Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Paradigms Shifted

As millions flock into the Beltway, the eyes of the world also turn to the District of Columbia, and that is rightfully so. On Tuesday, January 20th, when Barack Obama takes the oath of office, he becomes the 44th person to hold the title of President of the United States of America. In truth, no one can deny how monumental that moment will be: Mr. Obama will be the first bi-racial American to become President, and that only, after so many generations of struggle, has energized an untold number of people not just in America but around the world. Therefore, as the words of his inaugural address meet the frigid air outside of the U.S. Capitol, and as they fall upon the hordes gathered on the National Mall, the rest of the entire world, including its cynics, are likely to be listening closely to what this new leader of the free world has to say.

This is an exciting moment for me, to be honest, and I thank God that I am able to witness it. When I first heard Barack Obama speak, in 2004, I remember saying aloud, “That guy is going to be President.” Of course, I neither knew that for certain, nor did I ever think that I would align myself with much of his political philosophy, what with me being a Republican and all. Nevertheless, this is where we are, and I am happier than Patches with a fresh bag of catnip, especially when I realize just how transformative this presidency will be in the context of the full story of our times.

Do I say that because Barack Obama and I happen to share a distinction of skin color? Well, of course not. It would certainly be trite and unfortunate if that was the case, alone. Luckily, if you have followed this blog much, or if you know me personally, then you know that I have been a “charter subscriber” to the change that Mr. Obama has come to personify. Ever since Joe Boudreaux loaned me an audio copy of the Audacity of Hope, which I dutifully bought for myself and loaned to others, I have believed that this man—and this only man—more than the even idea of this very incredible moment, stands to really change a whole lot about who we are.

Okay, I said it, and no, that is not hyperbole.

Only a few presidential figures were ever so admired that the sheer force of their personalities could beckon wholesale changes in the collective mindset of the denizens. Some of them presided during periods of war and others during economic crises. While the prevailing challenges varied with the times, the loud entreaties have been the same from these men. They have called upon Americans to look inside of themselves, to rediscover their inherent sense of ingenuity, and to commit those talents to the betterment of the country. At present, Mr. Obama commands the same high levels of public favor, and in order to combat the challenges of our own time, he will have to make the same type of passionate calls for resilience, sacrifice, and service from the American people over many months to come. More importantly, during all of this, should we elect to heed these calls, then his presidency will profoundly shift three paradigms in our country—all of which, I am gravely excited to see changed.

The first paradigm deals with foreign policy and our standing in the world. Barack Obama will be our first post-9/11 president, and he inherits a foreign policy that has left much of the world stunned and dismayed. Mr. Obama is unlikely to carry forward many of the policies spawned over the eight years of our Bush/neo-conservative winter, during which cowboy unilateralism put us on the path to war with so many and at odds with, um, everyone else. Rather, we can expect this President to act more collaboratively, seeking the support and assistance of our real allies in our times of need, and we can expect him to draw to a close the war in Iraq, as well as other ill-conceived (and unlawful) elements of our war on terror. This paradigm shift will also not put us above working out difference with our perceived foes; there will be a push for diplomacy rather than a retreat to the arsenals for war. That’s because an Obama presidency will intelligently place a high premium on life, and this, in itself, is a genuine departure from our ways.

Secondly, Barack Obama is the first President of a time that I am calling our period of New Realism. Ours has become a country drowning in its indebtedness, from the trillions owed by our government to the tens of thousands owed by each household. Now those lazy days of loose credit are winding to an abrupt conclusion with painful consequences. This financial fiasco did not just begin; in fact, we can look back decades to find its roots. But regardless of where the blame rests, or how we progressed to this point, one fact is immutably clear: the U.S. economy faces severe troubles, as our financial system grinds to a halt, and as businesses collapse in the absence of capital and under the weight of vanishing markets for their goods. So difficult is this situation that the majority of Americans openly admit being fearful for their future. This means the Obama presidency has to be one of most honest messengers of our time. We can expect Mr. Obama to espouse the tenets of New Realism, more specifically during his State of the Union Address and onward: that our country is nearly broke; that the age of greed and decadence are over; that America needs a big dose of Keynesian economics; and that we have to be patient, strong and charitable. Mr. Obama can also be expected to admit to the American people that there are no quick-fixes here; the realistic fact is, since this problem did not develop overnight, we cannot expect its full resolution to come so quickly. This era of New Realism is certain to break from the jawboning of the last eight years—and, man, isn’t it overdue!

