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Sunday, October 23, 2016

As Democrats lick their wounds from last week’s electoral bloodbath, political analysts are poring over exit data to discern the message in the Republicans’ resounding victory. Are voters unhappy with President Obama? Clearly.

But the underlying dissatisfaction abroad in the land centers around the state of the economy, which hasn’t recovered a broad prosperity that reaches into the homes and bank accounts of average Americans.

According to a Wall Street Journal exit poll, 45 percent of voters said the economy was their top concern; only 33 percent of those polled said it is getting better. A Fox News exit poll found that 70 percent of voters rate the economy as either “not good” or “poor.”

But if you think the election will finally force official Washington to buckle down and concentrate on creating jobs that pay a decent wage, think again. The political system is too broken for that to happen.

And that’s a big problem for a country whose citizens don’t all share a common heritage — a religion or a race or even a native tongue. The one thing that binds us, that has kept the country more or less united, is the promise of a broad and shared prosperity. If we can’t solve the problem of growing income inequality and restore the foundation for the middle class, the ties that bind us together will grow more frayed. Eventually, they’ll break.

Let’s acknowledge, though, that fixing the economy — upended by globalization and the technological revolution — is not an easy thing to do. It will take time and political innovation, fortitude and political cooperation.

Have you seen any of that lately?

To start, many elected officials don’t understand the nature of the problem. They reach back into playbooks that date to 1985, figuring that whatever worked then would work now. It won’t. Much as the Industrial Revolution broke down the architecture of the agrarian economy 200 or so years ago, the forces at work now are blowing away the foundations of the manufacturing age.

Yet, Republicans still insist that tax cuts will get the country back on its feet. They keep up that mantra, despite reams of real-world evidence to the contrary, because it serves their rich masters, such as the Koch brothers.

What evidence? Just take a look at the state of Georgia, which has one of the lowest rates of taxation in the country and the highest unemployment rate, 7.9 percent. By contrast, Massachusetts — which the GOP reviles as “Taxachusetts” — has an unemployment rate of 6.0, a tick above the national average of 5.9 percent.

Democrats, for their part, have focused much of their energy on an increase in the federal minimum wage, a pay hike that would certainly help a lot of workers. But it would hardly narrow the growing gap between the haves and have-nots — a chasm seen across the Western world as the highly educated claim a bigger portion of the pie.

President Obama, at least, has the perspective to see the broader trends that have rocked America back on its heels. The Great Recession tore through the country like a tornado, but its misery only laid bare a chasm that has been growing since the 1970s — the income gap. While workers with high school diplomas could once count on manufacturing jobs, those factories have largely shut down, fleeing to lower-cost countries. Technology has also taken a toll, replacing factory workers with robots and bank tellers with ATMs.

As the president notes, part of the fix lies in a better-educated work force. He has pushed for more accountability for teachers at the primary and secondary levels, as well as higher educational standards. But right-wing Republicans view the Common Core, which would raise academic aspirations, as a socialist conspiracy.

President Obama has also prodded Congress to set aside billions for infrastructure repairs, which would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and create a platform for economic growth. But the GOP has resisted, partly because a revived economy would benefit the president and his political party.

The midterm elections didn’t change that dynamic. Instead, the results reinforced a dysfunctional political system.

(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at [email protected])

Photo: SEIU via Flickr

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  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Since the days of Warren Harding, the GOP has a deeply embedded belief that business, not American citizens drive the prosperity in the US. So what we have now are Big Businesses who have, for too too long based their business foundations on taxpayer assistance. Conservatives refer to this as “welfare.” How many of today’s biggest businesses would still exist if not for the GOP flushing trillions to them?

    When you create a business dependency on taxpayers in such massive volume, you create a destructive corportate welfare that IS the biggest burden on working class Americans. In order for the GOP to continue this travesty, they have to flush more and more tax dollars to feed the 800 lb. gorilla in the room: corporate welfare. They do this by reducing corporate taxes, that still don not satisfy the hungry gorilla by any stretch of the imagination. So to avoid the gorilla attacking, they feed it tax subsidies.

    Unfortunately, this gorilla’s appetite cannot be sated. But the GOP bulls are too stupid to recognize that they are bankrupting the core of all US power: labor.

    • bobnstuff

      Supply side economics has been the core belief of the republican party for many years, it never has worked and never will. The next two years should be interesting. Will the Ted Cruz party win or will the more moderate members keep him in line. W know one thing for sure, corporate welfare is here to stay.

    • Dominick Vila

      Interestingly, the Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of subsidies to help poor Americans pay their healthcare premiums, while ignoring subsidies to wealthy farmers like Michele Bachmann, to the profitable oil industry, and to the corporations that made over a trillion dollars during the “rebuilding” of Iraq. I reckon this is American conservatism at its best…and the masses love it!

