The Unfairness of It All

This morning I’m reading a lot about President Obama’s “incompetency”. The gist of it is that a majority of the American people do not believe that the president “can manage the government effectively” which strikes me as terribly unfair. He was not elected to be a manager.

I disagree vehemently with Erick Erickson of RedState’s contention that the president is not incompetent but malicious. My own view is that he’s just not interested.

Chris Cilizza muses on the issue:

Obama was elected in 2008 on a stated promise that he would restore competence to government. He pitched himself as the antidote to “Heck of a job, Brownie” and the Bush years, the person who would always put the most qualified candidate in every job in his Administration. That the basic functioning of government would never be in question.

Almost six years on from that election, however, Obama is faltering badly on the competence question and, in so doing, badly imperiling not only his ability to enact any sort of second term agenda but also Democrats’ chances this fall. A series of events — from the VA scandal to the ongoing border crisis to the situation in Ukraine to the NSA spying program — have badly undermined the idea that Obama can effectively manage the government.

That illustrates the complete unfairness of our electoral system. When you run as a reformer, people have the outlandish view that you intend to reform. When you run as a technocrat, people expect you to devote attention to the mechanics of policy and of the government. When you run as a post-partisan, people expect you to be, well, post-partisan.

President Obama has done many of the things on which he ran in 2008. He has gotten us out of Iraq; he has left us in Afghanistan; he has transformed America or, at least, a sixth of it.

Most of all he is not Bush. In that he has been tremendously successful. Not that it will be of much solace to Democrats come November.

51 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds

    Out of Iraq, soon out of Afghanistan, killed Osama Bin Laden, (and a lot of other Al Qaeda) instituted admittedly half-assed financial reforms, saved the auto industry, and despite your sneers, he has defied the predictions and successfully federalized health insurance, giving 100% of insured folks greater security and reliability in addition to insuring 10 million more people (so far) than were previously.

    It’s really past time for you to admit that you’ve been wrong about a lot of Obamacare. There is no evidence of a doctor shortage, no sign of skyrocketing costs, and the sign-ups are on track despite the nullification efforts of the right wing and the pathetic roll-out.

    But I agree that he’s lost interest in the office. He can read the writing on the wall and knows he’s not going to get anything done given the GOP House and possibly GOP Senate. I don’t think he’ll pull a Palin and quit but I get the feeling he’d like to.

  • ...

    Given that his economic and immigration policies have been designed to make the rich richer and everyone else poorer, I’d say he’s one malicious bastard. Given that all critics are deemed racists is pretty malicious too, as is refusing to enforce laws, but only on a select basis, and using government agencies such as the IRS and NSA to go after domestic political opponents.

    I’m having trouble seeing how he and his ardent supporters aren’t malicious at the very least.

  • ...

    And that the rich have been getting richer and evryone else poorer at an increased rate during the Obama “recovery” is pretty much beyond dispute, as is Obama’s support of QE and of importing more and more workers into a slack labor market.

  • ...

    And funnily enough, unlike the rich author, my wife and I are seeing are medical costs continue to skyrocket. It’s good to be part of the ruling class in an age of manufactured decline.

  • It’s really past time for you to admit that you’ve been wrong about a lot of Obamacare.

    It’s still too early to tell. My gauge is a year after its actual start. Have no fear, if a suitable time has passed, the program isn’t running up against large cost overruns, healthcare costs are holding steady or declining, and none of the other likely adverse effects occur, I’ll admit I was wrong.

  • jan

    “Most of all he is not Bush. In that he has been tremendously successful.”

    Dave,

    This 2-year old article compares and contrasts Obama’s and Bush’s foreign policy moves, finding the following to be the case:

    The Obama 2008 campaign was built entirely around the theme of change and especially around the repudiation of the foreign policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. The Obama Administration has kept the same campaign rhetoric throughout, but at the level of policy and grand strategy, there has been a substantial degree of continuity. Of course, there have also been areas of change, and some of those are significant. But the continuity is more striking and, importantly, the continuity has mostly worked for Obama, certainly more so than have any changes. Obama’s foreign policy successes came primarily when he followed policies inherited from the Bush Administration, while his failures came when he attempted to implement his own initiatives.

    Due to what has occurred between the above analysis and the events taking place today, I think this piece would be even more critical of Obama’s defections from his predecessor’s foreign policy, when consideration is given to the outcomes of Obama’s deviations from it. This would include the current-day consequences of the Russian reset, Libya reverting to a chaotic state after Obama’s limited involvement, the Syrian red-line fiasco followed by the rising strength of ISIS, and importantly the painful fall of Iraq — something that may have been averted, or at least subdued, if only Obama had committed himself to Bush’s longer-range plan of renegotiating the 2008 SOFA, allowing for a smaller attachment of troops to remain as a stabilizing and protective means, as a way to help maintain what peace had been achieved there.

