Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The U.S. Government as A Beacon of Progress?

I haven't written much for the blog recently because I have been overwhelmed with teaching and union work.  But a story caught my eye  today  that I think is importan. 
In the U.S., many on the left and those who listen to the left are frustrated with what they see as the failings of the Obama administration and the Republican right is literally licking its chops in anticipation of something like a Reagan Bush restoration.  Some unfortunately are sitting on their hands and making criticism of the administration substitute for action to either move it in a more militant direction and challenge the Republican Right, who of course are its main enemies. 
But the administration, operating in  our very complicated state federal system with separation of powers as a further bloc,(compared to many other countries)  is pursuing a broad counter-cyclical Keynesian policy to avoid a major depression.  It  has passed a hugely flawed but very significant health care reorganization which is the first important piece of social legislation in the interests of the people passed in the U.S. since the Civil Rights Act of 1968.  It has succeeded also in  financial re regulation which, although it also is greatly limited, represents the first challenge to  policies of "deregulation" which began at the end of the Carter administration, were accelerated by Reagan, largely unchallenged by Clinton, and  expanded in a disastrous way by W Bush.
But what gets me is that the U.S. major allies in Europe, according to the New York Times today. are moving in a very different direction.  In Britain, the new Tory-Liberal government has launched draconian budget cutting policies reminiscent of the policies of Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression.  European governments, with advanced welfare states by U.S. standards, are also pursuing similar policies.
Can it be that the Obama administration, like the Roosevelt administration in the U.S. before the victory of the French Popular Front government in 1936(which only last a very few years) is more advanced than major European countries today.  Are  opposition Social Democrats, traditional conservative parties and "centrist" coalitions in Britain and Europe acting  far worse than the Democrats or at least the Obama administration in their social-economic policies?
Usually a compare European labor and politics positively to that of the U.S. but we are now in an interesting time, where the "softer" move to the right that was advance globally after the economic restructuring of the 1970s in Europe is intensifying while it is being challenged and curbed in the U.S.  Of course, a significant victory, however they get it, for the "hard" Republican Right in the 2010 elections will both stalemate the Obama administration and make what the Camerons, Sarkozys et al are doing seem mild.
But a defeat for the Republican Right can have the opposite effect, as it did after the 1934 elections, in pushing the Obama administration toward "bailing out" the unemployed and underemployed, and  developing a counter-cyclical policy from the bottom up--stimulating social spending and revitalization as against top down--spending the big money to shore up banks and corporations.  Also, it may lead to a change in U.S. relations with Europe and foreign policy generally, in which the U.S. for the first time since the end of WWII will use its influence to lead nations like Britain, France and Germany away from race to the bottom fiscal conservatism.
Franklin Roosevelt often said "we must act and act now" to face rapd changes and crisis situations.  That remains very good advice.  If we begin to act and act now to revive the political enthusiasm of 2008 we can begin to help build American policies that will begin to fulfill our 2008 hopes, policies and a society that we can identify with and defend
Norman Markowitz

No comments: