Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Parable For President Obama: On Standing Your Ground To Save The Economy

The election is behind us. Democrats won an undeniable victory, retaining the presidency and even increasing their majority in the Senate. John Boehner has announced his intention to use his Tea-Party-based majority in the House to coerce the president and the Senate majority into doing what he wants them to do; in other words, he has proclaimed minority rule... again.

It's a kind of blackmail: "nice nascent economic recovery you've got there; it'd be a shame if anything happened to it." Paul Krugman has been counting and says this is the third time since Obama took office that the bullies have attempted... the first two times successfully... to defy the will of the electorate by threatening to break faith with the American people, to substitute what they want for what a clear majority of Americans want. There are some issues, human and civil rights for example, that are so fundamental that an argument can be made for defying the will of the people to preserve them: this is not one of those cases... every economic policy is subject to the legitimate democratic process. This is a simple case of the Tea Party holding the vase and threatening to drop it if they don't get what they want. Like Mitt Rmoney (don't let the door hit your butt, Mitt...), they are pure and simple bullies.

And now the parable, which, as it is a true story from my childhood, I'll tell in the first person. I was in about fifth grade. Little Eugene was the unholy terror of the schoolyard, menacing other students for fun and occasionally for profit. I described his activities one day to my father and my uncle, two very different personalities but both very scrappy as children, a necessity in their neighborhood. They were unanimous in telling me to stand my ground. You mean, hit him? I asked. No, they both said, just refuse to run from him when he terrorizes you and your classmates. Stand there. Face him. The next time Eugene came tearing into the middle of our conversation shouting threats of doom, I swallowed hard and just stood there. To my amazement (and of course edification), he screeched to a halt, did nothing to me, and ran off to do mischief elsewhere. (I regret to report that the next thing we heard was a scream from the girls' restroom.) It's not that Eugene didn't get away with things after our confrontation... my father always said he'd end up in prison someday... but that he didn't get away with menacing me, that time, that particular day. And he didn't attempt to menace me again.

There are times when "stand your ground" is exactly the right thing to do. "Stand your ground," not "pull out a pistol and shoot someone," but just stand there and refuse to be moved from your rightful place. And that's what Mr. Obama needs to remember now.

Stand your ground, Mr. President. You have a right. The election reaffirmed that right. Let the Tea Party threaten. Let them break something, if you must; soon enough they will pay for their wayward deeds.

Here's Krugman:
Well, this has to stop — unless we want hostage-taking, the threat of making the nation ungovernable, to become a standard part of our political process. 

So what should he do? Just say no, and go over the cliff if necessary.

It’s worth pointing out that the fiscal cliff isn’t really a cliff. It’s not like the debt-ceiling confrontation, where terrible things might well have happened right away if the deadline had been missed. This time, nothing very bad will happen to the economy if agreement isn’t reached until a few weeks or even a few months into 2013. So there’s time to bargain.

More important, however, is the point that a stalemate would hurt Republican backers, corporate donors in particular, every bit as much as it hurt the rest of the country. As the risk of severe economic damage grew, Republicans would face intense pressure to cut a deal after all.

Meanwhile, the president is in a far stronger position than in previous confrontations. ...

We have been blackmailed and bullied for too long. Now that we have an election win at our backs, we have... the president has... the right to raise that large hand in the face of the bullies and say STOP! No blackmail! ...

And let them stew in their own juice if they don't retreat. Enough is enough.

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