good one. Obama is no Bill Clinton.

    I just got our 25% increase in health care premiums for next year, so am I supposed to applaud his health care reform? Most of what he says seems to be hot air, once people start to think that, the greatest speech in the world won’t matter.

  25. Brian, Rush Limbaugh a “thinker”? OMG. Even Rush Limbaugh would guffaw at that.

  26. newt says:


    Yeah, the old FDR extended the Depression by 7-8 years thing. If only Herbert Hoover were reelected in ’32, a continuation of his wonderful policies would have snapped us right out of it. Most Economists disagree, and the graphs I am looking at on page 762 of Norton, Katzman, et al, ” A People and a Nation” ( (4th ed., Houghton-Mifflin), show an almost constant decline in unemployment, bank failures, and business failures, and an almost constant rise in personal and farm income income after from 1933 to 1941. “Almost” because there is an interesting reversal in the gains starting right after the election of 1938 brought in a “common-sense” conservative Congress that stopped most New Deal measures, and especially that horrible deficit spending, cold.

    But, forget about the New Deal Bret. It certainly did not end the Depression, and many of FDRs policies were bone-headed.

    What about what did everyone agrees did end the Depression? You know, that five-year festival of unprecedented government borrowing, taxing, and spending know as World War II? Ten times the total government spending for all U.S. history up to then! Tripling the civilian government work force, and 12 million more in the military, mostly involuntary! Not building dams, bridges, and cities, but blowing them up. Increasing the national debt by 550% from 1940 (Norton, 830-1)! According to you, unless there is something magical about spending money on killing people, the post-war American economy should have crashed so badly as to make the Depression look like a Sunday School picnic. But instead, and in spite of continued government spending on defense, the G.I. Bill, the Marshall Plan, and other government “giveaways” the U.S. economy continued to prosper for 25 years. And nobody, even conservatives, blame our problems since 1970 substantially on the deficit.

    Please, Bret, explain the economic consequences of all that WWII borrowing, spending, and taxation to me. PLEASE!

  27. Brian says:

    According to Congressional races numbers I’ve seen, the Republicans won 50.5% of the vote nationally and the Democrats 49.5%. So the GOP should be really careful about overestimating their mandate.

    They have a much smaller mandate than even their hated Pres. Obama (who won by 7%) and he was (bizarrely, if you ask me) accused of overreach. They lived by the fickle electorate… they should be careful not to die by it.

  28. Mayflower says:

    To JDM, Bret and whomever…..the Republicans drove the economy into the ditch. Doesn’t matter whether they were black, white, or, um, puce. The racism howl was and is an attempt (relatively successful) to distract from that Fact.

  29. dbw says:

    If the economy starts to turn around in the next couple of years a lot of the anger, frustration that drove this election cycle will evaporate.

  30. dbw says:

    Brian – After my earlier post I went back and re-read Obama’s NH speech, and I hope you will read it too. Far from representing the end of history, Obama is inbedded in American History–but with the caveat that the American dream has only come about through hard work and struggle. At the time a lot of people were focusing on the positive visioin, but Mr. Obama was clear all along that it would not be easy. Perhaps that is what he is modeling for us with his coolness under pressure –that working our way through our current crisis will not but easy or painless, but we can come out ok on the other side.

  31. Bret4207 says:

    Newt- The “old FDR extended the depression thing” came about as a result of a UCLA study a couple years back. Hardly a vast right wing conspiracy there. Do some more reading, try “The Forgotten Man”. It wasn’t all as neat as you try to make it seem. The man set the world price of gold at his whim! He forced industry to hire people rather than reinvest in machinery. Micro management of the war sunk Hitler and micro management of the economy almost sunk the US.

