Banking on Crazy, Ignoring the Middle Class

Two items from TAPPED paint a clear picture of the collision of 2010 electoral losses for Democrats at large and the lack of clear progressive policy.

First, Jacob Hacker on the "middle class" as more than an income category, and how it's been left behind:

Americans are skeptical because government hasn't delivered. The great social-policy breakthrough of 2010, health reform, falls far short of a long-term vision for rebuilding the middle class. Emergency actions such as the stimulus package and bank bailout sought to stabilize the economy without challenging its imbalances. The recently enacted tax-cut deal means two more years of huge tax cuts for the richest. In return, the middle class received grudging extensions of unemployment insurance and a partial payroll tax holiday that will create few good jobs. While Americans say that their highest priority is to restart the economy and their most cherished programs are Social Security and Medicare, political leaders from the center and the right are embracing a deficit-reduction agenda that will threaten those two programs and preclude serious investment in the middle class to restore broadly shared prosperity.

Second, E.J. Dionne on combined 2010 exit polling:

Republicans won control of the House of Representatives because many voters who didn't really like the GOP voted for its candidates anyway. According to the major TV networks' combined exit poll, 52 percent of November voters had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, yet 23 percent of this group voted for Republican House candidates. These are the quintessential disaffected voters, and they may be the key swing voters of 2012.

Taken together, these numbers point to a country as much dispirited as angry. True, anger on the right drove conservative turnout to very high levels. But in core Democratic constituencies and in the middle of the electorate, disappointment more than rage drove decisions, including the one to stay home.

To the extent that a "pulse" can be gleamed from exit polling, the picture painted is as clear enough to demand a rethink we're not likely to see from this administration, or Senate leadership.  Obama's budget reads as political positioning against the predictable extreme's of a Republican Party caught between the juggernaut of irrational they created in the 2010 campaigns. 

Boehner and McConnell thought they had an understanding with the incoming freshman that had long been a staple of GOP electoral strategies: Say what you have to to win, but let's not get all crazy up in here once the name plates are on the office doors.  The tea party newbies, though, actually believe their campaign promises make for good policy in the midst of catastrophic unemployment numbers and intend to vote accordingly.  Obama's budget indicates a continuation of "I'm not that team!" moderation that may play well if the hysterics continue in the Republican Party, but is not nearly enough to stop the Democratic Party from repeating history, and driving independents -- long-term -- into the arms of the GOP.

Should a fresh-faced moderate challenger emerge on the right?  Different story.  A disenfranchised middle-class may see a vulnerable incumbent without a distinct definition of what team he is on losing control of the debate. 

Obama is banking on crazy, and let's be realistic, when Donald Trump is thinking "this is my chance," odds are he'll get it.  Meanwhile, the middle class is still looking for their FDR, even if they aren't articulating it.

He Doesn’t Feel Our Pain

After listening to the President’s State of the Union address I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of loss. I understand that this was a political speech in a lot of ways and will surely be the kick-off speech to his 2012 run for re-election, but with all of its platitudes and feel good rhetoric there was something missing. Could it have been that unemployment was not mentioned? Or that the poor and the middle-class were conspicuously absent? I don’t know about the state of your union, but in my union these issues are still alive and well. I have yet to hear this President connect to the pain that so many Americans are suffering from, especially black Americans.

One of the troubling aspects of the speech was how the President basically threw American manufacturing under the bus as a consequence of globalization. He stated that the American worker had to raise their game to compete for the future. That’s funny everything I read says that the American worker is one of the most productive workers in the world. Maybe instead of prodding the worker the President should have mentioned how the worker’s boss’ have outsourced all of their jobs overseas as China’s and India’s economies are the fastest growing in the world because they are making the things we used to make. The challenge should not have been that we have to give up manufacturing to these other nations but how American manufacturing can return and compete against these other nations.