And the last paradigm to see a seismic shift will be in the African-American community, particularly now that Mr. Obama and his wife have been crowned its first post-Civil Rights-era leaders. (With that fact in mind, perhaps it was only fitting that the Inauguration fell one day after MLK Day. That way, we as a people could pay homage to our past on one day, and then look spritely into our future on the next.) As very accomplished individuals, the Obama couple epitomizes the victory of a hard-fought battle for equality in this country, and their existence speaks volumes about the victory. What’s more, their ascension tells us a great deal about the role of family and the place for virtuous qualities like aspirations, determination, and sacrifice in one’s personal journey. To be sure, this comes in a time when many still cling to old insecurities, and denounce studious children or accomplished peers as “acting white”. Nevertheless, I expect the Obama family to have some impact, if only inadvertently, on the way Black America formulates these discussions in the future. No longer can many blacks easily say that we are oppressed by systemic failures; no longer should many so often look beyond of themselves for the faults of their own inadequacies. Barack and Michelle Obama demonstrate, in the most public light, that self-worth and personal responsibility trump all else, and that true success is attainable by anyone willing to face the challenges to reach it. From that fact, the paradigm will shift by the force of a new and honest dialogue, one capable of producing a spiritual revival in a community that helps to shape the social fabric of this country…God knows that this, for me, cannot come fast enough.

I proudly look forward to the moment when I can see Barack Obama sworn in as the new President of the United States of America, but I have my own reasons for being so excited about this historic moment. I believe that, even beyond the bills that he will signs into law, or the policies that he enacts, Mr. Obama will have the capacity to really effect change, by restoring our standing in the world, by simply encouraging Americans to think differently about their finances, and by challenging blacks to assume more individual accountability for their futures. Of course, these three things won’t save the world—but they can have positive, long-term benefits for a nation on the mend. To me, that is change we all can fully believe in.

15 comments:

Jus said...

awesome words, g.

Shannon said...

Gary, I really hope that you are not giving that cat catnip!

Joe said...

Mr Harrell...very interesting post.

This is the first time that I read this blog. I was intrigued and started reading older posts. You are always very informed as a consultant. Now I know you carry that into other parts of your life.

Keep up the energy and the great work. I am praying for your success.

Jonathan Melancon said...

I was really enjoying your entry until it started taking a turn into the realm of BS, divisiveness and hypocrisy.

Examples:

“the policies spawned over the eight years of our Bush/neo-conservative winter, during which cowboy unilateralism put us on the path to war with so many and at odds with, um, everyone else. Rather, we can expect this President to act more collaboratively, seeking the support and assistance of our real allies in our times of need, and we can expect him to draw to a close the war in Iraq, as well as other ill-conceived (and unlawful) elements of our war on terror. This paradigm shift will also not put us above working out difference with our perceived foes; there will be a push for diplomacy rather than a retreat to the arsenals for war. That's because an Obama presidency will intelligently place a high premium on life, and this, in itself, is a genuine departure from our ways.”

