Mike Konczal

Roosevelt Institute Fellow

Recent Posts by Mike Konczal

  • What Would Keynes Do? More Stimulus, More Monetary Policy

    Oct 24, 2011Mike Konczal

    Keynes's advice to FDR still holds overwhelmingly true for combatting our own crisis.

    Keynes's advice to FDR still holds overwhelmingly true for combatting our own crisis.

    The Franklin D. Roosevelt President Library and Museum has put scans up of several important documents that highlight FDR's transition from trying to balancing the budget in the Great Depression to, after the crash of 1937, his ability to see that Keynesian deficit spending could help the recovery. The page that has the resources, plus a history, is located here: FDR: From Budget Balancer to Keynesian.

    It includes several campaign speeches by Roosevelt as they evolved over the 1930s, and it also includes John Maynard Keynes's 1938 private letter to President Roosevelt. The Keynes letter is great. He is a model of clarity, wit, and seriousness with a towering intellect on all matters economic.

    After the fiscal and monetary contraction that brought on the crash of 1937, liberals in the Roosevelt administration weren't sure what to do. Keynes, in his letter, outlined a five step plan including both what had just worked and what to continue doing until the economy healed:

    This is how we should judge our current elites and opinion leaders. How well do they understand this game plan for addressing a massive crisis like the one we are in, and under what economic ideology and rationality are they deviating from it? Right now it is a full-time job trying to convince elites that this is the right program for the country, rather than rewriting federal and state law to businesses' liking and focusing obsessively on the deficit. So little has been learned, and what we've learned has been forgotten.

    Keynes also noted that getting the housing market straightened out is one of the best ways to handle the Depression. "Housing is by far the best aid to recovery because of the large and continuing scale of potential demand; because of the wide geographical distribution of this demand; and because the sources of its finance are largely independent of the Stock Exchanges." Getting the housing market right is also an uphill battle for our recession and administration.

    Keynes Does the Twist

    There's a debate within left-liberal economic circles over the relative importance of monetary versus fiscal policy in dealing with the economic downturn. Often you hear that all the stuff Bernanke is doing, from QE to Operation Twist, is a rejection of what Keynes would advise if he was living today.

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    Since we are looking at Keynes' letters to President Roosevelt, let's look at his 1933 open letter to FDR, published in the New York Times. Among other recommendations, he advises the new administration to do two things on the domestic front (my bold):

    If you were to ask me what I would suggest in concrete terms for the immediate future, I would reply thus... In the field of domestic policy, I put in the forefront, for the reasons given above, a large volume of Loan-expenditures under Government auspices. It is beyond my province to choose particular objects of expenditure. But preference should be given to those which can be made to mature quickly on a large scale, as for example the rehabilitation of the physical condition of the railroads... You can at least feel sure that the country will be better enriched by such projects than by the involuntary idleness of millions.

    I put in the second place the maintenance of cheap and abundant credit and in particular the reduction of the long-term rates of interest. The turn of the tide in great Britain is largely attributable to the reduction in the long-term rate of interest which ensued on the success of the conversion of the War Loan. This was deliberately engineered by means of the open-market policy of the Bank of England. I see no reason why you should not reduce the rate of interest on your long-term Government Bonds to 2½ per cent or less with favourable repercussions on the whole bond market, if only the Federal Reserve System would replace its present holdings of short-dated Treasury issues by purchasing long-dated issues in exchange. Such a policy might become effective in the course of a few months, and I attach great importance to it.

    His first suggestion constitutes fiscal stimulus. But his second suggestion is urging the Federal Reserve to replace its short-term bonds with long-term bonds to bring down the rates on the long-term bonds -- just like Operation Twist! Equally interesting, instead of naming an amount of Treasuries to buy, like $800 billion or $2 trillion, Keynes says to hit a specific rate. The Federal Reserve can either set a rate or an amount, and we've been doing QE through setting purchase amounts. Maybe this other way that he suggests, having QE set a target for long-term rates, is a better way of doing QE? He's a pretty smart fellow.

    Keynes "terrified lest progressives causes...suffer injury"

    Going back to the 1938 letter, I find Keynes' conclusion chilling.