    ” he has defied the predictions and successfully federalized health insurance, giving 100% of insured folks greater security and reliability in addition to insuring 10 million more people (so far) than were previously.”

    Michael,

    As far as Obama’s domestic centerpiece, the PPACA, all one can accurately say about this legislation is that it’s passage was by partisan force, and it’s still hated by the majority of the U.S. populace, for various reasons. As for calling it a success — how can you do that when it’s full implementation remains ahead of us, due to the many executive changes made to deliberately delay negatively felt repercussions?

    What about all those unverified subsidies that have yet to be legitimately determined? What if the DC Circuit decision stands, when it ultimately goes before the SCOTUS? What happens when the mandates are finally enacted, the employers run out of delays, when insurance companies have to reconfigure their clients’ premiums to make the bottom line work?

    Already, there are lawsuits in CA regarding people’s dismay over the restricted exchanges, disallowing them from using former medical services or physicians.

    IMO, the current and potential problems with the PPACA far outweigh any advantages or advances this law may have had on people’s lives. And, this opinion doesn’t take into account how 2 critical years were lost trying to pull this HC transformation off, unilaterally, while the economy was fumbled and thrown more into a secondary position, along with immigration reform.

    Incompetent doesn’t even cover Obama’s attempt to be the Commander in Chief of this country. As more and more people have said, he is a great political campaigner, can raise lots of money, but is unable to do little else when it comes to diplomatic, leadership, or long-term strategic skill sets. For Obama, it seems to be more about ideological transformation, whether most people like it or not, and the applause he receives from handpicked crowds and his own staged photo opts — period.

  • steve

    Seriously. What has he done that was so incompetent? On foreign policy, he has kept us out of another large ME war. That alone is a HUGE upgrade from the prior admin. The alternatives to Obama would have had us at war again. Most of the claims about incompetence come down to the fact that we really don’t control the rest of the world. There really are limits to American Power.

    On the domestic front the slide into the financial abyss was averted. We got health care reform, Part 1. The economy, which I expected to take 5-8 years to improve is heading there at about the pace I expected.

    Steve

  • ...

    The large ME war he “avoided” only had to be avoided because he said something completely stupid in an off the cuff remark, and then was too stubborn to back off until Putin came to his rescue. Some accomplishment.

  • ...

    And let’s not forget that it was Obama’s pet neo-con advisor that encouraged the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Ukraine, touching off the latest war in Europe.

    And there was turning Libya into a failed state, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and so on.

  • He damned sure doesn’t want to be George Bush right now. Or Dick Cheney, or the rich men who avoided the draft.

  • steve

    “, and then was too stubborn to back off until Putin came to his rescue. Some accomplishment.”

    The difference between him and the prior admin, and likely McCain, is that he realized he was wrong. We ended up with a decent solution from our POV. No one is correct about everything. The ones that get us in trouble are the ones that double down and find excuses to do what they want even when it is clearly wrong.

    You really think they overthrew the govt because Neuland thought it was a good idea? I know Americans are ethnocentric, but Wow!

    When did he ever support the Muslim Brotherhood? Evidence please and not GOP talking points.

    Supporting our allies in Libya was incompetence? Really? They were all incompetent? Every bad outcome=incompetence. Very interesting metric. Pat Lang, IIRC, supported our adventures in Libya. Col. Lnag has never struck me as incompetent.

    Steve

  • TastyBits

    @steve

    Supporting our allies in Libya was incompetence? …

    I do not think our treaty obligations require supporting murdering the leader of a country to steal the oil, but I could be wrong.

    When somebody rolls over and becomes your rat, you protect them. That way the other potential rats know they can trust you.

  • michael reynolds

    Dave:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/07/28/medicare-isnt-going-broke-but-dont-celebrate-just-yet/

    Today marks the annual release of the Medicare trustees’ report, when those guarding the health-care program’s finances make their best guesses about Medicare’s fiscal future. This year’s verdict: Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will be solvent through 2030, which gives the program four more years of solvency than projected in the trustees’ 2013 report. It’s also 13 years later than the prediction issued by the trustees just before passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

    The Medicare trust fund is backed by payroll taxes, so today’s report essentially tells us for how long the trustees expect those revenues will be sufficient to foot the entire bill for Medicare’s hospital bills. The trust fund is just one part of Medicare, though. It doesn’t include doctors’ visits and other medical services, which are covered by general revenues and beneficiaries’ premiums.

