Howard Dean made the sharpest comparison yet between what the protesters in Egypt are standing for, why they're standing for it, and why we should pay attention to similar circumstances in this country. His key point is toward the middle of the video, where he says this:
The fact of the matter is when social inequality and wage inequality gets too large, you have social instability. we are in a position now where we are in trouble in this country. I wouldn't say we could be Egypt next week, but people really are disillusioned by the government and corporations. They don't trust any institution very much, and that's why. I think the President missed a chance to say that in front of the Chamber. he would have gotten i think a lot of credit from the American people if he had.
I don't agree that saying it to the Chamber would have gotten a lot of credit from the American people. I doubt most people would even know he'd said it, and if they did, it would have been so twisted up that it would have played as a negative, given today's environment. But what Governor Dean says about inequality is right on the money.
Granted, in this country we have elections. Egypt doesn't. And in this country we have free speech and ostensibly, freedom of the press. Egypt doesn't. Finally, in this country there is still a social safety net, which Egypt does not have. In those respects, we are much different from Egypt. But when it comes to income and wealth inequality, the US surpasses Egypt, and it has indeed fostered mistrust in government and business.
Further, the Citizens United decision lends itself to further distrust, because the corporate "person's" voice will carry farther and louder than any one citizen will. Look no further than the Koch Brothers' bought-and-paid-for Energy and Commerce Committee in the House. Never in my lifetime has there been a more obvious subversion of democracy than the 2010 midterm elections. I know this isn't news to many of you reading this, but it really is important for our "side" to begin to shift the conversation away from the right-wing tropes and come around to a real discussion of what "redistribution of wealth" means, what it is, what it isn't, and why the last 30 years represent a consistent governmental redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the upper tier.
While I don't necessarily think a speech at the United States Chamber of Commerce would be the place for that, I do see that message lacking overall from what we're hearing from the White House. 99ers should be interviewed on The Last Word, to tell their side of what it's like to be "downsized" and have wealth redistributed to the corporations who "downsized" them to begin with. Prosperity and recovery shouldn't be measured by what the Dow closes at, but by whether more people can afford to put food on the table without government or charitable assistance.
Bob Herbert's editorial in today's New York Times says it far better than I:
Corporate profits and the stock markets are way up. Businesses are sitting atop mountains of cash. Put people back to work? Forget about it. Has anyone bothered to notice that much of those profits are the result of aggressive payroll-cutting — companies making do with fewer, less well-paid and harder-working employees?
For American corporations, the action is increasingly elsewhere. Their interests are not the same as those of workers, or the country as a whole. As Harold Meyerson put it in The American Prospect: “Our corporations don’t need us anymore. Half their revenues come from abroad. Their products, increasingly, come from abroad as well.”
American workers are in a world of hurt. Anyone who thinks that politicians can improve this sorry state of affairs by hacking away at Social Security, Medicare and the public schools are great candidates for involuntary commitment.
Lawrence and Governor Dean alluded to a very important part of the President's speech yesterday, which Mike Lux wrote about in detail. The president's framing of the importance of government regulations in commerce was excellent and important. Wrapping it all up with a call to patriotism was also excellent and important. But now it's time to move past catering to these Birchers and start calling the entire country to patriotism, which means ending the meme of "me" and beginning a realistic discussion of poverty, inequality, and how best to change that.
Transcript follows (It's the MSNBC transcript that accompanies their video, so all typos, errors and other problems are entirely theirs):
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