The nation is facing some really difficult problems, particularly on the fiscal front. There's no longer any way to put it off; pretty soon, the government is going to have to start making some very hard choices about taxes and spending. No matter what it chooses, that probably means lower economic growth, angry voters, and some real loss on the part of whoever's ox is gored.
How did we get to this point? Using a US-President-As-CEO model, Megan McArdle tells us that it's all the government's fault.
The underlying economy is, I think, ultimately fine, but the structural problems with the government's finances are driving it rapidly towards an unpleasant denouement. Like a CEO with a stuck company, however, he [the president] can't just say that. Stating the obvious would make things worse, as customers and creditors decide that the end really is nigh, and it's time to get out while they still can.
Those structural problems are regulation, innate incompetence and lack of competition.
You may be in a saturated market where your second-rate franchisees are slowly destroying your brand, making it impossible to attract higher-quality franchisees . . . but that's nothing that can't be fixed by creating a new Chief Strategy Officer under the CEO, and giving that officer oversight of marketing, research, and HR. Perhaps a much larger competitor whose cost structure allows them to undercut your prices by 32% has entered your niche, but can they really withstand the fearsome might of your ISO 9000 certification and your new cross-functional product teams? The government regulators who just outlawed your three top-selling products and made two-thirds of your capital plant obsolete may be powerful--but not as powerful as your revolutionary sales force compensation scheme!
You can't blame the dodges, but they are a warning sign. Not that the CEO is a bad CEO, but that the CEO is in a bad situation he can't fix.
McArdle tells us that the solution to the problem is eliminating Social Security.
It's not that Obama doesn't know how to fix the problems; I think that like most people in Washington, he understands the broad parameters within which the fixes will be carried out. But he can't make Congress do it before there's an actual crisis. And saying all of this is all too likely to trigger the crisis--a crisis he'd much rather would happen during someone else's presidency. So he tells us what we want to hear: that we need to find a way to fix Social Security without, y'know, changing it in any way. And will you look at those green jobs! I think we're going to have a bumper crop!
The reason he does this, of course, is that like the analysts on all of those calls, we let him. Indeed, we actively, even eagerly, participate in the denial. After all, if we knew how to fix the company, we'd be CEOs, not sitting on the couch kvetching about their nonsense.
Obama seems to be perfectly willing to "fix" Social Security, but that will not make any difference to how liberals are perceived. Having already brainwashed the public into believing that all liberals spend wildly and all conservatives are fiscally prudent, corporations are now spending a lot of money to ensure that any blame for a bad economy will be placed on the back of the "welfare state" and government spending in general. To do that they have to demonize liberals and if a few liberals get shot by the crazier elements on the right, well, that's just the price of doing business.
It's McArdle's job to provide the justification and permission to attack liberals. She demonizes them constantly, calling them hysterical, stupid, "loony" and spiteful. She tells the right that it's liberals' fault that they are experiencing economic hardship, as she does in this post. She whips up fear and says liberals will kill us all. She says that it's okay to kill someone who wants to harm people. She draws the target, points the gun, and tells her readers it's okay to pull the trigger. And then she says that nobody's responsible if some crazy person actually shoots a gun.
Stanley Milgrim discovered that most people will do what they are told to do by someone in authority. Something that they would never do ordinarily, such as torture another person, becomes okay if an authority figure gives them permission to do it. McArdle uses her authority as a graduate of Ivy League schools and an employee of The Atlantic to give her audience permission to hate and fear liberals and take action against them. She is one of many, of course. Your Glenn Becks and Michelle Malkins work on the trust and gullibility of the radical right. Your Kathryn Jean Lopezes work on the tender feelings and priest-installed guilt of the religious right. And McArdle works on the educated elite wanna-bes, carefully giving them permission to hate and fear liberals for their economic policies. Nobody is going to listen to McArdle and shoot a Congresswoman. They will just listen to McArdle and vote for a politician that will eliminate regulations, so Glenn Beck can go on the air and tell people that Democratic politicians need to be "shot in the head."