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        I posted a response to a right winger on the AARP politics blog about this very issue.

        Last year, the GOP House Majority voted to hand Big Oil $14 billion. Now, McConnell already has in his hot syrup mitts the documentation to “nullify” the ACA.

        I read the GOP version of healthcare reform. How many know that it would hand Wall Street fat cats direct control of how our tax dollars can be spent on healthcare insurance?

        Michelle Bachmann is a massive liar. She holds dual citizenship with Switzerland because her husband is a Swiss, not American citizen. This is also where all of her American money and profits are stored.

        Conservatives love to claim seniors and other Americans have “entitlement attitudes.” What then do they call their attitudes that it’s their right to sink the economy just to keep Big Business cronies in business with wads of our tax dollars? Is that what the Constitution mandates? You bet it isn’t.

        • Dominick Vila

          Well said. Our Constitution also does not mandate allowing individuals and corporations to stash they money away in foreign tax heavens to avoid paying taxes on their huge profits.

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            What’s scarier is that foreigners are buying up US businesses thanks to US vulture venture capitalists who sell their own mothers to the highest bidders.

            Think about this. The SC says corporations are people, right? This now includes “foreign people” who are corporation owners. Stupid is as stupid does.

            I absolutely refuse to be a foreigner in the country of my birth. My Dad came here from Italy in 1907. He was a flag waver then as I am now.

            If this is the USA, it’s our country. Selling water to private business and our national parks is a GOP attempt to hand over the entire country to foreign born owners of water rights and national lands.

          • Dominick Vila

            Particularly when you consider that most of “our” corporations are actually multi-nationals owned by investors from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the USA.

    • sigrid28

      I wonder if the GOP is NOT too stupid to recognize that they are bankrupting of the economy. What if the GOP is so subservient to the billionaires that fund its campaigns that its members dare not free themselves from this dependency, to which they are addicted–especially now that the party’s policies are not popular among Americans in general. I’m suggesting a mafia-like control by the corporate interests from which these not very bright Republicans will not be able to extricate themselves–or us! It doesn’t take a genius to aim a bazooka, after all.

      Perhaps these GOP “leaders” think they are as well-insulated from disaster as their billionaire benefactors are, or perhaps their backers have promised them a place on the ark, once Republican policies bring the economy down and the environment with it. I’ve felt for some time that the sublime states of Wisconsin and Michigan are being preserved by the destructive Republican policies of their legislatures to serve as gated communities for the hyper-rich and their privileged entourage, especially since global warming will be less burdensome in these states than in Florida, for instance, or Arizona. And fresh water there is in great supply, unless they let the XL Pipeline poison the aquifer.

      I’m always thinking about Charles Dickens’s horror at the greed that undermined civilization in the nineteenth century, a phenomenon he could document to a fare-thee-well but not impede. From his perspective, the wealthy aristocracy of his era did not see their demise coming–and the hangers-on WHO DID were powerless to save themselves or anyone else.

      Of course, we can see around the corner that Dickens and his contemporaries could not see around, from the vantage point of history. I’m dismayed to think we have missed the lesson in this that might have saved us. Odd, isn’t it, that instantaneous communications and far greater interpersonal connectedness now than in Dickens’s day seems not to be doing us any good.

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        Here’s an example of what the GOP plans to replace the ACA with. Remember those HSAs Bush tried to push in 2005? Well, now the GOP, who believes we are all too stupid to catch on, are calling them FSAs (Flexable Spending Accounts.)

        A FSA allows you to “allocate” pre-tax dollars for medical expenses not covered by your existing healthcare insurance policy (one question, if you’re paying for 1 HMO policy just WHY doesn’t it call ALL?).

        According to the GOP who hope you miss the most significant factors, you can put up to $2,500 a year into an FSA…the exact amount the HSA Bush pushed in 2005.

        Hitch No. 1 with these “FSAs”…you have to be employed to take advantage of them. Hitch No. 2, Your employer has to pay your more than minimum wage in order to be able to “put up to $2,500 a year into an FSA.” So, your employer refuses to give annual raises and the cost of living eats up 75% of your income and the 25% is going to go into a private FSA account.

        Hitch No. 3…New rules “let” employers provide a “grace period of up to 2 1/2 extra months for you to use the money in your FSA account in a given year and you can only carry up to $500 into the next year.

        The joke is that prescribed medicine, medical equipment, blood and diabetes testing and copays and deductibles are “covered” by an FSA. One trip to the hospital and there goes your entire year’s $2,500. Cute yes?