    In this letter, Keynes is saying that if FDR didn't handle the recovery correctly the whole New Deal would be at risk. Full employment is hard to accomplish, very hard, but it isn't impossible. And the stakes are higher than just the economic recovery -- failure means that progressive governance and polices are both at "risk to their prestige" from a prolonged downturn. Taking the economic downturn "too lightly" puts all of it -- from responsibly combating global warming, to bringing fairness and justice to those working in the shadows of labor market, to making sure everyone has access to insurance against sickness and poverty in old age, to the rest of the liberal governance project -- at risk. And, as we see the years pass by, it is too easy to lose precious time.

    Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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  • How to Make Banks Really Mad: Occupy Foreclosures

    Oct 19, 2011Mike Konczal

    Could the next step after camping in Zuccotti Park be camping out in homes facing foreclosure?

    Could the next step after camping in Zuccotti Park be camping out in homes facing foreclosure?

    As people think a bit more critically about what it means to "occupy" contested spaces that blur the public and the private and the boundaries between the 99% and the 1%, and as they also think through what Occupy Wall Street might do next, I would humbly suggest they check out the activism model of Project: No One Leaves. It exists in many places, especially in Massachusetts -- check out this Springfield version of it -- and grows out of activism pioneered by City Life Vida Urbana. It is similar to activism done by the group New Bottom Line and other foreclosure fighters. Here is PBS NewsHour's coverage of the movement.

    The major goal of Project: No One Leaves is to mobilize as many resources as possible to protect those going through foreclosure and keep them in their homes as long as possible in order to give them maximum bargaining power against the banks. For those focused on "weapons of the weak," this moment -- with banks and creditors using state power to conduct massive amounts of foreclosures, thus impoverishing poor neighborhoods through a financialized rationality -- is a crucial opportunity for resistance. From the webpage:

    Post-Foreclosure Eviction Defense. We mobilize tenants and former homeowners living in recently or about to be foreclosed homes (bank tenants) to stop evictions, protect Springfield’s housing and communities, and mobilize bank tenants to fight back against major lending institutions and banks that are tearing our communities apart.

    Their model, a two-step process known as the Sword and the Shield, works:

    “The Sword”. Encouraging residents to stay in their homes, and to make their stories public, we organize blockades, vigils and other public actions to exert public pressure on the banks. The sword works together with:

    “The Shield”: We inform bank tenants of their rights and work with legal services & progressive lawyers, to use aggressive post-foreclosure eviction defense to get eviction cases dismissed, win large move-out settlements (if it makes sense for that family/person), and force the banks to reconsider foreclosure evictions.

    They use public action through blockades, protests, and marches, along with smart legal advice on how to maximize legal resistance to forced removal. Beyond the fact that this is a major space for resistance, it is also a great way to mobilize people. And as JW Mason notes, there is power in having a clear opponent as well as a special type of bargaining power people might not realize they have:

    On Oct. 23, the FDR Library presents a free forum on FDR’s foreign policy advisers. Click here to find out how you can join the conversation!

    Homeowners who still have title have a lot to lose and are understandably anxious to meet whatever conditions the lender or servicer sets. But once the foreclosure has happened, the homeowner, paradoxically, is in a stronger negotiating position; if they're going to have to leave anyway, they have nothing to lose by dragging the process out, while for the bank, delay and bad publicity can be costly. So the idea is to help people in this situation organize to put pressure -- both in court and through protest or civil disobedience -- on the banks to agree to let them stay on as tenants more or less permanently, at a market rent.

    But there's another important thing about No One Leaves: They're angry. The focus isn't just on the legal rights of people facing foreclosure, or their real chance to stay in their homes if they organize and stick together, it's on fighting the banks. There's a very clear sense that this is not just a problem to be solved, but that the banks are the enemy. I was especially struck by one middle-aged guy who'd lost the home he'd lived in for some 20 years to foreclosure. "At this point, I don't even care if I get to stay," he said. "Look, I know I'm probably going to have to leave eventually. I just want to make this as slow, and expensive, and painful, for Bank of America as I can." Everyone in the room cheered.

    Slow, expensive and painful indeed -- it's like putting the banks through their own version of HAMP. Some may reply, "But wait, aren't foreclosures healthy for the economy? Mitt Romney thinks so." But according to the latest research using discontinuities across state lines, "estimates suggest that foreclosures were responsible for 15% to 30% of the decline in residential investment from 2007 to 2009 and 20% to 40% of the decline in auto sales over the same period." This research is being debated, but the opposite evidence -- that quicker foreclosures help the macroeconomy -- can't be found there or anywhere else.

