See how Obama is destroying the US

Job losses, 2008 & 2009

Someone just posted a poll on FaceBook evaluating the Obama presidency. The question and answer choices were as follows:

Is Obama destroying our country?
– Yes
– No
– Only a little

The graph above compares Bush’s “economic miracle” — the miracle of destroying jobs at a rate unprecedented in modern times– with Obama’s performance. Note what happened in the months since Obama took office. Job losses have declined to a point where they’re not much worse than they were before the recession got fully under way. If current trends continue it’ll only be a couple of months before we see positive gains in the number of jobs.

Then we’ll be back to the start of what may be another long nightmare of prosperity, although the nightmare of peace is something we won’t see for some time, given that the Bush administration started two wars and managed to conclude neither of them.

It’s quite frankly astonishing how Republicans can point to the massive dung-heap that they just excreted, and which the Obama administration is successfully clearing up, and claim that they are in no way responsible, and that it’s the Democrats who are befouling the nation. Do they actually believe their own rhetoric, I wonder? Sadly, I think that many of them are self-deluded enough that they actually do.

28 thoughts on “See how Obama is destroying the US”

  1. Let me preface this by saying that I routinely agree with your political perspective, this post being no exception. My question is more aimed toward my own Buddhist practice than anything you’ve said here or in the past.

    I’ve been wondering about the nature of profoundly felt disagreements lately and how they relate to the emotional equilibrium I’m attempting to achieve through meditation and Buddhist readings. I’ve been a devoted liberal for most of my adult life, and as I grow older I find myself leaning further and further to the left (I may, dare I say, be a socialist at heart). As I’ve been experimenting with meditation during the past few months (I’m relatively new to Buddhist practice), I’ve begun to worry that the emotional ramifications of my political disagreements don’t square with the practice and the sense of compassion that I’m trying to cultivate. By way of example, I find myself becoming more and more frustrated with a significant portion of the population who have opposed health care reform during the past few months. This bothers me, since I would like to approach their viewpoint with the same sense of equanimity and calm that I would expect in return.

    I guess my question is, how do you reconcile a deeply felt (and hopefully compassionate) political perspective with Buddhist practice? Do you ever feel as if the power of your disagreements gets in the way of your search for enlightenment?

    Thanks again for all your thought-provoking posts,


  2. Hi Dan,

    I can’t find a sense of equanimity that is free from anger. Lies and views that ignore reality are things I think are fair game for anger. At the same time I think we have to be careful not to let anger turn into hatred, which is a desire to hurt other people in some way. Signs of hatred are when we attack the other person by name-calling (liar, idiot, stupid, etc), or when we distort their views in order to criticize a straw man.

    I struggle, however, to be compassionate towards people whose debate involves all those elements. It someone has a different view from mine, that’s fine. But I recently had a “conversation” with someone on Twitter where he misrepresented what I said, contradicted himself, presented “facts” that he appeared to have made up, etc. Now I can empathize with the fact that some Republicans, having lost the election is very painful. But for them to leap from that to claiming that the Obama presidency lacks legitimacy, or that Democrats are establishing a fascist regime, or that there’s been a “coup,” or to hint that an armed overthrow of the government is necessary and desirable — I find it hard to remain sympathetic. I try to refrain from name-calling and I try to call them out with facts (which, frankly, they’re often not even vaguely interested in), but I think that often the best we can do is to reveal the ignorance in their arguments so that more reasonable people won’t align themselves with unreasonable views. I think what’s going on right now is very dangerous. The language of armed struggle is increasingly heard, even in the so-called mainstream media.

  3. From this side of the pond I do find myself wondering where the US is headed. It does sound like people winding themselves up for a civil war.

    The health care reforms are key. A society where the very lives of your spouse and children depend on your relationship with your employer is basically feudal. In times of full employment, where serfs can move from one estate to another (as happened after the black death in Europe) this system actually favours the ‘lower’ classes (the American dream?) but when the economy stops growing and jobs become scarce it reverts to being the middle ages. People have to do exactly what their employers want them to do.

