Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Just Don't Get It

Is it just me or does more and more of what we see and read in the media make no sense? Why do so many seemingly intelligent people keep repeating lies and distortions as though they were true? Why do those same people speak in the present or future tense about things that have already happened? Why do "journalists" seek responses and reactions to these distortions as though they were real news instead of just ignoring them? I just don't get it.

For example, I keep hearing concerns and warnings about President Obama's socialist plan to redistribute the wealth in our country. But we know for a fact that has already happened.

Over the last eight years, we have witnessed the greatest redistribution of wealth in our country's history. We saw unprecedented amounts moved from average investors and workers into the pockets of those who run companies and work on Wall Street. We have seen the Bush tax cuts tilt the playing field to reward the richest Americans at the expense of everyone else. Those aren't opinions--those are facts.

Although I haven't seen statistics, I am certain that we now have more Americans who earn more in a month than the average worker makes in a whole year than ever before. And yet, now that the horse is out of the barn, there is a huge outcry that Obama wants to redistribute the wealth. I just don't get it.

Critics are also wringing their hands and screaming on a daily basis on the radio, Fox News, and CNBC that the Obama government is taking over businesses, deciding how much money executives in private companies should make, and destroying the free market system that has served us so well over the years.

But wait a minute. That system DIDN'T serve us well at all. It brought us to the brink of economic meltdown. Last year the conservative free market Treasury secretary Henry Paulson gathered the heads of all the major banks in a room and ordered them to accept $125 billion in TARP money immediately. He told the country that without an immediate $800 billion government bailout, our whole world financial system would collapse.

This was LAST year, when Bush was still president. You remember Bush. He's the guy who told us weekly that the economy was fundamentally sound right up until the minute that his Treasury secretary accurately told us we were on the verge of falling into the abyss.

Bush is the guy who spent more than a trillion on the Iraq war (including hundreds of millions in cash that were thrown off the back of trucks (to appease the Iraqi masses) and billions in no-bid contracts to his buddies and contributors from Blackwater, Halliburton, and others who have since been charged with ripping off the American people. He's the guy who passed the prescription drug benefit with no discussion or apparent concern regarding how we would pay for it. He's the guy who took a budget surplus and in eight years more than doubled the national debt to over than $10 trillion.

At no time during this bankrupting of our country during good economic times did the subject of how we were going to pay for all this ever come up in the Republican-controlled Congress or from the White House. Never. Instead the richest Americans got tax cuts and we were all told to go shopping and keep borrowing.

Now all of Bush's former supporters and defenders have suddenly become fiscal conservatives and are screaming their outrage claiming that Obama wants to do what Bush and Cheney have already done--run up trillions in deficits and bury the country in debt. Only unlike Bush and Cheney, Obama has an excuse--the economy is in a death spiral. Politics aside, this criticism coming from the very people who created the problem seems to make no sense. I just don't get it.

They claim that Obama wants to take over and run our banks and auto makers. But these banks and auto makers were broke and came to Washington on bended knee asking for life support. The leaders of these companies made hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves while they made stupid and greedy decisions that ran their companies (and our economy) into the ground and jeopardized the jobs of hundreds of thousands of their workers.

So Obama has come up with money to save the economy but now insists that the same people and practices that created this mess will not be allowed to continue on the taxpayer's dime. He has never talked about putting conditions and restrictions on a successful company. If he was taking over and running Google or Apple or Procter and Gamble then his critics might have a point. But we're talking about American corporate institutions that were destroyed by incompetent, greedy managers.

And for this, CNBC's Larry Kudlow and the Fox News chorus scream out in harmony that our president is a socialist who is stifling free enterprise and ruining the system that made America great. It seems pretty clear that he is actually insisting that we change the approach that led the economy off a cliff. I just don't get it.

Finally, we are now dealing with the election in Iran. Obama's response has been measured, smart, and consistent according to most people including a broad range of conservative commentators. But the Right wing attack dogs have been relentlessly critical from the moment the election ended and it became clear that there were irregularities to the last few days when Iranian demonstrators have been shot in the street.

It has been striking to watch Republican lawmakers like Saxby Chambliss, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and others talk about how our president has a responsibility to to get very involved in the internal election process of another country where it appears there have been irregularities that caused the wrong person to win.

