Dan Alpert's Two Cents

The Winter of our Discontent: Obama’s Tenuous Victory

An early winter has descended on the northeast, ushered in by a 100 year storm that has left the coastal portions of much of the mid-atlantic and northeastern states reeling.  Our quadrennial demonstration of the degree to which the entire country is divided and politically irreconcilable was once again upon us last night. 

Moving into last night’s contest, the only things we could be sure of was that climatic change would leave us exposed to more frequent storms in the future (although half the country seems intent on disagreeing with that statement), and that our federal government would remain deeply divided and dysfunctional.

Seems pretty clear, right?  But allow me to advance an alternative narrative. 

President Obama’s victory last night provides the country with an opportunity that was, unfortunately, squandered during the president’s first term. The White House, chastened by a narrow victory and benefitting from the freedom to operate that historically characterizes second term Democratic administrations, is likely to move into next week and next year with a far more combative message than the milquetoast and entirely elusive “bi-partisanship” of the president’s first term.

Moreover, the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and to a lesser extent in the Senate, will today come face to face with the reality that their message could not defeat a Democratic president suffering from a nearly 8% unemployment rate, and a massive 14.5% underemployment rate, to say nothing of a generally anemic economy and a lackluster set of policy responses to same.

They blamed the president for four years for an economic and financial crisis that misguided Republican supply-side and deregulatory policy wrought upon this nation on-and-off for nearly three decades. The Republicans pounded the president – attempted to obstruct and generally succeeded in blocking even the most moderate of Obama’s initiatives. 

But they couldn’t pull it off, they failed.  The tens of millions upon tens of millions, from the .01%, injected into the Republican juggernaut—ineffective.   And now they face a president empowered to pin them with outright blame for continuing to thwart progress.

So here is what I believe will result from the new status quo.  A newly re-elected president will finally be outraged enough to call out those on the Hill who have essentially shut down the federal government.  He will, this go-round, take his case directly to the American people and leave the obstructionists with a clear and unambiguous choice: put partisanship aside and get with the program, or be prepared to see the full dismantling of the post-Reagan Republican misadventure in the 2014 congressional mid-term election.

That the country didn’t buy the Republican argument is now established fact. That they are exposed to the power accruing to a president who no longer needs to be concerned with his re-election is equally obvious.  And that Republicans in congress must now choose between holding their seats and going down in a blaze of ideological glory will be pretty much the only two options available…if a re-elected Barack Obama has any sense of the political advantage that he was graced with yesterday.

I’m betting that the somnambulant Obama of the first debate is wide awake today. And I’ll wager that a large number of Republicans will choose their hides over their failed message.

11 Responses to “The Winter of our Discontent: Obama’s Tenuous Victory”

JanNovember 7th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

The driving forces of the second great contraction have been the "great doubling" of labor in the world economy, the extension of neo-mercantilism from small nations to China, and, in a distant third place, technological change. Regressive tax cuts and financial deregulation were maladroit adaptations to these forces, perhaps worsening the contraction in the US, but more regressive taxation and financial regulation, and deficit spending, will NOT end the contraction or even shorten it much. The contraction will persist, as will the wild volatility of asset prices, until the large sovereigns coordinate a worldwide attack on the world saving glut. That the Republican leaders are clueless babbits, unwilling to participate in a coordinated attack on the saving glut, is cold comfort, for so are many Democrats, and the handful of visionary Democrats will not in the foreseeable future have the power to implement the right policies. Last time around, the glut was eliminated accidentally, a byproduct of the sovereign attacks on one another's wealth (World War II). This time, who knows? But one thing is sure: the re-election of President Obama won't do the trick.

BobNovember 7th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I see the problem as one of communication. You gave an interesting one paragraph commentary. This should be built on until it become a clear statement of the initial condition,
a statement of the goal, and the steps required to move initial condition to the goal.

That is what people are doing but it so fuzzy. If there we don't like the current condition of the world and we have an incredible excess of labor and machinery then it would seem appropriate to apply the labor and machinery to the problem.

Since modeling the world will require modeling human behavior I ask the question,
why do people with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of control of labor and machinery want to acquire hundreds of million more worth of control. If you say greed than I think you are just begging the question. If greed is a inappropriate to an environment, how do we change peoples attitude. We may all like Mr Roubini, but is it appropriate for him to use his knowlege of the economy to obtain a multi million dollar apartment. At what point of consumption does consumption become greed? Is it one million, 10 million, 100 million or 50 billion. A plan to move the world to a better state is appropriate. Some definition of acceptable behavior what ever it is , I think may be required to help us formulate this plan.

LarryNovember 8th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I was going to compliment Jan on his thoughtful and mostly plausible addition to this blog. Then I see some of the crazies that he has drawn out of the woodwork and I am not so sure,. It is probable that, given current demographics and future trends, America has seen its last Aryan president so someone better get used to something.

JanNovember 9th, 2012 at 2:00 am

Ah, Larry, so many clouds overhead (indefinitely long contraction, disintegration of democracy) and you find a silver lining. So sweet!

DaveNovember 13th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

As a conservative, I say the Republicans should give the President led librals everything they want with the provision that the President define the expected parameters of success in two and four years time. Let the President move foraward with expanded entitlements, higher taxes and a faux spending reduction plan. Then let the results speak for themselves and let the voters respond accordingly. It didn't work for FDR, it won't work for BO.

MartyNovember 13th, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Wrong, we already have the most progressive tax system in the world, one percent of taxpayers reported almost 17% of all taxable income. But that same tiny group also kicked in 37% of all the taxes paid. What is paying your fair share?

JrawNovember 14th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

It is a sad indictment of liberty for individuals that you adopt the flatulent posture that somehow the money I make is owned by someone else. That the expenditures I make are somehow going to be determined by a leviathan federal government seeking rents from me without a response from me. I have already made adjustments to my cost of living and my wealth to avert most of the progressives attempt to steal from me. My children will be richer in another country. I have encouraged them to look around and find a better alternative which unfortunately for the US the list of potential places has been growing not shrinking.

benleetNovember 16th, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Wrong again. Look at this report that shows top 1% earns 20.4% of all income and pays 22.1% of all taxes – - — Citizens for Tax Justice has been producing this analysis yearly for over 20 years, it's highly regarded. Also check the relative tax burden among advanced countries here that show the U.S. tax burden is 27.3% of GDP while the OECD average is 36.2% —… — from the Tax Policy Center, part of centrist Brookings and Urban Institutes. — Paying your fair share? When 5% of households receive 30 to 35% of all income they could pay all taxes until poverty is eliminated in my opinion, we are so wealthy, why is it that half the population own just 1.1% of all wealth — see — or