Note to White House: It’s the Economy, Stxpxd!


obama economy.jpg
This is a guest note by Josh Meah, an intern alum with the New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program. He blogs occasionally at The Washington Note.
Note to White House: It’s the Economy, Stxpxd!
Whatever President Obama says about global affairs–on virtually any issue–is not going to matter unless he starts leading a long-term recovery at the source of America’s power: the economy.
2009 was a year where al-Qaeda again dominated thinking in the executive office and distracted from a sensible design of America’s priorities. America played defense in preventing the worst of the financial crisis and offense against al-Qaeda in South Asia.
2009 was the year when America tried to put up a smokescreen to hide the limits of American power. Lots of trips abroad, a non-binding compact to get something done about climate-change, a decision to replace the G-8 with the G-20, a superficial declaration to Israel to stop building settlements, and a speech to the Muslim world to essentially stop worrying about American policy changed what TWN‘s publisher Steve Clemons has called the “optics of power,” but they did not and cannot independently change real power.
Military power and soft power are manifestations of economic power, and America needs to harness its economic power over the coming years to remain competitive and active in key areas of global leadership.
Today, superpowers face real limitations regarding the prospect of using massive militaries to reap large economic rewards. Were military power to necessarily still translate back into economic power, then America would be receiving far more favorable outcomes in the bidding process for Iraqi oil.
But in today’s world, economic power will be the gold standard for victory in power politics–plain and simple. It is people, not politics, that undergird economic power, and the rise of Asia and the supposed decline of America and all of the corresponding security concerns are first and foremost economic in nature.
Furthermore, the source of the American way of life and American economic power comes from America’s manufacturing prowess, schools, modern infrastructure, entrepreneurship, technological superiority, and protection of property rights, and, most importantly, culture.
As those sources of American power are continually neglected, America’s global posture will steadily erode.
As the Obama administration begins the next year, it would do well to remember that Obama’s most critical speech was held in neither Oslo nor at West Point. It was at the Brookings Institution, where he outlined a plan to get America back on track economically.
The achievement of the goals in that latter speech should be the paramount objective for the Obama administration in 2010.
If Obama isn’t careful, he’ll become a one-term, irrelevant president — a flash in the pan of global history and the real overseer of America’s decline. No one wants that, not least the once mesmerized people who elected him.
— Josh Meah


8 comments on “Note to White House: It’s the Economy, Stxpxd!

  1. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    Can the White House policy-curators/architects deny the truth that the myths of neorealism, neoliberalism and the rt.wing conservatives’ advocated strategic doctrines have richly contributed in the emerging phenomenon of the waning US-economy?


  2. Dan Kervick says:

    I have to think that one great and continuing source of American enfeeblement in the world has to be the all-too-evident global perception of the dysfunctional impotence of the United States government, which seems utterly incapable of marshaling the nation’s wealth and sustained political will for even the most obvious and necessary long-term public investments, or for rising above the lowest common denominator set by the most ignorant members of the public. Our vast potential is consumed and dissipated in a plague of interest groups; in the babel of ignorant punditry; in diverting ideological larks abroad, and in the quick-buck,low-efficiency, low-output rackets overseen by the hoarding owners of capital in the degenerate Ponzi economy. People around the world have to be worried that what they thought was just the anomalous temporary incompetence of Bush II is actually a permanent and prolonged crisis in American governance.
    I understand the value of protecting the entrepreneurial spirit, opportunity, and on-the-ground innovation which have served the US so well, but right now the outsized power of private wealth and capital, and the corresponding weakness of the national government, are destroying this country’s ability to execute economic plans on any kind of scale. We are in danger of being pulverized over time by countries who still retain the capacity to think big and act with social coherence and organization, and have maintained their ability to put massive concentrations of resources into projects for building the expansive foundations for the next global economy.
    Now we hear that the planned economic reorganization is going to leave the national security establishment untouched. But the antiquated last-century security state is in drastic need of being downsized, reorganized and refocussed. Every vibrant business in the country, and the world, has recognized this demand of the times.
    The poorly disciplined captains of American capital have recently destroyed a huge proportion of the wealth of ordinary Americans. This prompts a natural but self-destructive impulse on the part of the public to deny the government the funding it needs for the public good, and plays into the political hands of large private capitalists, who never have much difficulty as it is in preventing their pusillanimous hirelings in Washington from taking the needed funds from the people who can most afford to part with them.
    Unfortunately, well-meaning rubes like Ron Paul assist the privatizing owners of America in weakening the government even further, and in preventing the public from constituting a truly effective, politically and economically potent government by the people, one capable of asserting our collective sovereignty over the people who endeavor to own us.


