Yet again, conservatives are waging an ideological battle because they are unable to offer new ideas. In a recent Washington Post column
, noted conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer argues that President Obama is using the financial crisis to force through a liberal agenda under the guise of economic recovery. “Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions—the sense of crisis bordering on fear—itself panic—for enacting his ‘Big Bang’ agenda to federalize and/or socialize health care, education and energy, the commanding heights of post-industrial society,” he writes.
What Krauthammer and other conservative commentators do not recognize is the extent to which health care, education, and energy actually affect the economy. Democrats are not the only ones who go to the hospital, attend college, or buy gas; these expenses affect liberals, conservatives, and independents alike. Given the long-standing weaknesses of our economy, Obama’s supposedly “liberal” proposal presents the most viable fix for the problems currently afflicting all Americans.
Krauthammer claims that Obama’s plan to reduce health-care costs, make college more affordable, develop alternative sources of energy, and limit greenhouse- gas emissions is “perhaps the greatest non sequitur ever foisted upon the American people.” (In a non sequitur of my own, I wish that Krauthammer had been so sensitive to non sequiturs during the Bush administration, when a terrorist attack by Saudi nationals became justification for a war in Iraq.) While Krauthammer is right that “at the very center of our economic near-depression is a credit bubble, a housing collapse and a systemic failure of the banking industry,” he refuses to acknowledge that long-term economic recovery will need to address not only the most immediate causes of the financial crisis, but also structural and long-persisting challenges to economic growth.
These challenges are just as Obama defines them: the soaring health-care costs that disadvantage American companies abroad, the difficulty young people—the lifeblood of any economy—have affording higher education, and, most drastically, the threat that a failure to meaningfully combat global warming will pose to both the planet and human lives. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor, wrote for Politico
in response to Krauthammer’s piece, Obama is “not only a brilliant strategist, he is a brilliant analyst of America, understanding all the factors that contribute to economic decline and recovery.”
It is Krauthammer’s belief that Obama should respond to the financial meltdown only so far as to rehabilitate the stock market, restore bank balance sheets, and return to the status quo of increasing income inequality once credit begins to flow again. But Obama is smarter than to think that the problems in the economy begin and end with a housing bubble or reckless banking practices. If the economy is not restructured, health care—even in a bull market—will remain unaffordable for most American businesses and families; paying for college—even in a bull market—will remain a formidable challenge for most young adults; and business practices that contribute to global warming—even in a bull market—will persist unchallenged by federal policies. In other words, Krauthammer and the conservatives offer eight years of the Bush administration all over again, whereas Obama offers the change Americans voted for.
Brittney L. Moraski ’09, a Crimson news editor, is a history and literature concentrator in Dunster House.