Op-Ed Roundup: What Does It Take To Wake Them Up?

The opinion columnists aren't very happy with the president or Congress lately. Bob Herbert, who is perhaps the only major columnist we have covering the economic reality of the working class, the poor and the recently-impoverished middle class, sounds as despairing as most liberal bloggers:

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Job losses, stagnant or reduced wages over the past decade, and the loss of home equity when the housing bubble burst have combined to take a horrendous toll on families who thought they had done all the right things and were living the dream. A great deal of that bleeding is in the suburbs. The study, compiled by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, said, “Suburbs gained more than 2.5 million poor individuals, accounting for almost half of the total increase in the nation’s poor population since 2000.”

Democrats in search of clues as to why voters are unhappy may want to take a look at the report. In 2008, a startling 91.6 million people — more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population — fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is a meager $21,834 for a family of four.

The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

Frank Rich doesn't sound any happier, does he?

The smartest thing said as the Massachusetts returns came in Tuesday night was by Howard Fineman on MSNBC: “Obama took all his winnings and turned them over to Max Baucus.”

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Worse, the master communicator in the White House has still not delivered a coherent message on his signature policy. He not only refused to signal his health care imperatives early on but even now he, like Congressional Democrats, has failed to explain clearly why and how reform relates to economic recovery — or, for that matter, what he wants the final bill to contain. Sure, a president needs political wiggle room as legislative sausage is made, but Scott Brown could and did drive his truck through the wide, wobbly parameters set by Obama.

Ask yourself this: All these months later, do you yet know what the health care plan means for your family’s bottom line, your taxes, your insurance? It’s this nebulousness, magnified by endless Senate versus House squabbling, that has allowed reform to be caricatured by its foes as an impenetrable Rube Goldberg monstrosity, a parody of deficit-ridden big government. Since most voters are understandably confused about what the bills contain, the opponents have been able to attribute any evil they want to Obamacare, from death panels to the death of Medicare, without fear of contradiction.

Yep. That's why health care reform is polling so low in some surveys - it's not that people don't want it, it's that they know the current incarnation is a confusing mess that will only add to their too-heavy financial burdens.

Tom Friedman warns Obama that Americans don't like angry politicians, we like "inspirational, hopeful" ones. As usual, he's largely oblivious -- although he has figured out people are angry. He just hasn't seemed to notice we've sort of soured on the "hopeful" meme just lately.

Longtime Villager George Will also warns Obama not to get too rowdy:

If Obama can now resist the temptation of faux populism, if he does not rage, like Lear on the heath, against banks, he can be what Americans, eager for adult supervision, elected him to be: a prudent grown-up. For this elegant and intelligent man to suddenly discover his inner William Jennings Bryan ("You shall not crucify America upon a cross of credit-default swaps") would be akin to Fred Astaire donning coveralls and clodhoppers.

Now, George. I'm sure you didn't mean to tie the African-American president of the United States to a tapdancer, did you? (Do you also call him "Bojangles"?)

The Broder thinks John Cornyn is "low key." (Maybe he should switch to club soda.)

And Ruth Marcus is stunned over the SCOTUS decision this week (go read the rest, it's good):

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In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

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