Obama: A Little League Socialist

Here was the headline on HuffPo on Wednesday afternoon:

Jay Carney: Don’t ‘Buy Into The B.S.’ From GOP About Obama’s Spending Record

That story began:

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had some advice for reporters on Wednesday when it comes to covering President Barack Obama’s record on spending: “Don’t buy into the B.S.” 

And then there was this headline from ABC News on Wednesday evening:

President Obama Denounces Republican ‘Wild Debts’: I’m Not an Over-Spender

Obama was quoted in the story:

I’m running to pay down our debt in a way that’s balanced and responsible. After inheriting a $1 trillion deficit, I signed $2 trillion of spending cuts into law. My opponent won’t admit it, but it’s starting to appear in places, like real liberal outlets, like the Wall Street Journal: Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace  in nearly 60 years. Think about that.

What was all the fuss about? What was Obama referencing? It was the following, from The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch early Wednesday morning:

Obama spending binge never happened

Commentary: Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s

Here’s how the story began:

As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.”

Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.

But it didn’t happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.

Now, we have discussed all this several times, but here is yet another graph from the WSJ piece to refresh your memory:

As you can plainly see, Obama is in the Little League of federal spending growth (and, by the way, so was Bill Clinton; the Big Leaguers, Reagan and both Bushes should all be in the spending Hall of Fame).

Let’s face it, being a Little League spender ain’t good for a President who is night and day labeled by right-wingers as at least a socialist, if not a secret Communist who will, if given a second term, unleash his diabolical European fury on the country.

Joe Scarborough blathered on this morning about how “government keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger” and referenced “the explosive size of government.”

Well, if that is true—and don’t forget that federal revenues as a percentage of our GDP in the Obama years is lower than any time since 1950 and state and local revenues have been fairly consistent since 1990—it is not Barack Obama who has made it so.

He is simply the dubious beneficiary of policies the basis of which relied on voodoo economics: cut taxes and, voilà, the economy and government revenues will grow, grow, grow enough to pay for two protracted wars, a brand new—ever growing—Homeland Security bureaucracy, a new prescription drug entitlement program, as well as the rest of what government does.

Let’s quickly look at federal spending since 2002, also from the WSJ article:

Clearly those blue lines were dictated by the red lines that came before and not some devilish creation of that wicked, big-spending socialist in the White’s House.

So, as Jay Carney said, don’t “buy into the B.S.” because, as the President said himself:

How Anti-Obama Memes Are Made

Yesterday on Morning Joe, and throughout the goofy right-wing blogosphere and on the even goofier Wall Street Journal editorial page, much was made of an excerpt, apparently not originally aired by CBS’s 60 Minutes, from an interview of President Obama, who uttered a fairly standard defense of his accomplishments so far, saying they would compare favorably with other presidents at the same point into their terms.

Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who never tires of telling us how awesome he was in Congress, was beside himself that Mr.Obama would be so uppity as to say he was “the fourth best president.”  Here was the graphic displayed on MSNBC while the discussion over the remarks took place:


PRES. OBAMA COMPARES HIS RECORD TO LINCOLN & FDR” and “4th Best President?” Wow, what an uppity guy who sits in the White’s House. Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s header:


Whenever the right-wing gets all nasty with Big O like this, trying to create yet another anti-Obama meme that supports the weird conservative critique of the President, it becomes necessary to look at what actually was said. Here is the complete question and answer from the interview:

KROFT: Tell me, what do you consider your major accomplishments? If this is your last speech. What have you accomplished?  

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, we’re not done yet. I’ve got five more years of stuff to do. But not only saving this country from a great depression. Not only saving the auto industry. But putting in place a system in which we’re gonna start lowering health care costs and you’re never gonna go bankrupt because you get sick or somebody in your family gets sick. Making sure that we have reformed the financial system, so we never again have taxpayer-funded bailouts, and the system is more stable and secure. Making sure that we’ve got millions of kids out here who are able to go to college because we’ve expanded student loans and made college more affordable. Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Decimating al Qaeda, including Bin Laden being taken off the field. Restoring America’s respect around the world.  

The issue here is not gonna be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do. And we’re gonna keep on at it.

First, note that he was actually asked about his accomplishments, which he did a decent job of listing. But then notice the offending sentence:

I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history.

Where in there did he say he was “the fourth best president“? Where in there did he say he was better than any president? No where, that’s where. To put something up “against” something else is to say that a favorable comparison can be made, and naturally Mr. Obama, like any leader, believes some of the gargantuan things he has done will be viewed kindly by history.