    WW2 did bring us out of the depressison, yes. And the post war recession did occur, unless you are willingly ignoring that. But also remember that the War caused a 5 year scarcity of goods, it also encouraged a lot of saving since there weren’t many normally available items. That helped fuel the recovery and so did the world markets and war produced technology that took off. It wasn’t as simple as deficit spending equals prosperity. Tax revenue was building, not falling, grandiose plans like the nationwide highway system, the space program, early computer tech were defense driven and industry responded to gov’t payments for those efforts- and paid taxes as did their employees. That’s the difference between then and now- our economy is shrinking, our revenue is shrinking, our place as a world leader and producer is shrinking. The old ideas and paradigms don’t work. Trade barriers simply result is higher costs for consumers. Subsidies and price supports stave off problems for a while, but after 75 years of it the system can’t work with unrealistic production and supports.

    There is no sure fire recession or depression recovery scheme that can be mandated or put in place by Gov’t. It simply doesn’t work like that. Sooner or later all the artificial supports and limits and taxes and entitlements overcome the ability of the economy to continue to support it. It happened in the USSR, it’s happening in Europe today. Capitalist, socialist or communist, it doens’t matter. The time comes when you simply can’t live beyond your means.

    I’m sorry, but the Keynesian economic policies of the past the seemed to be win- win just don’t work out over the long run.

  32. Brian says:

    I am appalled at the webmaster. As we’ve all been told, NPR and NCPR are hard-fisted enforcers of intolerant liberalism and political correctness. How can you guys keep permitting JDM and Bret to post here in clear breach of public radio’s obvious liberal orthodoxy? Why do you flout NPR’s unwritten but crystal clear policy of liberal bias and censorship against all conservative thought (or at least speech)?

    *end sarcasm*

  33. Myown says:

    Obama would be foolish to think the Party of No will work with him now. Politics is supposed to be the art of compromise, of consensus building. Repubs don’t want to compromise; it’s their way or no way. Besides their stated priority is stopping Obama in 2012, even at the expense of not fixing the economy or reducing unemployment. As Brian points out above, “Republicans won 50.5% of the vote nationally and the Democrats 49.5%.” There is no Repub mandate. The country is divided 50/50 on many issues Repubs will regret a winner take all attitude when the 2012 elections come around.

    Conservatives have a vision? Utopia? OK, let’s eliminate all gov regulations and income taxes. Nirvana? No, just back to the early 1800s in the US. So we have been there and done that. History shows that didn’t work out well. And after every economic crash rules and regulations were passed to address monopolies, concentration of power and wealth and other undesirable results of unregulated free enterprise. And every time we relax those regulations or let them be influenced by the industries themselves we get another economic crash – which btw occurred under Bush’s watch because of de-regulation of the financial industry.

    Obama made the mistake of continuing the Bush administration’s plans for the financial bailout and using the same Goldman Sachs types to run it. No wonder the bankers got obscene bonuses and Americans got pissed at Obama. And now the pundits are suggesting Obama be like Clinton and work with Repubs. That didn’t work out well either as Clinton went along with the start of financial de-regulation and more corporate welfare and became a DINO.

  34. newt says:


    While no doubt much of what you say it true, the New Deal committed many offenses, the net result was perceived improvement on the part of the population, then, and now. I also think that, whatever the macroeconomic realities, the aid extended to millions of ordinary, desperate, Americans may have headed off a far more extreme reaction to the Depression, as occurred in France, Spain, and, of course, Germany. Again, the Hoover arc before FDR was not pointing anywhere but to disaster. The free market and private charity was a disaster. Most historians I’ve read believe FDR saved the capitalist system from something far worse.

    The post-WWII recession was very mild, as I’m sure you know, especially compared to the near-anarchy of the no-government involvement one after WWII. And so forth. I think your explanation for post-war boom is bending the facts to fit your belief system.

    The American economy and lifestyle started to go south about the same time that cheap, well made, and government subsidized, Japanese cars and TVs started showing up here, and we went from being a net exporter to importer of oil In short, fAmerican short-sightedness, stupidity, ignorance and greed started to come home to roost.

    Germany has government-sponsored medical care and generally higher level of social welfare (6 week paid vacs, etc.) and it is doing ok, if one measure is being the 2nd largest net exporter in the world (behind a country with 15 X it’s population).