  3. Carroll says:

    Huummmm…the Spending Freeezzzzze..Shades of Grover Norquist
    See if I can get two links in here for your reading pleasure.
    Senior adm official.
    “It is the growth in the so-called entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — that is the major factor behind projections of unsustainably high deficits, because of rapidly rising health costs and an aging population.
    But one administration official said that limiting the much smaller discretionary domestic budget would have “”symbolic value””.
    That spending includes lawmakers’ earmarks for parochial projects, and only when the public believes such perceived waste is being wrung out will they be willing to consider reductions in popular entitlement programs, the official said.
    “By helping to create a new atmosphere of fiscal discipline, it can actually also feed into debates over other components of the budget,” the official said, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity.
    “Given Washington Democrats’ unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you’re going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Will the budget still double the debt over five years and triple it over 10? That’s the bottom line.”
    The senior administration officials acknowledged that discretionary spending is only about one-sixth of the entire federal budget, and that much larger savings would come from cutting entitlement programs like Medicare, but the White House believes that cuts need to start somewhere.
    Krugman weighed in:
    A spending freeze? That’s the brilliant response of the Obama team to their first serious political setback?
    It’s appalling on every level.
    It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. Jonathan Zasloff writes that Obama seems to have decided to fire Tim Geithner and replace him with “the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon” (Mellon was Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, who according to Hoover told him to “liquidate the workers, liquidate the farmers, purge the rottenness”.)
    It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.
    So, that answers the economic question. Very bad move.”
    Then you can read the Economist take on how it’s
    basically meaningless in the long run. No link go find it.
    No matter how you read this latest ploy by Obama, it’s now official…He’s stupid. And he’s finished.
    P.S. and oh yea, somewhere in one of those articles is a senior adm official saying “WE ARE AT WAR’ so we can’t cut defense spending.


  4. Carroll says:

    According to the news this am Obama just asked for another 14 billion for training troops for Afghan.
    Maybe we should form a PAC to lobby China and Japan to cut off and call in their loans to the US.
    That’s probably the only way to end all of this.


  5. Linda says:

    In my opinion, 2009 was a lot like 1933, and the first jobs program Obama should have done was do a version of Civilian Conservation Corps for young men 18-25, a group that if they are not in college are always going to be the last employed.
    Remember that FDR did not take office until March–but within a few months in summer 1933, there already were 250,000 young men in the CCC. I’m not even sure with all the stimulus package data on-line that it has created 250,000 jobs.
    But unfortunately 2010 looks a lot like 1937.
    One thing is certain, i.e., we will never have another four-term President. So I don’t think comparisons to FDR work that well nor do those to Herbert Hoover or Jimmy Carter.
    While there are lessons to be learned and woefully too often forgotten from history, as Santayana noted, each President seems to succeed or fail in his own unique way.


  6. Andy says:

    Barack Obama approached the Presidency at a critical moment in American history, facing simultaneous crises of war, the environment, health care, but most especially in the economy. If he is able to rise to the moment, he could join the ranks of a small handful of previous presidents who have been truly transformative, succeeding in fundamentally changing our economy, society, and democracy for the better. I agree completely with you that the core issue is the economy and needs to be dealt with first. Period. At the same time , the economic condition is subtle to handle – One year in, President Barack Obama faces a perilous economic choice. He can’t pull back the stimulus too quickly, despite the public’s concerns about rising deficits, because that could kill a fragile recovery. If he steps too hard on the accelerator to create more jobs, responding to another voter imperative, he risks feeding inflation and restarting the dangerous cycle.


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:
    AIPAC: Israel exempted from Obama’s across the board spending cuts
    I knew, as soon as I heard that President Obama was proposing an across-the-board spending cut, that it would apply exclusively to domestic programs and not to any programs overseas.
    That is not only because of the wars we are waging in Iraq or Afghanistan and certainly not because of humanitarian concern for poor Africans or Asians or even Haitians. It is because the biggest foreign aid recipient, by far, is Israel.
    The fact is that historically all proposals for across-the-board cuts have carefully exempted the Israel aid package to ensure that that AIPAC will not lobby against them. The pattern is decades old. No matter who (except Ron Paul) proposes the sledgehammer cuts, he is careful to exempt Israel.
    It’s a pity too. If only the budget cuts included Israel. there would be a strong, intimidating, lobby to oppose them.
    Personally, I do not favor cuts in the foreign aid package. America is notoriously stingy when it comes to helping the world’s poor and we should be providing more aid, not less. USAID operates on a shoestring and always has. We are not the generous people we think we are, not by a long shot.
    As for the Israel aid package, it is the locomotive that pulls the whole foreign aid package to enactment. If the Israel aid was a stand-alone bill, it would pass overwhelmingly (thanks to AIPAC) while aid to the rest of the world would be slashed to nothing.
    So I’m not complaining about the Israel aid per se although I sure as heck would put strings on it (like making aid conditional on Israel not telling the United States to drop dead when we ask for something).
    Nonetheless, it is striking that thanks to the lobby, nobody dares suggest that Israelis suffer the budget cuts that Americans will suffer. It only makes one wish that working Americans (and the poor, and the sick. and kids) had a lobby half as overbearing as AIPAC.
    MJ Rosenberg


  8. JohnH says:

    “Hello, White House, anybody there?”
    My response to Josh Meah: Obama already gave his wonderful speech on the economy. Don’t expect anything else. He’s already done what he thinks he was elected to do.


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