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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Honeymoon's Over: Now Obama Faces Reality

I know I will get some lefties pointing out that his approval ratings are still "through the roof". He's still popular, yes, not necessarily all that popular for a president in his second two hundred day. Regardless of that, President Obama now begins the real heavy lifting of his presidency. Over the next six to eighteen months here are some things facing the president: the deteriorating economy, closing GITMO, confronting Iran, winning in Afghanistan, passing both universal health care and cap and trade. No doubt his cult followers will believe he will ace all these tests, but in reality, there are dangers and pitfalls everywhere and so far the early report card for Obama on all these matters is troubling.

Most importantly, the center pieces of his entire domestic agenda face serious hurdles. Cap and trade may not make out of its House committee. If it does make it out of committee, it's even less likely to make it out of the entire House of Representatives. If it makes it out of the House, it's even less likely to make it out of the Senate. If it makes it out of the Senate, it definitely won't be the same bill that made it out of the House. As such, if it overcomes all of these odds, there's still no telling what will be the final version and if it will look like any bill that Obama would be proud of.

Of course, universal health care is in some ways dependent on cap and trade. That's because a lot of the money necessary to pay for it will come from cap and trade. Right now, estimates have anywhere from $90-$120 billion in yearly shortfalls to pay for universal health care. There's of course no consensus on how to pay for it. Obama might in fact have to revisit the idea of taxing employer paid health insurance. Why would this be a problem? Well, of course, Obama blistered McCain when McCain suggested exactly this during the campaign.

Now, whether or not this idea is a good one, one thing is certain, McCain did a horrible job of explaining it. Under McCain's plan, he would tax employer paid insurance because he wanted to encourage as many people as possible to take up health savings accounts, get insurance themselves, and move the country away from health insurance run through corporations. Obama's plan is different. He would encourage people to move from employer funded health insurance to government funded health insurance. As such, this plan is no different than single payer European style health insurance. Of course, during the campaign Obama called single payer extreme much like he called market based insurance extreme. If he follows through with taxing employer funded insurance, the Republicans can and had better attack this as nothing more than single payer lite.

Funding universal health care is only one of a plethora of potential pitfalls. Even if Obama finds the trillions necessary, he and the Congress need to work out all sorts of details. At this point, nothing is resolved. The only thing resolved is that the Democrats want it over by the fall. Obama has shown more than once that he's much better at promising great policy than on delivering on it. So, it's not altogether clear that universal health care will pass, and much less clear that what will pass will be something that anyone would be proud of.

As such, unless some dynamic changes soon, it's a very real possibility that the entire center piece of President Obama's domestic agenda will either not pass at all or pass in a form that is recognizable to no one. If so, his only accomplishment going into November of 2010 will be his massive stimulus which will certainly add nearly a trillion dollars to our deficit, but the effect of which will still be undetermined. If that's the case, that will be an unmitigated electoral disaster for the president and his party in November of 2010.

Then, there is the issue of GITMO. Is there anyone at this point that still doubts that Obama created anything short of an unmitigated disaster by announcing on day two that GITMO would close within a year? Does anyone still doubt that he made this bold announcement without the first clue of how he would actually accomplish this? Here's how horrible the situation is for Obama. The best case scenario is for him to figure out how to make some cosmetic changes and essentially walk himself back and keep Bush's GITMO policy largely in tact. Yes, that's right. After announcing that GITMO must be closed, his BEST CASE SCENARIO is to realize that it must be kept open. All other policies would create chaos the likes of which he simply won't be able to deal with. He might release a few, and some might even be released into the U.S. He might put some on trial in federal courts, and no doubt those will go as well as the trial of Zac Moussaoui. He might even try and pull a bait and switch and send them all to Bagram, in Afghanistan. The world won't be fooled and Bagram would then become the new GITMO. In other words, President Obama, rock, hard place, you.