This speech is named the state of the union for a reason; instead we got the state of globalization. The President should have been imploring this nation to support and rebuild our manufacturing base and buying our products. I don’t understand how promoting one’s own nation today is now considered un-American. I guess that’s because it is no longer what is good for America it is what is good for America’s multinationals. The truth be told as we found out during the gilded age is that what is good for Standard Oil is not always what’s good for America. I know there are those who will defend this President no matter what he says and does and I understand their fierce loyalty, but this is not about personality it should be about principles.

My fear is that in an attempt to appease the wing-nuts this administration is going to cave in some form on Social Security. We will either raise the retirement age or cut some benefits to show their seriousness in cutting the deficit. What is not being discussed is that Social Security was created by taxes that we all pay throughout our working lives for the benefits we receive. This isn’t some government give away where we take general tax dollars to support the weak, aged, and affirmed. There are less draconian ways to shore up Social Security but none of this is being mentioned or even part of the discussions. The problem with negotiating with folks who want to destroy what you are negotiating is that their aim is not to salvage it but to undermine it. I think Congressman Ryan made that point crystal clear last night.

This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. - Paul Ryan's remarks

So on the one hand we have the President telling American workers they have to stop whining and on the other hand we have the wing-nuts telling the American workers that they are lazy and complacent. I don’t know about you but my answer to Republicanism is not Republican lite. Just once I would like this President to speak to the pain of those folks on Main Street as eloquently as he spoke to the folks in Tucson. He should give a voice to the voiceless instead of vocalizing the talking points of the opposition. I am not naïve to the process of negotiation and it is important to throw meat to the opposition to appear open to compromise, but what has been missing from this equation is the suffering of the poor and the middle-class and the enunciation of their concerns.

Last night the President spoke to Wall Street and the business communities letting them know loud and clear that this administration is open for business. The problem with this is that they aren’t the ones suffering. The Dow is approaching 12,000, the banks are sitting on boat loads of cash, and businesses are doing likewise. These folks need signals like the millionaires and billionaires need a tax-cut. The message the President should be sending is to Main Street that this administration is serious about creating equal opportunity and securing workers rights. The problem is not the American worker it is the greed of the American corporation.

“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures,” - Samuel Gompers (1st President of AFL-CIO)

The Disputed Truth

He Doesn’t Feel Our Pain

After listening to the President’s State of the Union address I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of loss. I understand that this was a political speech in a lot of ways and will surely be the kick-off speech to his 2012 run for re-election, but with all of its platitudes and feel good rhetoric there was something missing. Could it have been that unemployment was not mentioned? Or that the poor and the middle-class were conspicuously absent? I don’t know about the state of your union, but in my union these issues are still alive and well. I have yet to hear this President connect to the pain that so many Americans are suffering from, especially black Americans.

One of the troubling aspects of the speech was how the President basically threw American manufacturing under the bus as a consequence of globalization. He stated that the American worker had to raise their game to compete for the future. That’s funny everything I read says that the American worker is one of the most productive workers in the world. Maybe instead of prodding the worker the President should have mentioned how the worker’s boss’ have outsourced all of their jobs overseas as China’s and India’s economies are the fastest growing in the world because they are making the things we used to make. The challenge should not have been that we have to give up manufacturing to these other nations but how American manufacturing can return and compete against these other nations.

This speech is named the state of the union for a reason; instead we got the state of globalization. The President should have been imploring this nation to support and rebuild our manufacturing base and buying our products. I don’t understand how promoting one’s own nation today is now considered un-American. I guess that’s because it is no longer what is good for America it is what is good for America’s multinationals. The truth be told as we found out during the gilded age is that what is good for Standard Oil is not always what’s good for America. I know there are those who will defend this President no matter what he says and does and I understand their fierce loyalty, but this is not about personality it should be about principles.

