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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

 
Happy talk is bad politics for Democrats in 2014

by David Atkins

The usually excellent Eugene Robinson makes what I believe to be a significant misstep here:

Democrats, if you want to win in the fall, take some advice from Pharrell Williams: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.”

The Mountie-hat-wearing pop singer’s infectious “Happy” should be the Democratic Party’s theme song for the midterm election. Despite Republican claims to the contrary, things are definitely looking up. Democrats ought to be clicking their heels and spreading the good news.

Friday’s announcement that unemployment fell to 6.3 percent was huge. The fact that the economy added 288,000 jobs in April — despite continued bad weather early in the month in parts of the country — suggests that the recovery has greater momentum than pessimists had feared. Economists were expecting decent numbers. These are great.

The stock market, meanwhile, is flirting with an all-time high. The Dow has risen about 10 percent over the past year; the S&P 500, more than 16 percent; the Nasdaq, about 22 percent . During President Obama’s term in office, the Dow has more than doubled. If he were a socialist, as his harshest critics claim, he’d be a truly lousy one.

The numbers prove that Obama is, in fact, a skillful capitalist who guided the economy out of its worst slump since the Great Depression. He accomplished this feat despite being saddled with a Republican opposition in Congress that reflexively opposes his every initiative — even those based on policies the GOP supported in the past.
Regular readers of this blog can probably outline what I'm about to say next in their heads, and they would likely be right.

The problem is, of course, that for most Americans happiness isn't the truth. The economy may have added more jobs and that's definitely good news--but most of the jobs the economy has created over the last few years have been McJobs, and wages are still stagnating. The wage situation is frankly awful.

The fact that the stock market is doing so well in spite of the economic travesties of the poor and middle class is no comfort or silver lining: it's a huge part of the problem. Meanwhile, the people who think that Obama is a socialist were never going to vote for Democrats, anyway, so defending the president as an excellent capitalist is hardly a comfort.

It's definitely true that the ACA has been far more successful than Republicans like to portray, and that Republicans have painted themselves into an ugly corner over it. But while the ACA has helped, healthcare costs for most Americans are still outrageously high and rising. The ACA is a bandage to a healthcare system that desperately needs surgery to remove the for-profit cancer.

If Democrats go into 2014 with happy grins talking about how wonderful everything is, they're going to be in for a world of hurt. People know better, and any further down swing in the economy would be politically devastating to a political party running as if everything had been fixed and set back on track (which, of course, it hasn't been.) A populist message is still the better course by far.


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