The above statement is so thoroughly littered with BS, divisiveness and down right hypocrisy on your part that it should be clearly self-evident. However it may not be, because while you may bash guys like Mark for seeing the world through ideological, close-minded eyes I am afraid over the past year or two I have noticed this same trait you shun materialize in you. I would really like to dispute some of your points in thorough detail but I've got work to do. I will however briefly point out that you were a hawk leading up to and throughout most of the Iraq conflict. There was NOTHING "illegal" about the war since it was Saddam who consistently violated the terms of the ceasefire agreement. And the White House did seek diplomacy and international support, they received it from Britain and Australia but we were snubbed by the Chereque cronies which could have prevented a full scale conflict in Iraq. As for the "premium on life", I don't dispute that Pres. Obama will put a high premium on life but to say that Bush does not hold life in the same regard and that actually putting a premium on life is a departure from the previous administration is not only beyond foolish, but only a vitriolic partisan would spew such nonsense. Speaking of the high premium on life where does Obama stand on late term abortion?

“Secondly, Barack Obama is the first President of a time that I am calling our period of New Realism. Ours has become a country drowning in its indebtedness, from the trillions owed by our government to the tens of thousands owed by each household. Now those lazy days of loose credit are winding to an abrupt conclusion with painful consequences. This financial fiasco did not just begin; in fact, we can look back decades to find its roots. But regardless of where the blame rests, or how we progressed to this point, one fact is immutably clear: the U.S. economy faces severe troubles, as our financial system grinds to a halt, and as businesses collapse in the absence of capital and under the weight of vanishing markets for their goods. So difficult is this situation that the majority of Americans openly admit being fearful for their future. This means the Obama presidency has to be one of most honest messengers of our time. We can expect Mr. Obama to espouse the tenets of New Realism, more specifically during his State of the Union Address and onward: that our country is nearly broke; that the age of greed and decadence are over; that America needs a big dose of Keynesian economics;<--WTF? and that we have to be patient, strong and charitable. Mr. Obama can also be expected to admit to the American people that there are no quick-fixes here; the realistic fact is, since this problem did not develop overnight, we cannot expect its full resolution to come so quickly. This era of New Realism is certain to break from the jawboning of the last eight years-and, man, isn't it overdue!”

While I agree with you to a large part about the need for a new age of realism I strongly disagree with the idea that we need a heavy dose of KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS. Runaway Keynesian economics is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. Hello Greenspan bubbles, hello, Freddie and Fannie! What we really need is a dose of Austrian economics to balance out and put a check on runaway Keynesianism, now THAT would be a return to "realism".

As for the rest of your commentary I really enjoyed the read and would agree with you for the most part.

Jon

Mashoud said...

Gary,

You can say what you want to, but I believe that you are going to run for something within the next decade. I know you think out every move you make and every word you say. So I know when you write like this you already know where it's headed and how every person you know is going to react. It just sounds like you are setting up for something.

Now I got to say that your points are good. I suspect you are going to get some resistance from two camps, Bushies and blacks. You come down hard on both. But I do want to know one thing: are your ideas for Keynesian economics is a departure from the professional position you took last year? I remember you sqawking so much about the impact of raising our national debt levels. Wouldn't Keynesian-ism require more money that we don't have, which means more borrowing that you did not support?

Overall you make really good points here, though. You do not ignore that things are bad (even I am now unemployed), but you seem enthusiastic. That makes me optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being one of the people looking beyond this guy's race.

Digger in LV said...

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE!!!!!!

It's about damn time!

Yesterday was fucking GREAT! The next time I party like this will be when you win governor of Louisiana or even mayor of New Orleans.

Hideki A. Hiroku said...

I was reading a few of the comments on this blog, and I noticed that no one was really taking to your defense on the Keynesian argument.

[Ours has become a country drowning in its indebtedness, from the trillions owed by our government to the tens of thousands owed by each household. Now those lazy days of loose credit are winding to an abrupt conclusion with painful consequences. This financial fiasco did not just begin; in fact, we can look back decades to find its roots. But regardless of where the blame rests, or how we progressed to this point, one fact is immutably clear: the U.S. economy faces severe troubles, as our financial system grinds to a halt, and as businesses collapse in the absence of capital and under the weight of vanishing markets for their goods. So difficult is this situation that the majority of Americans openly admit being fearful for their future. This means the Obama presidency has to be one of most honest messengers of our time. We can expect Mr. Obama to espouse the tenets of New Realism, more specifically during his State of the Union Address and onward: that our country is nearly broke; that the age of greed and decadence are over; that America needs a big dose of Keynesian economics; and that we have to be patient, strong and charitable.]

