Obama Finds His 9/11

Critics of the Bush Administration often complained (especially during his first term) that Bush used 9/11 as a justification for nearly everything he did. Given that the country was widely supportive of the administration in the years right after the attack, this was (the complaint went) a way for Bush to do things he’d wanted to do anyway under the guise of responding to an emergency. While I think this complaint was overstated, there is an element of truth to it. For instance, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of question that many within the administration (rightly or wrongly) wanted to get rid of the Baathist regime in Iraq even prior to taking office.

In this respect, Obama seems to have found his 9/11, his excuse for doing all the things he and his party want to do while assuring everyone it would be a Very Bad Idea it not Downright Unpatriotic for them to disagree. Obama’s 9/11 is the recession, or as the media seems to have named it “The Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression”. (This is, to my mind, a rather unwieldy name. Perhaps we could just call it the “Big Recession” or the “Little Depression”?)

Thus, in his presentation of a new budget which is heavy on partisan measures (big tax increases on “the rich” and preparation for major changes in social service structure and spending) and racks up the largest deficit (as percentage of GDP) since 1942, Obama assured people that this was necessary in order to restore the economy:

“This crisis is neither the result of a normal turn of the business cycle nor an accident of history,” the president states in an opening message of the 134-page document. “We arrived at this point as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions from some of our largest companies’ executive suites to the seats of power in Washington, D.C.”

So basically, you can either sign on to Obama’s budget, or you’re just continuing the profound irresponsibility of the past. This may be good power politics, but I hope that congress takes some very serious consideration over this:
deficit_projections
That’s right, this budget openly projects running deficits far in excess of any of Bush’s throughout the entire Obama presidency. Given that administrations invariably cook the books to make them look better than they’d actually be (and in that vein Obama makes some very optimistic assumptions about how soon growth rates will be large again and how much that will feed into his increased tax levels) this is worrying in the extreme. Unquestionably, we should expect lower tax collections in coming years due to businesses and individuals making less or taking losses, and we should count on spending more than usual on safety net programs to help those suffering because of the economic downturn, so we should be expecting some deficits. But this raft of new spending combined with highly punitive taxation is something that is not remotely called for by the downturn, rather it’s a blatant attempt to use the economic situation to force people into line to accept policy provisions which (in more stable times) have been repeatedly rejected by the American people. Whether people wake up and recognize this before we add a few trillion more to our debt is another question.

To be fair, the budget does have a few points that ought to be applauded. Obama takes on some of the farm subsidies which have always been an embarrassment (mostly giving money to large agricultural businesses, not small farmers) and doubly so as agriculture has boomed and become incredibly profitable over the last few years. But others are particularly devious. For instance, while he makes much of his “Making Work Pay” tax cut/credit, the president balances this with money he expects to make through a cap-and-trade system which will steadily increase gas and power costs for all Americans — which as we know from the past year’s experience leads to higher food prices and a number of other highly regressive costs that hit the poorest hardest. Don’t expect anyone to admit this as it happens, though. I would imagine that in order to deflect blame there will be even greater fusses made about “Big Oil’s greed” as prices rise. (And lest any oil companies should be tempted to absorb the carbon tax, their taxes are raised and numerous “tax loopholes” for the energy industry are removed.)

We can probably expect the administration to keep using the “the economy and the correction of past irresponsibility require this” line as long as it works for them. How long that is will depend on the gullibility of the public and how successful the opposition is in explaining to people what this budget really is.

20 Responses to Obama Finds His 9/11

  • Interesting. Bush used 9/11 to spread imperialism; lead a series of unjust military actions that resulted in 100s of 1000s of unnecessary deaths; torture, suspend habeas corpus etc,

    So far, Obama has used the recession to extend healthcare for children, invest in our infrastructure and attempt to put a modicum of order to the shambles of an economy that Bush and his Republican majority bestowed on us.

  • Bush used 9/11 to spread imperialism;

    Really? It’s certainly one of the more interesting imperialistic regimes of all times, one in which the supposed imperial power has not exactly displayed a penchant for flexing its will on the supposed colonial powers.

    lead a series of unjust military actions that resulted in 100s of 1000s of unnecessary deaths;

    A series? There have been exactly two military actions taken, the first of which was largely supported. So we have exactly one supposedly unjust military action that resulted in the creation of the only Arabic democracy in the world.

    suspend habeas corpus

    This allegation would be true were it the United States circa 1861, but last I check habeas corpus remained well in tact unless you were a non-citizen who was considered a terrorist.

    Obama has used the recession to extend healthcare for children, invest in our infrastructure and attempt to put a modicum of order to the shambles of an economy that Bush and his Republican majority bestowed on us.

    Yeah, keep drinking that kool-aid Mark. So far Obama has used the “crisis” to drastically increase the size and reach of the federal government. The “infrastructure” developments largely extend to helping union construction workers here in DC in order to make the federal government buildings look prettier. But hey, billions of dollars for ACORN and trains between Disney and Las Vegas will surely restore the economy.

    BTW, you do realize that the Democrats have been in the majority for well over two years?

  • Paul

    It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.
    —-

    I am sorry I do not minimize the deaths of Middle Easterners in the manner that you apparently do.

    When localized governments,human service organizations, and the private sector fail to deliver what the common good demands, CST allows– even calls for– actions by government on the higher-level.

    Stop reading your Rand, Acton, or Limbaugh propaganda.

  • It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.

