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Two men who got it right

Ezra Alleyne

Two men who got it right

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It may not be obvious to some of you until you reach the end of this article, but today’s column is in praise of The Right Excellent Errol Barrow, a man whom I have previously written here is – note the present and everlasting tense – one of my two heroes.
A question which any serious analyst of politics must cogitate upon sometimes is whether the voting public can be fooled. But since the voice of the people is as the voice of God, voters are supposed to have discernment whenever politicians try to pullthe wool over their eyes, anywhere in any democracy.
This thought came to me while watching international television recently. I am amazed that given the unusual and complicated mess that United States President Barack Obama inherited in the foreign policy area, that anyone in his right mind might rationally portray him as doing other than the most honourable job as defender of the security of the American people.
But as Basdeo Panday said, politics has a morality all of its own. He can say that again!!!
It is equally unthinkable that anyone in his right mind would blame Obama for the economic crisis that he inherited, but they do, all the while ignoring the abyss into which the American economy and its people had been thrown, and from which Obama had necessarily to extricate them.
In his first year, 2009, even the Republicans were shouting that the car industry had to be saved, and Obama was being criticized for not having a big enough stimulus to get the country going again.
There was bipartisan support for his economic policies then because almost everyone knew that the economy was in dire need of a jump-start.
And his approval ratings were high. Hardly a commentator criticized Obama for making a correction of the economy, Job No. 1, 2 and 3.
I remember the haste with which the present treasury secretary was approved by the Senate.
Minor indiscretions were noted, questioned, criticized, “knuckle-rapped” and forgiven because the economy needed to be rescued and Geithner was inescapably the best man for the job.
He knew the nuts and bolts and how to ignite and fire the cylinders and get the motor moving . . . and we and they all waited with bated breath!
Now, people are being asked to believe that when they voted in their droves against Bush the second, that they were doing something fundamentally wrong and that they made a mistake which is not to be repeated!
Fortunately for Obama, he got it right. He chose to repair the Bush-damaged economy first, before tackling other problems in the American society, and then he tackled the health insurance legislation in his second year, when as expected, the Republicans gave him hell to pass even a watered down version of the bill.
Fortunately, as I said, he got it right, for economic policies are like castor oil – they need time to work through the system. Now, last month’s unemployment rate figures show that Obama’s policies might just be working in a sustained way, falling to the lowest rate since 2008 of 8.3 per cent.
What might Errol Barrow have thought about all this? On the political aspects of elections, he once told the Barbadian voter that “mistakes can be corrected”.
I suspect he would have given Obama high marks for tackling the economy first, before the society!
How do I know this? Former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, who studied alongside Barrow at the London School of Economics, said this about Barrow: “What set Errol Barrow apart was his understanding that social justice must rest upon economic foundations, if it (social justice) is to be more real than rhetorical.”
I think Obama got it right, like Barrow did, like Clinton did, like Owen Arthur did.
When Clinton was advised after the heavy mid-term losses in 1994 that “it is the economy, stupid”, his advisers were following Barrow’s view that one first has to stabilize the economy before tackling any notion of society.
What a man!
  Ezra Alleyne is an attorney-at-law and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.
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