Sunday, September 05, 2010

Kelly's Spin Around the Track

In his column today, Jack Kelly becomes a small, petty man. Kelly suggests that with his speech on Tuesday Obama takes unjustified credit for winning the war in Iraq. I guess Kelly is trying to help out his Tea Party chums by trying to undermine a well received speech. Kelly suggests Obama was bored with his own speech, the speech flat. Kelly complained that Obama talked about the US economy too much (four times as much he talked about our “future relations with Iraq and why this is important to U.S. security” whatever that means).

Kelly trots out quotes from a variety of relatively famous and relatively obscure critics that reflect negative about Obama’s speech, but I want to suggest the real issue is the larger problem of the war/occupation of Iraq. Although he wants to present Michael O’Hanlon as critical of Obama and the administration, O’Hanlon presents a much more balanced picture in an article written just before the speech. The funny thing is, a lot of Obama’s critics are on the left. At least some people are taking note of the 50,000 troops still in Iraq. Some of those troops are special forces, whose mission is still to go and hunt terrorists. I sure that hunting will not be combat, just a minor unpleasantness.

Kelly is particularly perturbed that he feels Obama does not credit Bush for winning the war: “President Bush handed him a military victory there”. I think the real irony is that this is the second time combat operations have been declared over. We might remember the first time was on the deck of an aircraft carrier, with a banner. Kelly thinks Obama shortchanged Bush with the few words of praise Obama had for Bush, I suspect many on the left were annoyed Obama praised Bush as much as he did.

There are multiple facts that both Kelly and also frankly Obama are willfully ignoring. On Kelly’s side, he is ignoring that Bush started the war (without cause), declared victory prematurely once himself and really did not hand Obama any victory. On Obama’s side, he is choosing not to blame Bush for starting the war, and Obama has now himself declared victory prematurely (are we victorious if we leave 50,000 troops in place?).

But really bothers me about today’s column is that Kelly repeats his obnoxious charge that the stimulus cost one hundred billion more than the Iraq war and the stimulus failed and we won in Iraq. This suggests that without the stimulus our economy would be doing as well better than it is now.... Really? Well, leaving that nonsense aside, I am surprised Kelly wants to associate himself with the cost of the Iraq war. After all, Cheney had said he believed Iraq would cost maybe 80 billion. A previous (2007) CBO report suggested the war would cost 2.4 trillion by 2017, including interest costs. But the Nobel Prize winning economist (no, not Krugman) Joseph Stiglitz believes the war could cost 3 trillion when all is said and done. Perhaps that includes the 350 to 700 billion estimate for care for our wounded and disabled soldiers (something Kelly continues to fail to mention). Meanwhile, while Krugman has said all along the the stimulus was too small, at the very least it kept us out of another financial collapse and depression.

At the risk of having this post go too long, but on a tangential note, I have noticed at least a few Republicans/conservatives defending their desire to keep the bush tax cuts for the very rich by claiming that the Reagan tax cuts "worked", they generated more revenue than they lost. This is demonstrably untrue, although one certainly has to say that the economy rebounded from the stagflation of the 1970's. It is difficult to give Reagan unqualified credit for the increase in the GDP, it is possible (likely?) that then Fed Chair Paul Volker may have had a hand in that. To further illustrate that the Reagan tax cut did not work, Reagan's successor George HW Bush famously stated "Read My Lips: No New Taxs" and then, in the face of a recession (another failure of Reaganomics), Bush grew worried about the rising level of federal debt and during a recession, Bush decided to raise taxes. Evidently Reagan's policies were not as wise as Republicans would have us believe.

Do they think we are stupid?

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