Robert Reich: Issue Number One — the overriding concern that will determine more than anything how many seats the Dems lose next fall — is jobs. If unemployment is 10 percent or more next November, the Dems are in danger of losing the House and will almost certainly be short of the 60 votes they need in the Senate.
Joseph Palermo: We can call the 2000s the “Worse Than Zero” decade or the “Big Zero,” or anything we wish, but what characterized it most for me was the near total control of corporations, especially over our civic institutions. All of the terrible economic and governing ideas from the Reagan era crested and then crashed in the last eighteen months leaving something far less than “zero” in their wake.
It behooves everyone in Congress to demand that big banks, the overnight recipients of billion-dollar bail-outs, renegotiate loans in bankruptcy court. After all, we must remember these banks, the ones we bailed out, caused the financial meltdown with predatory sub-prime lending.
In remarks to a health reform forum in March, Barack Obama acknowledged, ‘The greatest threat to America’s fiscal health … is the skyrocketing cost of health care.’ How he deals with this danger will arguably be as important for the historical reputation of his presidency as his foreign policy initiatives to safeguard national security.
Why didn’t Obama deliver this speech when he spoke to bankers on Wall Street a few months ago? Better late than never, I suppose, and bankers are slightly more likely to pay attention to Volcker than to Obama as evidenced by the fact that several major US bank CEOs turned down the invitation to hear the president speak.
No president in modern times walks a tightrope as exquisitely as this one. His balance is a thing of beauty. But when it comes to this economy right now — an economy fundamentally out of balance — we need a federal government that moves boldly and swiftly to counter-balance the huge recessionary forces still at large
The nation’s unemployment rate is at 10.2 percent, a 26-year high. These people will be waiting to hear Obama explain how adding to the $10 billion monthly price tag for Iraq and Afghanistan will help them find work. African American men, 17.1 percent of whom are unemployed, want a word from Obama on this,” wrote Columnist Colbert King in the Washington Post last week.
The $75 billion federal program designed to bribe banks to modify mortgages has been a bust. No one knows the exact number of mortgages that have been modified (that will be reported next month) but housing experts I’ve talked with say it’s a tiny fraction of the number of homeowners in trouble. Seems that the big banks can’t be bothered.
In the Great Recession of 2008-2009, companies are going a step further. They’re using this sharp downturn to cut payrolls even below where they were when times were good. Outsourcing abroad, setting up shop in China and elsewhere, contracting out, replacing people with software and automated machines – they’re doing whatever it takes to get payrolls down so earnings bounce up.
The dirty little secret on both sides of the Pacific is that both America and China are capable of producing far more than their own consumers are capable of buying. In the U.S., the root of the problem is a growing share of total income going to the richest Americans, leaving the middle class with relatively less purchasing power unless they go deep into debt.
What’s happening to the lives of the legions out of work – particularly the young men and women – has to take second place to the fortune of the President and his party. The human crisis would be real regardless of who is in the Oval Office and is what should move the President and the Congress to do the right thing.
If Obama and the Democrats lose one or both houses of Congress in the midterms, it will be because the president learned only the most superficial lesson of the Clinton years. Health-care reform is critically important. But when one out of six Americans is unemployed or underemployed, getting the nation back to work is more so.
The Congress, always in hock to Wall Street, is dragging its feet in passing anything near the sweeping regulatory restructuring that is needed if we are to prevent Goldman Sachs and the rest of the gang from exploiting their “moral hazard” by using the federal treasury as the mother of all “credit default swaps.”