My fear is that in an attempt to appease the wing-nuts this administration is going to cave in some form on Social Security. We will either raise the retirement age or cut some benefits to show their seriousness in cutting the deficit. What is not being discussed is that Social Security was created by taxes that we all pay throughout our working lives for the benefits we receive. This isn’t some government give away where we take general tax dollars to support the weak, aged, and affirmed. There are less draconian ways to shore up Social Security but none of this is being mentioned or even part of the discussions. The problem with negotiating with folks who want to destroy what you are negotiating is that their aim is not to salvage it but to undermine it. I think Congressman Ryan made that point crystal clear last night.

This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. - Paul Ryan's remarks

So on the one hand we have the President telling American workers they have to stop whining and on the other hand we have the wing-nuts telling the American workers that they are lazy and complacent. I don’t know about you but my answer to Republicanism is not Republican lite. Just once I would like this President to speak to the pain of those folks on Main Street as eloquently as he spoke to the folks in Tucson. He should give a voice to the voiceless instead of vocalizing the talking points of the opposition. I am not naïve to the process of negotiation and it is important to throw meat to the opposition to appear open to compromise, but what has been missing from this equation is the suffering of the poor and the middle-class and the enunciation of their concerns.

Last night the President spoke to Wall Street and the business communities letting them know loud and clear that this administration is open for business. The problem with this is that they aren’t the ones suffering. The Dow is approaching 12,000, the banks are sitting on boat loads of cash, and businesses are doing likewise. These folks need signals like the millionaires and billionaires need a tax-cut. The message the President should be sending is to Main Street that this administration is serious about creating equal opportunity and securing workers rights. The problem is not the American worker it is the greed of the American corporation.

“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures,” - Samuel Gompers (1st President of AFL-CIO)

The Disputed Truth

I Support the Middle-Class is Not a Principle

Divisions are evident here in the United States. Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama lagged in appealing to white middle- and working-class voters who supported Hillary — and former President Bill — Clinton. Now, these voters, according to recent polls, are increasingly alienated from the Obama administration. Reasons include slow economic growth, high unemployment among blue- and white-collar workers and a persistent credit crunch for small businesses. These factors could cause serious losses for Democrats this fall — and beyond. - Politico

As an instructor for a male character building class one of the sessions we cover is how important specificity is in goal setting. One of the common goals I get from my students is I want to make a lot of money. The problem with this goal is that it lacks an actual completion point or destination. How do you know when you have accomplished it or if you need to reevaluate it? I mention this because this is where the Dems find themselves today. They have no specific principles to guide their goals. What they have are a lot of warmed over “Great Society” rhetoric such as we support the middle-class. What does that even mean? To me it is similar to the “We support the troops” argument of the last administration as if anyone would say, “we don’t support the troops”.

The time has come for Dems to develop their 21st century manifesto, a pledge to America, or whatever you want to call it. This would include not only the principles for the party but also the overall vision of where they want to lead this country. The people in America are looking for answers but what they are getting is bumper stickers and disillusionment. The new direction of politics is whatever you do don’t offer any specific plans or ideas-stay flexible. This may serve the short-term campaign but it does nothing for long-term governance. Over and over the American people are saying we don’t want flexible we want solutions. What the mid-term election stated loud and clear is that this was not a ringing endorsement of the Republicans, but a frustration vote against the Democrats. The reason the teabaggers made so much noise was because they were the “none of the above” selection. The problem with having only two parties is that people keep going back and forth when they get frustrated and feel like they are not being heard.

The teabaggers presented themselves as an alternative for that frustration, but the truth is that they were not what they claimed to be. Many of them were recycled and repackaged wing-nut cultural warriors. Does anyone believe that the American public in two short years has forgotten the mess the Republicans created? If that were in fact the case their approval rating might be a little higher than 30%. When you only have two choices and you feel like neither is listening to you then you can keep going back and forth like most people or you just give up.