    Why is it fine for individuals and businesses to borrow within reason, but not governments? Especially in times of national emergency? (We were on track to eliminating the national debt before Bush 2, in spite of Regan’s tripling of the deficit).

    I will let you have the last word, if NCPR hasn’t closed this thread in disgust. I have heard of “The Forgotten Man”, it sounds interesting. Who wrote it?

  35. Bret4207 says:

    Amity Shales or Shaels, good book. It’s even readable, unlike some of the drier tomes out there.

    As far as “bending the facts to fit your belief system”, no, I may perceive things differently than you or the Keynesian trained economists, but the post WW2 recession was quite real and rather serious. Anytime you have several million people suddenly become unemployed things get serious. How you choose to term the post WW2 growth cycles and what you choose to view as their cause will vary with what sources you use and what your own experiences are if you lived through any of that period or had relatives living through it. In addition to the reasons I list for growth, lets also remember there was an attitude of both relief at the end of the war and that we could do ANYTHING driving the country. IOW, it’s that old “greatest generation” popping up again. Plus, lets not forget that lovely Cold War that fueled defense and related industry for 40 plus years. That was a big help to a large segment of the economy, and they were TAXED every step of the way.

    And please, if you could outline just what the “the aid extended to millions of ordinary, desperate, Americans ” from FDR’s administration was? CCC camps? WPA programs? Soup lines? I hope you don’t think there was a kindly Claude Rains type fellow waiting around every corner for the Jodes to find him. Yes, there was an increase in employment over time. As I recall it had it’s dips and peaks too. It surely wasn’t a constant rise from 30% unemployment to full employment. In the end it was Churchill and Hitler as much as FDR that ended the depression.

    Now, I mean no offense, but this paragraph is precious, “Why is it fine for individuals and businesses to borrow within reason, but not governments? Especially in times of national emergency? (We were on track to eliminating the national debt before Bush 2, in spite of Regan’s tripling of the deficit). ”

    Okay, first off the main problem isn’t that the gov’t is borrowing within reason. It’s that the gov’t is borrowing at insane levels! The gov’t is the McDonalds asst manger making $60K a year buying that house in Florida for $450K. (True story to the best of my recollection) That’s NUTS. Second, We weren’t on track to paying down the National Debt under Clinton. We were on track to eliminating the deficit IF spending and revenue didn’t change. You are confusing the deficit with the national debt. The third problem is that we’ve been borrowing as though it were a time of national emergency for a couple or three decades. As I understand it there is not enough physical gold in the world to back our currency in circulation, much less our debt. So we have a valueless fiat currency which is only given value in the world market based on our traditional ability to pay off our debt. And currently the Fed is buying up much of our own debt (which they or Treasury testified under oath last year they would NEVER do) and is printing another Trillion or so dollars to cover, the final figure could reportedly be as high as 13.2 trillion dollars over the next 2 years. This is in effect devaluing our currency!

    Hey, look, this stuff makes my eyes bleed. I’m sorry I put the “Hahahaha” line in the first post responding to you. I should have worded it differently. But facts are facts and we’ve simply spent ourselves into a corner. Fighting debt by throwing piles of worthless paper at it won’t make it go away.

  36. mervel says:

    dbw is correct.

    If the economy turns around and IF health care reform actually works all will be forgiven and Obama will be fine. The proof is in the performance and outcomes.

    We are not Germany our government does not run as well as Germany. Sure health reform is needed, but what if the execution is one giant cluster **** and we get less access, massively higher costs and an even worse blown deficit? The proponents of health care reform have promised a whole bunch. Once again this is easily measurable, speeches and analysis and looking at other countries don’t mean Jack when people are paying 20, 30 and 40% more than they were before this bill the problem is we HAVE health care reform now, how is it working? Look at the stimulus. In concept I think it was needed, we need to invest in our infrastructure, and we need jobs it seems these two things would be a good idea for the federal government to do right now. But Obama’s stimulus didn’t do any of that, it was a give away to state governments and current government employees; nothing got built, nothing big got started etc.