    So does this fit well with Occupy Wall Street's agenda? Given the rampant fraud and abuses in the current foreclosure chain, from manufacturing documents to "robo-signing" to fee-stacking to everything else, the Obama administration's refusal to support a serious investigation is a major example of the government-financial alliance and two-tier system of justice that those in Occupy Wall Street hate. Occupy Wall Street likes to pick spaces that are legally contestable -- like private-public parks -- and draw attention to real conflicts between those with power and those without. A residence post-foreclosure is one of those spaces.

    This type of demand allows Occupy Wall Street to tap into already existing networks of foreclosure fighters, avoiding the risk of looking powerless by relying on Congress to do anything. And ultimately, it gets at the banks in a way occupations normally don't: Banks may or may not feel that they aren't appreciated enough because of these protests, but they'll definitely be mad if someone is disrupting their foreclosure mills through occupation and refusal to leave.

    Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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  • The Lesson the Left Can Learn on Inequality from Occupy Wall Street

    Oct 17, 2011Mike Konczal

    The protesters' particular focus on inequality is a perfect starting place for a progressive movement revival.

    The protesters' particular focus on inequality is a perfect starting place for a progressive movement revival.

    Right now Occupy Wall Street has favorable polling. So did the Tea Party at its beginning. As Seth Ackerman pointed out to me, once people saw that the Tea Party wasn't a new thing but this old, arch-conservative thing, one that wants to take our global historical moment and wage total war against public sector workers and uteri, they turned against it. One symptom that it was an old thing was the books that it circulated: from Hayek's underwhelming Road to Serfdom to Bircher Cold War tracts from the types who thought Eisenhower was a member of the communist conspiracy.

    Ackerman noted that it isn't clear what will happen with Occupy Wall Street ideologically, if only because at this point the left-liberal project and progressivism more generally is chaotic and up for grabs. This makes for a fun, fascinating, and scary moment for a potentially insurgent left.

    This movement is very focused on inequality. But why? A lot of different ideas have already surfaced. With so much of the debate about the 99% and the 1% framed in the context of extreme inequality, it might be worthwhile to step back and examine the liberal arguments against inequality and discuss what I see of them in Occupy Wall Street.

    This is a great cheat-sheet -- a list of objections to inequality resulting from the high liberalism tradition from TM Scanlon's "The Diversity of Objections to Inequality" (article not free online, here's a summary). Liberals, in general, have five objections to inequality:

    A sixth point will hopefully be added in the future: A more equal distribution creates a better economy. There's an assumption that the market, instead of creating concentrations of wealth and power that slow growth, assigns resources to where they are best used in both the short and long term. However, it is hotly contested whether income inequality causes crashes; researchers at the IMF found models where it can. And a whole other strain of research finds that equality causes growth to be more sustained (see summaries by Georgia Levenson Keohane and Brad Plumer).

    As Scanlon is quick to note, only a few of these are necessarily egalitarian -- you can be concerned with relieving the suffering of the poorest without actually caring about disparity of incomes. And there is usually a huge emphasis on how the power referred to in number three is primarily a problem of electoral politics and policy instead of a problem of dominating, controlling power relations between individuals.

    So where does Occupy Wall Street stand on these? What I find fascinating is that there is much more of a focus on forms of power and domination as opposed to the more general concerns of egalitarian liberalism, those focused on stigmatization and fairness. This is a healthy move for the debate.

    On Oct. 23, the FDR Library presents a free forum on FDR’s foreign policy advisers. Click here to find out how you can join the conversation!

    One of the major concerns you hear from people in occupations is that the political process has become fundamentally corrupted. This gets right at number three: Money has become so concentrated and such an overwhelming presence in our politics that we need some ways of reforming it at a structural level. The stakes are higher in Occupy Wall Street. The government blurs into the private sector, wealth is no longer a measure of contribution but instead rent extraction, and no party or individual can be trusted to work within the system. There needs to be a reboot. How did we get here? Hacker and Pierson's Winner Take All Politics is a good place to start when looking for the answer.

