Anyone who has not read Kevin Baker’s article in the new Harper’s Magazine should go out and get it immediately. Mr. Baker makes a brilliant comparison between President Hoover and the new President of the United States. Baker shows much the two men have in common at a personal level in a way that is quite compelling. He then demonstrates that Hoover failed because he was too steeped in the economic paradigm in which he was brought up. While Hoover, quite contrary to public perception, made serious and innovate efforts to deal with an economic crisis that the majority of people didn’t even understand. But Hoover’s failure was rooted in his inability to step into a new paradigm, to find structurally new ways of dealing with what was happening. Baker then shows how Obama, despite his radical rhetoric, is making the exact same mistakes. Obama is simply unable of stepping into the new frontier of economic thought that he needs to in order to really deal with the problems he is facing. He is surrounding himself with small-minded party politicians who represent small constituencies and have no courage to make real changes. Instead of stepping into the realm of political conflict that he must in order to make changes, Obama is attempting to play a political game of cooperation and reconciliation that will lead into cosmetic changes in systems that require serious overall.
How similar are our political problems here in Canada! Ignatieff, is a man who has no serious vision for dealing with the problems we are facing. Harper has poisoned the political well of Canadian politics and corrupted the entire system with hate and ultra-partisanship. The Conservatives walked Canada right into this economic devastation by squandering surpluses on tax cuts that helped no one but the prosperous. They then tabled a budget which was just another joke. It promised lots of temporary spending, most of which will never go out to the people who need it, and more permanent tax cuts which mean nothing to average working-class and middle-class people. But the Liberals watched it happen and voted for it. Then Ignatieff made a lot of noise about holding the government to account on several important issues, but let the Harper government walk away without a single genuine concession, unless you call another committee of white men with suits real progress.
All that we have learned is that Ignatieff, even if he becomes Prime Minister, will fail because he has no genuine ideas. He is working within the same paradigm as Mr. Harper and thus he cannot step beyond the very politics that he claims to be opposing.
The depression of the 1930s almost brought capitalism to its knees and led in Europe and elsewhere to fascism. Capitalism saved itself by the actions of men like FDR who were willing to shift the paradigm away from the politics that had reigned since the previous depression in the 1870s. But in the present crisis it appears that no leaders are stepping out on the limb that must be traversed in order to shift modern politics and economics into a new era.