    To me (a political naive) this seems like a volatile system. People live in fear of universal health care as it will enable the masses to say what they think. Wikipedia defines serfdom as “a condition of bondage or modified slavery”. Health care reforms could be thought of as another round in the abolition of slavery. The first few rounds of this struggle have not been without violence.

    How to react to this as a Buddhist? I guess the answer is always compassion.

    People say to me that they don’t believe I am a Buddhist because I get heated about things but I don’t see a problem in this. I rather feel I get passionate about subjects because I care. This is when I wave my arms about and raise my voice and hey Avalokiteshvara has many arms to wave to – perhaps I am just trying to reach out to people.

    I also get angry about things but this is different and definitely not desirable. I feel I can tell when I am angry. If I sit with it there is always fear involved somewhere. I realize I am scared and I can have compassion for that scared person so the anger dissolves.

    Perhaps this is the clue to dealing with the talk radio side of politics. These people are angry because they are scared. They require our compassion not our anger?

  4. There’s a really great video on YouTube showing how Al Franken deals with a group of people opposed to health insurance reform. It’s titled “Franken Talks Down Angry Mob,” although the people don’t seem very mob-like at all. According to the person who posted the video, they were louder before the filming started. Franken does a great job of showing that the concerns of the people there are the same concerns that are addressed by the health insurance reforms being prepared in Congress. He’s empathetic and also keeps coming back to facts. I think Obama did a good job of being empathetic and factual in his speech last week. Of course that reduces some on the right simply to dismiss him as a “liar” — it’s always easier to demonize your opponent than honestly confront his arguments.

    It’s interesting you chose the word “serf,” Roger, because that same word has often come to mind when I see how some people in the US habitually take the side of corporations over ordinary people, even when the corporations are acting against their interests (health insurance is a great case in point). While you might expect democratically-minded Americans to wholeheartedly support the idea of ordinary people banding together and asserting their rights, for many Americans the greatest fear is not of corporations, but of government. Individual responsibility is lauded. Collective action by ordinary people is lauded. But as soon as elected representatives get involved the fear is that freedom will be lost and things will go horribly wrong.

    In some ways I can sympathize with this view — US government is awash with the money of corporations. It’s unlikely any health insurance reform bill will be passed unless the health insurance companies are happy with it, which means, more or less, that any reform will be minor and full of loopholes. But the irony is that many ordinary Americans will oppose government trying to stand up to corporations — the very tea party protesters who decry the evils of government and support the unregulated market are effectively a front for those very corporations as they try to control government. So they are in some cases like serfs who defend their masters.

    Where Franken does a good job is in showing that the government’s plans for health insurance reform are actually addressing their needs, and in cutting through his opponents’ talking-points in order to remind them of the fragility of the current healthcare system.

  5. Perhaps it is Stockholm Syndrome! If you are totally dependent on the corporations you better like them because life would be unbearable if you don’t. Likewise serfs would have been more loyal to their feudal lord than their king. If there is food on the table you don’t want to rock the boat and you don’t want some king coming along and messing with your lord’s set up.

    Gosh this metaphor/simile could run and run…

    Franken is using what I call the “nailing down the snake” approach to building consensus. You start at the tail with something we all agree on “Lovely day today” and move on to “We want things to be better”. Slowly, joint by joint, you work your way towards the head of the snake where you drive the last nail in. All the time the snake is thinking about whipping round and biting you – just as soon as it realizes what you are doing. Not a very humane metaphor but works for me.

  6. You are nuts! It is that simple. Obama has not created on single job. Bush may have started a fire, Obama poured kerosene on it.

  7. By the way that graph is very misleading. The rate of decay may have slowed but that does not equate to growth.

  8. Hi, “The Truth.”

    Your position seems to be lack internal consistency. Had Obama been putting metaphorical kerosene on Bush’s metaphorical fire, then we would expect to see the rate of job losses increasing, no? What it means to put kerosene on a fire is to make things worse. And in fact, what do we see in the graph? We see the rate of job losses slowing down. So, metaphorically. if Bush set a wildfire, Obama has been successful in containing the spread of the fire.

    Now it’s possible that the trend we see in the graph may not continue, but a reasonable assumption would be that we’ll soon see positive job growth and a decrease in unemployment.

