Letting Serious Crises Not Happen
As E.J. Dionne says, "Things could have been a whole lot worse" is not a very effective political slogan. Not only that, but it's not a very effective political strategy. The history of social change in America is that periods of catastrophe are pretty much the only moments able to overwhelm the system's natural resistance to change.
Rahm Emanuel famously said that you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. But the Obama administration made the mistake of effectively managing the financial emergency when they entered office. They faced a serious threat, but they never let it become a serious crisis. As such, the normal laws of political gravity never lifted, and everything went on pretty much as normal, albeit with the Federal Reserve sitting atop a much-larger balance sheet. The political dynamic right now is a lot closer to the mid-90s than the mid-30s.
That's to the Obama administration's credit. Serious crises are bad things. It's one of the system's more perverse incentives that you don't get political capital from preventing them so much as pulling the country out of them. Luckily, politicians aren't actually as cynical as people like to believe, and they tend to try and prevent depressions, even if letting them happen would make it easier to pass health-care reform.
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