The Republicans govern like it is a dictatorship and the Democrats like it’s a social democracy. The Republicans demand and get party unity to their core set of principles; they do it through their party system. You do not get to represent the Republican flag if you don’t hold to those principles. The Dems on the other hand have a different philosophy. They are a loose coalition that shares some common elements (we are not Republicans) but for the most part have no overarching principles. It is because of this that Republicans can so easily undermine those coalitions and stagnate any Democratic majority. The Democratic leadership knows this (but the rank and file doesn’t seem to get it) and so they are constantly afraid of the breakdown of this fragile coalition by wing-nut scare tactics. Because of this loose coalition we are not offering the American public an alternative governing philosophy. Instead of progressive versus conservative we are offering them conservative versus conservative lite.

A perfect example would be the healthcare process and subsequent bill. How this should have been handled was in the following manner. Candidate Obama should have met with Democratic Congressional leaders and said if we win we plan to tackle healthcare. What we have to decide is if we believe that healthcare in America is a right of all Americans. Is this one of our principles? If it is then we have to present this to the American people and tell them how we plan to accomplish this goal. First, we will pass comprehensive healthcare reform so that all Americans can have affordable health-care without the restrictions on pre-existing conditions, caps or limits on coverage, or the fear that the insurance company will drop them when they get sick. In subsequent sessions we will continue to refine and improve this bill as we have done in the past with social security, Medicare, and etc.

By following this simple formula for not just healthcare but any “Democratic principle” you do two important things. The first is that you provide the public and your members with a cohesive and comprehensive message. You are not debating with yourself publicly. Here is our program and here is our message. The second thing you do is define the wing-nuts so when they start talking about “death panels” and socialism you can state that this is one of our principles and we have outlined our plan. The wing-nuts have no plan to address this issue and so this is about a choice between our plan and their rhetoric. It is a choice between those who want to provide healthcare and those who don’t. A choice between those who believe it is a right and those who don’t. In order to maintain control of the message you have to keep it simple. It is always a choice between right and wrong or good and evil. The wing-nuts have mastered this strategy. Remember in the run up to the war in Iraq, it wasn’t about agreeing or disagree with policy; it was about loyalty or treason.

Americans are simple people for the most part, they don’t want complex or nuanced explanations. What the American people are looking for is simplicity: black or white, cake or pie, friend or foe. If our goal is to provide the majority of Americans with a better life then we had better learn how to govern and that begins before you become the majority. You have to craft what you stand for and what you are willing to fight for. President Obama needs to call in all of the Democratic leaders from all over the country into a weekend retreat lock the doors and let them know there is a new sheriff in town and we are going to start standing for something. We are not leaving here until we come up with some core principles and issues we all agree to support and fight for. And anyone who wants to run as a Democrat must be willing to sign on to these principles. You see it does you no good to have a majority if you can’t accomplish what you believe in or have nothing you believe in. There is no majority if you are too weak or too afraid to govern.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson

The Disputed Truth

I Support the Middle-Class is Not a Principle

Divisions are evident here in the United States. Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama lagged in appealing to white middle- and working-class voters who supported Hillary — and former President Bill — Clinton. Now, these voters, according to recent polls, are increasingly alienated from the Obama administration. Reasons include slow economic growth, high unemployment among blue- and white-collar workers and a persistent credit crunch for small businesses. These factors could cause serious losses for Democrats this fall — and beyond. - Politico

As an instructor for a male character building class one of the sessions we cover is how important specificity is in goal setting. One of the common goals I get from my students is I want to make a lot of money. The problem with this goal is that it lacks an actual completion point or destination. How do you know when you have accomplished it or if you need to reevaluate it? I mention this because this is where the Dems find themselves today. They have no specific principles to guide their goals. What they have are a lot of warmed over “Great Society” rhetoric such as we support the middle-class. What does that even mean? To me it is similar to the “We support the troops” argument of the last administration as if anyone would say, “we don’t support the troops”.