    As for your assertion that Obama hasn’t created a single job, there are many thousands of ordinary people working on stimulus-fund fueled projects (from road-building to alternative energies) who would disagree with you. It also wasn’t a question of creating jobs, but of preventing job losses. Without assistance to the US auto industry we’d be seeing many, many more lost jobs.

  9. With all due respect, you are the one that is misreading the statistics. NO it is not a reasonable assumption that we sill see positive growth soon. “bodhipaska”, take a look at this chart:

    Care to plot when Obama took office on this one? Please extrapolate the improvement. How about his chart:

    A decrease in the rate of decay is not necessarily an improvement as job losses are an accumulative number. There are not an infinite number of jobs to be destroyed and the rate of change for these things is seldom in a straight line. Stimulus sponsored projects create jobs that are NOT profitable. They are jobs that consume more resources than they produce. IF that weren’t true, then the profit-seeking private sector would be funding these projects already.

    Have you taken a math class beyond the 6th grade?

    1. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have conversations that didn’t degenerate into ad hominem attacks such as “Have you taken a math class beyond the 6th grade”?

      Your first graph, I’m afraid, doesn’t appear to include the recent past. But yes, of course unemployment is continuing to grow. That’s what “my” graph shows as well! That graph shows that unemployment grew throughout the last year that Bush was in office, and that the greatest rate of job loss was in his last month. It shows that the rate of job loss began to decline when Obama took office (although this was undoubtedly due to some of the actions taken at the end of 2008 by the Bush administration) and that the rate of job loss has continued to decline in a fairly steady way. If the rate of job losses continues on its present course it will soon reach zero and then turn into a decrease in unemployment. My graph indicates that the recession is bottoming out and that unemployment will begin to fall soon.

      You say that a “decrease in the rate of decay is not necessarily an improvement.” Well, it’s not an improvement in the number of people who are unemployed, but it’s an improvement in that the economy is pulling back from a nose-dive. To continue that metaphor, if I’m in a plane that is heading rapidly towards the ground I most certainly regard it as an improvement if a new pilot steps up and manages to slow the rate of descent.

      Your second graph nicely illustrates the rapid drop in GDP that began almost as soon as Bush took office, followed by the “bubble” and the bursting of that bubble. It’s pretty clear that Obama has been handed a massive mess to clear up. Incidentally, it also doesn’t make President Reagan look too good — look at the sharp drop in GDP that took place during most of his two terms of office. By contrast, Clinton’s terms of office showed a pretty steady growth in GDP. Notice a pattern there?

      The point of jobs created with stimulus funds is not to create a profit (highways and schools do not generally in themselves create profits, although they’re a vital part of the system that allows for profits to be made). Their point is to inject cash into the economy too prevent a severe depression. Job losses create further job losses because (say) 20,000 auto-workers made unemployed can no longer make purchases, leading to an escalation of job failures as other businesses (retail stores, for example) lay off workers to cope with the reduced demand. Those job losses lead to other job losses, and so on until you have a depression rather than a severe recession. But anyway, you’ve now tacitly changed your stance. First you claim that no jobs have been created. Then you accept that jobs have been created but criticize them for being non-profitable. I’m glad to see such flexibility, even if you don’t make it explicit that you’ve changed your mind.

  10. By the way nice bait & switch on your part. Bush inherited Clinton’s mess and that was his fault. Obama created a mess and that is Bush’s fault too. You conveniently overlook the fact the we had not one but two asset bubbles burst.

    1. With regard to Clinton, that’s a fair cop. He took actions, actually, which helped set up the conditions for the current recession, although his contribution was fairly minor compared to the extreme hands-off approach to regulatory oversight that Bush took. Still, I think only the most extreme ideologues could deny that the current recession began under Bush’s watch, and dominated the last year of his tenure. I’d argue that what happens in the first two years of a presidency can be blamed on the outgoing administration, but what happens in the final two years are definitely the responsibility of the incumbent.

  11. Sorry dude. I am getting too excited.

    I genuinely believe that you are misreading some of these charts.

