Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Official Pronouncements: Recession and Secretary of State

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I’m back after some time away from blogging.  Lots of things were made official today.  We’re in a recessionSen. Hillary Clinton is President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of State.  There are others, but those two stand out in the news to me today.

It’s interesting to me that the National Bureau of Economic Research, the group charged with assigning official starts and ends to U.S. recessions, waited until Dec 1, 2008 to announce the beginning of this recession.  When did it begin?  December of 2007: one year ago.  What numbers did they look at in the past three months that didn’t exist in the previous nine that pushed them over the threshold?  I’m sure the 2008 election had nothing to do with the timing.  So George W. Bush presided over the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Bush’s recession has been apparent to most Americans for most of this year.  Which is the biggest reason why John McCain didn’t win last month.

CNN’s recession article upset me with this:

Many people erroneously believe that a recession is defined by two consecutive quarters of economic activity declining.

I read article after article in the past six months on CNN’s website how it was unlikely a recession had started because economic activity hadn’t been negative for two consecutive quarters.  And CNN wasn’t the only corporate “news” source that dispensed that talking point.  The fact that they ignored their own reporting is very disappointing.  I also remember articles treating most Americans as idiots when American’s confidence fell through the floor.  Citing the misleading “two consecutive quarter” talking point, economists and reporters attempted to portray Americans as out of touch with America.  We just didn’t understand what was going on with the economy.  Our economic oppressors were wrong for months and the rest of us have suffered more because of it.

Onto Sen. Clinton’s nomination to be Obama’s Secretary of State.  I don’t think it’s a good idea.  I think Hillary and Bill Clinton are in politics for themselves first and for Americans second.  I didn’t trust Hillary to be President.  I don’t trust her to be Secretary of State.  I have no specific example of what I think she’ll do to subvert Obama’s agenda at this time, something a lot of liberals online and on the radio are asking for in response to people who don’t think this was the Greatest. Idea. Ever.  I’m not sure how this really qualifies as “change”, the amorphous feel-good motto of Obama’s campaign.  Do most Presidents nominate people that didn’t run against them for office?  I think so and I think that’s happened with good reason.  I can think of a number of candidates that I would have felt more comfortable with for Secretary of State.  Those candidates could have been characterized as change agents, whereas Hillary cannot.

Actually, while I’m on the subject, what about Secretary of War Robert Gates?  Who nominated him?  George Bush!  Obama is going to keep him in place.  The main reasoning I’ve heard behind this makes even less sense than the Clinton nomination.  It seems the War Secretary needs to stay on to provide an effective transition between Bush’s policies and Obama’s policies.  Say what?  In nearly every arena, Obama’s policies will be a U-turn from Bush’s policies.  What is so challenging about the War Department that requires a continuation of failed policy enactment?  No, the truth is likely to be that Obama came under tremendous pressure to stay the course with respect to the Iraq occupation.  I expect Obama to continue to call for a reasonable cessation of the occupation of Iraq.  I would not be surprised however to hear about a change in his plans.  I hope that Iraq’s recent call for occupation forces to leave by Jan. 1, 2011 will provide strong pressure to maintain his campaign’s occupation cessation talk.  The American people voted to move in a different direction than the one we’ve been on under Bush.  Gates was a part of Bush’s direction.  There is no reason to keep him as War Secretary under an Obama administration.

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