Americans, Our Work Is Cut Out For Us In 2011

obama bomber jacketAmerica has become a Third World Country

It is the end of another year, and quite a year it was. On a personal note, reflecting on life this holiday season, I am thankful for my wife Sarah, my family and good friends, and for my son Micah, who is about to turn a year old and is starting to run around the house. Yet, at the same time, I’m reminded of those we’ve lost, the empty seats at the table—my older son Ezra and his grandfather Al. We lost them physically, just months apart from each other, but they are still with us in a very real way. So this time of year, this time of reflection, can bring joy, sorrow and pain all in one big dosage.

These days, I feel acutely aware of the tremendous suffering people are experiencing in this country today. And I’m astounded by the callousness and indifference of politicians who have the power to change things, yet pretend everything is just fine, that it is business as usual. Those of you who follow my writings know that I’m always trying to make sense of the political world. I follow trends in society, interpret my findings and attempt to give solutions. But now I’m just stumped. Stumped, because the problem seems so simple and straightforward, yet the prescription remains elusive. And while optimism usually tempers my stinging critique of the world’s injustice, I don’t know how optimistic I can be, or should be, about the future of this country.

The problem is that the United States is falling apart. It has become a Third World country. Record numbers of people are unemployed. About 44 million are in poverty in America—14.3 percent of the population—and one in three working families is near poverty. Food stamp usage dependency has increased to 42.2 million this Thanksgiving, up 15 million from the start of the recession in December 2007. Millions have lost their homes, with 2.8 million foreclosures in 2009 alone, and an estimated 7.4 million between 2010 and 2012. Those who have lots never had so much of it, and those who have little never had it so bad. Most of all, there is no sense that things will improve, or that there is the political will to change it. And while we can talk about recessions and economic downturns, there is a sense that things are different this time around, that there will be no recovery in the traditional sense.

Nothing short of a massive mobilization of government will bring jobs to the millions of unemployed and underemployed, at wages that will enable them to support themselves and their families. After all, capitalism is being propped up now, and it cannot and will not supply the jobs. The fortunes of Wall Street and corporate America are not tied to Main Street, except to the extent that their prosperity seems to depend on everyone else’s misery.

And yet, where is the will among our so-called public servants? U.S. democracy has been thoroughly bought out by wealthy interests, and the federal legislature is broken, that is, unless you’re getting what you paid for. The Republicans are 100 percent owned by corporations, an unsavory amalgam of wingnuts, the greedy, segregationists, and Christian nationalists. Along with fear of their own shadow, Democrats’ allegiances to moneyed interests often prevent them from doing the right thing, and compel them to water down the good into the mediocre.

In the White House today sits perhaps one of the most brilliant individuals to ever grace the office, if only he appreciated his power. His accomplishments already are greater than many of his predecessors. But then again, the wave of populism that swept him in power came with it great expectations, however unrealistic. This president has failed to harness that populist energy to its full potential. He keeps his progressive base at arm’s length. He is non-confrontational, caves in too early on, capitulates, and doesn’t put up a fight. There’s not enough passion there, and too many status-quo, banker types at the table. And he prefers incrementalism when the times demand the bold change the people said they wanted.

Martin Luther King, a great leader often invoked by the president, dismissed those who urged him to not take direct action, and who counseled him against moving too fast: “The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter,” King said in Letter from Birmingham Jail. Today, other nations, developing and advanced alike, are investing heavily in new technologies, high-speed rail and green energy. The U.S. wastes its money on wars it cannot afford, more army than the rest of the planet combined, and tax cuts for the wealthy it really, really cannot afford. This, as most of its people suffer and its infrastructure crumbles into dust.

But at least, as a friend jokingly reminded me recently, “we have guns and extra value meals and thousands of channels.”

It is unrealistic to assume that one person, even the most powerful leader in the world, can solve the nation’s problems in two years. Years of bad policy from Bush and neoliberal Dems brought us to where we are today. What concerns me is the lack of a sense of urgency from this White House — that is, unless the administration is setting a trap for their adversaries, engaged in some multi-layered chess game that goes above my head and beyond my pay scale.

Called the negotiator-in-chief, the mediator-in-chief, even the half-stepper-in-chief, he apparently would compromise with people who would have his head, and they’ve told him as much. President Obama’s quixotic search for bipartisanship paid off for him at a rather steep price: a tax cut bill that represents the worst of politics and policy, a GOP utopia. How unconscionable to give millionaires and billionaires a holiday present when a multitude cannot afford to put food on the table! Americans need help now, yesterday even, and they have little time to wait and see how this apparent Clinton 2.0 triangulation strategy works out for the 2012 presidential campaign.