    This is time for performance not speeches and advocacy.

  37. mervel says:

    I wish he was a good technocrat.

  38. Jack says:

    OA – the “progressivism” to which Brian Mann is referring is of the late 19th and early 20th Century – that of Woodrow Wilson, Fredrick Taylor, & etc.. In this context Brian’s correct.

    The mechanical, “rational”, expert-led type of reforms advocated by the President are consistent w/ this brand of progressive thinking.

  39. Notinthevillage says:

    If only Herbert Hoover were reelected in ’32, a continuation of his wonderful policies would have snapped us right out of it.

    His policies were continued by Roosevelt. Lot of similarities with Bush – Obama and Hoover – Roosevelt. Ironically Hoover believed in the Fukuyama “technocratic policy-wonks”. Fukuyama’s theory wasn’t very original. Hoover signed Smoot-Hawley, the Revenue Act of 1932, and the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation which Roosevelt expanded. From Wiki:

    Even so, New Dealer Rexford Tugwell[52] later remarked that although no one would say so at the time, “practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.

    Learn some history.

    Conservatives have a vision? Utopia? OK, let’s eliminate all gov regulations and income taxes.

    Nice strawman.

  40. oa says:

    Jack says: ” the “progressivism” to which Brian Mann is referring is of the late 19th and early 20th Century – that of Woodrow Wilson, Fredrick Taylor, & etc.. In this context Brian’s correct.”

    In the context in which Brian wrote this, ie that Fukuyama’s approach was taken up by “progressives and liberals” of the same era as the book (the early 1990s), he’s just wrong. 1990s progressives, and certainly liberals of the time, supported nothing like what Fukuyama was espousing.
    Bill Clinton and the centrists of the DNC were somewhat in tune with Fukuyama on certain issues (though not invading Iraq), but they were hardly “liberal” (Big Dog ended welfare as we know it) and indeed ran as from the term as the could. But I guess if Rush Limbaugh says something or someone is liberal, then it is indeed liberal, even if it isn’t, you know, liberal.
    Words matter, and facts matter. Or at least they should.

  41. oa says:

    “A guy who prolonged the Depression by 7-8 years is now a hero. Ha ha…” etc…
    Recent factually questionable revisionism attempts notwithstanding, FDR has long been considered among the top 5 presidents in American history. It’s not a recent phenomenon. And somebody must have liked him. He was re-elected four times.

  42. Myown says:

    Notinthevillage said “Nice strawman”.
    Thanks, I learn from the best strawman builders – conservative commentators.

    But my question is valid. What year in history do conrepubs want to return to? All their plans consist of is cutting taxes, reducing regulations and eliminating social programs. At some point in the past we were at where they want to go. And my point is it didn’t work out, otherwise we would still be there in Nirvana.

  43. Bret4207 says:

    I can’t answer for any Republicans, but this conservative would like us to move FORWARD to an era where gov’t intrusion into our lives is lessened, where business of all sizes is encouraged to create, build, hire and stay HERE, where taxes aren’t a tool used to punish success and reward failure and where our children aren’t saddled with debt we caused. We’ll never get Nirvana or Utopia, but we might get a way forward to a sustainable economy that isn’t based on hot air, hope and change and payoffs from mega corps to Republican and Democrat alike.

    OA, Clintons welfare reform was forced on him by the Republican Congress. Claiming otherwise is truly revisionist history. As for the UCLA study, you’d have to take that up with them. I rather doubt they are a bunch of right wing zealots out to tear down poor old Franklin.

    And yes, the man was re-elected 4 times. When you have near total control of the country you can get re-elected. The man had a gift for leadership and instilling confidence, no doubt about that. I wonder how he would fair today in a era of near instant communication and a press with far less fear of the President?

