January 21, 2010

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

Interesting to see the Democratic Party continue to pile on Martha Coakley as the primary factor in losing the special Senatorial election up in Massachusetts, and thereby losing the filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.  Sure, she was a bad candidate and didn't campaign well, but there might be a bigger picture here.  A larger message about the party in power, and the way Washington governs.  First things first, though, the Republicans who are crowing like it's an affirmation of the GOP way of life and a portent for the huge upcoming Republican revolution, well, stop patting each other on the ass, and just shut the hell up and sit down.   Noone likes you.   Bragging now is like congratulating yourself for not getting wood on your wedding night.   You can rationalize it all you want, but all you did was "not lose."  Show some dignity and decorum, for once.  Please.

But for all the retarded line-dancing the Republicans are doing, the active state of denial the Democrats are in could be worse.   Speaking as a card-carrying member of the rapidly shrinking middle class, I can firmly and solemnly aver that the Democrats do not "get it."  At all.  I like Obama.   I earnestly and enthusiastically voted for Obama, and most likely will again, particularly if the GOP puts up the white trash princess from Alaska as opposition.  But I'm genuinely disappointed, slightly disinterested, and bordering on disillusioned at this point.  President Obama swept into office on a wave of promise and hope, and unfortunately or fortunately based on your perspective, those were intrinsically connected to a firm set of expectations.   Few of which have been met.   Yes, he inherited a shit storm from the Bush crime syndicate, yes, he's only been in a year, and yes, he has accomplished a bunch of positive policy measures and initiatives that have more or less flown under the radar.  But when you elect a rock star, you don't expect the first quarter of the concert to be new experimental material and "B" sides.   You expect the executive office equivalent of "Stairway to Heaven" or "Free Bird."   If anything, it seems like the best music is being played for private corporate parties.  And that stings and burns.  At least with Bush, I had diminished expectations to the point of being happy if I wasn't outraged once or twice a week.   I don't know what I was expecting with Obama, but it wasn't "well, any watered-down health care legislation is better than none.  There's a hiccup there in Boston.  Oops, not enough time.  Let's pivot back to the economy."

If the Democrats don't understand that the gamemap is changing, by factors on a macroeconomic level, they're obviously not paying attention.   Let's look at some basic economic facts (all obtained from non-biased sources):
  •  The median household income in this country is flat as a pancake.  We've actually lost earning power over the last decade.  The average median earnings for a man in this country is only about $41,000.  The average median income for a woman is shockingly only about $31,500.   That's pre-tax, of course.
  • 1 in 9 families can't make minimum payments on their credit cards.
  • 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month.
  • Families have lost over $5 trillion from pensions and savings over the last five years.
  • There are 40 million Americans living in poverty.
  • A quarter of this country is either unemployed, underemployed, or working multiple part-time jobs without benefits. 
This is why independents are abandoning Democratic candidates in droves, and why more people of both political parties are going independent in the first place.   We're in full-on crisis mode.  So if you're in power, and the situation isn't changing one iota, why should anyone vote for you?  Everyone has a story to tell in the middle class.  I have a girlfriend who isn't my girlfriend because she can't find a job after a year, despite a master's degree, a good skill set, and a willingness to move anywhere on the Eastern seaboard.  So she's living with her parents while in her late twenties because she doesn't have a choice.  I have two friends in law who got recently laid off, after years and years of big firm experience, who now do low pay commissioned sales and are waiting for temp work.  I have relatives who can't afford Christmas and others who pass up going to the doctor for the co-pays.  I know friends who have debt that matches or exceeds their annual earnings, and with the credit card companies going for the jugular before the new rules start in February with APRs around 30% and increased fees, they'll be paying that until long past retirement age, if they don't default first.  And those are relatively benign.  But they're representative of the disconnect between those in power and those who aren't.   Frankly, where's the end-game?

The Republicans sure aren't the answer.   These are the ass-clowns who want to privatize Social Security.  Take money earned over a lifetime, and invest it all in companies that are exporting America's manufacturing and service jobs overseas.   There's the Republican cure for the middle class.  Eliminate it by effectively funding corporations to whack both the job and the quality of life after the job.  That'll leave us with the poor and the ultra-rich, like a banana republic in South America.   Less riff-raff at the Nordstrom's, though.  It's no wonder why GM or Ford can't compete.  Korean and Japanese car companies have governments who pay for the expenses of their middle class workers, including healthcare, child care and their retirement accounts.   And the Chinese simply don't pay their manufacturing workers a comparable wage.  On a scale of 1-10, the average American worker gets paid the level of a 3 or a 4 (it used to be 5-6 after World War II and in the sixties, adjusted for inflation).  The average Chinese worker is a 0 or 1. 

Still, it's pretty clear that at this point we can't reanimate the middle class manufacturing sector back in the United States.  After World War II, the U.S. manufacturing sector's only main competitor was Canada.  Europe and Asia were in ruins.  Now, we compete with Europe, Japan, Korea, China, India, and half of the developing world in manufacturing.  Our labor costs are intrinsically too high, without government subsidization of the legacy costs of the middle class, as other countries, from Japan to Germany, have accomplished.   But that apparently stinks too much like socialism.  So shut up and eat your dollar value meal.

So Democrats in power, listen up.   Here are a few immediate suggestions for improving your relations with the middle class.
  • We're spending two and a half billion dollars a DAY in Iraq.  Most of us stepped into the ballot boxes in November thinking we'd be out of that shithole within sixteen months or so.  Cut off the war profiteers, contractors, and other war-based federal teat-milkers.  Take that two and a half billion dollars a day and put it into college grants, urgent medical care centers, job training, and Internet/broadband expansion and installation, and other middle class necessities.  Alternatively, lower the federal gas tax, satellite tax, and other hidden "deaths by a thousand cuts."
  • Freeze the maximum interest rate allowable by credit card companies at 7 or 8 points over prime.  Period.  The credit card companies don't like it?  Fuck them.  Their decisions to hand out credit cards to college students without incomes, family pets, and other undesirables shouldn't be given a free pass years after the default rates exploded.  These parasites are killing the middle class, suppressing spending, and siphoning off billions of dollars that would otherwise funnel back into the overall economy.  
  • Regulate to make 30 year fixed mortgage rates available in all cases.  Available, not mandatory.   But leaving the only option to home ownership to spinning the roulette wheel of variable adjustable rates is a recipe for destruction.  If you can't qualify, you don't qualify. 
  • Regulate a moratorium on annual non-housing state and local personal property taxes, i.e., lock them in and/or eliminate them over time.  Particularly car taxes and taxes on other middle class necessities.   Not yachts.  We pay enough taxes, and we already pay taxes up-front upon initial purchase.  Subsidize state and county budgets until the shortfalls get eliminated over the next few years.  
That's a start, it's tangible, and it's immediately effective.  Yes, this costs money.   Call it a bailout or a TARP fund for the middle class.  And it's absolutely necessary.                          


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