        • sigrid28

          This plan is sickening when set forth as clearly as you have above. I hear our GOP leadership at the luncheon Friday had the nerve to chastise President Obama to his face lest he dare to enact and executive order related to immigration reform. I hope he and his staff know we are all behind him when he vetoes plans like the one you explained so well here.

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            Republican men and right wingers are the most prolific example of hypocrites. The same GOP bulls who prevented any American from EVER chastising Bush at a public speech or press conference send in men like that journalist with the first name, Major, to embarrass the president in front of a crowd.

            This guy Major is a sickening example of why the GOP men are a bunch of rude, classless idiots.

            When Chris Christie (Gov. R-NJ) yells and bellows at anyone who disagrees with him, the GOP thugs jump with joy. But, let anyone disagree with them and right away they are in your face like the Tea Party imbeciles and morons they are.

            When you look at the entire picture of US presidents in our history, the most hated were FDR, JFK, Clinton and now, Obama. Why? The answer is simple.

            If you want to turn the entire country into a “Plantation Nation,” you can’t have a sitting president who actually cares about the 99%. Because if you study Confederate history, you see that the 1% controlled the 99% on their plantations. They did this by starving, beating and lynching them or…by handing wads of cash over to lazy bigots who benefitted from their lynching and murdering work for their “Massas.”

            Now, you see the road this country is heading toward. The morons of the CON states have always wanted their “South” to Rise Again. It won’t. It will have to rise to a revolt that will end up becoming a Civil War in Reverse.

            No one up north will work for the paltry sharecropper wages these lunatics in red states do. We are educated and we know we are the seat of US power. There is NO Wall Street in Dallas, Atlanta or Kansas City. They need to get over themselves and start acting like Americans. Not Confederates salivating over a win that will never happen.

  • Angel Perea

    HE INCONVENIENT TRUTH: So how did they do it? The republican play book
    was just to makes sure nothing gets done for their red states which
    represents a few of the Electra most of whom voted for Romney!
    did we learn from last night’s elections? Speaker Boehner’s past
    comments is an “admission that the core issue is:“Dysfunctional his
    House Republicans don’t want to solve the basic policy problem we face,
    which will require accepting uncomfortable trade-offs, preferring doing
    nothing — allowing the status quo to fester — is politically easier” and
    wins elections! Meanwhile, McConnell who wins when he and his Senate
    minority republicans staged 420+ filibusters since he became Minority
    Leader in 2007 to establish historical record of filibusters to block a
    significant number of the President’s job creation legislation and
    appointments! So Demos what is the strategy now when put the results in
    context that red State Obstructionists are now in charge with their
    winning formula of Grand non-Achievements by the clowns that gets
    rewarded by red states for doing nothing except closing the down our
    Govt. and wasting $26 k in our tax funds? Hum…If its works for them,
    just maybe it will works for you? One side note isn’t interesting that
    all of these same elected red state republicans obstructed against the
    minimum wage. Yet, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voted to
    Stop the War on working Americans by raising their hourly rate.
    “Alaska’s measure will raise the minimum wage to $9.75 per hour by 2016
    and tie it to inflation moving forward. South Dakota’s minimum wage hike
    is also tied to inflation after its rise to $8.50 in 2014. Arkansas’
    minimum wage, which is currently below the federal minimum of $7.25,
    will rise incrementally to $8.50 by 2017. Nebraska will reach $9 by
    Hey NRA, In Washington state, opposing ballot initiatives sought to
    require and ban universal background checks for individuals attempting
    to purchase firearms, with voters backing the gun control legislation.

    • bckrd1

      Still sad that those amounts are still not enough to live on. I will also hazard a prediction that none of them implement them and repeal the minimum wage altogether. Another Republican goal right from the Koch sponsored ALEC bill factory.

  • EaglesGlen

    One solution. We American citizens pay a lot of taxes to government for goods and services we do not receive, illegal aliens do and that (in reality) is a foreign aid loan! Time to cut off aff funding to illegals and let illegals go to their embassy to get that foreign aid directly.
    Also time to cut off any Obama (special) funding of illegals and call in Obama’s special DACA and other funding foreign aid loans to Obama’s special illegals.

    • sigrid28

      We put far greater tax dollars into the coffers of big corporations than we do into the pockets of foreign workers or into foreign aid, for that matter. Why not end that first?

    • Lynda Groom

      Are you aware that illegals pay $11.2 billion dollars in state and local taxes each year? $1.2 in direct payroll taxes, $1.6 in property taxes and $8.4 in sales taxes. Keep in mind that GE Corporation paid zero ($0). Perhaps you should direct your anger where it truly belongs.