But he was only talking about “our“—our!—”first two years” in office, not an entire presidency. The Wall Street Journal wrote:

Perhaps President Obama has been taking history lessons at the knee of Newt Gingrich. His recent self-assessment of his tenure rivals any historical analogy that the former Speaker and college professor has come up with…

Newt Gingrich? They are comparing Obama to Newt Gingrich, whose appetite for self-aggrandizement is just slightly smaller than his appetite for waste-aggrandizement? Huh? Newt thinks he is the savior of Western civilization, for God’s sake. Not only has he compared himself to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and Henry Clay and Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and both Roosevelts, he has compared himself to Sam Walton and Ray Kroc!

In any case, that is how it happens these days. Obama says something rather normal for a man in his position—running for another term and thus necessarily talking up his accomplishments—and his uppityness so outrages folks on the right that they have to say nasty things about him.

Like comparing him to Newt Gingrich.

Corporate Patriotism

ThinkProgress has posted a very revealing chart from a Wall Street Journal article.  Here is the entire set of graphics from WSJ:

As you can see, a dramatic increase in job exporting—outsourcing—coincided with the Bush II presidency.  ThinkProgress on the WSJ article:

The paper notes that this is actually a sharp reversal from trends in the late 1990s, when these major companies were creating more jobs in the United States than overseas. Yet by 2001, things took a turn for the worse, and these corporations have been adding more jobs abroad than at home…

ThinkProgress also posted a pie chart of the results of a survey of “many of the nation’s most powerful corporations” that attended an outsourcing conference in 2009:


Not much patriotism there, ThinkProgress notes, and ends with this:

Unfortunately, for some of these companies, sending American jobs overseas isn’t enough. They also want to bring the profits back into the United States with as little tax liability as possible. Cisco Systems, which had 26 percent of its workforce abroad at the start of the decade but 46 percent of its workforce abroad by the end, is currently involved in a lobbying campaign titled “Win America” calling for a tax repatriation holiday that would let big corporations “bring money they have stashed overseas back to the U.S. at a dramatically lower tax rate.” A similar tax break in 2004 actually increased the amount of money companies store overseas.

It continues to amaze me, as our patriotic military men and women fight overseas, that corporations doing business in America persist in this domestic sin, and should we ever decide to bring our military folks home, we might have to send them back overseas looking for jobs.

The Real Job Killers

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

Matthew 7:16

President Obama’s op-ed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal has once again caused some on the Professional Left to question his committment to old-fashioned liberalism.

Lynn Parramore wrote:

Today in the WSJ we catch a glimpse of the administration’s stance on regulation, and it’s not a pretty picture…

The op ed, with its neo-liberal celebration of America’s great ‘free’ market (never mind that what we’ve got is a market captured by oligopolies) perpetuates the specious proposition that if we could just rein in the evil regulators, everything would be much better.

In the op-ed Obama tried to assure American businesses—which have criticized him mercilessly—that he and his administration have received their message about regulation:

…we are…making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.

Who could be against that? Obama argues for regulatory equilibrium:

…throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.

Yet many on the right have criticized Obama for stifling growth through excessive regulations.  Obama addressed that criticism at the end:

Despite a lot of heated rhetoric, our efforts over the past two years to modernize our regulations have led to smarter—and in some cases tougher—rules to protect our health, safety and environment. Yet according to current estimates of their economic impact, the benefits of these regulations exceed their costs by billions of dollars.

Yes, we have all heard the rhetoric: Too much job-killing regulation.

But it’s hard to argue with this: The business-hating socialist—President Obama—is presiding over an almost unprecedented Age of Prosperity, at least if you happen to own stock in a company listed on the S&P 500:

And the Commerce Department, in case you forgot, reported two months ago that annualized third-quarter profits for American businesses amounted to about $1.7 trillion, the highest ever recorded.  Ever. Really.

But don’t forget about those darn job-killing regulations.

Again, Lynn Parramore from the left:

Free market fundamentalists have been pushing the idea that regulation is the enemy through a variety of dishonest arguments, from the notion that regulators ‘just don’t understand’ fancy financial instruments and should stay out of it to the particularly offensive canard that regulators kill jobs. Never mind that it was the unregulated financial sector that threw millions out of work in the Great Recession. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of free market mythology, people lost their jobs because the darned government just wouldn’t stop abusing big business.