    There’s other good news in the trustees report. Per capita spending in the program grew just 0.8 percent over the past four years. Medicare premiums in the program covering medical services are expected to remain the same as they were in 2013 and 2014.

    The insolvency target for Medicare’s trust fund has been shifting a bit over the past few years. Just three years ago, the trustees said the trust fund would reach insolvency in 2024 — five years earlier than their previous forecast. Last year, the trustees moved their insolvency projection back to 2026. They’re now moving the target back to 2030 partially because of ACA changes and projections that per capita health-care spending will, at least in the short term, grow slower over the next several years.

    We also know that more insurers are getting in, contra the predictions. And we know that wait times to see doctors have not lengthened. And there is no sign of a spike in premiums. Also we know that Republicans who have signed up are overwhelmingly happy (74% IIRC)
    with their new plans.

    And as of now 100% of insured people can be confident that their policy will not suddenly be canceled, 100% of people know that they can change jobs and still be covered, 100% of people know that their adult children can be covered, and 100% of people can be insured despite pre-existing conditions.

    Yes, it is early days, but the early signs are pretty good.

  • michael reynolds

    As for incompetence, surely that’s relative. Relative to what? Relative to others who’ve done the job, and relative to the nature of the challenges. Relative to Mr. Bush Jr, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush Sr., etc… Relative as well to the alternatives, Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney.

    By those standards I’m comfortable standing by my grade of B.

    The choice was not between Jesus of Nazareth and Barack of Chicago. It was between John McCain and Sarah Palin on the one hand, and Barack Obama on the other. We dodged a bullet. And even minimal honesty should compel an acknowledgment of that fact. McCain would have been a disaster.

  • michael reynolds

    Hmm, interesting use of blockquotes up there, Michael.

  • Ahem, Michael. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our current president is a nigra. They ain’t never been one of them before.

  • Me, I’m ready to call in the squad from Apocalypse Now again. Just to what them run. A little psychological stimulation.

    Now where did I pack those hormone pills?

  • Watch, Janis, watch them run.

  • PD Shaw

    Lang isn’t stupid, his reasoning is/was stupid:

    “I supported US/NATO intervention in Libya, not to “protect civilians, but to get rid of Qathafi. He was and is a lunatic scamp. His women guards, costumes and bravado are amusing but not enough to think that he should be left in peace to strut and oppress the Libyans. A further irritant was the farcical “triumph” of non-proliferation still gloated over by Cheney in which the Libyans “gave up” their nuclear weapons program to justify Bush Administration actions elsewhere.”

    Separating personalities from policy is hard.

  • Steve, sir, can’t you prescribe me some ‘ludes or something? Thorazine?

  • I don’t think that removing Qaddafi was stupid; I think that removing Qaddafi while being unable and/or unwilling to exert any level of control over subsequent events was stupid.

    We never had any intention of controlling subsequent events. I see a lot of distance between recognizing that there’s evil in the world and going out of our way to produce chaos. We’re a lot more responsible for the chaos we were instrumentable in producing than for all of the evil in the world.

  • PD Shaw

    Getting rid of Qaddafi is a good thing, but Lang’s piece reads like a caricature of the justification for the Iraq War: bad leader + domestic policy hang-ups.

  • ...

    steve, Nuland clearly supported the overthrow of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government so as to see an anti-Russian Ukrainian government installed. That means that Obama supported that policy, as she does actually, you know, WORK for him. (Still does, in fact.) Provoking the world’s largest nuclear power was thus a major goal of Obama’s foreign policy. You think this is a good thing, and brilliant, because you think every single thing Obama has ever done is brilliant and good.

    Obama spoke of the need for the Muslim Brotherhood to be respected in the political process, and later that the results of the election, which favored the Muslim Brotherhood, should be respected. (Note that he had no such respect for the democratic process in Ukraine.) That sure as Hell doesn’t sound like criticism, does it?

  • ...

    PD Shaw: Getting rid of Qaddafi is a good thing….

    These things cannot be looked at in a vacuum, PD. Would getting rid of Qaddafi have been a good thing if it required killing everyone in Libya? Would killing Stalin have been a good thing if it started WWIII?

    As it is we turned Libya into Somalia. That doesn’t look like a win to me.

    TastyBits: I do not think our treaty obligations require supporting murdering the leader of a country to steal the oil, but I could be wrong.

    The written treaties surely don’t, but those aren’t the ones that matter.

  • ...

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our current president is a nigra.

    That is so fucking tiresome. Do you Obama worshipers have anything else to say other than that Obama is wonderful and everyone that doesn’t kiss his half-white ass is evil? You people worship Obama more than the Evangelicals worship Jesus.

