Deja Vu all over again

I must admit that I am increasingly confident that Barak Obama will have a second term. The new poll from CBS/New York Times indicates as I have suggested before that Obama is in good shape.

Showing steady improvement since early December, Mr. Obama’s approval rating has reached the 50 percent mark in The Times/CBS News poll — an important baseline in presidential politics and his highest approval rating since May 2010 (excepting the brief bump he received after Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011).

It is clear that Axelrod and Co. have suckered the Republicans into a battle over birth control! How 1950’s. This may actually lead to Rick Santorum grabbing the nomination on platform that even Barry Goldwater would have thought too right wing.

So then my mind turns to the battles of a second term. I think they will revolve around defense, disruption and devolution.

On defense the battle lines are already being drawn, with progressives who want to make a once in a generation complete reordering of the Pentagon’s stranglehold on our discretionary spending, having already won giant cuts if Congress does nothing. On the other side are Panetta, and the Republicans railing against the coming cuts.

The overall spending was dictated by the budget agreement that Obama and congressional Republicans reached last August that calls for defense cuts of $487 billion over a decade. More troubling to Panetta and lawmakers is the likelihood that automatic, across-the-board cuts will kick in in January unless Congress can come up with at least $1.2 trillion in savings.

The additional $500 billion of cuts would still leave the U.S. Military far larger than any potential rival. Of course the new focus on the Pacific is designed to start another mindless arms race with the Chinese, just like the criminal waste of money from 1950-1989 on the Soviet Arms Race. This needs to be stopped.

The notion of disruption is drawn from David Brooks’ important essay, The Materialist Fallacy, which seeks to unpack the social disruption in America’s poor communities.

First, no matter how social disorganization got started, once it starts, it takes on a momentum of its own. People who grow up in disrupted communities are more likely to lead disrupted lives as adults, magnifying disorder from one generation to the next.

Second, it’s not true that people in disorganized neighborhoods have bad values. Their goals are not different from everybody else’s. It’s that they lack the social capital to enact those values.

Third, while individuals are to be held responsible for their behavior, social context is more powerful than we thought. If any of us grew up in a neighborhood where a third of the men dropped out of school, we’d be much worse off, too.

As Adam Gopnick has so convincingly pointed out, “Six million people are under correctional supervision in the U.S.—more than were in Stalin’s gulags.”

For American prisoners, huge numbers of whom are serving sentences much longer than those given for similar crimes anywhere else in the civilized world—Texas alone has sentenced more than four hundred teen-agers to life imprisonment—time becomes in every sense this thing you serve…More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then.

If Obama doesn’t do something dramatic to address social disruption in his second term he will have failed. These are hard truths, but as Brooks points out, suggesting the problem is just one of money is folly.

And then finally there is devolution. As regular readers of this blog know, this is somewhat of an obsession of mine. In forty years in business it has become obvious that the only way to manage a culture of innovation is to push as much power as possible to the edges of an organization. Maintain at corporate headquarters only those central functions like finance and communications that can service the whole organization. Give individual operating units as much operating leeway as possible. The same should apply to our government. We call it the New Federalism.

So let me specify what I think we need a Federal Government for:Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security as well as  Social Security and Medicare benefits. Everything else should be a State matter. Certainly law enforcement agencies like the FBI and SEC would operate at the Federal Level to enforce Federal statutes, but the funding and the personnel for the departments of Education, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Transportation and Labor should primarily exist at the State level. Obviously both the Housing and the Agriculture departments in California and Mississippi would be concerned with very different issues. And of course as the Imperial Dreams of America come down to earth, the bloated Defense and Homeland Security budgets would shrink dramatically.

I’m convinced this is the only way we can get control of our politics. I’m also convinced that only a second term president, with nothing left to lose, could take on these three hot button issues. If we trim our defense spending, commit to tackle the problems of social disruption and poverty and push both taxing and governing power out to the cities and states–then we stand a chance of bringing on an American Renaissance.

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9 Responses to Deja Vu all over again

  1. len says:

    As I said, the Republicans need a candidate who looks like a President and Obama has to be President. Making a clear discrimination between those is important because it’s still a long way to the election. Odds are still in Obama’s favor but only if he can connect as a person and he continually fails at that. His essential personality is one of status seeking. He doesn’t simply represent his collegiate ties, he believes they are his by divine right and against a blue-collar credible candidate such as Santorum when as with Reagan and Carter, people became tired of complex answers to what they consider simple problems (even if they aren’t), Obama can quickly sink into a morass of populism over credibility. Make no mistake, should Santorum take the nomination, the dicks will have their candidate.

    The disaster for everyone will be if in a struggle to define Santorum the Obama teams turn this into the black incumbent against the white boy. And they will. Then any hope we have of a consensus governance evaporates. Caveat vendor.

    As for the edge theory, your affiliation with Apple blows that up in so many obvious ways it beggars your own credibility. No organization in my business does as much to take from the many for the benefit of the few. Having worked for companies that tried that and saw their profits vanish into the parochial ratholes of local budgets hiding massive incompetence, as is the case with California government for some decades now, privilege means eventual sales overseas and the engine of innovation becomes just another oil-burning seals shot hybrid of less and less performance until the parts are sold for junk values. Local control is about realizing gloval strategy in a way that balances the needs of the many and the one. Anything else is bullshit self-satisfying status seeking.