Then, there's the issue of Iran. President Obama seems to be in no hurry to start up dialogue with Iran. He wants to give the Iranians until the end of the year just to monitor progress. It's unclear how much time he'll give for dialogue after that, and it's less clear when he would cut things off. Of course, we don't have an open ended window. No one knows for sure how long before Iran creates a nuke but almost no one believes it will be after the end of his first term. If President Obama plays footsy with the Iranians over dialogue and in the meantime they gain a nuclear capability (or even that Israel is force to take it out), that will be a political, geopolitical, and electoral nightmare for Obama. Re election would be a near impossibility. Mind you, it isn't as though Bush or any other president has had a good Iran policy, but Obama will be blamed if this happens. I have warned about this, so has Ambassador Bolton, and frankly almost everyone on the right. So, right now President Obama is procrastinating on Iran, but this is no history test. He'd better formulate a plan to remove their nukes soon because the world can't afford a nuclear Iran.

Then, there's Afghanistan. He asked for more troops, and he replaced the general. The war is his now. Congressman Obey is giving him a year to see improvements. So far, it's unclear what the strategy is. Bush snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq. Obama must do the same in Afghanistan or again, he will be faced with a political, geopolitical, and electoral nightmare. Presidents that lose wars do NOT get re elected.

Finally, there's the economy. The president has already done something very dangerous. He's started touting early signs of recovery, and tried to attach those to his policies. This is dangerous. If and when the economic downturn continues, the president will lose all sorts of credibility for making early calls about turning a corner. The economic numbers are as yet unclear. The banks are still not lending. The automobile companies are all in bankruptcy, and now, California is about to lead several states asking for bailouts. Obama will own all of this along with a nearly two trillion dollar deficit. Here's how Dick Morris put Obama's quandary.

When will the economy stop dropping because of the recession and start dropping because of the harm Obama’s cure to the recession is inflicting? There will likely be a seam that will run through the polling and recession statistics in the next few months when the symptoms of the disease abate and those triggered by Obama’s program begin to kick in. In short, when will the Bush recession become the Obama recession? In fact, it may already have happened.

Obama’s popularity and the economic statistics fell, pretty much in tandem from his inauguration until early April. During this period, unemployment rose by two points, consumer confidence fell, and over 2 million jobs were destroyed.

It's a certainty that unemployment will reach double digits, it may reach 11%, and I predict we'll be in the teens before we top out. Furthermore, it's a very real possibility that we'll still be in double digits come November of 2010. The plan to buy "toxic assets" is stalled indefinitely. Obama's plan to modify mortgages has sputtered so far. The stimulus is already full of fraud. Furthermore, Obama's policy aren't merely inflationary but hyper inflationary. So, Obama will have all sorts to answer for in the next twelve to eighteen months over the economy. Blaming Bush will get really old really fast. When unemployment hits double digits, the folks that are suffering will have little tolerance for a president that blames his own predecessor for their problems.

So, get ready. In the next year to year and a half, we'll all find out if President Obama is the fraud I think he is or he's the messiah his cultist think he is.


Anonymous said...

"no doubt those will go as well as the trial of Zac Moussaoui."

Are you implying the trial was a failure because he wasn't sentenced to death?

mike volpe said...

I didn't say it was a failure and his sentence was up to the judge. It was, however, a spectacle. he used the trial to perpetrate propaganda. it was a farce and a spectacle and that was one trial. Imagine dozens of trials like Moussaoui's.

frog said...

Wow, you nailed it. I agree, he is mostly a fraud. I think he believes he is doing good, just like his cult followers believe it's good. A few bad things will need to happen to start pushing the tide of their mistaken beliefs back. One good thing that might help is the failure of Global Warming to show true evidence that it is real. This may not happen quick enough or might not even matter considering how people of that opinion are so ossified in believing in it.

Jason Gillman said...

Frog, unfortunately "global warming" or whatever convenient title is used to explain away many things including why its colder or even why your allergies are re-asserting themselves (don't ignore the current pollen counts!!)lately .

No WAY the powers-that-would-be will allow this little meal ticket escape without a major battle..

Truth matters not anymore.

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Simon said...

One can but hope Mike.


There is always hope.

I hope Obama succeeds.

Dave Schuler said...

Mike, I think the answer is "none of the above". Much to everybody's surprise, not the least his own I suspect, President Obama is very much affirming the policies of his predecessor in most particulars. The job has a way of shaping the man.