In a $14 trillion economy, still the world’s largest, just a few days after Ford announced record profits of $1.69 billion for the quarter, and even after Bank of America posted $3.1 billion in profits in Q2 2010, one would think the idea of scary conversations about Republicans returning to power would be null. Especially in light of the crisis we averted. Yet the Republicans have managed to make the recovery scary.
Fear has more impact than the hard core numbers, so large they are insulated from their own good news. Fear brings it home. Fear lives next door, not across town. Fear feels more smug than common sense, or hope or freedom. To paraphrase W. H. Auden, fear “surrounds us like a baffling crime.”
And fear is closing the eyes of voters at precisely the time when their eyes need to be opened. It should be said that fear serves a political purpose. As do discussions of witches, anchor babies, headless bodies, and Newt’s Kenyan anti-colonialism (code for the Mau Mau who beheaded British whites). In 1868, Harper’s Weekly wrote, “How easily wicked and treasonable organizations may gain the control over the peaceable and the industrious members of society has always been signally apparent at the South.”
So do the crimes and ethic scars that are celebrated as being “just like you.” It’s all a sleight of mind! It’s framed as compassion spoken as a warning without acts of safety.
It ignores the questions: how did we become a nation divided? How we can be rich and poor?
The drummed and hammered complaints that inspired fear have been a stimulus debt that provided a tax cut and clearly plugged the vortex into which the US economy went into free fall, and job growth.
But look at the economy and corporate outsourcing, cash hoarding, and profit expansion have deliberately inhibited job growth. This truth is hidden by the Republican spin. Profits are increasingly seven times faster than company revenues. Much of that very generous profit comes from down sizing and outsourcing, by zeroing out the employment revenue stream. The pay check is a target; it is snatched back for profit. As a poet e. e. cummings wrote: “strong men are in the streets digging for bread.”
The Powers That Be, 1868. Harper’s Weekly
The Republican positions simply mask the slash, smash, and burn techniques by which they plan to legislate another ill-fated take over of the economy, with more cash shipped to the private sector by no bid contracts, and more profits from lower wages and non-existent jobs.
Not one single idea offered by the Party or its candidates has the substance of growth or jobs. Their plans for austerity will not bring prosperity. They make only vague references to the power of the private sector. That power smashed the economy, fired workers, and now records record profits. (And strong men are digging bread.)
Jobs? Jobs are created by demand; to hire, there must be work to do. A tax cut doesn’t make work. It’s a private stimulus. It doesn’t have to be spent. It doesn’t automatically increase demand.
That power so extolled by Republicans is now driven by greed. It stole the principle of the common good and hung it in effigy. Shouting in the crumbling streets, uttering blame and inciting fear, the Party that anchors itself to the constitution has surreptitiously stolen the meaning of democracy in order to serve and enrich the select.
Push and pull once made for good politics and lively campaigns. And achievement used to count. Take Strom Thurmond; despite his horrific rhetoric on civil rights, his defense of segregation, (full disclosure: I’m African-American), I voted for him. When I was unemployed but actively seeking work, a phone call to his office and a 70 minute walk (saving bus fare), and I was a GS-10 in less than 72 hours. And after he invoked cloture on Jesse Helms’ filibuster of the King Holiday Bill, and delivered sewer, paved and lighted streets, and safety grants to SC’s small predominantly black towns, I voted by the deed rather than the word.
Now, the first African-American President and his party face the opposite problem. They have been matchless in acting for progress, but can’t get the message out. They have delivered, but have weak defenses and little attack. Quick: what is Chris Coon’s position on social security?The President
Now there are “kinder, gentler” attacks that cite mostly personality and psychology with a little parody and cute word play to render the administration ineffective. In dry training speak, whenever any system is out of kilter, it is usual to single out and blame an individual for the failures and shortcomings of the whole.
Bad weather? Hang the ship’s captain. Bad economy? Blame the President. Reduce complex dynamics to a single, identifiable cause.
But start with Obama and work backward. There were “many” who sought to de-legimitize him with unprecedented withering attacks. He was shouted at, tsk-tsked, signed, caricatured, ballyhooed, cartooned, cursed, labeled, slimed, belittled, disrespected.
He took the wrong vacations at the wrong time, he waited too long to visit the Gulf, he hesitated too long before taking the lead on healthcare, he overlooked too long the shape of the economy. Yet the Gulf (take a deep sigh here and say a prayer) is doing well, healthcare is slowly rolling out, and the macro-economy, at $14 trillion and counting, is doing relatively well. In fact, Obama created more jobs in the first eight months of 2010 then Bush did in eight years. And it was Republican incumbents who lost their conservative seats to those who felt they were not conservative enough. Was Barack Obama supposed to campaign for them?
But as people pile on, at the top of the pile are jobs lost and not regained. Yes, like a stake, jobs stand above the buzz “of calling shapes, and beck’ning shadows dire, and airy tongues that syllable men’s names.” (Milton.)
“You didn’t fix the jobs crisis, dude.” You were supposed to turn the ship of state around in 24 months. Audacity meet mendacity; all blame and little help; all “socialist” and no capitalists to the aid; he was all calm when confronting fury: and now judged as weak, absorbed, even mediocre; a contradiction which has become an antithesis. But remember again this fact: Obama created more jobs in the first eight months of 2010 then Bush did in eight years.
Change hurts, whether it institutes new programs or people. It disturbs the status quo. It shifts power. Charismatic, reflective, Obama symbolizes the last broken barrier of America’s racial past. He challenged an ideal that many Americans cherished and he has suffered their contempt. He broke that barrier at the worst possible time; he became president at the arc of elite corporate political power; he spent billions on their bail-out while they acted in distain. But there is no going back.
Even after next week, Obama’s got two more years. And things can’t really get much worse. If they do, despite the mantras that lay doom at his door, there will be plenty of real blame to go around.
New Jersey election, 1867. Harper’s Weekly.
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Mississippi Children on the 4th of July 1937. Dorothea Lange Master Photograph. Library of Congress.
Could it be that the new source of wealth and prosperity is sourced in the permanent loss of jobs? (Republicans want to dismantle the safety net, shifting even more wealth to corporations.) The complaint, that Democrats have overspent, stimulated fear, and not messaged well, has partial truth. But it does not equal the massive truth of the Republican distortions and wackiness. DeMint, Boehner, McConnell, Cantor and the others are no Strom Thurmond. Thurmond didn’t neglect the message to his base or service to his constituents, and did both aggressively, delivering the goods by word and deed, even when they were at odds, and while getting his fair share, never uttered blame.