A wise person pointed out to me once that there’s a difference between reacting and responding. As it says here, reacting is a reflex, like a knee-jerk. Reacting is nearly always triggered by emotions — attraction or aversion — and is about making oneself feel better. Responding, on the other hand, is a thought-out and dispassionate action that is primarily about solving a problem.
By now it’s clear that the Bushies are a tribe of reactors, not responders. Their well-established pattern is not to acknowledge a problem until it bites their own ass somehow, and then they react, sometimes over-react, with “solutions” that (pick as many as apply) miss the mark, make the problem worse, and waste tons of money without really helping anybody but which somehow ends up in the pockets of corporations that happen to be big GOP donors.
We saw this happen with 9/11. Before 9/11, intelligence experts did everything but bash Condi Rice in the head with a 2 x 4 trying to get the Bush Administration to pay attention to a screaming terrorist threat. After, the Bushies reacted. The whole nation wanted to bash the President in the head with a 2 x 4 during Katrina week; the belated reactions to that disaster were wasteful and ineffectual, not to mention political.
I’m thinking also of the Christmas tsunami that devastated parts of Asia. Bush very nearly ignored it until Bill Clinton made headlines by talking about it. Then, pissed, Bush crawled out of Crawford and made a respectable pledge of money. But, apparently to snub the United Nations, the Bushies bypassed the established relief agencies that already were helping the survivors and instead created a temporary, on-the-fly coalition to receive U.S. taxpayer dollars appropriated for tsunami response. I’ve never seen any follow-up on that, and I’m willing to bet only a small part of those dollars made it to Asia.
The pattern continues. The Bush Administration insisted the financial markets’ problems were under control, until it was obvious even to them that problems were not under control. And then their hair caught on fire. This is from an editorial in today’s New York Times:
This page has consistently held that the government must intervene in markets when failure to do so would cause even greater economic harm. The impending collapse of Citi or an unrelenting credit freeze demand intervention. But good crisis management also requires that the calamity of the moment not be allowed to overwhelm good governing. Unfortunately, that is not the case now.
Even, as the rescue tab rises, taxpayers are not being adequately informed or protected. There is as yet no effort to deal effectively with the underlying causes of the problem, especially mass mortgage defaults that feed bank losses. And officials seem to think urgency to act absolves them from considering the longer-term implications of the actions they take.
It was obvious during the campaign that John McCain is pure reaction; the sort of guy who rushes about putting out fires without ever stopping to consider how the fires are getting started. My hope is that the cool and intellectual Barack Obama is more of a responder than a reactor.
However, my understanding is that the real solutions to the crisis will require a big outlay of money also. My fear is that once we’ve gone through a cycle of reaction, there will be no support for response.
Take George Will. Please. He made an ass of himself on ABC’s “This Week” awhile back,
Having learned nothing, Will is still spreading revisionist history, as are other righties. Paul Krugman continues to respond with actual facts —
The main line of empirical argument seems to be that FDR didnâ€™t succeed in ending the Great Depression. Since thatâ€™s also what my side of the debate says â€” fiscal expansion was too cautious, and disastrously abandoned in 1937 â€” I donâ€™t see what this is supposed to prove.
In other words, Krugman says, yes, the New Deal didn’t revive the economy effectively, but that was because FDR was too conservative and cautious in his approach. But when the real government spending program of World War II got underway, the economy bounced back just fine.
See also The Keynesian Moment.