  44. newt says:

    There was an excellent essay in The Nation a few years years back called “Rolling Back the 20th Century”, by Wm. Grieder, about how the Right wants to do exactly that. Eliminate all laws that got in the way of Free Enterprise, beginning not with FDR, but with TR. From the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, right on through to Obamacare. The ideal was the Age of McKinley. This might be the model for modern conservatives. Great time if you were rich, or upper middle class. Not so much if you were a farmer, miner, industrial worker, minority, or in fact much of the population.

    Of course, there were some disturbances, not the least for national business and, especially, political leaders, who kept getting shot and blown up by dissatisfied members of the populace. I recall the President of France, and, of course, McKinley himself.

    Progressivism began the restriction on the power of wealth. Trustbusting, worker protection, and so forth. Or the beginning of the end for American Freedom, if you like. But it must have been nice for achange,without all those derailments, riots and strikes (the Coal Strike of 1902, that TR forced a solution to, threatened to cause mass freezing deaths in American cities in the winter of that year).

    New Deal laws and regulators prevented major economic crises 1933-1980, or so, until Right wing money brainwashed the public and bought the legislatures. Reagan led the way, but Clinton’s team of Rubin & Summers were huge deregulators, many New Deal regulations and reforms, and the triumph of untrammeled markets. Witness the S& L crisis, Enron-World Com, the Internet bubble , the too-soon-forgotten Energy crisis of 2007, and of course, the current mess. Not so good for most of us, who had investments wiped out, and/or paid for the cleanup, but a few made billions, and many more, apparently, love cheering them on.

  45. Bret4207 says:

    What one writer speculates in The Nation isn’t necessarily what most conservatives might want. That’s rather like some doofus like Alex Jones saying all Democrats want communism to rule the USA. Opinion isn’t fact. No one I know of wants a complete wiping out of all food protection laws for instance. That’s ridiculous. What the general tone of conservative thought tends to be is less Federal power, more powers returned to the States (ie- if Mass or NY want single payer health care, that’s their business), onerous and ineffective regulation revamped, taxation reduced, debt reduced and responsible and honest leadership from our elected officials. Most conservatives I read, listen to, or speak with are also in favor of a reduced ability for mega corps to influence our political class. You know, the left will go on and on about The Kochs, “Big Oil” or “Big Pharm” but the right has their own boogeymen out there- GE, Soros, “Big Entertainment”, “Big Entitlement”. It’s not a one way street.

    Deregualtion has it’s place. Regualtion also has it’s place. The conservative trend I see and believe in wishes to learn form the mistakes of the past and not repeat them. Part of the problem is that whenever there’s money or power in play the guys that know the ropes will manage to worm their way into the game enough to make sure they get taken care of. I don’t care if it’s a staunch Democrat or staunch Republican, that’s the thing we need to stop. “How?” is the problem.

  46. Mervel says:

    How is Obama’s speeches on his two week sojourn around the globe helping health care or job creation in the US? Where is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton why is she not taking care of this very important area? Obama is afraid of her competence and has sidelined her.

    What a joke the guy does not know what he is doing and is out of touch, he loses an election and runs away. He likes the adulation of the crowds that is for sure.

  47. oa says:

    More fact-checking on Bret:
    “OA, Clintons welfare reform was forced on him by the Republican Congress. Claiming otherwise is truly revisionist history.”

    This is from Bill Clinton’s 1992 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention: “An America where we end welfare as we know it. We will say to those on welfare: You will have, and you deserve, the opportunity, through training and education, through child care and medical coverage, to liberate yourself. (Applause) But then, when you can, you must work, because welfare should be a second chance, not a way of life. (Applause)”
    Sounds like a campaign promise fulfilled to me. Who’s revising here?