    That claim doesn’t pass the sniff test. If we were going there to take their oil, isn’t it odd that we haven’t taken it?

    I am sorry I do not minimize the deaths of Middle Easterners in the manner that you apparently do.

    And yet you wish so very much that the Iraqi people were still being crushed under the Baathist’s boots, rather than running their own country democratically? I’m afraid I don’t despise them so much.

    However, I do think that the attempt to use 9/11 as a shortcut to gain support for the Iraq War (a worthy cause in its own right) has resulted in a great deal of trouble in the long run. The Iraq War should have been sold on its own merits.

    And I strongly suspect that as people wake up to realize that Obama is mortgaging (if not destroying) the US economy in order to achieve his dream of a euro-style technocratic state, they will similarly turn on him for having sold them a bill of goods under false pretenses.

    When localized governments,human service organizations, and the private sector fail to deliver what the common good demands, CST allows– even calls for– actions by government on the higher-level.

    Which is exactly why Obama should not be frittering away money on silly pet projects and political games in the middle of a recession.

  • Darwin,

    Nice post. There’s nothing like a crisis to justify a power grab by politicians.

    And to Obama’s claim that this is not a normal turn of the business cycle, I’d suggest checking out some of the nice charts that the Minnesota Fed has put out comparing this recession to previous postwar recessions. It’s not obvious that this is the worst (or even the 3rd or 4th worst) in the past half century or so.

  • It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.

    If it is well documented, then you can easily provide the documentation. I await with baited breath.

    I am sorry I do not minimize the deaths of Middle Easterners in the manner that you apparently do.

    What Darwin said in response is basically what I would have said.

    Stop reading your Rand, Acton, or Limbaugh propaganda.

    Never read Rand or Acton, but some people named Madison, Adams, and Hamilton who all predicted that this would come to pass if we destroyed the breaks on plebiscatary democracy.

  • that this would come to pass if we destroyed the breaks on plebiscatary democracy”

    O O O O…
    It’s so elegant,
    So intellligent.

    And try Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and Maratain.

  • O O O O…
    It’s so elegant,
    So intellligent.

    And try Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and Maratain.

    Mark, seriously, if you have something intelligent to contribute, do so.

    For instance, you speak of Plato. Clearly you know nothing of Plato if you believe that he was a proponent of mass democracy. In The Politics he described the degeneration of regimes from timocracy, to oligarchy, to democracy, to tyranny. The democratic form of government is actually castigated by Plato. Aristotle also lists democracy among the bad forms of government – “polity” was the good form of rule by the masses, one in which the people governed indirectly.

    The Framers established a Republic, one which was designed to limit the harm done by mass democracy. The Framers feared that demagogues could use crises to devise hasty legislation that would be designed to do good, but instead would do more harm. As Madison said in Federalist 63:

    “As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.”

    Seems like he was on to something.

  • It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.

    It depends on what you mean. Here are some options:

    1) The Middle East wouldn’t play such an important role in international politics if it did not have oil, and that this was a sine qua non of U.S. military involvement in the region in both of the Gulf Wars. In other words, the strategic importance of the region’s resources creates the necessary background conditions for military involvement.

    2) The U.S. went into Iraq because they wanted to take Iraqi oil.

    If you mean the former I agree; if you mean the latter, I expect next you’ll confess you have some suspicions about the ‘official story’ for 9/11. I’m kidding…mostly, but I think both are fevered conspiracy theories.

  • Paul,

    Plato wrote the Republic. Aristotle wrote the Politics. Plato said what you summarize in the Republic.

  • Paul

    And read, say, Maratain’s beautiful Universal Declaration on Human Rights, written for the U.N.

    BTW, in the words of some rock persona whose name I cannot seem to remember, “I am a lover, not a fighter.” So I advise that you save your spiritedness for your Rush fix on Monday. But I pray for your co-workers and relatives who think differently than you and may happen to be in your proximity. ;)

  • Sorry for the typo. But do you care to actually argue about what was said? And while you’re at it, you still have not shown any documentation that the Iraq war was about oil – something easy to do since it is so well documented.

  • And I much prefer another French philosopher, linked to today by Zach at Civics Geek. Again, it fits the occasion:
    http://civicsgeeks.blogspot.com/2009/02/tocqueville-saw-this-coming.html

  • John Henry,

    not to mention it’s unlikely that Hussein could have remained in power without oil revenues, nor could he have been as great a threat to US interests without it.

  • Very nice link, Paul. I particularly liked this passage:

    “[The despotism that arises from a democracy] does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd. .??.??.”

    O-baaaaaaaaa-ma.

  • Hit the nail right on it’s head.

    A fine post.

    Obama and the liberal Democrats will seize as much power as possible to push their Marxist agenda.

    Can’t wait for the congressional elections in two years.

  • It is amazing that these Obama nuts still do not seem to realize that they voted for a total idiot that has no idea what he is doing. He is without a doubt a socialist, but this one cannot add, does not know history, and certainly hates the USA.

  • Gramps,

    Just a friendly reminder to address the issues and not to demean people.

    Thanks.

  • I certainly agree with many (though not all) of the President’s goals, but his statist impulses vary in no way from the standard Democrat line for the last sixties, and as numerous scholars have argued, such an approach only furthers the atomization of our culture and the withering away of intermediary associations, tending toward a future in which the State is involved in every aspect of our life and the exclusion of other entities… in other words, totalitarianism.

  • “in other words, totalitarianism.”

    Chris.

    You surprised me here. I take you as much more intellectually temperate.

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