    1. Hi again,

      That’s an interesting graph, although I’m not sure what mistake of mine it’s supposed to illustrate. To me the graph shows that the two people who made that projection (before Obama took office, incidentally) underestimated the depth of the recession as it related to unemployment, or overestimated the effects of stimulus spending, or the Obama administration once in office didn’t take decisive enough action in response to the recession. Certainly Paul Krugman has argued for the last of those factors, and I recently read that only 1/3 of the stimulus funds have been spent so far, so he may be right.

      Anyway, although unemployment is far higher (about 1.6%, at a guess) than Romer and Bernstein predicted, the graph does show the rate of increase of unemployment slowing, which is in line with my original graph. I’ve never argued that the unemployment rate is coming down, only that the rate of increase has slowed since Obama came into office. The unemployment figures in your latest graph suggest a bottoming out of unemployment starting in June. I’d love to bring the graph up to date but it’s getting a bit late…

  12. You either really truly do not understand what is going on or else you are a partisan cheerleader Unemployment is skyrocketing. Forget all the graphs – talk to your friends and neighbors.

  13. Dan, I think it’s unfair to criticize those against the current health care reforms as being against reform at all. I come into contact with doctors on a regular basis and many agree that a huge portion of the expense via legal concerns. It drives much of the paper work that takes up a doctor’s time, it results in high malpractice insurance rates (which applies not just to doctors but institutions as well such as hospitals and pharmaceuticals), fueled by frivolous lawsuits or even justifiable ones which are nevertheless treated like lottery winnings by juries or settled out of court for no other reason than that it was determined to be the path of least risk and loss of income for the doctor and not because there was actual malpractice. Another huge cost of medicine is all the tests that are performed, and a doctor informs me that this too is exacerbated by our litigiousness. Doctors perform defensive medicine and order tests that aren’t needed because that it wasn’t needed or at least very unlikely to be needed may not be communicated well to a judge and jury in case a lawsuit happens.

    Seems to me that Buddhists should desire tort reform since it litigiousness is often driven by vengence and greed.

    Further, those who are against the current reform are rightfully concerned about the cost and increased deficit spending. So the republicans aren’t the best vocally against our deficit spending given the last administration. So does that mean it’s just best for people to shut up about it with nothing said about the way we are spending ourselves into a hole? Both parties here are hypocritical, but the rebublican philosophy which they have failed to implement on spending is nothing short of prudent.

  14. Hey Bob,

    I think what you say it true of some opponents of health insurance reform. Some opponents are genuinely concerned about spending and deficits. But for many opponents in Congress the main aim is to prevent Obama accomplishing anything at all — as evidenced by some of the cheering that went on when Chicago failed in its Olympic bid. Some Republicans were very clear that they saw opposing health insurance reform as a way to trip Obama up. Concerns about costs are shown to be hypocritical when any efforts to control Medicare costs are framed as “rationing” — when in fact what’s being proposed are “best practices” as adopted by areas where Medicare costs are lower and outcomes are better.

  15. bohdipaska could you provide a source for your chart? Any objective analysis of the unemployment picture should look like a hockey stick pointing straight up since Obama took office. He did not start the recession but he is rapidly digging a deeper hole such that the recession may soon be considered a depression. I highly recommend the following position paper by Thomas Woods:


    1. Hi Brett,

      The ultimate source of the data is the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can see an updated version of the graph at the bondad blog, which is where my hacked version came from.

      If you’re expecting to see a hockey-stick, you’re thinking of another set of figures altogether. The graph in this post shows the monthly net gain/loss of jobs. You’re thinking of the total number (or percentage) of unemployed people per month, which of course has been rising. You can see that graph on Bubblemeter, which has a lot of good posts on the economy. The numbers on that graph started soaring well before Obama came into office, with the steepest rise in December 2008. The rate of increase has been slowing fairly steadily this year, with some ups and downs. It’s hard of course to say what’s going to happen next — well, it’s easy to say, I suppose, but harder to predict accurately.

      I’m not entirely confident about where the economy is heading, and that wasn’t the point I was trying to make with my original post. I simply wanted to point out that what’s happening in the economy now started long before Obama came into office, and that there’s little or no sign that he’s making things worse.

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