    And that is where Obama has to find a better strategy than one that espouses the good of the few over the many. Elitism will be his Achilles heel.

  2. woodnsoul says:

    Today. Barry Goldwater would be, at best, considered a moderate and most on the right would look at him as a liberal…

    The country has moved that far to the right.

    We have lost the ability to look at facts and work off of pre-conceived ideas. The right wing mentality is simply incapable of dealing with factual information and chooses other sources or methods of dealing with the world.

    When you have a large portion of the population that watches Fox news where you are more knowledgeable by NOT watching, you know you’re in trouble.

    Obama is a great speaker and pretty much an empty suit in my book. He simply doesn’t understand the exercise of power or the presidency. He can be shrewd, for sure, but he is pretty limited, IMO, in his abilities. He prides himself on being reasonable – and he is – but he is not dealing with reasonable people a good portion of the time.

  3. Fentex says:

    While I’m not a great fan of Obama, and think he falls short of what opportunity could allow him, I don’t understand why anyone would think he’s an empty suit.

    At the very least he’s a responsible and competent adult with a working understanding of the world and reality in general.

    That alone is sufficent reason to choose him over any candidate the Republicans have on the books, even though it seems he may never grasp greatness.

    And I don’t think that’s entirely his fault either. The political atmosphere in the U.S is poison (that’s nearly always true of all politics) and the momentum of corruption and vested interests a strong tide for even the greatest to swim against. I don’t think Obama will ever have the opportunity to make fundemental change that acheives more than incremental improvements without an existential crisis demanding addressing.

    Real greatness is revealed and fundemental change occurs at points of criss where the opportunity and need for action is imperative and unavoidable. Obamas lot seems to be to manage a depressed situation through sore times rather than lead essential change.

    Which, with competence, is greatly preferable to the insanity on offer from the Republicans.

  4. len says:

    It depends on who he asks to help.

    In Michigan, letting the car manufaturers bankrupt would put the hurt on. On the other hand, if I were he I might give ahout out to Ford who did it themselves. As their t-shirt said: the best car built without government money.

    The mood is rising war drums and all. The Americans are tired of incompetence. Whatever one may say about our President, he is not that. We get that. The Republicans admit it secretly among themselves. So if the strength of the Republicans is figured in terms of Santorum’s values, co-option will be better than a knife fight. Obama has picked up the America First strategy. Not punitive except to say that sending jobs overseas won’t be rewarded. Can he get that done? Dunno. Sounds good. And that is his biggest challenge: he was elected with great hope and big promises. Balancing hope and promises for a second term is even more suspect.

    Unless he wins big and the House and Senate change enough, it will be more obstructionism from the right. So the biggest challenge is convincing us he knows how to overcome that and get it done. The froggy in the pond is Iran.

    Wouldn’t it be something if the Israelis saved the Syrians? Impossible but….

  5. len says:

    RIP Jon McIntire! The void is open 24 x 7.

  6. Morgan Warstler says:

    I can’t support Santorum, if he would win the primary I still wouldn’t be “shocked” if he beat Obama, I also wouldn’t be shocked if there was a brokered convention.

    And if Obama would win, Id adopt Sumner’s monetary policy approach to politics for the rest of my days.

    That said….

    “Large racial differences remain: 73 percent of black children are born outside marriage, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites. And educational differences are growing. About 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, compared with 62 percent of women with some post-secondary schooling and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less, according to Child Trends.”


    If we FORCE men to work – see my Guaranteed Income plan to auction the unemployed – we can increase their Guaranteed Income as long as they are living with the mother of their children.

    In fact, we ought to provide a smaller Guaranteed Income to any 15 year old who wants it and auction off his non-school free time, and tie his being int he program to staying in school until he graduates – even if he is 21 when it happens

    FORCING people to work to receive a livable income even though their labor sells for far less than they get paid, is the way to administer all forms of benefits and he way to organize society where there is no structure.

  7. len says:


    Economists can’t seem to find a middle ground between being threatening short sell sorcerors and obsequious rug merchants. No one want to kill the game; we want the rewards shifted, in short, America could care less about the lifestyles of the ruthless or the gutless: they want their money back. Otherwise, this really is a lifestyle debate.

  8. Ken Ballweg says:

    “FORCING people to work to receive a livable income even though their labor sells for far less than they get paid, is the way to administer all forms of benefits and he way to organize society where there is no structure.”

    Wow, way to get government out of the business of controlling people’s lives. Slavery as a means to an economy we can all be proud of. There’s a libertarian ideal we can all put on our sheets and get behind.

  9. Morgan Warstler says:


    many aren’t not able to live on what they are worth.

    make them work. sell their labor for what it is really worth. make sure they get a real income from the society that wants to treat them better than labor in other countries.

    you lose.

    stop fighting, say thank you.

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