Two lines stood out to me about President Obama's press conference opening remarks on the state of the U.S. economy:
...at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.
I think this is not only incorrect, but also quite counter to the "grass roots we can do it yes we can" message that got Mr. Obama to the White House. If we accept that the only way to heal a broken economic system is through the actions of the federal government, we absolutely dis-empower and even discourage individuals, families, local communities, and regional partnerships from taking action, taking responsibility for their own way of life. I think it's irresponsible of Mr. Obama to suggest that we must turn to the federal government's resources for something better, that there is no alternative.
Obama and others keep talking about how if we don't act with this stimulus package, we "could turn a crisis into a catastrophe." I really don't like the framing and implications here:
- We have to support this package because if we don't, it will be our fault that things get worse
- This package is our only hope of things NOT getting worse
- The unemployment rates, suicides, rampant crime, amplified oppressive poverty, and general breakdown of our society is not a catastrophe
And if this is just a crisis, what does the catastrophe look like? No one seems to be willing to paint a picture and follow it to its natural conclusions, but that's a blog post for another time.
With these statements, Barack Obama is reinforcing the notion that a top-down, old minds, "the government will save us" approach is all we've got, and that you're complicit in facilitating a catastrophe if you're not on board with that. There is no alternative. Trust us.
There will be good things to come out of the Obama administration, I'm sure, but this is not one of them. This is a shameful reversion to policies and framing that have very much hurt this country, not helped it. I bet he could do better.