Looking ahead to 2011, the Democratic base needs to help President Obama out. They need to “make him” do certain things. They need to provide the cover that F.D.R.’s base provided him 70 years ago to enact the New Deal. Most of all, this administration needs a narrative, a communications strategy with clearly defined enemies. It has to be about the Wall Street vs. Main Street, corporate excess vs. the franks and beans of everyday hardworking people. “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made,” Roosevelt proclaimed. He said this of capitalistic greed and excess:

“Primarily this is because rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence….The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”

David A. LoveNow that’s what I’m talking about! But more importantly, this is not about President Obama, whose fate will be sealed in the ballot box, depending on how much or little his team will deliver. This is about a sustainable progressive movement that speaks to bread and butter issues, and will carry on regardless of who is president. 2011 must be about institution building—not an infrastructure for a presidential campaign, but a game plan for how we want this country to be, irrespective of party affiliation.

“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan,” King said. Let’s not die, let’s harden our minds, make it right, and get it done.

David A. Love

The BlackCommentator.


  1. Transparency says

    A sustainable progressive – democrat, republican, tea party – loyalty partnership for workers (unions) management. Businesses, universities, public agencies worldwide are into a phase of creative disassembly. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being shed. Even solid world class University of California Berkeley led by Chancellor Birgeneau is dismissing employees, faculty via “Operational Excellence (OE)”: 1,000 fired. Yet many continue to cling to an old assumption: implied, unwritten management-employee contract.

    Management promised work, upward progress for employees fitting in, employees accepted lower wages, performing in prescribed ways, sticking around. Longevity was a sign of good employer-employee relations; turnover was a dysfunction. None of these assumptions apply in the 21 century economy. Businesses, universities, public institutions can no longer guarantee careers, even if they want to. Managements paralyzed themselves with a strategy of “success brings successes” rather than “successes bring failure’ and are now forced to break implied contract with employees – a contract nurtured by management that future can be controlled.

    Jettisoned employees are however finding that hard won knowledge, skills, earned while loyal are no longer desired in 21st century employment markets.
    What contract can employers, employees make with each other?

    The central idea is simple, powerful: job is a shared partnership.
    • Employers, employees face financial conditions together; longevity of partnership depends on how well customers, constituencies needs are met.
    • Neither management nor employee has future obligation to the other.
    • Organizations train people.
    • Employees create security they really need – skills, knowledge that creates employability in 21st century economies
    • The management-employee loyalty partnership can be dissolved without either party considering the other a traitor.

    Let there be light

  2. Elaine says

    David Love – I responded to one of your articles a while back and about the time I was ready to submit my internet explorer went down and I lost it. The thing was so lengthy I just gave up. It had been giving me trouble all that day, so some of my comments may have been misdirected to you that day. But, in my opinion, you make too much of Obama and overlook the fact the man had no experience in running anything like a business or governor’s position. He fought for those who wanted and some who needed help from the government, his total idea was that the government should support all those that did not work or preferred to be taking care of. We are not yet a third world country but we are so close we can almost touch it. That is why we had no business signing that Stark Treaty. We need to be able to defend ourselves because just about every country out there hates us in one way or another and will be coming after us because they have been watching to see how long it is going to take Obama to take us down. That is what he was coached in for years and I am not sure who all the Puppet Masters are but I know there is more then one. If you think it is bad now I am so afraid of what is going to be coming next but it is going to be hard for us to succeed if we can succeed at all.
    Abraham Lincoln said we cannot be destroyed by someone from the outside but we have to be destroyed from the inside out and in my opinion Obama has done a pretty good job of that.

  3. Joshua says

    This is what happens to a “service based economy” when the majority of the people cannot afford the the services. Traditionally middle class jobs suffered due to manufacturing moving outside the country and illegal immigrants flooding the construction industry. Both these things happened with the help of the powers to be on both sides of the aisle.

    How to fix it? The awefull truth is , we cannot compete in a global market, between enviromental concerns,high taxation, high wages, the price of doing business in the US is astronomical compared to Asia.

    The Germans made a niche for themselves by focusing on a small group of comsumers , the wealthy and manufacturing companies. The US went for volume catering to the worldwide middle class.

    Can any of our goods compete against local products in China or India or Brazil on Price? NO, We are priced out of the largest potential Markets in the world. They can make the same widgets we can, so can Europe, so who do we sell to? They have high tariffs on our goods on top that, which only makes it more difficult.We can start a trade war, but then everone loses.

    Barring another world war, that smashes everyones industrial base , except ours (like WWII), we are done, our time has come to an end.

  4. Joe Weinstein says

    Obama served as a great symbol of promise and his analytical rhetoric even now is often unusually insightful. But the action does not back up either the symbolism or the rhetoric. Whereas FDR fought and even delivered, Obama scarcely does. So it’s time to move beyond symbolism and erstwhile hopes that a promise would become something more.

    “This is about a sustainable progressive movement that speaks to bread and butter issues, and will carry on regardless of who is president. 2011 must be about institution building—not an infrastructure for a presidential campaign, but a game plan for how we want this country to be, irrespective of party affiliation.

    “A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan,” King said. Let’s not die, let’s harden our minds, make it right, and get it done.

    Yes, very well said!

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