I want to point out that I am a businessman and center-right believer like my friend Gary Harrell. And like him I did not think too highly of the need for the government to bail out every enterprise. For a country that is in so much debt, it did not make much sense, did it? But I think there is a different between Keynesian government spending and bailouts, just as there is such a thing as good debt and bad debt.

The problem with supply-side economic or laissez-faire approaches in this time is that the markets cannot do enough to help themselves. Banks do not trust banks, and banks do not trust borrowers, and borrowers do not trust borrowers. When trust is kicked from of calculus the whole system starts to shut down. Credit evaporates. Businesses start to fail because they cannot finance operations or because their customers cannot borrow enough to buy from them. We get all of these stagnate inventories and cutbacks and layoffs and downsizings and bad earnings.

The supply-side crowd wants to say that a free market will correct itself, but without trust and without credit, you have to wonder how long that actually will take. And you have to wonder how dire will matters become before they change their minds. The truth is that a free market will only correct itself when the vultures sense a bottom so they can fly in and pick at the remains of the dead. They do not eat the dying.

America does not have to die, and it does not have to take the world with it. Its leaders and the supply-side crowd only need to look to Japan to see how to fix their problem. While some of our big infrastructure programs did not help us, many did. Government spending helped to revive sectors of the economy and that put new wages into the general economy. Given that Americans enjoy spending over saving, these new wages will move into commerce sooner than in Japan, making new demand and hence more jobs for production to meet new demand.

Americans needs to be better stewards of their money. That would benefit us all. Only that can come later. In this moment the American economy can use real stimulus that acts as investment. It is a better option than the laissez-faire economics that would leave millions poorer all over the world until the market fixes the problems it created for itself.

Jonathan Melancon said...

Exactly right Mashoud.

As I was saying, runaway Keynesian economic policies are exactly what got us here in the 1st place. I was very surprised to read that comment coming from Gary as I found it in stark opposition to my understanding of Gary's economic view point.

From the many (and quite lengthy) past conversations I have had with Gary on economic issues I certainly figured he would be leaning toward a more Austrian approach.

Anonymous said...

Not of yall thought anything about how this blog criticized black folks. White people are a trip.

Jonathan Melancon said...

First of all Mr. Anonymous, how do you know everyone who has responded here is white? I seriously doubt that is the case.

And I really appreciate your tone there, lets me know that you are in keeping with Pres. Obama's message of coming together and moving the country forward. ;-/

But since I am "white" maybe I didn't address the issue because I didn't feel it was my place to do so. Ever thought of that? But since we are on the subject, let me just say that I don't see what Gary is saying as a criticism of "black folk" but rather an acknowledgment of that idea that with the election of the nation's first black president this will usher in a new and progressive psyche for the African American community. And on that point, I think Gary is hitting the nail on the head.

mike carson said...

Well put, Jon.

John said...

I bet when you wrote this you probably didn't think it was going to set so many people off. You better go back to those fluff topics.

Mashoud said...

Yes I agree with you, Jon. People need to get over themselves.

Gary, will you explain your change-of-position in the post? I know you must have thought this out and maybe we can benefit from an explanation.

Pettus said...

I don't know if I want Gary to explain his Keynesian position. If you read the blog a lot like I do, you know why he thinks this way. What I want to know is why other people do not think the government needs to get involved. They can explain to that.

Oh, and for the record, I am a proud black man, and I know Gary said nothing about our community that we were not already thinking on our own.

Gary, hurry up and write another entry so we can move on.

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