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It’s like deja vu all over again for Obama
There’s national excitement as we prepare for a historic inauguration of our first African-American President, but the excitement is dampened by so much bad news about the economy, the Middle East and the shenanigans of Congress. The older I get, the more I feel like I’m staring out a window experiencing what’s come to be known as the Groundhog Day effect.
If you haven’t seen the movie, do yourself a favor and rent it. It’s about a reporter, played by Bill Murray, who keeps living the same day and same events over and over. He begins to feel invincible, since there’s no danger of any consequences, so he starts tempting fate, drinking excessively, and carousing and taking unnecessary risks. Yet, his day continues to unfold exactly the same way everyday, with no changes, no consequences to his risky behavior.
This is what the headlines are beginning to look like for me. Over the years I’m beginning to see a repeating pattern of the same events, the same issues and the same players every few years.
I recently found an old folder in my attic from my college days that contained about 100 or so newspaper clippings (I was a political junkie even back then). These were from Reagan’s inauguration and his first two years as president. January 1981: “Reagan Predicts Hard Times Ahead.”
Reagan inherited an economy with 20 percent interest rates, double-digit inflation, 8 percent unemployment and a soaring national debt. One headline from December 1980 read “Retailers struggle to survive in tough economy.” It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Another headline, just before Reagan’s inauguration, read “Reagan is All for Peace and I’ll Help, Says Carter.” Apparently, the Middle East was in chaos even back then and the Soviets (remember them?) were breathing down the necks of any unstable country in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, waiting to pounce and take over. “USSR Waits as Iran Crumbles into Chaos.” Same players, same dangerous game.
Another interesting article had to do with energy policy. Reagan supported nuclear energy. If only the left wing Congress would have taken his advice, we’d be less dependent on oil today. Who knew oil would still be an issue 30 years later!? Or the Middle East? Or the Soviet Union (now Russia)? And apparently, in November of 1981 a pre-winter snowstorm hit the country really hard, causing over 300 deaths from ice and blizzard conditions. Am I repeating myself? Is this the same day as thirty years ago?
Compare those headlines to what’s happening today. President-elect Barack Obama has just warned the country that the economy is sick and will take a long time to recover. Unemployment is between 6-7 percent, inflation is about 3 percent, interest rates are low and we have a soaring national debt. He has backed off his pledge to end the war in Iraq. He’s remained silent on the issue between Israel and Gaza, which is a tacit endorsement of Israel’s right to defend itself…a rather conservative concept, if you ask me.
I remember clearly in 2000, when George W. Bush was preparing to take office, the economy was slowing some. Bush made many of the same comments: “The economy will take some time to recover.” The press accused him of “talking down the economy” or actually causing the country to drift into recession. Then when his tax cuts stimulated the economy all we heard was how bad “tax cuts for the rich” were. Never mind that the bottom half of wage earners don’t pay income taxes. What do you call a tax cut for someone who doesn’t pay taxes? Welfare. It’s a numbers game and a language game.
Obama will have no such problems from the press. They will need to affirm his every notion so as to justify all their work at getting him elected. The editor of the Washington Post recently admitted to her own bias in promoting Obama during the campaign. This bias will continue. We will continue to hear how awful things are, all the more so that when they take a turn toward recovery, Obama can be that much more a hero.
As you read the papers or listen to the radio/TV coverage, keep in mind these things regarding the American economy. Even with all our bad news today in the financial and housing sectors and amid all the predictions of America’s lost standing in the world, our GDP is twice as large as the second largest economy in the world (China), even while we have only one fifth their labor force. The European Union barely comes close to our economy only when they tie together their 27 member nations (a tenuous unity at that) and we still have a labor force that’s 30 percent smaller than theirs. America boasts 17 of the 50 largest companies in the world and we have the largest companies in all the major industries (aerospace, biotech, retail, petroleum, software, telecom and media).
The World Economic Forum recently labeled the U.S. as the “world’s most competitive economy” and the country with “the most productive and innovative potential in the world.” Our public debt represents 38 percent of our GDP, while Germany’s is 65 percent and Japan’s 194 percent. No matter. The nay sayers have their plan. You should know that times are bad, we are helpless and thank goodness we have a savior, the U.S. government, money printing machines and what looks likes 600,000 new government employees to manage our lives for us. It’s a brand new day.
Federal Way resident Angie Vogt: firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns and further commentary, visit www.redcounty.com/washington/.