Acid test results - a post mortem

SUBHEAD: What happened to change? We are either in the hands of conspirators or idiots or both. Image above: Detail from Obama campaign poster for 2008. From By George Mobus on 17 November 2009 in Question Everything -

When Obama was inaugurated I posted my thoughts about the likelihood of the Obama administration doing the right things: This is the acid test. In it I said "If Obama can't pull it off, I suspect no one can."

Obama was clearly a different kind of politician, or at least seemed so in contrast to the other candidates and the previous administration. I think a large majority of us looked upon his election as a real relief. My own thoughts were that now we might have someone who would dare to tell the truth about climate change and energy depletion and would use the bully pulpit to promote real action.

Of course I realized that the vast majority of people who supported Obama had something a little different in mind. For them the issue was getting the economy going again, ending the wars, and basically returning to that seemingly prosperous time of the late 1990s. The majority wanted and believed in business as usual (BAU) only colored green somehow.

I just wanted him to address the fact that we would never go back to BAU, even green. The days of cheap energy were over and the sooner this was acknowledged the sooner we start to take actions that might spare us the worst possible outcomes. I reserved the right to be skeptical, of course. That is why I called it the 'acid test'.

In February I revisited the situation in The acid test revisited. There I gave the President good marks for choosing the right problems to tackle, but had to slam him for his objectives. My greatest fears were being rekindled by his appointments to key economic positions. As is now all too apparent the positions taken by, Treasury Secretary Geithner, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers, and the other White House minions, along with keeping Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in place have led to a crises in the real American economy — not the bankers and Wall Street jockeys mind you — with real unemployment at something close to 17% (the government statistics ignore those who have given up looking for jobs).

Actually I reported the final results of the acid test back in August: Is Obama passing the acid test? I pretty much wrote him off since the stimulus package was clearly designed to help the fat cats and not very geared toward the would-be working stiffs who were losing their homes. Now some thoughts on the post mortem of American politics and governance

Broken political process, broken governance process

The skill set needed to win elections isn't the same skill set needed to govern. That is the great flaw in the American political framework. Whereas partisan politics are useful for sorting out the issues and debating the qualities of candidates during primaries, bringing the same partisanship (based on pure ideology) to the Senate floor is completely wrong. Governors need to be more like scientists, look at and use the best evidence available to debate legislation.

Then there is the situation with lobbyists. Once upon a time, lobbyists sort of did provide legislators with information. Unfortunately as TV campaigning became more expensive and lobbyists started providing more than information the whole process broke down. Getting elected meant collecting lots of money. And it was the monied interests who could field the best promoters/lobbyists. Now the game the politicians have to play is completely different from what it should have been.

One of Obama's campaign promises was to do something about K Street. He could certainly ban the lobbyists from the White House. That would be a start. But it never happened. Indeed what we've witnessed in the on-going saga of health care reform is an elevated role for lobbyists in the process. Sure Obama may argue that looking for a compromise on multiple issues, like the public option, will require all parties cooperation and he would, perhaps, assert that he has to invite the various business interests to the table to hash things out. But is that really true, or is it just convenient?

Obama promised change; change we could believe in. Today there are quite a few dissatisfied folks who have yet to see any results of change. Right now it still looks like the fat cats rule and are going to increase the disparity in incomes between the rich and everybody else.

I suspect it is all part of an intentional illusion, designed to lull the public into waiting just a few more years until the real shit hits the fan. We have been fed the story that if we can just get the economy going again, all will be well. But it is crap.

Trying to restore to a growth-oriented, consumer-based economy is impossible. Growth and consumption depend on cheap energy flowing through. And we have long passed the point at which net energy flow is growing faster than we can produce assets. Indeed, for all we know net energy flow could now be in decline. We don't measure it in any meaningful way. Everyone in the energy business has focused on gross oil production and oil prices.

But it is the net flow that powers the economy, that drives the production of wealth. And with the peaking of net energy from all sources without a substantial and expensive crash build-out of an alternative energy infrastructure, we will never be able to recover the flowthroughs needed. Ever.

The old economy is never coming back. We might restore some segments of the old economy, as now the bankers and Wall Streeters seem to be doing OK. But it will be very spotty and short-lived. The financial system is ultimately based on the real asset economy even if it has become over abstracted from its basis. So even if the banks are reporting profits now, even if the stock market is up, it won't be for long. You can't create wealth without increasing energy flow. It is just that simple.

And Obama seems oblivious to this. All of his financial advisors are oblivious. The majority of citizens are oblivious. The corporate giants are oblivious. Or maybe instead of going to regular school and learning some basic science all of these people went to Hogwarts and learned magic. Maybe I and my colleagues are the only ones who don't know that you really can have a free lunch; that you really can make something out of nothing.

An alternative hypothesis, one that keeps the illusion of hope alive, is that Obama IS aware and is blocked by potent forces that prevent him from telling the people the truth. It is easy to imagine the power brokers (Bilderberg conspiracy anyone?) using Obama as a perfect puppet, keeping the people filled with hope while all of the remaining wealth is confiscated by the rich and powerful. Because some of these power brokers must know the truth. It is just high school physics for god's sake.

What would you do if you were a master of the universe and if you knew the world as we've known it was coming to an end; that all the wealth that would ever be created would soon be all there was? If word got out there would be a concerted attempt to hoard. There would be violent competition for the spoils. The only way to prevent that would be to keep everybody hoping for a better outcome by telling them that such an outcome was still feasible. Then by the time it became clear to all that it wasn't, it would be too late.

These ideas are floating around even now. It is pretty damn hard to explain the failures of governance and the disappointment in Obama without invoking some kind of conspiracy theory. Most people already succumb to the feeling that their lives are fated (ill in this case).

Personally I don't know. I don't have an explanation. I just know that we are still headed at pellmell speed toward a gigantic cliff and there is no attempt to even test the brakes let alone push the brake peddle to the floor. We are either in the hands of conspirators or the hands of idiots (or as I fear, idiotic conspirators!) But then, I'm the one who has been claiming all along that humans are just not very sapient after all.

1 comment :

Mauibrad said...

I can't believe in him at all anymore. The guy is full of it.

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