My friend Bert hated President Obama’s speech last night. I am not surprised. This morning’s Politico headline about the speech announced, “Conservative Words for a Liberal Agenda.” My friend Bert is a proud conservative who has a deep antipathy toward all things liberal (me excepted, I hope!).
Conservatives generally — including all Congressional Republicans and all but three Republican Senators — dislike the Obama recovery plan because it pumps huge amounts of federal money into new programs to create jobs, invest in new energy, boost educational opportunity, and tackle health care reform. More worrisome for the true free market capitalists, the plan pumps so much federal money into troubled banks that it threatens to nationalize the banks entirely, stripping corporate moguls of both power and the trappings of power. No more expensive drapes, private jets, or massive golden parachutes. (Even ardent conservatives agree that the latter disciplines are good, the “day of reckoning” for behaviors that caused all the trouble in the first place.)
Washington Post Business Columnist Steven Pearlstein summed up the full liberal sweep of the Obama plan in his column today when he wrote, “Not since FDR has there been an economic agenda as bold or ambitious, or as likely to reshape American capitalism.” No wonder Bert is glum.
Peter Baker of the New York Times put it this way: “…the vision he articulated was in some ways anything but unifying. His ideas for raising taxes on the wealthy, revamping the health care system and reversing climate change represent a philosophical agenda that strikes at the heart of the other party’s core beliefs. While he said he did not believe in “bigger government,” he proposed a more activist government than any other since Lyndon B. Johnson.”
Yesterday’s challenge was to articulate the direction; today’s challenge is to start the long march. We can spend a lot of time arguing about the direction while the cliff on which we are perched continues to erode; or we can move ahead with a spirit of teamwork and attitude of prudence in choosing each new step along the way. One thing is clear: standing in place is sure to bring ruination.
In the light of history, FDR’s New Deal was a success.