My crass attempt to use the F-bomb to get page hits misfired. I was 4th on a Google blog search after I posted, but now I'm completely gone. Oh, well. [update: now I'm back in 6th - Damn you Instapundit!] The real story is that the remark is a non-story. I guess that's a good thing; however, I'm not so sure. It's not like the lamestream media stopped being sensational and trivial yesterday morning. Big time bloggers at Salon and Firedoglake mentioned it, although more in resignation than outrage. Joan Walsh opened with: "Another day, another disappointment for progressive Democrats." Yes, it's another day. Apathy isn't going to help. Unfortunately, apathy is the meme that has picked up steam:
No, Mr. Simpson, the irony is that a Democratic president elected with 8.5 million more votes than Republican John McCain put you in charge of his fiscal commission, and now, as his party heads into midterm elections, it's facing a profound "enthusiasm gap" between fired-up Republicans and the Democrats who elected President Obama, largely because the president, even while getting much of his agenda passed, has so frequently caved on core issues.Joan Walsh on The ED Show. Key distinction: "much of his agenda" is a small part of liberals' "core issues." Eight years of digging the federal government into the ground takes an enormous amount of work on many different fronts just to stop digging. On the financial industry, the digging has been going on since the mid 1990's, with the full support of centrist Democrats. It would take a strong and skillful leader to accomplish this turnaround. My hope, and even my belief, was that President Obama was up to this challenge. However, events have proved otherwise.
Back to Big Labor as their holiday approaches. (You know Labor Day is more than just the end of summer and the start of school, right?) Walsh comments on how white male labor union members supported Obama with 57% of their votes, but this group's approval has significantly dropped since then. More disappointment. Thankfully I was encouraged by reading Harold Meyerson's column - despite its title: A deserted feeling in working-class America - about Working America, the AFL-CIO's efforts to canvass and GOTV for Democrats.1 So I added Working America to my Interdependencies (links) and signed up too. In spite of past disappointments, I'll end on a positive note by renewing my hope that Obama will again support labor in its efforts to turn around this country. We're the ones we've been waiting for.
Gearing Up for Elections, AFL-CIO President Trumka Calls For ‘Economic Patriotism’, David Moberg, In These Times, September 1, 2010.
AFL-CIO to launch huge effort to turn out the midterm vote, Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, September 1, 2010.
AFL-CIO's fall strategy: Less TV, more one-on-one, Chris Frates, Politico, September 2, 2010.
Obama To Address AFL-CIO On Labor Day, Sam Stein, Huffington Post, September 3, 2010.
UPDATE: Returning home on Labor Day evening, I heard about the latest lifeline tossed by the administration: a $50 billion (over 6 years) plan to shore up our infrastructure. Republicans' immediate reaction - too little, too late - is the nicest thing the GOP has said about Obama since the inaugural. $8 billion in 2011 is a joke compared to the actual stimulus spending needed to get the country working. No, actually it's insulting, just like the proposed cap on discretionary non-defense spending. [update: Obama's plan includes $50 in immediate spending, and an infrastructure bank to leverage private dollars. Still, it's small potatoes, but not quite insulting] Obama's rah-rah with actual emotion speech to the AFL-CIO in Milwaukee is too little, too late. Thanks for nothin'!
|WPA poster by Vera Bock, 1939|
At this point, if jobs are to be created in sufficient quantity, the economy needs another fiscal stimulus of several hundred billion dollars as well as still more aggressive loosening of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. The Fed chairman has said the central bank may undertake such action, but according to press accounts, with the federal deficit around 10 percent of GDP, the administration is unlikely to announce the needed bold measures as Obama reveals more policy proposals this week.1 I take it back, Meyerson's next column was amazingly depressing.
Aside from the new infrastructure plan, the administration is looking only to tax credits, mostly for small business, to create incentives for job creation. While useful, these will have a modest impact at best. Among the more pernicious consequences of lasting high unemployment is that workers begin to lose their skills and fail to develop new ones on the job. It is now time to consider a federal jobs project—an employer of last resort— like the successful programs of the 1930s.
The prospects for an immediate improvement in the labor market seem bleak: the nation will not get the fiscal stimulus required to put sufficient numbers of people back to work; in view of federal deficits, the administration and Congress are not likely to provide sufficient public investment to make the infrastructure bank a meaningful agent of change. Meanwhile, the longer people are out of work, the harder it is to employ them, and America will almost certainly not create a jobs program to hire them.
Without more immediate action, the lack of jobs in America is setting a stage for potential tragedy. Americans may not continue to tolerate such conditions as calmly as they now do. The rise of a broader populist backlash, of which the tea party is an early example, is increasingly possible.