Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "Loyal" Opposition

Intellectual bankruptcy is not limited to Republicans inside the Washington Beltway.

Last night's rebuttal to the President's Address to Congress by LA Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) provided more of the same.

With the bottom of the economic fall-out from the eight years of the Bush Administration still nowhere in sight, Gov. Jindal had a remarkable policy prescription: the country needs less regulation, less oversight, and in effect, less guvr-mint.

In an courageous attempt at revisionism, it wasn't Bush Administration incompetence that exacerbated Katrina -- it was "some bureaucrat" that required rescuers to have insurance. (One does have to respect Jindal's chutzpah, however; you would think that the GOP would want to leave Katrina well enough alone.)

It's not an out-of-control financial system that brought the country's economy to a stand-still, but rather those who refuse to believe that "Americans can do anything."

And in a time when consumer confidence is at a historic low (according to the Conference Board, the index is at 25, down from 37 a month ago, and one-third the 75 from one year ago), the recipe is more of the same: less government, fewer taxes.

After the electoral losses in 2000 and 2002, many Democrats argued that the party needed to return to its roots. Gov. Howard Dean rode the borrowed line ("I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party") to early fundraising and poll success in 2003. But Dean eventually flamed out, and it was Bush, not Kerry who was elected in 2004.

Jindal's message last night was eerily reminiscent of Dean's. The GOP problem was not that its policy prescriptions -- less government, less oversight, deficits don't matter -- were wrong, but rather that the GOP abandoned the hymnbook. The argument that the policies themselves are flawed in these times seems to escape both Jindal and the rest of his party.

Obama touched on the point last night:
A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well, that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.
In fact there's only one group that currently seems able to summon organized opposition to President Obama: Wall Street.

While the POTUS tried to brush off the vagaries of the market with a line ("I understand that, on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives bank bailouts with no strings attached and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions, but such an approach won't solve the problem"), the market does have an effect on -- and reflect -- consumer wealth and consumer confidence.

This morning's opening -- DJIA down 150 at mid-day -- seemed to reflect Wall Street's continuing depression. And reflected that even as the President talks up the long-term future, in the short-term there's more pain to go.

Finally, Jindal's delivery was also a problem, as noted by even Fox News. But the style should not be confused with the substance. And the substance was bad enough.

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