    Another argument is that Wall Street itself is out of control. Having failed quite profitably in its sole responsibility -- allocating capital responsibly, not towards Pets.com, junk mortgage debt, strip-mining companies for short-term gains, and worthless housing stock nobody wants -- and then getting bailed out when it all collapsed, the sheer presence of the financial sector among the top 1% feels like a crime. This power is more ruthless than than that in the normal discussion. It drives the entire economy, and it appears to have just driven it off a cliff. For more, 13 BankersEconnedAge of Greed, and Wall Street from the 1990s all walk readers through this story.

    What about the 99%? I've previously looked through the We Are the 99% Tumblr and found that the biggest emphasis was on debt, ranging from student loans to medical debt, and a lack of enough employment to get by month-to-month. Here inequality is less a problem related to the more traditional liberal concerns of fairness or the idea that a few are left behind, and more a problem in which inequality is making indentured peasants of a huge part of the population. Risks are shifted to individuals who are already struggling, opportunities and possibilities are ruthlessly revoked, employment is nonexistent, and month-to-month survival is a battle for more than the just the very bottom. Books such as Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years approach this from an anthropological point of view. Other works include Elizabeth Warren's book on how fixed costs of the middle class drive even two-income families into poverty, as opposed to more general discretionary spending (read: "frivolous" spending), or Tamara Draut's Strapped.

    This ties into traditional liberal concerns. Liberals want institutions that allow people to develop their talents and also ones that insure them against the bad luck of health and unemployment. These institutions have been unraveled, and their public nature has been replaced with debt. And when people involved in Occupy Wall Street talk about this phenomenon, they connect how debt functions as a new safety net with the experience of servitude and suffering. Not in a relative sense of inferiority and shame (although that's there too), but in actual deprivation and the feeling of powerlessness against creditors, bosses, and the top of the elite.

    Indeed, these concerns are reflected in the format of the general assembly and other current, institutional characteristics of Occupy Wall Street. Without permanent, clear leaders, there is no one to arrest, corrupt, or otherwise take over. That address their concerns about political domination from sources internal and external. The focus on mass participation and consensus derives, in part, from inequality in political access. Resources and responsibilities are distributed in the most egalitarian manner because physical deprivation is just one bad month away for many in the occupations (indeed, in the country). Collective enterprises offer a potential solution to giving workers real power in the workplace, power that can be put into action across the country and isn't dependent on Obama and the Senate.

    This strikes me as firmer ground on which to try and build up a resurgent left. What's your take?

    Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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  • Who are the 1% and What Do They Do for a Living?

    Oct 14, 2011Mike Konczal

    mike-konczal-newThere's good reason to focus on the top 1%: they're distorting our economy.

    Look, a crazy anti-capitalist anarchist carrying a bizarre sign incompatible with the basic tenants of liberals:

    Or not.

    There's good reason to focus on the top 1%: they're distorting our economy.

    Look, a crazy anti-capitalist anarchist carrying a bizarre sign incompatible with the basic tenents of liberals:

    Or not.

    A lot of emphasis is on the "99%" versus the "1%" in these protests. But who are the 1% and what do they do for a living? Are they all Wilt Chamberlains and Oprahs and other people taking part in the dynamism of the new economy? Nope. It's same as it ever was -- high-level management and the financial sector.

    Suzy Khimm goes through the numbers here. I'm curious about occupations. I'll hand the mic off to "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data" by Bakija, Cole, and Heim. This is the latest and greatest report on occupations and inequality. Here's a chart of the occupations of the top 1%:

    distribution_1_percent

    Inequality has fractals. Let's go into the top 0.1% -- what do they look like?  Here's the chart of the occupations of the top 0.1%, including capital gains:

    It boils down to managers, executives, and people who work in finance. From the paper: "[o]ur findings suggest that the incomes of executives, managers, supervisors, and financial professionals can account for 60 percent of the increase in the share of national income going to the top percentile of the income distribution between 1979 and 2005."

    On Oct. 23, the FDR Library presents a free forum on FDR’s foreign policy advisers. Click here to find out how you can join the conversation!

    For fun, there are more than twice as many people listed as "Not working or deceased" than are in "arts, media, sports." For every elite sports player who earned a place at the top of the income pyramid due to technology changes and superstar, tournament-style labor markets that broadcast him across the globe, there are two trust fund babies.

