Sunday, December 8, 2013

President Obama in the Sweet Spot

12/8/2013—After months and weeks considering whether the Obama administration was a failed presidency, it is a real pleasure to consider the Obama administration today. In one area after another, the President looks pretty good.

Obviously, with the gradual fixing of the Obamacare rollout, people are now considering, as Paul Krugman kept saying they would, just what healthcare reform will mean to them. The point has always been that now, the first time, poor people and people with pre-existing medical conditions will be able to get health insurance. This is a great thing and it is the most progressive thing to help people who need help that this country has done in a long time. Those of us who thought President Obama was right to concentrate on healthcare even when the economy was collapsing can now take some satisfaction. And President Obama deserves a great deal of credit.

But there is more. The economic reports on Friday suggest an economy finally, finally getting on track. Here, there is some luck involved. Maybe the combination forced on the nation by divided government proved to be a good thing. Maybe the forced cuts and declining deficit have been good for the economy. Here, maybe Paul Krugman was wrong. I don't know and I'm not sure anyone knows. And it has taken far too long. And there is still too much unemployment. Nevertheless, in looking around the world, the American economy is looking pretty good.

Then there is inequality. President Obama is addressing the need to raise the minimum wage, the next best and most important thing that can be done to help poor people and to reduce inequality in incomes. Perhaps this will not happen soon, but it will happen. And it is something that the entire Democratic Party can eagerly support.

In foreign and military affairs, President Obama has wound down two wars. And, again partly through luck, President Obama has not begun any wars. Given recent American history, this is an accomplishment. And you can be sure it would not have been true with a Republican president or perhaps even with a different Democrat.

The agreement with Iran is positively historic. The criticism of this interim agreement is incomprehensible apart from an atavistic desire for war. Again here, President Obama deserves a great deal of credit for standing up to the pro-Israel lobby. Ironically, this agreement will prove to benefit Israel more than any other country.

As for Palestinian Israeli negotiations, I suppose they will go nowhere as they never have gone anywhere. Again, however, the perceived shift in United States policy away from Israel and Saudi Arabia, which columnists in the Jewish press have written about, may persuade Israel that its time is running out. President Obama and his political coalition are less dependent on traditional Jewish sources then have been previous Democrats. The groups that are coming to power in America, including Hispanics and a newly assertive African-American vote, are not as pro-Israel as was the prior political constellation. So, it may be in the future that Israel will not be able to assume unconditional American support. This does not mean that America will cease to be pro-Israel but it might mean a new definition of what it means to be pro-Israel. In any event, there may be more pressure on Israel to make a deal today than before. Certainly President Obama has done nothing here to lessen the chances for peace.

Finally, in this short list, there is the relationship between America and China. In the long run, this is the most important foreign policy issue in the world. Here, the Obama administration has done nothing wrong. We have stood by Japan without alienating China. In a time of limited resources for America, this may be the best we can do. The longer the relationship between America and China remains peaceful, the more likely it is that the relationship will become permanently peaceful. In terms of world history, there is no inevitability of military competition between a land power in Asia and an ocean power in North America. The Obama administration has rightly insisted on freedom of the air in its most recent confrontation with China. But it would be foolish to go to war over uninhabited rocks to which China has as good a claim as does Japan. Again here, America seems to be in good hands with President Obama.

1 comment:

  1. Bruce, I believe that Paul Krugman would argue that a depressed economy will always rebound, eventually. His point has always been that there has been no need for the pain, wasted years and disrupted or destroyed lives that the "austerity" policies have occasioned.