Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two economies

Robert Reich found much to like in President Obama's State of the Union speech, but felt he missed an opportunity to point out an important problem:

What the President should have done is talk frankly about the central structural flaw in the U.S. economy – the dwindling share of its gains going to the vast middle class, and the almost unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at top – in sharp contrast to the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.

Although the economy is more than twice as large as it was thirty years ago, the median wage has barely budged. Most of the gains from growth have gone to the richest Americans, whose portion of total income soared from around 9 percent in the late 1970s to 23.5 percent in 2007. Americans kept spending anyway by using their homes as ATMs but the bursting of the housing bubble put an end to that – leaving them without enough purchasing power to reboot the economy. So the central challenge is put more money into the pockets of average Americans.

This narrative would be politically risky (opening Mr. Obama to the charge of being a “class warrior”) but at least honest. And it would allow him to connect the dots – explaining why his new health-care law is critical to reducing medical costs for most working families, why tax reform requires cutting taxes on the middle class while raising them on the rich, why the Bush tax cuts shouldn’t be extended for the wealthy, why deficit reduction must not sacrifice education and infrastructure (both important to rebuilding middle-class prosperity) and why any cuts in Social Security or Medicare must be on the backs of the wealthy rather than average working families.

Importantly, it would give him a convincing counter-narrative to the Republican anti-government one. Government exists to protect and advance the interests of average working families. Without it, Americans have to rely mainly on big and increasingly global corporations, whose only interest is making money wherever it can be made.

This is the Rubicon that politicians who depend on corporate funding will never cross. They are unwilling to admit that many U.S. banks and businesses no longer see their success as tied to the prosperity of working Americans. For them, having America lose its middle class is no big deal. I think GE and other huge corporations are mistaken on this, but their short-term profits are up, wages are down, and they don't seem concerned about the future.


Cletis L. Stump said...

I supported President Obama and will vote for him again considering the alternatives, but I am no longer an energized supporter. Washington did not change Barack. It just gave him the opportunity to be what he is, a conciliatory, little man whose first consideration is always political. He fooled me and that's hard to do. Whatever he has gained by "compromising" with the Republicans and "wooing" the fascists over at the Chamber of Commerce, he has lost far more by ripping the heart out of those who thought we were electing a man of truth. We didn't. We elected a politician who would throw his grandmother under the bus for four more years in the White House. Sad really.

Ulysses said...

It is sad, because we need someone right now willing to piss off the plutocrats. Where will President Obama draw the line? Child labor?