    The top 1% of managers and executives often means C-level employees, especially CEOs. And their earnings versus the average worker have skyrocketed in the past 30 years, so this shouldn't be surprising:

    How has this evolved over time?  Can we get a cross-section of that protest sign above?

    Same candidates. There's a reason the protests ended up on Wall Street: The top 1% and top 0.1% comprises all the senior bosses and the financial sector.

    One of the best things about Occupy Wall Street is that there is no chatter about Obama or Perry or whatever is the electoral political issue of the day. There are a lot of people rethinking things, discussing, learning, and conceptualizing the kinds of world they want to create. Since so much about inequality is a function of the legal structure known as a "corporation," I'd encourage you to check out Alex Gourevitch on how the corporate is structured in our laws.

    The paper notes that stock market returns drive much of the manager's income. This is related to a process of financialization, something JW Mason has done a fantastic job outlining here. The "dominant ethos among managers today is that a business exists only to enrich its shareholders, including, of course, senior managers themselves," and this is done by paying out more in dividends that is earned in profits. Think of it as our-real-economy-as-ATM-machine, cashing out wealth during the good times and then leaving workers and the rest of the real economy to deal with the aftermath.

    Both articles mention chapter 6 of Doug Henwood's Wall Street; anyone interested in how things have changed and where they need to go would be wise to check it out. It's even available for free pdf book download here.

    There's good reason to focus on the top 1% instead of the top 10 or 50%. There is evidence that financial pay at this elite level is correlated with deregulation and the other legal changes that brought on the crisis. High-ranking senior corporate executives' pay has dwarfed workers' salaries, but is only a reward for engaging in shady financial engineering practices. These problems require a legal solution and thus they require a democratic challenge and a rethinking of how we want to structure our economy. Here's to the 99% and Occupy Wall Street helping get us there.

    Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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  • The Obama Economy: What Could Have Been

    Oct 13, 2011Mike Konczal

    Are President Obama and his economic team really victims of circumstance, or were they brought down by their own poor judgment?

    Are President Obama and his economic team really victims of circumstance, or were they brought down by their own poor judgment?

    Ezra Klein wrote a 7,000 word summary of what went right and wrong on economic policy during the first three years of the Obama administration. It's well-reported and fun to read, and you should check it out. I imagine that the piece will function as a kind of baseline argument for critiquing the Obama administration on the economy from the liberal wonkosphere corner of the blogosphere. I'm going to throw out some critical thoughts below.

    The piece is quite consciously avoiding the narrative, storytelling approach to politics and the presidency. It reads as almost the mirror image of something like Drew Westen's approach to how Obama did on the economy -- Obama's passion isn't in question here. Klein's piece is all projections based on available evidence, political possibilities given political constraints, and negotiating with hostile counterparties. As such, there are a couple of ideas-level issues at play that should be made more explicit.

    Fiscal Policy

    First off, Obama is much more of a fiscal conservative than I had imagined. Or more specifically, he's someone who generally takes Rubinonomics for granted but couldn't shift gears when it came to the largest downturn since the Great Depression. Hence a lot of concerns over the deficit and, more importantly, a real focus on expanding the short-term deficit if and only if it involved closing the long-term deficit.

    Noam Schieber at The New Republic was getting word from Treasury as early as late 2009 that it thought that it needed “some signal to U.S. bondholders that it takes the deficit seriously” and that “spending more money now [on stimulus] could actually raise long-term rates, thereby offsetting its stimulative effect.” This naturally led the administration to want to strike "grand bargains" with the other side, a path that led it down some bad roads.

    The flip side of this is the administration's focus on "confidence" -- financial markets, Wall Street, and the business community -- as a way of bringing growth up and unemployment down. This has most obviously driven policy in regards to Wall Street and the financial markets (more on that in a second), but we see this in terms of dealing with the deficit. It has also brought in approaches that emphasize positions that are much more "supply-side" -- patent reform, regulation cutting, appointing senior business leaders to key positions, a key State of the Union based on "Winning the Future" through education investments -- that can't be justified as getting us back to full employment. By the time of the debt ceiling fight, these administration talking points were becoming a parody of right-wing talking points and Hooverism.

