November 2, 2010


Angry America: Barack Obama and the United States are both doing a little better than Americans seem to believe (The Economist, Oct 28th 2010)

America is now an uncharacteristically uncertain place. Abroad it seems unsure of who its friends and enemies are. At home there are too many imponderables: over how the health bill will play out in practice; over what might happen to energy prices if carbon-pricing is resurrected via executive action; most of all, over what Mr Obama can do about those yawning deficits. People do not like uncertainty; so if Americans are angry, it is hardly surprising.

Mr Obama seems curiously unable to perceive, let alone respond to, the grievances of middle America, and has a dangerous habit of dismissing tea-partiers and others who disagree with him as deluded, evil or just bitter. The silver tongue that charmed America during the campaign has been replaced by a tin ear. Some blame this on an emotional detachment his difficult upbringing forced on him, others on the fact that he has lived all his life among tribal Democrats. Whatever the reason, he does not seem to feel America’s pain, and looks unable either to capitalise on his administration’s achievements or to project an optimistic vision for the future.

Which ought not to be so hard. Despite its problems, America has far more going for it than its current mood suggests. It is still the most innovative economy on earth, the place where the world’s greatest universities meet the world’s deepest pockets. Its demography is favourable, with a high birth rate and limitless space into which to expand. It has a flexible and hard-working labour force. Its ultra-low bond yields are a sign that the world’s investors still think it a good long-term bet. The most enterprising individuals on earth still clamour to come to America. And it still has a talented president who can surely do better than he has thus far.

It's kind of quaint the way folks who convinced themselves he'd be a good president have to wrestle with the uncharacteristically's and the curious inabilities while still insisting upon the UR's talents. Of course, to acknowledge that he lacks the anility that they imagined upon him is to indict themselves as much as him, so you understand their reluctance. But, at some point, the evidence matters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 2, 2010 1:00 PM
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