Many years ago, when Richard Nixon was president, he was making a speech about one thing or another in Washington when all of a sudden a loud chant arose from the audience; “Jobs – Jobs- Jobs!” That was the audience’s way of letting him know their most pressing priorities and that they didn’t give a rat’s ass about anything else their president might have to say that day. There was a serious recession going on and a lot of people were out of work. They needed jobs, not rhetoric. Maybe President Obama will start hearing the “Jobs” chorus pretty soon.
Americans heard him talking about green energy jobs during the election campaign. They remember very well his ideas about getting the economy started back up again after the Greeding Frenzy of 2008 nearly bankrupted the entire world. They figured that after the banks and auto giants were bailed out with their own tax dollars, they would be next, and jobs would be a huge priority for the Obama administration. Strategy in Afghani-who-gives-a-shit-stan is today dominating the headlines along with the curiously tepid efforts to control the final shape of the health care reform bill. Maybe the unemployed are starting to feel that Obama will let Congress decide when the government will get serious about getting the country back to work.
People understand that Obama inherited a horrible situation after 8 years of the worst presidency ever and into the foreseeable future. The economy was wrecked, the Bill of Rights under attack, a major city still devastated four years after a storm, two endless wars with no game plan were being waged and homes were being foreclosed upon at the highest rate since the Great Depression. Worst of all, unemployment was skyrocketing, and the working classes don’t have months and years to figure out solutions to their problems. Most working people live paycheck to paycheck paying some very stiff dues for inclusion in the American Dream, those dues coming in the form of monthly bills to feed, clothe, shelter and educate their families.
Obama got a pass in the early months of his presidency, with people thinking that the bailout of the billionaires was a necessary evil to get the economy back on track. Only thing is, the banks are telling the world that they’re making money again but have not invested in anything remotely connected to providing jobs for American workers. The most creative new initiative they’ve thought up is to buy old people’s life insurance policies for less that their face value, package them into bonds like did with shaky mortgages and sell them as the best thing since Double Stuff Oreos. Which will work only if not too many of the old people inconveniently live longer than expected. Then who will they blame for their massive losses, the life-hogging grannies and old coots who refuse to die to make them profits? No wonder they want to cut Medicare.
And when desperate workers read that Ken Lewis, the boss of all bosses at Bank of America and one of the major architects of the Greeding Frenzy, will be “retiring” with a $53 million pension and that many banks are starting to hand out their stockholders’ money to one another in the form of obscene bonuses once again, patience tends to wear a little thin. As much as most Americans want all the major financial industry executives to step down after their massive failures, we wonder if we can afford their Golden Parachutes, and wonder even more why they get any severance package other than an orange prison jumpsuit. After all, any worker anywhere knows that when you screw up on a grand scale you’re fired, and when you cheat and steal you’re arrested, and are just naive enough to ask why this is different when you make $30 million a year.
And then American workers look at the Obama administration and don’t perceive any sense of urgency about anything at all. Whether it is heath care, global warming, ending two wars where we completely defeated the enemies’ armies years ago (pretty much the textbook definition of winning a war), seeking energy alternatives or something as minor as closing a tiny military prison in Cuba, this administration acts like they have all the time in the world. Which they just might, given the fact that Republicans can’t shoot themselves in the foot (when they’re not shoving it in their mouths) often enough, but the Democratic Party grip on power doesn’t help unemployed workers that need help now. Make that yesterday.
To quote James Carvell’s mantra to Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy, stupid!” That reminder is what won Clinton the White House after 12 years of patrician Republican rule that oversaw the transfer of trillions of dollars in wealth from the working classes to the wealthy, a feat accomplished again to a far greater degree by Bush The Younger and Shotgun Dick Cheney. Their tax cut to the ruling elite was the largest peacetime transfer of assets from the working classes to the wealthy in recorded history. It would not be too much to ask our new president to reverse that broad daylight robbery and force the rich to pay taxes again. Maybe get some of their blue-chip corporations off welfare too.
When the richest 400 Americans own an average of $3.7 billion in wealth and the top 1% has more wealth than the bottom 95% combined, there is something almost monarchistic about America. The disparity between haves and have-nots has never been greater in our democracy. The Socialist handouts to wealthy individuals and corporations make a mockery of our so-called capitalist system of business, especially when these recipients of government handouts mount campaigns to deny social benefits to working class Americans who actually need them. So the next time President Obama is making a speech, he shouldn’t be surprised to hear a rousing chorus of “Jobs – Jobs – Jobs!”