A decade of missed chances seems to foretell the future of the U.S.


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Two months ago, the U.S. marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Sadly, we commemorated a tragedy without celebrating much triumph. The post-9/11 moment was an unheralded instance of national — even global — unity. The Bush administration could have used it for almost anything. And, to be fair, it did. The nation burned trillions of dollars in two wars and a budget-busting round of tax cuts. The president told us to go shopping, and the Federal Reserve held interest rates at extraordinarily low levels. The result? Deficits and a credit bubble. That was missed opportunity No. 1.

Three years ago, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. fell. The ensuing financial crisis dwarfed anything seen since the Great Depression…For a country with more than $2 trillion in unmet infrastructure needs, this is a remarkable opportunity. But it gets better. Weak global demand means raw materials are cheap. And the bursting of the housing bubble means unemployment in the construction sector is high. We can borrow at a bargain, buy at a bargain and ease the unemployment crisis in the hardest-hit sector of our economy, all while making desperately needed investments in our future competitiveness and quality of life.

Plus, if we don’t do it now, we’ll have to do it later. Delaying a dollar of bridge repair just means it’s a dollar we’ll have to pay later. And by that time, it might be more than a dollar, because it’s cheaper to repair a bridge than rebuild one that has crumbled.

So are we taking advantage of this opportunity? No. Are we seriously discussing it? No…That’s missed opportunity No. 2…

The Obama administration was able to use the aftermath of the financial crisis to pass health-care reform, which made a good start on both covering the uninsured and controlling costs. It also secured a package of financial- regulation reforms to limit the risks of another catastrophic meltdown. Today, Republicans want to repeal both laws, and if they win the next election, they might just get their wish. In the meantime, they’re defunding the implementation of the two laws, and bogging them down in the courts.

It’s entirely possible that we could wake in 2013 only to realize that we have made no durable progress on any of our pressing national problems over the course of the Bush and Obama presidencies, and have, in fact, made some problems worse. That would mean a loss of 12 years during which we could have been moving forward as a country. And we won’t be able to blame it on a lack of opportunities.

I don’t read Ezra Klein often enough to know if his remedies would have differed or agreed with mine as we trudged down this primrose path. Rules made by the incompetent and administered by the inept seem predestined to ennui and unproductive finger-pointing.

The hope we had following universal revulsion at Bush’s policies has been undone by reliance on uncreative legislation and leadership that smacks more of cowardice than clarity. Heading towards the potential of a second term for Obama versus a Republican party that wavers between simple-minded allegiance to corporate America and truly reactionary scumballs – I can’t rev up very much enthusiasm for one more election where I get to not vote for the evil of two lessers.

One thought on “A decade of missed chances seems to foretell the future of the U.S.

  1. moss says:

    The most overtly opportunistic crap Obama has pulled this side of kissing Israel’s tuckus – is catering to the Cold War/Yellow Peril crowd with another foreign deployment of U.S. troops to Australia.

    Supporting 2500 marines in Oz is going to cost a minimum of a quarter-billion dollars. Give them a year or two in place, that number will double and triple.

    And what are they to accomplish other than rattle Pentagon sabres near the China Sea? There aren’t any detachments of Chinese stationed outside their country. Their ships stay pretty much in the China Sea except for diplmatic missions. We’re in 175 176.

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