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February 25, 2009


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I don't find this post depressing at all (per your email). In large part because it offers some specific suggestions for what could happen w/healthcare. It reads more like a helpful critique to me. I enjoyed it.

I also think there's a philosophical difference among pp over what that speech was supposed to accomplish. If you expected general uplift and a broad outline of his domestic agenda, you got that. If you expected details, which I guess you did, you didn't get that.

I'm not wedded to which works better, but I do think there's a time and place for details, and a pomp-and-circumstance opportunity like that is probably not the time or place. So I'm generally satisfied with his speech. That said, I did assume I'd missed a lot of it during live blogging, but when I went and re-read it yesterday, not so much. So either my expectations were subconciously higher...I don't know.

As for the debt piece, this is an intriguing case you make. Bob Kuttner, the founder of TAP, spoke on campus on Tues night and reassured us that BO had no plans to return us to the economy of 2 yrs ago. NO KIDDING, BOB. But when I asked if he planned to take us back to the late '90s or towards a more balanced economy like the 1950s and 1960s, I didn't get an answer. I also think that Obama's economic team is the weakest link in his Cabinet and the most revealing about where his economic philosophies probably lie, and that's extremely troubling.

As for poverty, I had zero expectations that he'd address it - it's up there w/immigration in terms of things no pol wants to go near. There's also a case to be made, one I don't agree with obviously, that if 10-15% of our country lives in poverty, pretty consistently over the decades, is it really a pressing problem? Compared to a full 25% of the 2/3 of homeowners in the US now being underwater, for instance. The absolute # of people affected in those 2 pools might be similar, but the latter issue is unprecedented and we like to believe we've at least got our national homeownership rates to be proud of, so everyone's legitimately freaking out.

I think a more useful conversation that addressing poverty itself would be addressing inequality, and BO did that a bit, but could obviously go much further on that. As a nation we should really face that. But sort of like w/the debt piece, it requires some internal awareness that we're not all better off or one of the privileged few, and though the time is right for that kind of realization, as you keep pointing out, we're not quite there yet.

I liked his speech, but you know that, and you know it's because it was erudite more than anything. Bush really did a # on me, I guess! :)

I don't know what I expected... or that I expected anything; I hadn't even planned on listening to the whole speech, but tehre he was, captivating as usual... and I got drawn in. Honestly, it took me half a day to realize... there wasn't much there. Was it the "right time" for specifics? I think the better question with Obama is... when is the right time? It's always later, it's always coming in some white paper or at some strategy session... but so far, we don't see the details, or get much sense of the actual ways he'd like to see "good government" (a term I frankly despise, never mind how I loathe "goo-goo") actually get implemented. It's all broad temes, big ideas... and as someone who majors in "big picture", I now understand why people say "nice, in theory... but how does that play out?"

As for poverty, it seems to me we are headed toward the situation you describe - where the percentage of people in poverty is about to sail past historic norms... what then? As you and I talked about during the campaign, there's a class question with Obama and his economic team (who I don't necessarily think are his "weakest link" so much as his most Establishment Concession) about whether they "get" the issues facing poor people. Nothing, so far, has made me more confident about that, even, and especially, that speech. And that's beyond the plain speaking I think we still need to get more people to face up to the problems we face.

Why do you hate that term? Just curious. I only knew it as a formal political ideology (more or less) so had some trouble finding plainly written explanations of it, other than in newspaper articles where it was used as a descriptive w/o any clarification. It's awfully vague without some historical clarification.

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