Yesterday I marched with thousands of fellow union members down Woodward, the historic main artery of downtown Detroit. The major, senators and others were out in force, as the parade ended near where Obama was to address the group hours later.
The speech was a disappointment. Yes, he appeared genuine, in shirtsleeves. Yes, he gave an articulate speech, with plenty of warm references to union leaders and frequent snippets of union orthodoxy. He even spoke truth about the role of unions in helping to build America's middle class and the problem of wage stagnation in its decline.
But there was no flame there. The right-wing crazies who appear out to destroy unions, the middle class, and just about everything in the New Deal got barely one mention. The corporatist agenda that puts Big Business and its BigWig beneficiaries at the top of Washington's priority list not only got no call-out; it got some of those key phrases like "shared sacrifices" that mean, in reality, hit the working class hard and continue to give big breaks to the managers and owners of corporate America and the ''partners' getting low capital gains rates on their wages. Instead of taking on those who are waging class warfare on everybody but the elitist few who have reaped the most benefits from tax cuts while greedily keeping all the productivity gains from workers hard work for themselves, Obama continues to treat right wing ideological dogma espoused by the crazies on the Tea Party fringe as though it were worthwhile economic thinking. The speech didn't change that.
And the right wing fringe is going to keep insisting on its dogmatic, ideological, and wrongheaded 'policies' of tax cuts for the well-to-do combined with decimation of unemployment benefits, Medicare, Social Security.
What Obama should do is sound the call to arms in today's class warfare. It is high time that this country recognized that the economic well-being of ordinary Americans in the bottom 80% of the income and wealth distribution is the new 'civil right' issue for the 21st century. Yes, race and ethnicity and gender still matter. Yes, we still are a country that discriminates in favor of wealthy white men who look ruggedly handsome and virile and against poor blacks, middle class muslims, and women of any color. But we have made progress on race, ethnicity and gender discrimination and it is now harder for an outright bigot to espouse outright bigotry without getting called on it.
The new civil rights issue is class status. Whether black or another ethnic minority or female or poor white male, those who don't have much are at the mercy of the 'have-more' class of former prez GW Bush. The Have-Mores take more out of their corporations and pay even less in taxes. The Have-Mores live in a tax haven where they get close to zero taxation on most of their capital gains and income and still complain about the 'burden' of taxation, and tend to blame the country's middle class and poor for all those problems. Why, they even blame our ridiculous health care costs on the 'irresponsibility' of medical care decisions, like the decision to use ER care in a hospital rather than preventative care, or the decision to go to a more expensive surgeon rather than to a cheap one. (Of course, the fact that the poor don't really have any choice in the matter gets ignored, and the fact that medical doctors are overpaid while the typical worker is underpaid is swept under the table.)
And the right-wing crazies make no bones about their intent. They don't care if they destroy the country--the economic terrorism they exercised in the made-for-FOX News 'debt crisis' is proof. Why, the Wall Street Journal carries an op-ed today by William McGurn. The President's Speech Impediment, Wall St. Journal, Sept. 6, 2011, at A19, that states it clearly: the only way Obama can really make a difference in creating jobs would be to use public spending to create public jobs to do needed public work, as FDR did after the Great Depression, but that would "massively increas[e] the deficit, and the Republicans won't let him do that. Even with the word 'stimulus' banished from his remakrs this week, no one will be fooled by new calls to 'invest' in roads and bridges and infrastructure. Or by the expected hodgepodge of other proposals from extending the payrool tax holiday to tax credits for new hires." Nope, those things are truly the kinds of public intervention in the economy that could turn the tide of this Great Recession in favor of the working class, and the Republicans in Congress won't stand for that.