I'm old enough--and so are they--to remember our own presidential election of eight years ago. Many around the world believe that Bush's brother, the Florida secretary of state, and a Republican Supreme Court stole the presidency of the United States from its rightful winner. Reasonable people can disagree about whether that actually happened but there is no doubt that there was at least the impression of impropriety.

How would these Republicans who are so critical of Obama have weighed in if the leaders of France, Germany, or Saudi Arabia tried to become actively involved in helping us sort out what happened? What if they questioned the accuracy of our results and the morality of our elected officials and said they could not sit quietly by and watch the will of the people overwhelmed by politics? It's a rhetorical question. We all know the answer. And oh, by the way, I just don't get it.

Obama responded perfectly in his news conference when he said that these critics have the luxury of shooting from the hip and saying whatever they want. He's the only one who is President of the United States and has to think before he talks. As one commentator put it, "Obama is playing chess while the rest of these guys are playing checkers. He's thinking ten moves down the road while they are thinking about today's news cycle."

I have only met Obama once and don't know him well. He has made some mistakes and will surely make more. By the way, he has been sharply criticized by members of his own party and Left-leaning commentators like Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, and Keith Olberman for several his statements and positions. He has also been praised by those same people. THAT I GET.

But I can't understand the level and intensity of attacks that are being levelled at a man who, by all assessments, has surrounded himself with good people of both parties, who has brought our economy back from the brink of collapse, and who has three times as many Americans believing we are now on the right track as felt that way six months ago.

If there was an election coming up next month then it might make sense. But Obama is just a few months into a four year, no-cut contract. We are at war. He inherited an economy that was and still is a disaster. He was given the ball in the top of the ninth with his team behind 9-0 and told to go out and win the game. Is it fair to blame him for the loss if his team comes back to lose 9-7?

He's going to need a lot of luck and all of our support but instead he has been greeted with a solid barrage of unfair criticism from people who claim to be patriotic and care about our country.

I just don't get it.


Anonymous said...

"I just don't get it"
Took the words right out of my mouth you schmuck!!

Larry Gellman said...

Thank you again Mr. Anonymous for your thoughtful response. Although you didn't go into great detail, I can tell that you must be one of those liberal lefty Democrats who can't stand nuanced discussion. I hope you see the light and come over the the Right soon.

Jim said...

mr gellman:

you write well, obviously well thought out by a seemingly intelligent person, but you fail to see what is transpiring in so many ways. i won't attack all, but will bring up a few points about which i disagree, and make a few comments.

you certainly sound like you are coming from statism, and hold disdain for capitalism. i do not believe sovereignty is vested in the state, rather in the people. i do not believe people should be driven to enhance the power of the state, rather the opposite, to enhance themselves as individuals, and if that means making more money in a month than the average worker makes in a year, then that is capitalism, and what has made this country what it has been, at least to date. that said, i do believe it should be done honestly.

why people from your side of the spectrum continually compare this president to bush astounds me. yes, bush made more than his fair share of mistakes, but this guy needs to stand on his own,not by comparison, as you feel he should.

this president i believe is in way over his head, in economics, financial responsibility, foreign policy, and an ability to deal with the people, and the more recent polls point out that more and more folks are seeing this. his strongly approve vs. disapprove numbers are now about equal (rasmussen). this president i believe is more tuned into his political popularity and creating a legacy, than governing rationally, being fair to opposing viewpoints, and choosing competent folks to surround him; but i guess we will get at least a partial answer to all of that in about 117 months.

regarding iran and human rights, do you recall reagan and poland, reagan and germany. i would suggest you might want to read this link, an article from a few years ago-lech walesa: http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110005204.
no, it is not out of character for an american president to reach out to those oppressed in other countries, vs. "voting present" as this president has done once again. he does have a history of "voting present". i would guess you know that. and of course there is the berlin wall reagan's other great humanitarian effort. where might this world be today without his actions? quite different, i should think.

might i suggest you read a book, and it is actually available to liberals as well as conservatives. before i give you the name of it, i should point out that it is the longest lasting #1 best seller in history where the author has not been interviewed by mainstream media. mark levin--Liberty and Tyranny. and one does not have to be a conservative to understand what he is saying, the historical perspective he gives, rather one only needs to be open to his profound thinking.
jim bloch

AJ Howard said...

