Is That all You Got?

In this Sunday’s New York Times[1] there was an article by Binyamin Appelbaum and Helen Cooper, which discussed the two major debate streams in the Obama White House.

On the one hand, it said, there were people like David Plouffe and William Daley, who want him to hover close to the center and do things that will get through the radical right wing fringe groups that seem to have taken over Congress. Things like patent reform for inventors and free trade agreements with Panama which might, maybe, eventually help the children or grand children of workers in the US who have been put out of work by free trade agreements with Panama. Workers are aghast at them, but big-business and the people whose re-elections they pay for like them a lot. AND they might have a chance at passing a Republican filibuster.

On the other hand, there are people like Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, who argues for what he calls BIG ideas like tax cuts for businesses that hire new workers. Now, tax cuts for businesses that hire people is not a bad idea (according to studies, they are the only tax cut that helps during a recession)

But the BIG question, it seems to me is: is this all you’ve got? Is it really the case that with the worst jobs recession in seventy years, and a possible future of decades of economic malaise and personal misery, is it really, really true that the only two options the President of the United States is considering are between doing nothing and doing almost nothing? We have 9.2 percent unemployment and 4.6 million homes that are near foreclosure. Is this all we are being offered? More tax cuts are considered a BIG idea? Is it a paucity of brains or of concern that causes this kind of vapid boring thinking? As Arianna Huffington notes in her recent book, Third World America, “Does anyone believe that the sense of urgency coming out of Washington (and here, I’d add the Obama White house) wouldn’t be wildly different if the unemployment rate for the top 10 percent of income earners was 31 percent?...Of course not---the sense of national emergency would b so great you’d hear air-raid sirens howling.”[2]

[1] “White House Debates Fight on Economy,” Binyamin Appelbaum and Helene Cooper (New York Times, August 13, 2011), p. A1.
[2] Arianna Huffington, third World America: How our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010), p. 13.

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