    “What one writer speculates in The Nation isn’t necessarily what most conservatives might want.”
    Maybe Karl Rove isn’t most conservatives, Bret (you’ve said you don’t like him), but he is certainly one of the most powerful conservatives, and he loves him some McKinley, as more than one writer, from publications other than the nation, have pointed out…
    “His recent undergraduate course work prompted him to delve into William McKinley’s presidential campaign in 1896, and he sees parallels between that election and the campaign of 2000…
    Rove says there are clear differences between then and now, but his description of McKinley’s campaign almost writes the script for Bush’s campaign of “compassionate conservatism.”
    See also here:
    And here:
    “McKinley’s close adviser, Mark Hanna, was the country’s first famous handler. In Canton, [Karl] Rove had insisted on visiting the McKinley memorial. ‘It was like a pilgrimage,’ recalled one of his hosts.” —Newsweek, Sept. 6, 2004

  48. Bill G says:

    I believe that Fukuyama’s view of the future has long been discredited, influenced strongly by Samuel Huntington’s alternative view in The Clash of Civilizations. Whether one buys into Huntington’s theses on a wholesale basis or more selectively, I believe that his vision of the future in the mid 1990’s is more like the reality we are experiencing in the early 21st century. Certainly, Huntington’s observation about the parochializing effect of democracy rings more true than Fukuyama’s idealistic vision of its progressive impact. And, there are a multitude of other particular views that can be compared with the nod going to the less idealistic and more pragmatic Huntington. I find it difficult to make the case that Obama embraces the Fukuyama view (I suspect Fukuyama himself has serious second thoughts). Obama may be a technocrat but I doubt that his philosophical underpinnings can be found in Fukuyama’s outdated doctrine.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to have embraced aspects of Huntington’s view without accepting one of its fundamental theses, that history is cyclical and that a country’s position of world dominance is not foreordained by God or guaranteed because of some special characteristics of our culture. The result is a brand of American exceptionalism that is extremely counterproductive.

    This sense of “specialness” makes it difficult for us to accept the fact that we can learn from the successes of others and everything has to have the “Made in the USA” stamp on it. Admittedly, the lack of open mindedness is not the sole factor at play; there are invariably strong vested interests that militate against change. However, I would argue that the belief that our culture and our system is de facto superior and that major issues such as healthcare reform or education reform have to be considered within an exceptionalist bubble is a major impediment to looking at the entire universe of alternatives. Simply stated, our national myopia appears to leave us incapable of learning from the successes of other countries. The result is to frequently fiddle around on the margins and ignore obvious truths.

    So, perhaps the fundamental problem does not lie so much with our politicians and their world views as it does with us. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”.

  49. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel, believe it or not they schedule Presidential trips more than a week in advance. And if you haven’t heard the news Obama is touting the trip as a way to promote more trade with India, presumably with the idea that it would help the economy and create jobs.

  50. Bret4207 says:

    OA, at the time of the election and the run up to the 92 election there was a huge backlash against welfare bums. Those were the days when we had daily exposes on welfare queens with 18 kids and the promise to produce more, of rampant fraud, of a clear problem in the area of social welfare. of generational welfare families. (BTW- I think welfare certainly has a place, but I don’t think it should be a career choice). It was a time in which Clinton and Bush both had to address the issue. Had he said anything else he would have been toast. But nothing happened on welfare reform until after the mid-terms and “Republican Revolution”. Clinton did NOTHING about welfare reform until the Republican congress got on his back, just as he did nothing about the Balkans until both Congress and world opinion swung against him.

    Karl Rove is not a conservative or a Conservative. He’s a Republican/RINO political strategist. He’s become no more than an enemy to freedom IMO. As far as McKinley, my knowledge of that era is lacking, but TR followed him and as much as I admire him personally, I mean the guy pretty much started the Spanish American war single handed!, he made a few moves I think were mistakes. That era, from the Reconstruction Period to Wilson and his imprisonment of thousands of Americans simply for disagreeing with him is an era where there was an awful lot of political movement that we have completely forgotten. I plead guilty to not having much interest in that era. That Rove finds it interesting reinforces my lack of desire to study up. Maybe when I get that far in “The Patriots Guide To American History” I’ll be able to offer something of value.

    Bill G- Interesting post. I would agree we certainly have our pride, but this is the only type of republic that’s done this well in the western world. Is feeling a sense of pride in ones homeland and the ideals that gave us the freedoms we enjoy really a bad thing, or is it just something to be aware of and keep in mind?

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