Larry, My take is that there's nothing TO get besides simple blindered-ness on the part of simple-minded people who either refuse to see, or are incapable of seeing, any amount of nuance in the world. The Fox News folks and their ilk are to the media as Fundamentalists are to any religion, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish. It's a binary world to these people, at best. Democrats who pursue an agenda that differs from the Republican agenda are bad. Bi-partisanship is when Democrats do what Republicans want.

The previous commenter's comparison of present-day Iran to Reagan-era Poland and Germany is ridiculous, mainly because it completely ignores the dreadful divide between our country and many Arab/Muslim states. It's a divide that is so much more complex than the one between the West and the then-Soviet states. It's a profound cultural, religious, and ethnic divide, made exponentially worse by our unapologetic torturing of Arab/Muslim prisoners over the past 6 years.

Please keep up the great blogging. I recommend you to everyone I know because I know I can count on even-handed, open-minded wrestling with issues based on facts, not on political posturing.

AJ Howard

Larry Gellman said...


Thanks for your comment. You had me engaged until you recommended Mark Levin. I have listened to him. He is the most venomous and hateful of all the Right winger angry men and women and that's saying a lot. I would encourage all to listen to him on the radio and share your reactions.

As far as your points are concerned, I have to say I just don't get it.

"Obama is in ay over his head in economic, financial responsibility, foreign policy, and his ability to deal with the people." Compared to whom? To McCain--our other choice--who pushed hard for TARP and the bailouts and would have given us a Treasury Secretary who thought the recession was imaginary and called the American people "whiners?"

As far as Bush goes, I bring him up only because many of the loudest and most severe critics of Obama are the same people who either cheered and supported Bush/Cheney decisions that reflected the same behavior and created the same problems that they now talk of in the future tense with Obama. I just don't get it.

I don't have a side of the aisle. I have supported and raised money for many Republicans over the years. That was when being conservative had something to do with fiscal responsibility and was less focused on intensely private issues such as reproductive choice and gender--issues that true conservatives would say, as I do, are none of government's business.

Larry Gellman said...


Thanks. Please check www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-gellman where you'll find a lot more comments.

Be well and stay in touch.

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Jim said...

unfortunately you addressed only some of the points i mentioned, failing to mention this president's reaction/inaction over human rights in iran. i honestly cannot picture this man singing out for freedom and liberty, like his predecessors did, which had significant global impact by doing so, and changed the global landscape. unfortunately this president is still going through on the job training, he has not a clue about foreign diplomacy, witness his overseas blunders to date as president, and the lack of respect he has from his western peers (and might i say from the "bad guys" too). the one thing biden said to date that is correct is that this president will be tested. we are seeing that now. to date his test score is D+.

i would like this president to be open to alternative points of view, have an open white house, like he promised he would, and criticized his predecessor for being closed. but now if a reporter is on the other side of the aisle, he/she is not called on in a press conference, is not on board the press plane, and he moves on with the attitude, well we won-and from that he at the moment draws his strength. someone ought to point out to him that 47% of this country did not vote for him. his arrogance continues.

regarding mark levin, it sounds like you are not open to reading his #1 best seller. having sold so many books, i should think that many who do not subscribe to his point of view, and maybe some who believe him to be venomous and hateful have read the book. as intelligent human beings we must be open to read alternative points of view-hey we might even learn something that way.

and having come from the financial arena, surely you understand what he is doing and what his motive is with this harassment of bernanke. welcome larry summers, and now the white house will have its appointed puppet running what is supposed to be an independent/apolitical federal reserve. a shameful act, indeed!

Larry Gellman said...


In all your comments, you rely heavily on your ability to read peoples' minds and determine their motives.

As far as Obama's performance is concerned, I would again say "compared to what or who?"

I think he has done a great job with foreign diplomacy giving other leaders the impression that he wants to engage with them instead of lecture them.

Regarding Iran, you have an opinion. It is not shared by many conservative politicans and columnists including George Will.

I'm not nearly as interested in saying that one opinion is better than another or trying to read peoples' minds. I've tried to point out behavior that makes no sense on any level.

I'm sorry if I've disappointed you.

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