And from the right: The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested last week that due to the Republican takeover of the House, the Obama administration is “likely to turn to the regulatory agencies.” He followed that with this:

The resulting regulatory tsunami poses, in our view, the single biggest challenge to jobs, our global competitiveness, and the future of American enterprise.

Wow!  The “single biggest challenge“?

And as Reuters reported last month, Ivan Seidenberg of the Business Roundtable,

has been critical of the Obama administration in the past, charging that its zeal for regulation was creating uncertainty that was making it harder for businesses to raise capital and create jobs.

Oh, yeah?  Then why did I read in The New York Times that multinational companies operating—and creating jobs—in China tolerate a regulatory system much more onerous than ours?

The article revealed that companies like General Electric are reluctant to criticize the Chinese for manifestly unfair trade practices for fear that Chinese regulators will punish them for their insubordination. As the Times put it—and you should read this carefully:

Chinese laws are often just a few pages in length, even on complex industrial or financial subjects. That leaves broad discretion to regulators on enforcing regulations that may help some companies and penalize others.

Regulators also have the authority in every industry to approve foreign investments, and even demand a say in details like what equipment will be purchased by foreign investors for their factories. Regulators have long used their involvement in the minutiae of corporate management, and their ability to delay even minor decisions, as a way to discipline companies for taking stances at odds with Chinese policy.

Now, some anti-regulatory apologist needs to explain to me just how campanies—that  supposedly have trouble raising capital to do business in America—can raise capital to compete in an environment like that?  We are, after all and for God’s sake, talking about China, an authoritarian—some say totalitarian—state.

In another Times article, China Drawing High-Tech Research From U.S., we find that despite the potentially punitive regulatory structure in China, American high-tech businesses are now rushing there to do business. 

Much of the rush is based on the gargantuan market available.  “China has become the world’s largest auto market,” the paper said.  “The country is also the biggest market for desktop computers and has the most Internet users,” it continued. And then it pointed out:

Not just drawn by China’s markets, Western companies are also attracted to China’s huge reservoirs of cheap, highly skilled engineers — and the subsidies offered by many Chinese cities and regions, particularly for green energy companies.

Ahh.  There it is: cheap labor. You see, a multitude of regulatory sins can be overcome by cheap labor. And in China, even the engineers work for beer money.

But it’s not just cheap labor that attracts American businesses. Gifts from the Chinese government help a lot.

In yet another Times article we have the story of Evergreen Solar, a Massachusetts company that is (was) the third-largest maker of solar panels in America. The company achieved that distinction partly through assistance from the government of Massachusetts in the form of $43 million.  But that wasn’t enough:

…now the company is closing its main American factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China. Evergreen cited the much higher government support available in China.

Much higher government support“?  The Times interviewed the chief executive of Evergreen Solar, Michael El-Hillow, and reported:

Mr. El-Hillow said that he was desperate to avoid layoffs at the Devens [Massachusetts] factory. But he said Chinese state-owned banks and municipal governments were offering unbeatable assistance to Chinese solar panel companies.

Factory labor is cheap in China, where monthly wages average less than $300. That compares to a statewide average of more than $5,400 a month for Massachusetts factory workers. But labor is a tiny share of the cost of running a high-tech solar panel factory, Mr. El-Hillow said. China’s real advantage lies in the ability of solar panel companies to form partnerships with local governments and then obtain loans at very low interest rates from state-owned banks.

We can expect Mr. El-Hillow and Evergreen Solar to soon sell their Chinese-manufactured solar panels back to us.  Hopefully, there will still be someone here with money to buy them.

Is this what it has come to? Is this what American businesses want from us?  We have to stop regulating them and slash the wages of our workers and subsidize profit-making ventures through low-interest loans or else?  Or else these capitalist patriots will pick up and move to a Communist country where they can “partnership” with an autocratic government that has unlimited power to destroy them through regulation?

Let me quote again the original Times story about the threat to American businesses China represents:

[Chinese] regulators have long used their involvement in the minutiae of corporate management, and their ability to delay even minor decisions, as a way to discipline companies for taking stances at odds with Chinese policy.

As I listen to the complaints about “excessive” regulation on American business here at home—I have actually heard conservatives say that too much American regulation forces companies to move to China!—and as I think about why President Obama felt it necessary to reassure businesses that he means them no harm, I wonder why American companies are killing jobs here at home and fleeing to an authoritarian land.

No, I don’t really wonder. For too many capitalists, profits trump patriotism every time.

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