  • ...

    Let’s also note the “strong” rebound in economic growth in Q2. With the 4.0% reported along with the corrected -2.1% for Q1, the economy is now growing at a pace of ~1.8% a year. This is being broadcast as a big win.

    But please, Janis, tell me again why I should be called a nigger hater for thinking that doesn’t cut it when the median wage is falling and we’re still about three million full time jobs short of where we were six years ago.

  • Honey, I know why you don’t like him, and it’s not because he is black. Remember, I voted for Gary Johnson last time.

  • steve, Nuland clearly supported the overthrow of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government so as to see an anti-Russian Ukrainian government installed.

    That’s the part that baffles me about the whole matter. Not only do I not believe that we should be anti-Russian, I think that 90% of the time our interests coincide. This reflexive anti-Russian attitude that seems to be pervasive here is what the Russians mean when they refer to a “Cold War mentality”.

    The list of matters on which we want and need Russian cooperation is lengthy. Add to that that Russia is the only country other than the United States that has the capability of ending human life on earth and it points to the need for a good bilateral relationship rather than kneejerk opposition.

  • TastyBits

    @michael reynolds

    … instituted admittedly half-assed financial reforms …

    You would do better to believe in Santa Claus and fairies. The people pushing that crap are the ones who were not happy with a relatively stable banking system. Sen. Dodd and Rep. Frank guaranteed that the scumbags could crash the system again.

    The same geniuses (not just Dodd & Frank) have been wrong since 1998, but people still hang on their every word.

    In 1933, a couple of fellows figured out what had caused the banking system to collapse a few years prior, and they decided to fix it.

    After 65 years of relative stability, another group decided that these first two guys were not very smart, and they decided to fix the banking system to make it more efficient.

    After 10 years of this “fix”, the banking system collapsed in 2008. These same guys got together, and they decided that the 65 years of stability was a fluke. They were right, but it was the people in the system who were the problem.

    Amazingly, the two fellows back in 1933 realized this, and they also realized that there was no way to regulate the bad practices. The bad guys would always find a way around the regulations. The solution was allow the bad guys to operate legally within limits, but these formerly bad guys were not allowed to operate within the commercial banking sector.

    When you legalize prostitution, you limit it to the red-light districts. The solution to legal prostitutes walking the streets of your gated community is not to restrict them to a brothel next door. That is your “half-assed financial reforms”.

  • With the 4.0% reported along with the corrected -2.1% for Q1, the economy is now growing at a pace of ~1.8% a year.

    Real growth in the vicinity of 2% is the longterm norm. Nominal growth in the vicinity of 2% is flat.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    … Libya reverting to a chaotic state after Obama’s limited involvement …

    Now that Libya is becoming the shit hole that anybody with a few brain cells could have predicted, it looks like the right is trying to put some distance between themselves and this fiasco.

    Soon, I expect to be lectured on the points I have been making.

  • TastyBits

    @Icepick

    I am tired of @steve acting like this was a noble undertaking because our allies were threatened. He can put lipstick on a pig and call it Cindy Crawford, but it is still a pig with lipstick.

    By the standards of the people in his party, President Obama is a war criminal, and yet, none of them seem to notice all the innocent blood on his hands.

    The reason they attack anybody who disagrees with him is because they know what he is, but they have to distract themselves from the truth.

  • michael reynolds

    I must say I enjoy the desperate quality of the current Obama bashing. Rage, rage against the dying of your discredited attacks.

    Obama’s not FDR but he is one hell of an improvement over George W. Bush and a whole lot better than the real-world alternatives we were offered in Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney.

  • Poor Dave, God bless him.

    “Oh Lord, she’s at it again.”

  • jan

    That was an encouraging report Michael excerpted from the Medical Trustees, that medicare solvency has been extended for 4 years. However, like so many predictions and/or computer models, life is ruled by dynamics and the unexpected, not by stasis or unchanging data. Consequently, below are some dueling excerpts indicating that the reality of Obamacare cuts may actually prove to be unsustainable over time. putting those rosy predictions in jeopardy of being obtainable.

    On Monday, Obama administration officials were crediting his health care law with extending the solvency of Medicare for four years, to 2030, citing the latest report from the program’s trustees. But at the end of the same report, the program’s chief actuary warned that Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare are unlikely to be sustainable in the long-run.

    The trust fund is an accounting mechanism, so, on paper, it has been extended due to a combination of changes made by Obamacare and a broader slowdown of health care spending, the causes of which is a hotly debated topic among economists.

