In his Presidential campaign Obama promised voters “Change We Can Believe In” but did the economic down spiral generated long before his inauguration negatively impact his effectiveness and the voters’ patience?
The rhetoric of campaigns and campaign speeches are all too familiar to most of us who listen intently to politicians and their spin-meisters. Inherent in all campaigns is the theme of change, either progressive change – “fulfilling our destiny” – or a regressive motif – “reclaiming our country”, “restoring our values”.
It’s a premise that for some presumes everything that came before was not good enough and better days lie ahead, while for others it is the reverse – returning to “a better and simpler America”. Both have appeal and both have an element of truth to them.
Change in any direction has to be gradual to allow all of us time to readjust our thinking and our way of life. Change has to overcome the obstacles that remain once we have chosen change. These obstacles don’t magically disappear just because we have cast our vote for change. Those who have created those obstacles don’t fade away at a whim. One person’s obstacle is another’s sanctuary and fortress to fight from.
Now as apparent as this simple logic is to most people it is still difficult for a lot of them to be patient and allow change to become fully manifested. The initial energy of those who voted for change in 2008 needs to be sustained in order to effectively and more quickly push those ideas of change over the barriers that stand in the way. We mustn’t lose sight either that holding on to some traditions and cultural values has it place in a dynamic life cycle that alters civilization over time. The value and tradition of assisting others who are unable to or who have fallen on hard times is a well-established part of our heritage.
Our efforts to bring about the change we want must also be prepared to deal with distractions from our opponents that would weaken our overall efforts. The notion that budget deficits at this time are more important than job creation and fixing Social Security as baby boomers hit retirement age is a distraction being used by the GOP.
Change is inevitable and the best we can hope for is that we are able to control it at a reasonable level and not become so overwhelmed that we disengage from it. Humans have foibles though. We tend to lose our focus when shiny objects are put in front of us.
This is where we stand today as a nation. In 2008 we made a vote for change to correct the flaws and failures of Republican led government that converted a large budget surplus to a record deficit , started a very needless, expensive and life consuming war in Iraq, created the widest income gap yet in our history, invaded our privacy and damaged our international credentials with almost everyone, including many long-time allies.
The hands-off approach that allowed banks to fraudulently transfer great amounts of wealth from our savings to their tax-deferred offshore accounts caused the Great Recession of 2008 and saw job loss rates that hadn’t been seen in over a quarter of a century. As businesses suffered and people lost their source of revenue many middle-income families saw their retirement futures, their college funds for their kids and their homes disappear. Some will never regain what they once had.
But the short memories of many Americans of what and who brought us to this level seems to kick in at the least appropriate times. Accompanying this mental fog was the outrage many were feeling from the economic losses they were personally experiencing. Some who voted for change got swept up in the astroturf Tea Party euphoria that clamored to “throw the bums out” while others simply stayed home feeling rejected by President Obama and the Democrats they helped elect. It didn’t dawn on these overactive and non-active players who helped the GOP regain the House last fall, until it was too late, to realize they had not allowed their choice in 2008 the time it needed to work its way through a gridlocked political system.
The slow effects of corrupt financial institutions and politicians under the Bush White House and GOP majorities during the first eight years of this century did not get a full head of steam until just before they were booted out in 2008. The greatest impact of their misguided economic policies was only felt after power transferred to the Democrats on January 29th, 2009. But this reality was lost behind a well-funded and highly effective bogus message conveyed by the GOP to a beleaguered voting public about who was responsible.
This overall bogus message was given most of its clarity when the government bailed out those poorly managed financial institutions under both the Bush and Obama administrations as low and middle-income working families were pretty much left to fend for themselves. The perception however that was presented by Republican losers of the 2006 and 2008 elections was that the new administration was more at fault than anything they had done. To win re-election Republicans had to conceal any hand they had in the misery many Americans found themselves faced with while portraying themselves as agents of change that would “restore America to its greatness”.
