Sunday, June 2, 2013

A note for Sunday: political and economic ennui; or, the Grand Piecemeal Bargain

- by New Deal democrat

Note: regular nerdy economic blogging will resume tomorrow.

Digby says that:
 The online left has seen a steep decline in traffic since the election ..., which indicates to me that our audience in general is simply not interested in following politics at the moment
We've been through a number of elections, crises, other ups and downs over the past decade but I've not seen anything like the drop in interest over the past few months.... [T]he liberal audience is tuning out and one can only  assume it's because they don't like what they see in our politics.
There's been a similar decline in traffic at economic blogs over time as well, for similar but not identical reasons.

In both cases I think the largest portion of the problem is ennui: the listlessness that comes from a feeling of lack of present or anticipated movement.

In the case of the economic blogosphere, the reason for the ennui seems straightforward. The economy is plodding forward, like a car stuck in first gear. It's moving in the right direction, but going way too slowly. And it shows no signs of changing substantially in the future. Almost nobody is calling for a boom. Even more surprising, almost nobody is calling for an outright recession either (Hussman seems to have thrown in the towel, and does ECRI even count anymore?). Once a month we get a little excited about the employment report, and that's about it. There's not a lot of reason for the average person with an interest in how the economy is doing and how it might be affecting them to suddenly need to pay attention.

In the case of the progressive political blogosphere, a brief expansion on Digby's point seems in order. A large part is that the GOP House is blocking all action, which Digby points out. It's also worth noting that there's enough personally vitriolic history among left bloggers that many have simply retreated into the comfort of their own corners. Hence the continual and continuing erosion of active participants at Kos's blog.

But beyond that, what is the new and exciting idea, or at least an idea that would substantially benefit most Americans, that the democratic party wants to pass? Nothing, that's what. About the only thing on Obama's second term agenda seems to be immigration reform, and even that boils down to how much a few GOP Congresscritters can be moved beyond the position that "all illegal aliens, and their children, even the ones born here, should be rounded up en masse and deported back to Latin America." Can you think of anything else? Even something being clamored for enthusiastically by the left netroots? I can't.

It isn't that the right is enacting anything either. They can obstruct, but they can't make any major affirmative moves.

So what we've wound up with is the Grand Piecemeal Bargain of the sequester - the thing that was supposed to be so awful that it would never be permitted to happen, but has been in effect for 3 months and is only going to continue to get worse. There won't be any "Grand Bargain" unless the GOP learns how to embrace Obama's ever escalating capitulations. What there will be is a death by 1000 sequestered cuts of America's safety net. That won't include any significant sacrifices by the rich, the military, or large corporations. It also won't include cuts to large, visible middle class programs, unless the GOP can figure out a way to make sure the democrats own them, and enough democrats are stupid enough to go ahead and own them (and be ready for the Democratic Gotterdammerung that will absolutely follow). It will continue to suck ever more to be poor.

Once upon a time, the progressive blogosphere believed in "Crashing the Gates." Anyone noiticed Kos crashing any gates recently? He really, really doesn't want to come out swinging against Obama, so he pretended to be shocked, just shocked, by Obama's explicit budget proposal to make cuts to Social Security. Do you see anybody trying to mount a progressive insurgency in the democratic party in 2014 or even 2016? I don't.

So we are left with the reality of the Grand Piecemeal Bargain. Who wants to tune it for that?