The time has come for Dems to develop their 21st century manifesto, a pledge to America, or whatever you want to call it. This would include not only the principles for the party but also the overall vision of where they want to lead this country. The people in America are looking for answers but what they are getting is bumper stickers and disillusionment. The new direction of politics is whatever you do don’t offer any specific plans or ideas-stay flexible. This may serve the short-term campaign but it does nothing for long-term governance. Over and over the American people are saying we don’t want flexible we want solutions. What the mid-term election stated loud and clear is that this was not a ringing endorsement of the Republicans, but a frustration vote against the Democrats. The reason the teabaggers made so much noise was because they were the “none of the above” selection. The problem with having only two parties is that people keep going back and forth when they get frustrated and feel like they are not being heard.

The teabaggers presented themselves as an alternative for that frustration, but the truth is that they were not what they claimed to be. Many of them were recycled and repackaged wing-nut cultural warriors. Does anyone believe that the American public in two short years has forgotten the mess the Republicans created? If that were in fact the case their approval rating might be a little higher than 30%. When you only have two choices and you feel like neither is listening to you then you can keep going back and forth like most people or you just give up.

The Republicans govern like it is a dictatorship and the Democrats like it’s a social democracy. The Republicans demand and get party unity to their core set of principles; they do it through their party system. You do not get to represent the Republican flag if you don’t hold to those principles. The Dems on the other hand have a different philosophy. They are a loose coalition that shares some common elements (we are not Republicans) but for the most part have no overarching principles. It is because of this that Republicans can so easily undermine those coalitions and stagnate any Democratic majority. The Democratic leadership knows this (but the rank and file doesn’t seem to get it) and so they are constantly afraid of the breakdown of this fragile coalition by wing-nut scare tactics. Because of this loose coalition we are not offering the American public an alternative governing philosophy. Instead of progressive versus conservative we are offering them conservative versus conservative lite.

A perfect example would be the healthcare process and subsequent bill. How this should have been handled was in the following manner. Candidate Obama should have met with Democratic Congressional leaders and said if we win we plan to tackle healthcare. What we have to decide is if we believe that healthcare in America is a right of all Americans. Is this one of our principles? If it is then we have to present this to the American people and tell them how we plan to accomplish this goal. First, we will pass comprehensive healthcare reform so that all Americans can have affordable health-care without the restrictions on pre-existing conditions, caps or limits on coverage, or the fear that the insurance company will drop them when they get sick. In subsequent sessions we will continue to refine and improve this bill as we have done in the past with social security, Medicare, and etc.

By following this simple formula for not just healthcare but any “Democratic principle” you do two important things. The first is that you provide the public and your members with a cohesive and comprehensive message. You are not debating with yourself publicly. Here is our program and here is our message. The second thing you do is define the wing-nuts so when they start talking about “death panels” and socialism you can state that this is one of our principles and we have outlined our plan. The wing-nuts have no plan to address this issue and so this is about a choice between our plan and their rhetoric. It is a choice between those who want to provide healthcare and those who don’t. A choice between those who believe it is a right and those who don’t. In order to maintain control of the message you have to keep it simple. It is always a choice between right and wrong or good and evil. The wing-nuts have mastered this strategy. Remember in the run up to the war in Iraq, it wasn’t about agreeing or disagree with policy; it was about loyalty or treason.

Americans are simple people for the most part, they don’t want complex or nuanced explanations. What the American people are looking for is simplicity: black or white, cake or pie, friend or foe. If our goal is to provide the majority of Americans with a better life then we had better learn how to govern and that begins before you become the majority. You have to craft what you stand for and what you are willing to fight for. President Obama needs to call in all of the Democratic leaders from all over the country into a weekend retreat lock the doors and let them know there is a new sheriff in town and we are going to start standing for something. We are not leaving here until we come up with some core principles and issues we all agree to support and fight for. And anyone who wants to run as a Democrat must be willing to sign on to these principles. You see it does you no good to have a majority if you can’t accomplish what you believe in or have nothing you believe in. There is no majority if you are too weak or too afraid to govern.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson

The Disputed Truth

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