Monday, November 10, 2008

The Return Of The Liberal

Paul Krugman says that Obama is a return to FDR.

It's not a very surprising sentiment, on the face of it. After all, FDR is to the modern Democratic party what Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan is to the modern Republican party. It's also not surprising because we've all been hearing about how this is the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression--i.e., since Roosevelt appeared on the scene to make it better. And lastly, of course, the loser in the most recent Presidential Election espoused certain positions which haven't been endorsed since President Herbert Hoover (notably, McCain's spending freeze).

What I was interested in, in Krugman's article, was a throwaway line from Rahm Emanuel, the new Chief of Staff. He said, of the opportunity that Obama has to really hit the progressive agenda, “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste.”

Naomi Klein's provocative book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism talks about how the Bush Administration and corporations like Haliburton cooperated to find ways to profit from the rebuilding necessary after large-scale destruction; usually through the Bush Administration's waves of privatizations after disasters. The argument always struck me as being similar to 1984, where the governments described in the book spend money, resources, and time building massive seafaring fortresses, and then sink them so that they'll need to build more. The idea is to use whatever situation exists to your own profit. Plain opportunism.

Rahm Emanuel is an opportunist. He wants to see the crisis as an opportunity to pass reforms. I would merely caution him to use the crisis to pass needed reforms. The PATRIOT Act is a fantastic example of using a crisis to pass unneeded reforms; and overexploiting the moment will only hurt your legacy and lead to a backlash in the future. Part of bipartisanship is knowing how hard to press the minority you're working with.

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