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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Comment

End of the Road for Clunker Bonanza
Dean Borok

The government’s "Cash for Clunkers" program expired yesterday like a Looney Tunes auto breathing its last gasp, even as frantic buyers were still banging down the door. Why Obama let the only really successful stimulus program die, even as European Clunkers programs were still roaring ahead full steam, is a source of dismay.

Obama totally blew the "Cash for Clunkers" program by ending it too early. The German program is still running. Obama could have continued stimulating the U.S. car business, but he cut it short by being too cautious, as though he were afraid of what the Republicans would say about him.

All he would have had to do was to send one cabinet-level genius over to Germany, to see how their program was operating and what it was accomplishing, but he didn’t do it. He functioned totally in the dark, and now he has cut short a great opportunity to inject a lot of high octane into the economy.

He is also being too cautious on health care. The Republicans are not even disguising their true intentions – they mean to kill it. He should just ignore them and push the legislation through and worry about it later. He should explain to the Blue Dog Democrats that whether he wins or loses their seats will be on the line anyway, and if they expect to be supported by the national party in the next election, they should board the train before it leaves the station.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was confronted with the same dilemma when he assumed office in 1933. He chose to push through his social programs during the worst years of the depression, in the face of unanimous Republican opposition, and he had to face reactionary Democrats as well. Everybody was screaming that the country couldn’t afford them, but Roosevelt had the wind at his back and he pushed through Social Security, the Federal Housing Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, banking and stock market reform and a lot of other legislation. To pay for it, he increased taxes on high-income earners, which really got a lot of his previous supporters mad at him.

Roosevelt had a four-year window of opportunity to act when he had big majorities in congress, and he took advantage of it. In 1937, a Conservative Coalition of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats wrested back control of congress and prevented any further Roosevelt reforms. But the programs that had already been instituted were so effective and popular that the so-called "conservatives" were never able to reverse them.

Roosevelt’s programs were so effective that U.S. gross domestic product had shot up from –14% negative growth in 1932 to plus 11% in 1935. By 1936, it had attained plus 12%. When the Conservative Coalition took over congress in 1937 as the result of hysterical fear-mongering and insults by the media of that time, which was entirely controlled by Roosevelt’s enemies, and shut off many of Roosevelt’s stimulus programs, GDP plunged back into negative territory, from whence it did not recover until the Second World War. Do we really need the benefit of their wisdom now?
Obama should learn from the lessons of history. When you have the means to act, you act. As Mr. Dooley observed, "Politics ain’t beanbag". You pick your shots and then you spend the rest of your time in office consolidating your gains.

The one person with the most health care experience is Bill Clinton. Sure, he mishandled it, but he’s had 16 years to reflect on what he did wrong, and Obama is not even considering his opinions, which is like a knucklehead teenager insisting on making his own mistakes. The possible achievable gains during this session of congress are too important for the administration to waste time reinventing the wheel.
© Dean Borok Agust 25th 2009>

Healthcare Panic
Dean Borok
I am not here to debate the merits of universal health insurance. That is a given. I am complaining about the lunatic fringe of society – loudmouth sociopaths who are being bussed around the country and paid cash money by insurance companies to scream and yell

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