    But Paul Spitalnic, the chief actuary for theCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also cautioned that it would be hard to maintain the policies put in place by Obamacare, which are responsible for helping to extend the trust fund on paper.

  • It’s important to understand the purpose of the Chief Actuary’s opinion. He’s an employee of the executive branch and, consequently, does what he’s told if he wants to retain his job. However, as an actuary he also has a professional responsibility.

    The opinion is his way of reconciling the differences between what he’s being told to do and his professional responsibility. The opinion fulfills his fiduciary responsibility

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    God bless you to. You do what you need to do, to get you through the day.

  • michael reynolds

    Dave:

    Do you have any evidence to support that shot at the current chief medicare actuary?

  • michael reynolds

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/chief-medicare-actuary-says-obamacare-cuts-unlikely-to-be-viable-in-long-run/article/2551359

    If the Chief Actuary is a political hack with no integrity, it seems odd he’d be quoted thusly:

    On Monday, Obama administration officials were crediting his health care law with extending the solvency of Medicare for four years, to 2030, citing the latest report from the program’s trustees. But at the end of the same report, the program’s chief actuary warned that Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare are unlikely to be sustainable in the long-run.

    The trust fund is an accounting mechanism, so, on paper, it has been extended due to a combination of changes made by Obamacare and a broader slowdown of health care spending, the causes of which is a hotly debated topic among economists.

    But Paul Spitalnic, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also cautioned that it would be hard to maintain the policies put in place by Obamacare, which are responsible for helping to extend the trust fund on paper.

    “The Affordable Care Act is making important changes to the Medicare program that are designed, in part, to substantially improve its financial outlook,” Spitalnic wrote. “While the ACA has been successful in reducing many Medicare expenditures to date, there is a strong possibility that certain of these changes will not be viable in the long range.”

    That sounds like a nuanced opinion, not one that should be dismissed out of hand.

  • You might want to re-read my observation. I’m not taking “a shot” at him but suggesting that his opinion should be taken seriously and it’s possible that more weight should be placed on it than on the body of the Trustee’s Report..

  • michael reynolds

    Dave:

    You quite clearly say that he is altering his expressed opinion in order to keep his job. I don’t think you can show evidence of that.

  • His opinion clearly conflicts with the body of the report. Are you saying that his only ethical option is to resign? I don’t see what I’m saying as a condemnation but an acknowledgement of reality.

    The CBO has the same problem. Congress tells them what assumptions to use and they produce a report that says what will happen given those assumptions. The economists at the CBO aren’t as fastidious as the Chief Actuary and generally don’t put dissenting opinions in their reports.

    BTW, note that the Chief Actuary’s statement of opinion essentially supports a point I’ve made here many times: there’s an assumption of time inconsistency.

  • Guarneri

    Re: GDP report

    Once again, look at the inventory build. Then look at final sales. Look at business investment, and look at consumer debt loads supporting their spending component. With incomes going nowhere, and the net job creation numbers being part time, this is anything but a good situation.

    The admin is doing spin. No surprise. Media outlets are either doing spin for the admin, or just don’t understand the number. I don’t know which is worse. And all this before the inevitable downward revisions. “Unexpectedly” of course.”

  • Mr . Schuler, thank you.

    I think I have borderline psychotic dysfunction brought on by the stress of grief. I’m now going to retreat back to a stable life.

    You have been generous, as always. Regards to your wife.

    I don’t guess y’all would give me a personal recommendation, hunh? It’s a competitive program.

    Oh, well.

  • Or maybe I’m just a woman.

  • Andy

    Michael:

    Obama’s not FDR but he is one hell of an improvement over George W. Bush and a whole lot better than the real-world alternatives we were offered in Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney.

    Dave:

    Most of all he is not Bush. In that he has been tremendously successful.

    Sounds like agreement!

    The problem I have with US foreign policy generally and with this President in particular is what Zenpundit called “tactical geopolitics” – looking at each foreign policy problem in isolation and not as part of a whole strategy to further a larger goal. I’d challenge anyone to explain, in 100-200 words or less, how our policies in Iraq, Syrian, Libya, Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan, Israel/Gaza, China etc. are part of a coherent whole.

    http://zenpundit.com/?p=5349

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    I know it is clichéd, but you are in my thoughts and prayers. I wish I could help you more, but the steel-toed boots cannot solve every problem.

    If you were with the VA, my doctor could fix you up. At first, I was a mess, but she finally got me stabilized.

  • But if you light my candle, watch out.

  • CStanley

    Great link, Andy.

    I hadn’t noted before, Russia’s reaction to our Libyan intervention. The spider web analogy is apt.

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