The rhetoric of campaigns and campaign speeches that are all too familiar to most of us is in play again and may well again have its impact on voters who can’t seem to really think beyond their immediate circumstances and concerns. Some are like the easily distracted Golden Retriever, Dug, in the Disney animated movie, “UP”! whose attention span changed instantly at the thought of a “squirrel?!?” Holding to the belief that all things worth changing takes time is difficult in a culture where rapid responses are prevalent in all genres of human activity.
The reality that consumer needs are met in mere hours, minutes and seconds gets misplaced with political issues that have more lasting impact than those seeking to satisfy our empty stomachs or images of what will appeal to the opposite sex at tonight’s party. Things like world peace, national budgets, effective, low-cost heath care and environmental hazards brought on by an eagerness of some to become independently wealthy require more than a day, week, month or a year to correct. This is a lifetime to many people who have come to expect all things to change yesterday.
This short-sightedness by some voters has threatened the security of many elderly and low-income families as newly elected Tea Party-type politicians swept into office and began attempts to dismantle those social networks that serve the needs of seniors, children and the disabled. It has put our kids at risk as school budgets are slashed, putting teachers and staff in unemployment lines while expanding classroom sizes to meet state budgets that were undermined by tax cuts too deep in earlier years at the hands of the GOP. To pour salt into these wounds, tax subsidies for profitable corporations are sustained as well as avoiding needed spending cuts with a bloated Defense Department. The revenue these actions would create for Education and Medicare budgets are ignored by complicit conservative legislators.
The budget is now more serious in the minds of Republican and Tea Party fanatics than it was when Dick Cheney declared it wasn’t back in 2001. This phony dread generated by the GOP and their corporate backers has molded the misplaced idea that only cuts to the “welfare state” can save us, despite the fact that these programs have worked relatively well in times past WHEN they were appropriately funded. The corrections needed to make Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid more solvent are part of the health care reform bill passed last year by then Democratic majorities but are now being repealed by the new GOP majority in the House.
Our debt crisis isn’t solely the result of providing needed services for those who cannot physically meet their own needs but is more the result of drastic tax cuts for the wealthiest among us and a needless war in Iraq that had to be paid for by borrowed money from abroad. Instead of generating revenue here at home to pay as you go, the Republicans voted for hefty tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% that required borrowing money from the likes of China and Germany.
So as another campaign year rolls around the rhetoric that “deficits are bad” is dusted off to distract voters from what is most on their minds. Where are those who promised that “priority one is jobs!” Budgets are a smokescreen by corporate-friendly legislators to dance around high unemployment rates that are deeper than they were during the high rate periods under Reagan.
The GOP has released its comic book plan to restore jobs nearly six months after taking office and it is nothing more than a revisit to the failed policies of the past. To declare in their opening statement that “Democrats in Washington have enacted policies that undermine [the] basic concepts of … free markets, free enterprise, innovation and entrepreneurship” is laughable in light of the fact that the “free market system” failed under their watch while they deregulated everything.
Opportunities that Republicans have side stepped to create more jobs include a failure to vote for tax breaks for small businesses, assisting them offset their expenses with health care coverage for employees and ignoring the high potential for 21st century jobs in the fields that address our energy needs – developing the technology to produce clean, renewable energy sources of wind, solar and hydro power.
These failures, along with the Ryan plan to kill Medicare as we know it may prove to be too much to fool voters yet again. The recent outcries about such things at GOP town hall meetings and the election of a Democrat in a historically Republican district in New York state last Thursday could well be signaling that the change many expected in 2008 is still in play and making its way to the front of the line.
Let’s hope this is true and that people are willing to give the Democrats and the White House enough time to justify their 2008 decision. Lets also hope that the Democrats and the White House will not miss this opportunity to better fulfill their obligations and promises the electorate expect from them.
- NY Upset Gives GOP Plenty to Worry About (newser.com)
- So this is what GOP overreach produces (salon.com)
- Poll: Most Obama Voters Likely to Vote for him Again (outsidethebeltway.com)