    • charleo1

      It sounds to me as if the corporate Capitalists, and their very clever snake oil peddlers, have got you just where they want you. So, for you, it’s the illegals, that’s to blame for the declining Middle Class Okay. You’re almost too easy. To you they’ll say, “Secure the border!” “Not a penny more welfare for the invaders!” “Round ’em up!” And what they’ll do, is absolutely nothing. Why? Because what you see as welfare benefits to the illegals. Their illegal employers see as profit enhancing subsidies, that tends to keep their labor costs down. Are you blaming Obama too? They would call that a two-fer. Not only have we been running this scam for the last 80 years. But this one thinks Obama has a, “Special Fund,” he wants cut off! Don’t feel bad. They’ve got some really great story tellers, and more than a few come ons. Some blame the immigrants. While others think the factory jobs are gone because unions drove the manufactures straight into the arms of the Chinese. Right! Straight to the arms of the 84 hour per week, no overtime, no benefits, $60 bucks a month, Chinese labor force. So let’s lower those corporate taxes to zero, and get rid of all those darn, pesky regulations, and get in there, and compete, compete, compete! Can’t you just feel the trickle down already?

    • Independent1

      Where are you getting all those fairytales?? Are you even aware that Obama has rounded up and deported more troublesome illegal aliens than any previous president?? More than 1.5 million of them!!
      And that when Alabama tried what you suggested, a large portion of the states agriculture farms and companies threatened to leave the state or go out of business because less than 6 months after the states strictest immigration law in the nation took effect, companies across the state couldn’t find the workers they needed to keep operating.And even Mercedes Benz threatened to pull its plant out of the state because of the negative backlash that the law was creating with all foreign nationals.

      And when are people such as yourself going to wake up and realize that without foreign aliens coming to America, and that includes illegals, America’s population would start declining because the birthrate for Americans born here is only about 1.89
      babies/couple; not enough to keep our population from declining- which would be a FAR BIGGER problem than any illegals may be causing. AND the fact is that, Hispanics, which includes illegals, actually create far less crimes than Americans born right here in good ole America. In California, whose population has the highest percentage of Hispanics in the nation, about 35%, has a prison population with only about 17% Hispanics (including illegals).

      Studies have shown that cities with large Hispanic population have less crimes than cities with fewer Hispanics (including illegals). And why, because despite what many may think, the majority of illegal aliens are in America to work so they can send money home to their families back in their home countries, there not here to commit crimes. They’re smart enough to know that should they become involved with law enforcement they would quickly be sent home. So illegal aliens are far more law abiding than Americans born right here in Good Ole America.

      And on top of the taxes Lynda quoted you on what illegals pay to help America, illegals contribute about 7 Billion dollars each year to Social Security that they don’t even build up credits for; and they pay into Medicare as part of the payroll deductions employers make for them helping to extend the life of Social Security and reduce some shortfall of Medicares expenses. And in a recent study done in Texas found that illegals contributed 18 Billion dollars to the Texas economy; which they do similarly in other states where they work to boost the economies.

      People like you need to wake up and stop listening to the lies and distortions about illegals that are constantly spewed by the GOP, Faux News and other RWNJ outlets.

  • We should forget the idea of creating jobs for every American who wants to work. Globalization and automation have foreclosed that likelihood for the foreseeable future. Instead we should work on creating relief and subsidy programs for Americans who need help. Whether would be make-work projects or cash transfers remains to be determined but one thing hasn’t: the private sector has failed America. Only government can save us.

  • midway54

    Just one third of eligible voters participated in the election despite what was at stake for the 99-percenters. The Plutocratic Party will be in the majority of the Senate and House come January and the rightwingers are planning a real circus with impeachment and repeal of Obamacare in the center ring and investigations on all kinds of topics in the other rings. All this under what these clowns perceive as the mandate given them by the voters.

    The so-called Democrats who lost to the Plutocratic Party candidates deserved to lose. Progressives are a very rare breed in our current federal and state governments. The most visible progressives are Senators Warren and Sanders who courageously speak out. What the country needs beginning now is a huge movement to support them and their agendas for the Country. The plutocrats and their principal flunkies in the media have a strong presence and successfully dupe a great host of people across the country exploiting religion and patriotism and maliciously lying about how concerned they are for the welfare of the American “peepul.” It is disgusting to hear Boehner and McConnell asserting that the American people are tired of this or that activity: The reality is that these two are telling us what the plutocracy and its serfs are tired of. Of course, the dupes lap this up and fly into a rage against those un-American liberals bent on destroying our Country, and the plutocrats are simply ecstatic about it.

    Meanwhile, the whole world is watching in bewilderment at all this, and especially those people in countries still in chaos that were invaded and bombed and undermined in order to reward them with a government of their own like the one they are now witnessing in the United States.