After the narrow loss on health care, corporate America and the GOP are setting the stage for a November showdown with President Obama and Democrats by manufacturing a crisis they can "solve." Much of what you will see, read and hear between now and the midterm general election is nothing more than the paid advertising of a few very rich people who manipulate your fears and prey on your anxieties to serve their own ends.
Take the phony drum beat on jobs. There are three primary sources of jobs in the United States. Big business. Small business. Government.
Big corporations, by way of their mouthpieces, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republicans, claim that they cannot hire as they whine about the "uncertainty" of the regulatory environment, a weak excuse for parking billions in profits on the sidelines.
Small businesses could provide the jobs numbers some needed relief, but the Republicans have stalled the package of tax incentives and stimulus that they want, and are waiting for.
That leaves government, which has already run through the majority of its employment-related stimulus money, as the one employer that can impact the numbers hypothetically, but which is largely not creating any new hiring agenda in an election year.
So the unemployment number burgeons, lumbering ominously towards 10%.
It is a phony number though. It is being artificially inflated by those who fear real change and regulation that can prevent some of the catastrophes we have endured.
Their mission is simple: Generate enough anger and angst in the electorate to force voters to vote for the very party who landed us in this economic mess in the first place. Change the political dynamic so they can defeat Wall Street reforms in the name of "job creation."
While individual Americans have been suffering, a leaner, meaner corporate America has been getting fat. AT&T has seen its revenue grow 25% over the last three years. Oil companies like ExxonMobil have booked between $3.1 and $4.7 billion a year over these "lean" years. Bank of America took bailout money, paid it back and boasts 80% revenue growth over the last three years. Asset management firm BlackRock, which was one of the big players in the overheating of the stock market, booked $4.7 to $5.0 billion in profits over this "troubled" time.
These exceptional results are not unique. A lot of foreign and U.S.-based corporate titans have done pretty well over the last two years, wiping down or out whatever damage may have hit them three years ago when they started shedding jobs. America's biggest corporations are sitting on mountains of cash. Sitting on the sidelines. Not hiring.
Why not put it back to work now?
Timing. Right now, corporate America is making an investment in their future. Their political arm, the GOP, is preaching "tax fairness," which is in reality extending the tax cuts for the 2% of the richest people in this country. They propose to "stimulate" the economy in the same way that caused the meltdown of the housing market and the tanking of the economy, and promise not only to strip away regulations on these barbary pirates, but unleash investigations of the majority party that will snarl government for another two years at least.
Historically midterm elections favor the party out of power. Flat-lining the job market until the election drives up discontent and amps up voter anger enough that they will go Bush-blind just long enough to vote Republican.
Their moves are cynical, manipulative, and they are working.
Pundits are falling for the job numbers story without doing their homework on the corporate side to see a pretty healthy corporatocracy retying their strings to their puppet sticks.
There is a lot of real pain out there, to be sure. The unemployment rate is unacceptably high nationally, and skyrocketing in some states into the mid-double-digits. People are losing their homes, their kids' futures, and their patience with Big-G Government.
The problem is that we have a government that isn't governing. We have seen a historic record intransigence by the party out of power. The GOP has used the senatorial filibuster to bring the entire government to a standstill on major legislation, and the death of Senator Kennedy has only added complication to the situation in the Senate.
Steven Hurst at the AP reports:
In the 110th Congress of 2007-2008, with Republicans in the minority, there were a record 112 cloture votes. In the current session of Congress -- the 111th -- for all of 2009 and the first two months of 2010 the number already exceeds 40. The most the filibuster has been used when Democrats were in the minority was 58 times in the 106th Congress of 1999-2000.
"The numbers are astonishing in this Congress," says Jim Riddlesperger, political science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth in an AP article.
President Obama told Americans at his inauguration that change would be difficult, and that the road ahead would have these kinds of challenges, but our instant-gratification culture, and nanosecond news-cycle world is geared towards extreme reactions in the immediate moment.
The people who sell us soap and insurance and our homes want us to be good consumers, and stay in our place, modestly frightened of the bogeymen mosques and the mirage cast over the labor pool that they put out to keep us from seeing that they are using their considerable economic might to manipulate our compliance.
The Tea Party is not a grassroots movement. As Frank Rich in the New York Times points out:
There's just one element missing from these snapshots of America's ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the "death panel" warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You've heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs' banner may not know who these brothers are.
Murdoch's pot-stirring is cynically geared towards the enrichment of Fox News. The Koch Brothers, on the other hand, who sell you everything from Dixie Cups to the Lycra in womens' underwear, are ideologues. They're from a Who's Who family of wealthy right-wing extremists.
Father Fred was a John Bircher railing against communism and the socialist policies of FDR.
David Koch ran to the right of Reagan in the 80's, pulling 1% of the vote for the abolition federal regulatory agencies all welfare including Social Security, the FBI, the CIA and public schools.
Throughout the history of this great nation, wealthy whack-jobs have sponsored so-called "populist" movements from the anti-FDR "Liberty League" to today's Tea Party.
The problem is that America has become little more than a Pavlovianly conditioned consumer culture, seeking a lot of personal gratification from food to the latest gadget, blissfully surfing the web and making new BFFs on Facebook.
We become less relevant internationally by the day as we pull father away from the rest of the world on everything from global warming, which Republicans largely deny along with evolution. A large chunk of this country sits transfixed before Murdoch's magic mirror, Fox News, a warped recasting of patriotism that causes too many Americans to become narcissistically nostalgic.
They make it easy, fun even, for a lot of folks who wrap themselves up in the Jerry Springeresque simple comforts of a TV visit to Glenn Beckistan, or a folksy Palin moment, where she stands draped fashionably in the flag, shedding a tear for a white America that has lost its honor, its roots, its rightful place in the world. Lower the lights. Cue the commercial for Goldline.
The people who overcooked our economy, sent your jobs overseas, and gave the keys to companies like Halliburton to drain the treasury through one needless war and one badly executed war, are now asking you to turn the keys of government over to the party that represents them, the Republicans.
Yet they have not governed in the last two years. They have not worked constructively for the benefit of this great nation. We are, apparently, supposed to blindly trust that the GOP somehow will develop an answer, and agenda, get a clue, that they did not have two years ago as the nation was crumbing around their Nero, George W. Bush. John Boehner promised one last week, but we heard nothing more than the same Democratic slams, half-truths and mendacities that are his stock-and-trade.
They're counting on our anger and our apathy to turn on the Democrats for their bad acts. They channel it with Mosques and misdirections. They want you to be dumb enough to stick it to yourself (again).
Don't let them win. Get out and vote for the Democrats. True, they're far from perfect, but at least they have been trying to govern this country. You can argue that their repeated extension of the olive branch to try and get consensus with the Republicans was foolish.
On the other hand, maybe the America that Barack Obama envisions in the future, the one where we can coexist and our political parties can govern constructively rather than just seize power, may not be such a crazy idea for our future stability after all.
If you vote Republican, you can guarantee that the only people who win in the next election will be sitting in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street. Wake up, America, and smell the coffee in your Dixie Cup. You are being played. Be smarter than they think you are.
My shiny two.