Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Narrative

John Ellis does a good job encapsulating what I was trying to say before about messaging not being Obama's problem, but does so in a much grander way and gets to a more important point...
It's not a staff issue that is causing the President's political deflation. And it's not a communications issue (as in: if only the Obama Administration communicated their ideas better, everything would be okay). It's not even a political issue; the GOP doesn't have a national act to speak of and Democrats continue to hold solid majorities in both Houses of Congress. The Obama Administration's problem is narrative.

Specifically, the Grand Narrative of our time is The Reckoning and the Restructuring. The Reckoning is
all this debt coming home to roost. The Restructuring is what we're going to do about it.

The Reckoning is plain for all to see.
Consumers are broke, companies are reeling under massive debt loads, and the US government is underwater as never before. Compounding these problems is an avalanche of unfunded liabilities that will soon come due. To cite just one small example, for the first time in its history, Social Security will run cash negative this year. The cost of Medicare is set to explode as baby boomers retire. You know all this. There's no point repeating all the scary numbers.

The Reckoning requires restructuring. Restructuring is not avoidable, it is inevitable. The sooner we do it, the less painful it will be for all concerned. Specifically, we must decide how to make our pension system (Social Security) and our current national health care system (Medicare and Medicaid) sustainable. We must restructure our debt. We must get 15% more performance out of our military on 15% less budget. We must get 25% more performance out of all other government services on 25% less expenditure.

In addition, we need to think about what taxes to raise, whether we sell land, whether we acquire nation-states or territories (Africa states? Siberian land?), whether we merge with Canada to form a more robust (and energy independent) mega-nation. These are the big issues of US restructuring. And they are all on the table.

Except they are not. The Obama Administration keeps talking at us like its 1998 and we can have a "green" jobs program and national health insurance and "cap and trade" legislation and $250 million criminal proceedings for
homicidal Islamic psychopaths in downtown Manhattan. We don't have $250 million for the KSM trial in Manhattan. Everybody knows that except, apparently, the Obama Administration.
(hat tip: Jim Geraghty, whose post about this is equally worthwhile of a read). I'm not endorsing a call to merge with Canada, unless they agree to ban curling first. Seriously, Ellis is on to something important here. People who work in private industry have seen friends, colleagues, competitors, etc. all lose their jobs. They have cut back on spending at the personal level, and small businesses have tightened their belt. But what they see from government spending and future deficits scares the hell out of them. I know, because I'm legitimately worried. Our politicans are not solving the problem of fiscal solvency -- they're simply kicking the can down the road. They may claim that the problem is systemic, and they maybe right. But the system needs a repair, or our children really will see a lower standard of living and less opportunity.

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