Obama Can't Ignore Skepticism After The Economic Tsunami

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I've been noticing a trend in the past week: Whenever anyone brings up the "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" question, Democrats sidestep instead of confronting it. They say the question isn't fair, and say how much worse things would have been without the stimulus. Their responses have the effect of being accurate - without exactly being true. Because while the economic numbers that politicians like to use - things like the GDP, new employment, etc. - are an accurate reflection of the things the investor class likes to know, they don't begin to express the real economic pain and the resulting class chasm. You can't "explain" to people that they're better off when they're not.

And that attitude ignores stories like this:

While a majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the middle range of wages, a majority of those added during the recovery have been low paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.

Or stories like this:

According to the Economic Policy Institute, almost 30% of American workers are expected to hold low-wage jobs – defined as earnings at or below the poverty line to support a family of four – in 2020. This number will remain virtually unchanged from 2010. Given that roughly 50% of recent college grads are unemployed or underemployed and those who do work are much more likely to hold these types of jobs, this is a particular grim prospect for young workers hoping to leave these positions behind for greener career pastures.

And how about all those people who lost the value of their homes, lost that equity, lost their jobs and are floundering in the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis? Here's Neal Barofsky:

[...] Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, using the same justifications now offered by DeMarco, consistently blocked efforts to use TARP funds already designated for homeowner relief through a principal reduction program that could have a meaningful impact on the overall economy.

For example, in 2009, $50 billion in TARP funds had been committed to help homeowners through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), a program that the president announced was intended to help up to 4 million struggling families stay in their homes through sustainable mortgage modifications. Hundreds of billions more were still available and could have been used by the White House and the Treasury Department to help support a massive reduction in mortgage debt. But Geithner avoided this path to a housing recovery, explaining that he believed it would be “dramatically more expensive for the American taxpayer, harder to justify, [and] create much greater risk of unfairness.” Treasury amplified that argument in 2010, after it reluctantly instituted a weak principal reduction program in response to overwhelming congressional pressure. That program incongruously left it to the largely bank-owned mortgage servicers (and to Fannie and Freddie) to determine if such relief would be implemented. In response to our criticism that the conflicts of interest baked into the program would render it ineffective unless principal reduction was made mandatory (when in the best interests of the holder of the loan), Treasury reinforced Geithner’s early statements, refusing to do so primarily because of fears of a lurking danger: the ”moral hazard of strategic default.” The message was clear: No way, no how would Treasury require principal reduction, even when Treasury’s analysis indicated it would be in the best interest of the owner, investor or guarantor of the mortgage.

How do we turn out the vote until the Obama administration openly acknowledges these conditions, those mistakes? If an ER doctor ordered the wrong dosage of antibiotics, and your child's infection grew life-threatening as a result, wouldn't you want, at the very least, an apology? Because that's what the administration did. They pushed an inadequate stimulus, they put bankers before voters, and they made things worse than they have to be. And we're still dealing with effects of long-term unemployment without help.

Instead, we get lofty lectures about the deficit. "Skin in the game". "Shared sacrifice."

In my home state, Pennsylvania, Republican Governor Tom Corbett is cutting off general assistance funds, which normally help the mentally handicapped survive. He's cutting the monthly food stamp allotment for a single person from about $190 to $33. Imagine. And the food banks are already spread too thin.

In my neighborhood, one bar is holding an "unemployment happy hour" -- at 8 a.m.

The streets are cleaner than ever, because people are fighting each other to pick up the scrap metal and aluminum cans to sell.

And then we're lectured about having "skin in the game"?

Granted, things aren't as bad as they would have been if the Republicans were in charge. But is that really supposed to make people feel better?

There is pain out here, and fear. They're skeptical. If President Obama wants to get these people out there to vote for him in November, he needs to tell people what he did wrong -- and how he's going to fix it.

He needs to be a populist Democrat who's on the side of working people. And if he doesn't do those things, he may as well resign himself to being a one-term president.

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