    In Klein's article, he writes that the consequence of misjudging the severity of the recession was not being not able to go back to Congress later. I think a more important problem is that it created a priority for tax cuts over longer-term investments, which would have been better stimulus. I've had staffers tell me on background that members of Congress would approach the administration in 2009 looking to build out huge, New Deal-style infrastructure on a separate track, only to be told that the recovery would be fully underway by the time it kicked in -- thus wasted. There was no response to this. That's a problem given the narrow window they had to operate in the Senate.

    Monetary Policy

    Ryan Avent has tackled the Federal Reserve problem here. There's a new Federal Reserve iPad app. It is pretty rad. You can click on all the members of the FOMC. You can also click on the two vacant seats and it says that they are vacant:

    Even iPad apps are mad at Obama for not being aggressive on the Fed appointments!

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    Housing

    First of all, the article focuses on a "This Time Is Different" approach to financial crises. One antibody our country had for financial crashes in the 19th century, pre-Keynes, was mass temporary bankruptcy for bad debts. During the 19th century you saw bankruptcy laws passed in the aftermath of bad financial crises to assign the losses and move the economy forward, which were repealed shortly thereafter. This happened with the Panic of 1837, which was followed by a devastating recession.

    The Obama administration was either indifferent or hostile to changes in the bankruptcy code -- like cramdown -- following this crash, even though Obama campaigned on it. A technical point: cramdown isn't about making the banks eat the loss; it's about the loss coming from credit writedowns versus a fire sale of a house in foreclosure -- hence cramdown wouldn't raise costs. But either way, in addition to forgetting things since Keynes, we are also in the business of forgetting things from the 19th century.

    David Dayen wrote up all the failures in housing policy. The important thing to follow is that the whole housing market approach was predicated on not upsetting the financial sector -- even to the point of not investigating basic unlawful behavior in foreclosures -- so that this "confidence" would get us back on track. Backing the financial sector instead of housing and people turned out to be backing the wrong horse. There's a backlog of housing that isn't going to go anywhere, armies of creditors and rentiers fighting each other indefinitely in the courts, investors wary of investing in a neighborhood when 2 million foreclosures hang over the economy each year, people's lives devastated, etc. Dayen:

    The Administration set aside $75 billion through TARP for HAMP, and to date have used $1.6 billion or so on a program that is effectively irrelevant at this point (and they have cleverly revised history to claim that it was only a $50 billion allotment, to make this look a little better). Without any need to clear Congress, the Administration had all the authority they needed to put this $75 billion to work, including the ability to punish servicers who failed to comply with guidelines...

    Then, for two years, Treasury swore up and down there was nothing they could do to punish servicers who didn’t comply. Finally, a few months ago, they started withholding incentive payments for noncompliance, as if they just magically acquired the power. It turns out, as Paul Kiel from Pro Publica displayed in a story this week, that Treasury wasn’t even checking on servicer compliance for at least the first year of the program...

    The truth that emerges from all of these facts is that the Administration had no interest whatsoever in using more than a token amount of the TARP authority they had already husbanded for mortgage relief and foreclosure mitigation....You can call this the function of bad politics, but I’d say it was more an extension of bank policy, a policy to preserve the wonderful sub-1 percent growth and still-vulnerable financial system we have going for ourselves....Even today there are programs that could be scaled up to work for the mass of homeowners. They aren’t being done not because of some Tea Party-fueled backlash, but because Wall Street would face trouble.

    Crisis

    Klein's final take is that the Obama team got some right, some wrong, but were ultimately boxed in by failing institutions and a crisis too big to handle.

    For a fun counterpoint, Corey Robin wrote in Dissent recently:

    My impression of American history was that those presidents universally considered great—Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt—were beset by crises: the founding of a new nation, the Civil War, the Depression, the Second World War. And far from “balancing crisis management” with their pursuit of long-term goals, the great presidents saw, or found, in those crises an opportunity for reconstructing American politics from the bottom up. It was the crises, in other words, or at least how they handled those crises, that enabled them to pursue their long-term goals.

    That at any rate was the final judgment Teddy Roosevelt rendered on his own presidency: that he would never be remembered as another Lincoln because he didn’t have the benefit of confronting catastrophe.  Or so I remember reading somewhere, perhaps here.

    Whatever one thinks about Obama, it really makes no sense to say that he can’t be all that his supporters want him to be because of the Great Recession, two (now three) wars in the Arab and Muslim world, a recalcitrant opposition, and so on. Other presidents would have killed for opportunities like these.

    Your thoughts?

    Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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