July 13, 2011

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Frank Rich - The President’s Failure to Demand a Reckoning From the Moneyed Interests Who Brought the Economy Down -- New York Magazine By failing to address that populist anger, Obama gave his enemies the opening to co-opt it and turn it against him. Which the tea party did, dishonestly but brilliantly, misrepresenting Obama’s health-care-reform crusade as yet another attempt by the elites to screw the taxpayer. (The Democrats haplessly reinforced the charge with marathon behind-the-scenes negotiations with insurance and pharmaceutical-­industry operatives.) Once the health-care law was signed, the president still slighted the unemployment crisis. A once-hoped-for WPA-style public-works program, unloved by Geithner, had been downsized in the original stimulus, and now a tardy, halfhearted stab at a $50 billion transportation-infrastructure jobs bill produced a dandy Obama speech but nothing else. Obama soon retreated into the tea-party mantra of fiscal austerity. Short-term spending cuts when spending is needed to create jobs make no sense economically. But they also make no sense politically. The deficit has never been a top voter priority, no matter how loudly the right claims it is. At Obama’s inaugural, Gallup found that 11 percent of voters ranked unemployment as their top priority while only 2 percent did the deficit. Unemployment has remained a stable public priority over the deficit ever since, usually by at least a 2-to-1 ratio. In a CBS poll immediately after the Democrats’ “shellacking” of last November—a debacle supposedly precipitated by the tea party’s debt jihad—the question “What should Congress concentrate on in January?” yielded 56 percent for “economy/jobs” and 4 percent for “deficit reduction.” via nymag.com
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The US jobs crisis The austerity measures implemented at all levels of the government have already had a disastrous impact on the economy. Federal, state and local governments have slashed two thirds of a million personnel over the past year. In the midst of the greatest jobs crisis since the Great Depression, there is no section of the political establishment or either of the major political parties that supports public works projects or any other measures to put people to work. Nor are there any proposals to provide relief for those being driven into poverty or those losing their homes to foreclosure. In the name of deficit reduction, the entire political establishment is demanding that the full cost of the failure of American and world capitalism be borne by the working class. There is no opposition to this policy of social counterrevolution from the trade unions or their allies among the liberals and the middle-class ex-left organizations. These forces, which represent well-off layers of the upper middle class, remain adamant supporters of Obama and are preparing to back his reelection campaign. They are indifferent and indeed hostile to the interests of the working class. For them, unemployment is a non-issue. The prospect of permanent mass unemployment stands as an unanswerable indictment of the capitalist system. This is not simply an American issue. In country after country, governments, under the whip of the banks, are cutting jobs, slashing wages and eliminating social programs. Each cut only paves the way for the next round of even...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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