Thursday, May 25, 2017

Conservatives celebrate together in Berlin?

Barack Obama showed up in Berlin for a joint appearance with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama receives rock star welcome in Germany as he appears alongside Merkel and says 'we can't hide behind a wall' Daily Mail AP/Daily Mail 05/25/2017.

Supposedly, the timing of the event being just before Merkel is scheduled to meet with Bush in Brussels was entirely coincidental. Barack Obama tells Berlin audience: ‘We can’t hide behind a wall’ Guardian 05/25/2017

Barack Obama joins Angela Merkel in Berlin Guardian Wires 05/25/2017:

National elections are coming in Germany on September 24. That's four months away, so this isn't exactly like Obama joining Merkel on the campaign trail. But almost. Of course, we know it's only those wicked Russians who interfere in other countries' election.

I recall that Obama shortly after his election as President commented that in the European context he would be considered a conservative. I thought of that when I read the news about his meeting with Merkel.

Angela Merkel seems to have a very good image in the United States. Her Compassionate Pastor's Daughter posturing seems to have convinced much of the American media. But the hallmark of her tenure has been to respond to the euro crisis in the wake of the economic crisis that began in 2007-8 with Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning econmic policies that severely damaged countries like Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain and Portugal. She has recast the European Union as being a German-dominated political bloc suffering from a severe "democratic deficit."

Her welcoming of large numbers of refugees into Germany in 2015 looked very good to liberal-minded people. And her praise for that is well deserved.

But the refugee inflow was at crisis levels already in 2011, and Merkel handled it with her signature extend-and-pretend style, which lead to the acute phase that made it a worldwide scandal in 2015. The problem is far from over. And she has basically outsourced it to Turkey and Greece. And the conditions in the refugee camps in both countries has been downright nightmarish for many.

The refugee crisis is back in extend-and-pretend mode. It's not going away. And it constantly generates humanitarian horrors: Dozens on sinking dinghy lost at sea, rescued migrants tell UNHCR AFP/Japan Times 05/24/2017 (this week); Refugee crisis: Dozens feared dead in new boat sinking off Libyan coast The Independent 05/26/2016 (almost exactly a year ago); UNICEF: Number of unaccompanied refugee children soars Aljazeera 05/18/2016; Giorgos Christides, Unaccompanied Migrant Boys in Greece Turn to Prostitution Spiegel International 05/19/2017.

Obama and Merkel are both major examples of liberal-minded proponents of TINA (There Is No Alternative) neoliberal economic policies and the suspicion of popular democratic participation. Obama's initial stimulus package was a significant departure from the neoliberal playbook. And it was enough to push the economy back to recovery and made the US recovery from the Great Recession a healthier one than the eurozone experienced. But he spent the rest of his term advocating cuts to Social Security and Medicare and hopelessly trying to work out bipartisan budget deals that resulted in things like the sequester that achieved far more Republican than Democratic goals. Obama's health care plan was a big improvement and also added a stimulative effect to the economy. But it didn't even get the United State as far down the road as Germany in the health care system.

Obama was the head of the American center-left party. And he left office with his party at historic lows in office-holding strength. Merkel is the head of the center-right party in Germany (CDU), with the center-left SPD as her junior coalition partner. The results for the German center-left party looks to be about the same as for the American Democrats. The SPD had been doing well in the polls earlier in the year. But their prospects aren't looking so good lately. (Umfrage sieht Mehrheit für Schwarz-Gelb im Bund FAZ 23.05.2017)

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