Winning The War Against the American Dream
Everybody's talking about Senator Debbie Stabenow's aggressive words today accusing the Republicans of tanking the economy and throwing millions out of work for political gain. I don't see why this is even slightly controversial. The GOP is a party whose mouthpieces said from the very beginning that they wanted the president to fail and that they were planning his "Waterloo." And anyone who understood how our government works (or even understands simple logic) knew that saying that in the midst of an economic crisis translates to making people suffer. There was no other way to interpret that so it makes sense.
On a more prosaic political level, they, like the administration, have been studying the Reagan playbook. And they know that they must do everything in their power to prevent Morning in America. Since they are nihilists who actually care nothing for the suffering of human beings, they have no compunction about simultaneously throwing ever more people out of work while blaming the Democrats for coddling the lazy unemployed. They are simply building a sense of ongoing panic leading up to the elections. It's a very calculated move and not one that wasn't anticipated. Indeed, this turn of events was foreshadowed by the fight over the original stimulus bill:
As we watch this legislative sausage slowly crumble, I would hope that President Obama will take his economic agenda to the American people... The country needs to be instructed about the logic and necessity of this stimulus plan because they clearly don't fully understand it. And because of that, the Republicans are making headway with their rhetoric of "fiscal responsibility," conflating stimulus with bailouts and the rest of their destructive obstructionism.That was a year and a half ago. The economy is still a mess. And today, just as then, the Republicans are obstructing government efforts to stimulate it by helping the states or even extending unemployment benefits. And I still don't think the people of this country have the vaguest idea of what's really gone wrong or even know what "obstruction" means. As Krugman pointed out this morning, the non-intuitive nature of Keynesianism has not been countered by the professionals, both economic and political, and so there is no public understanding of what's required to fix this.
Despite his huge personal approval, Obama didn't start off with a lot of public support for the plan and support is inching down. He is asking for a huge amount of money and the promise of bipartisanship is not working out. I think it would be helpful if he explained what a stimulus is and why this plan will succeed.
People want him to succeed and they will back him if he makes the explicit case and give the plan some time to work if he asks them for it. Not having congressional Republicans on the team won't matter if the American people stay behind him. But if he continues to make bipartisanship the test of the plan's success or failure, it really could fail whether it passes or not. One of the main components of the success of the plan is its ability to inspire confidence and the Republicans, the Blue Dogs and their friends in the media are doing everything they can to ensure that Americans believe it won't work.
Big Tent Democrat reminds us that today is FDRs birthday and he excerpts one of his famous speeches to rally the country in 1932. This is the kind of thing that may be what Americans need to hear from their new president today as well:
It is well within the inventive capacity of man, who has built up this great social and economic machine capable of satisfying the wants of all, to insure that all who are willing and able to work receive from it at least the necessities of life. In such a system, the reward for a day's work will have to be greater, on the average, than it has been, and the reward to capital, especially capital which is speculative, will have to be less. But I believe that after the experience of the last three years, the average citizen would rather receive a smaller return upon his savings in return for greater security for the principal, than experience for a moment the thrill or the prospect of being a millionaire only to find the next moment that his fortune, actual or expected, has withered in his hand because the economic machine has again broken down.If Obama could make a speech like that then the Democrats (if they could rouse themselves to do it) could go out and say that the tired program of tax cuts for everything is one of those things that has "failed and we should admit it."
It is toward that objective that we must move if we are to profit by our recent experiences. Probably few will disagree that the goal is desirable. Yet many, of faint heart, fearful of change, sitting tightly on the roof-tops in the flood, will sternly resist striking out for it, lest they fail to attain it. Even among those who are ready to attempt the journey there will be violent differences of opinion as to how it should be made. So complex, so widely distributed over our whole society are the problems which confront us that men and women of common aim do not agree upon the method of attacking them. Such disagreement leads to doing nothing, to drifting. Agreement may come too late.
Let us not confuse objectives with methods. Too many so-called leaders of the Nation fail to see the forest because of the trees. Too many of them fail to recognize the vital necessity of planning for definite objectives. True leadership calls for the setting forth of the objectives and the rallying of public opinion in support of these objectives.
Do not confuse objectives with methods. When the Nation becomes substantially united in favor of planning the broad objectives of civilization, then true leadership must unite thought behind definite methods.
The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.
We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!
Right now, I'm seeing the conservatives win the rhetorical war, at least among the elites... On MSNBC this morning we had a segment with Mort Zuckerman arguing that the stimulus bill needs to have more tax cuts, Governor Mark Sanford (R) arguing for less spending and Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University worrying about deficits.
That's the state of the debate at this moment and nowhere in it does anyone make the case that stimulus simply means that the government needs to spend a lot of money to put people to work and that those jobs should be in places where the taxpayers would get their money's worth by either fixing long neglected infrastructure and education needs, create new (green) jobs for the future, or to provide services for people who are suffering during this recession. Stimulating demand is part of that, but since, as the Republicans themselves admit, the tax rebates and tax cuts of the past few years haven't worked --- we need to go to the mattresses and inject money directly into the economy. A huge government spending program is a blunt instrument, but it's the only one we we have left.
What they do know is that the government is dysfunctional. Republicans FTW.
The bill failed 57-41. The Democrats (except Ben Nelson) were all there, with Republicans all against. And if you want to know specifically just how fucking nuts the Republicans are today on this, get a load of this bizarroworld gibberish from the allegedly sane and moderate Senator Collins earlier today on the floor:
You will not see the kind of start-ups because of the state of the economy, because of the policies that are coming out of the more taxes and more spending, which get to the Tax Extenders Package that's before us today. And that is my concern with the detachment that we have between what is happening in America on Main Street and what's happening here in Washington DC and the Us Senate. Madam president there isn't that reality check and that's obviously exemplified by by the kind of legislation that we're trying to ram through the congress once again. That means more taxes and more spending that's going to cost more jobs. It's going to provide more risk in the economy and therefore we're not going to see the kind of economic growth the American people deserve. And somehow we think that is not a cause and effect or a correlation between what we do here and what happens across America.O know that in talking to my constituents and to small business owners I hear it day in and day out. I go home and I talk to them and I listen more importantly and I hear what they're saying and they are uniformly saying the same thing: that the policies coming out of Washington causes them great pause, it causes them alarm.Somehow, I don't think their concern and alarm is what she thinks it is. Not that she cares.
Today I receive my last unemployment check. I've used up all available extensions. My position was eliminated on Feb. 1, 2009. Since then I've diligently searched for work. I have a MA and 23 years experience. I've had three interviews and no offers. My savings, including retirement, is gone. I had to sell my house. I've moved from Michigan to Massachusetts into the home of my parents, who at 81 and 71 live on their investments (which have been dwindling in this economy.) At a time when I should be getting ready for my retirement and taking care of my parents, I'm back at square one.
This is certainly not where I had planned to be. This is certainly not the American dream I was raised to believe in, one whose premise is that if you work hard, get a good education, you will succeed.
Ezra has the particulars on the bill.