Obama's Economy: A New book by Jack Rasmus
Jack Rasmus's new book, Obama's Economy (PlutoPress, 2012), is a marked departure from his earlier volume, Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Recession (PlutoPress, 2010). Where the earlier effort sought to provide an economic framework to understand the worldwide crisis that began over four years ago, the new book offers a detailed, critical history of President Barrack Obama's policy responses to that crisis. In fact, much of Obama's Economy reads like a vivid, insightful diary of economic life during that period. Rasmus links these events into a powerful narrative that was easy to miss as we lived it.
This blow-by-blow account of economic decline and feeble policy response is all cast in the shadow of Obama's campaign promises, promises that were neither bold nor progressive. As Rasmus demonstrates, Obama -- the candidate - drew his financial support from Wall Street, surrounded himself with corporate-friendly, free market-oriented advisors and preferred caution and compromise to any bold, new vision.
As Rasmus demonstrates, Obama's economic course was largely predictable from his campaign promises.
Rasmus sifts through the seeming chaos and improvisations of the last four years to find three distinct Obama recovery programs implemented in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In addition, Obama's Economy identifies "two and a half" Federal Reserve actions (Quantitative Easings) meant to revive the slumping economy. It is Rasmus's considered opinion that all these efforts failed to restore the US economy to anything like a sustainable vitality. The current abysmal state of the global economy and the sluggishness of the US economy would certainly suggest that Rasmus is right.
Further, he chronicles the bi-partisan, near-consensus debt reduction mania that emerged in 2011, a development that found politicians competing with one another to suggest severe budget cutting and program elimination. Rasmus takes this anti-simulative austerity to augur a "double dip" recession: a forthcoming decline in gross domestic product no later than 2013. In this, he is in agreement with the May 22, 2012 statement by the staid Congressional Budget Office which predicts a GDP contraction in the first two quarters of 2013 unless federally legislated measures are rescinded (the equally draconian state and municipal austerity programs are not a factor in the CBO calculations).
After reading Rasmus's new book, one will find little to justify praise for the Obama administration.
While the three trillion dollars of recovery programs (as tabulated by Rasmus) from March of 2008 until September of 2011 may have staved off an even deeper downturn, they have done little to revive the economy. And more than two thirds of these federal dollars were allocated on Obama's watch.
Rasmus, like the New Deal liberals (a brand of liberalism far to the left of what passes as "liberal" today), offers a people-oriented program that promises to restructure capitalism in a way that would dampen many of the inequalities and injustices generated by the capitalism of our time, though I don't share his confidence that it would revitalize the capitalist economy (Nor do I want to "save" capitalism). His program in Obama's Economy is one that, popularized and adopted by a broad political movement, could serve us all well for the immediate future. It is bold and daring, engaging the government in employment in a way unseen since the New Deal. It reverses the housing crisis and protects and strengthens the social safety net (While it mirrors the programs advocated in Rasmus' earlier book, Epic Recession, it curiously and unfortunately omits a single-payer health care solution in this version).
But unlike with the New Deal liberals, there is no political vehicle for this program. Certainly the Democratic Party has not and will not adopt it. The Democratic Party of the twenty-first century is Obama's Party and not even a vague shadow of Roosevelt's Democratic Party. And today's weak labor movement has shown neither the desire nor gumption to re-shape or divorce the Democratic Party. That leaves the fine Rasmus economic plan outside of US politics looking in.
Nonetheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend the book for its unparalleled recounting of the economic failures of the Obama administration and its detailed, well-argued plan for the opening acts of the founding of a people's economy.