Monday, July 13, 2009

System failure

In her attack on Sarah Palin, Peggy Noonan writes :
Here are a few examples of what we may face in the next 10 years: a profound and prolonged American crash, with the admission of bankruptcy and the spread of deep social unrest; one or more American cities getting hit with weapons of mass destruction from an unknown source; faint glimmers of actual secessionist movements as Americans for various reasons and in various areas decide the burdens and assumptions of the federal government are no longer attractive or legitimate.
Noonan may or may not be right with some of these predictions. [1] What is sure, though, is that serious leadership is needed, [2] and in many areas Obama is yet to prove more than words. Kevin Baker writes in the July edition of Harper's (my copy finally arrived: it comes to the U.K by slow boat):
Much like Herbert Hoover, Barack Obama is a man attempting to realize a stirring new vision of his society without cutting himself free from the dogmas of the past -- without accepting the inevitable conflict.

...Obama will have to directly attack the fortified bastion of the newest "new class" - the makers of the paper economy in which he came of age - if he is to accomplish anything. These interests did not spend fifty year shipping the greatest industrial economy in the history of the world over­seas only to be challenged by a newly empowered, green-economy working class. They did not spend much of the past two decades gobbling up previ­ously public sectors such as health care, education, and transportation only to have to compete with a reinvigorated public sector. They mean, even now, to use the bailout to make the government their helpless junior partner, and if they can they will devour every federal dollar available to recoup their own losses, and thereby preclude the use of any monies for the rest of Barack Obama's splendid vision.
Baker may or may not be right. With more likelihood, the Obama administration is already failing to meet the challenges of climate change, and -- without a radical push -- will be incapable of doing so. [4]

P.S. 14 July: I suppose the hope is that Obama may prove more Lincoln than Hoover: finding himself obliged to adopt a more radical goal (in Lincoln's case abolition) than the one (preservation of the Union) he first had in mind.


1. See, for example, the U.S. government assessment of the threat of a nuclear bomb to a major western city (news report, workshop report).

2. Hard to see this coming from the Republicans. Truly bizarre, to me, is Noonan's characterization of 'the media' as the enemy. Isn't she a featured writer in the Wall Street Journal, owned by News International, which also owns Fox News etc? Also, I have a niggle with American usage of the word 'elite', a collective noun, to mean an individual. This is like using 'base' to mean an individual voter or activist.

3. See For Goldman, a swift return to lofty profits.

4. See, for example, James Hansen, 13 July 2009: Strategies and Sundance Kid.

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