Not-quite-great expectations

Now that he’s shown he can compromise, Obama needs to be tough on passing American Jobs Act

By Barry Gordon 09/15/2011

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President Obama made a great speech last week. It had just the right proportion of passion, common sense and righteous indignation. He spoke about the future in clear terms, scoring major points on “the vision thing.” And he even spoke of a subject that is rarely heard in today’s political environment — a justification of the importance of government and our occasional need to have it do big things.  

Obama is, of course, right when he speaks about our interconnectedness. He presented a litany of achievements that either would not have occurred or would have been greatly delayed or weakened by the absence of governmental involvement. From the development of the railroads to our national interstate highway system, from land grants to establish public universities to the government-funded research that developed the Internet, government has played a vital role in creating the America that we see today as the richest, most powerful nation in the world. And most importantly, perhaps, government has also played a necessary role in cushioning its people from the arbitrary and sometimes cruel shocks of an unfettered free market by providing an essential social safety net and by ensuring that the products we buy and the workplaces we go to meet at least a minimal standard of safety.  

Obama also spoke of the need to protect collective bargaining rights for workers — a subject dear to the heart of this ex-union president. It is not a little ironic that in the 1950s, when the greatest number of industries were organized and the labor movement was at its peak, America also had its most rapid and sustained economic growth, a growth that truly was a rising tide that lifted all boats. Today, that movement, especially in the private sector, has been decimated and, largely as a result, workers’ wages have stagnated or declined in real terms over the last 30 years. Americans have maintained their standard of living only by being a two-worker family, working many more hours or going into debt. The Republicans may love to talk about how the American family (unlike the spendthrift government) has to balance its budget, but the truth is that aggregate consumer debt from home mortgages, car loans, credit cards and everything else is currently somewhere between 90 percent and 100 percent of GDP.

As progressives, I think we know that the president’s heart is in the right place. If he could wave a magic wand, I really believe we would have national health care with a strong public option, a powerful shift in our energy priorities, an even stronger financial regulation bill with real teeth and a whole host of investments in education, research and development and our crumbling infrastructure. He knows that all of these things are necessary for us to do in order to be a competitive nation in the 21st century. But there is a difference between what is necessary and what is possible to achieve, and no one understands that better than Obama. Perhaps too well.

Republicans have demonstrated time and again that they have a very different understanding of compromise. They believe they are compromising by giving the president those things they already agree with. Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tweeted that sentiment right after the president’s speech. He said, “We should work quickly to pass the areas where we agree.” It sounds perfectly reasonable on its face. But the pattern has been for the Republicans to take only those things they agree with and say no to everything else. There is no give and take.  

President Obama, wishing to accomplish something, has often allowed the Republicans to play the game their way. He could well do that again by allowing them to cherry pick the American Jobs Act, taking only what they like. The danger is that the result may not be perfect or good. It may be too weak to accomplish the goal of providing a kick start to this economy. Worse, if the act is watered down to the point of being ineffective, Obama will have provided the GOP with more “evidence” that he doesn’t know how to lead. Look how they’ve labeled the original Recovery Act a failure, even though most economists believe that it warded off a far worse depression and saved or created millions of jobs.

The president has a decision to make: Settle for half-measures that don’t solve the problem in the name of bipartisan cooperations, or fight for the whole package and attack every attempt to water it down. He needs to stop banking on the idea that America loves the reasonable man above all else. America loves results. If he reaches a compromise that falls short of achieving his goals, we are more likely to see him as weak rather than reasonable. At this point, he needs to fight, to bring the spirit and the tone of his words to Congress into action. We’ve already seen his ability to compromise and be reasonable. Now we need to see his strength and his resolve. I believe that America is ready to reward that kind of bold leadership. And if not, better to go down fighting.


Barry Gordon, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, is the co-host of “City Beat” on community access KPAS, Channel 55, and teaches political science at Cal State LA.

 

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Comments

Oh yeah;

Barry-O is great at speechifying! Unfortunately, for the most vulnerable victims of his presidency, he hasn't even mildly attempted to honestly accomplish the most important goals that he claimed (during his '08 campaign) to support.

Even as I've tried taking his rhetoric about ending the war in Iraq to the bank, (instead of doing a 'Dubya-dip' doubledown) my most disappointing discovery is that O'Bummer never even deposited sufficient political capital to cover that campaign promise ... in other words, the mf'r just lied to us.

Also, while shared compromise may be a necessary ingredient when dealing with eglitarian-minded community co-sponsors of the political process (of which the tea-bagger disguised, closet-neocons of the war-party definitely ARE NOT), vaccillation and caving to the warmonger-class IS NOT the administrative tap-dance I expected to witness (at least not to the pornographic degree that he's practiced)from this particular leader-of-the-free-world wannabe.

So while Ron Paul may be a libertarian-predisposed, ugly warthog of unincorporated anti-progressivism, his decades-standing, true-blue stances against both MIC adventurist war AND the Federal Reserve I feel could only improve America's chances for surviving the next couple of decades ... even if marginally as an independent democratic republic (and NOT a corporately-transformed, hopelessly fascist regime) ~ that is if the banksters don't have him assassinated first.

DanD

posted by DanD on 9/17/11 @ 08:26 a.m.

A MUST read ~
http://theintelhub.com/2011/09/16/david-...

DanD

(excerpt) David Eisenhower, grandson of the president who warned Americans of a “military-industrial complex(MIC) 50 years ago, says in an essay this month that that coalition today “retains significant influence…” Yes, indeedy!

In fact, when the Pentagon gets more than half of all taxes collected from the American people and spends more for war than all our 50 governors spend to run their states, his phrase “significant influence” may be a wee bit understated.

As the National Priorities Project(NPP) of Northampton, Mass., puts it: “Since 2001, the U.S. has spent $7.6 trillion in security-related efforts, including: Department of Defense base-line, nuclear weapons, Homeland Security and war.”

The $500 billion being spent just on the F-35 fighter-bomber jet alone is feeding Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney and 1,300 other suppliers from nine countries and 48 U.S. States, a business magazine reports.

What’s more, NPP says, this year’s spending of $122 billion just on the Afghan war “is greater than the 2012 deficits of 42 states and the District of Columbia combined.” (Holy cow, Batman, you could run America on that money!)

posted by DanD on 9/17/11 @ 10:17 a.m.

Barry, don't let the train run you over! Did you somehow miss the congressional elections of 2010? Did you not see the election last week of a Republican to another Democratic house seat in New York? Wake up!

Obama is a failure! Yes, Barry, America's first Black President is a complete and miserable leader. I am an independent voter, turned Republican. Obama has turned me to the "right".

I suppose you think this is "racism"? No, it's about competency and character. Obama has NOT done anything he promised.

2012 will be a Republican landslide. You have become ideologically irrelevant, Barry.

See you at the polls.

posted by Emperor has no clothes on 9/19/11 @ 07:50 p.m.
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