In 2006, a group of authors published an article that appeared in the Huffington Post, and several other publications, entitled “George Bush is Not Incompetent” (hat-tip to my friends at the Facebook group “Links for the Wildly Left” for pointing this article out). The authors argued that calling Bush’s policies “failures” or “mistakes” was not only incorrect, but dangerous. One does not necessarily need to agree with everything the authors write (or their framing, as the seemed to believe Bush’s policies had to do with conservative ideology, which I don’t) to come to the central point. For the most part, our politicians are not dumb, they know exactly what they are doing. To use the author’s examples, the Patriot Act was not a sign of incompetence, two wars and a couple other secret ones were not either, and certainly the overall hand-off of government services (especially war programs) to private industry was not because Bush couldn’t handle it. These were all calculated, and all planned.
When this is applied to the other major political party, the same thing could be said. We constantly hear from the progressive side that the Democrats and Obama are just “weak” (or as Paul Krugman wrote, “A Lousy Negotiator”) and that is why there is not major advances made in health-care, the economy, war etc. However, we need not look further than the debt ceiling debate, the deal we are going to get is going to be a deal with tons of spending cuts, with little to no taxes on the rich or corporations. Even PBS points out that the plans of Boehner and Reid are basically the same, and that the whole debate is about “gamesmanship.” We have a Democratic Senate and Democratic Presidency, and the “deal” will be a very Republican deal. So either you have to believe that Democrats are the most ineffective deal-makers in the world (which means you should quit voting for them) or they are playing for the same team as the Republicans and may use different rhetoric, but really want the same thing.
In fact, Michael Hudson calls Obama’s “grand bargain plan” a “Republican Wall Street Plan”. Hudson also calls American politics a “World Wrestling Federation exhibition”, an “oligarchy”, and ruled by bankers. This is, of course, exactly true. Our campaign finance laws have legalized bribery that would make some third world countries blush. “Special Interests” (Wall Street and big corporations) pay our politicians (in the form of getting them elected and sweet jobs after they retire) to work for them. Until we fix this, getting a debt deal together is not our major problem.