The Current Income Inequality And Job Creation Crisis

I'm reading Eric Foner's latest book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American slavery. In the preface of the book, Foner discusses Lincoln's historical relationship to abolitionist activists:

Lincoln, many recent scholars have argued, acted within the narrow limits of the possible, as established by Northern public opinion. Public opinion however, is never static; the interactions of enlightened political leaders, engaged social movements, and day to day experiences [. . .[ can change the nature of public debate and in so doing the boundaries of what is practical. As the Chicago Tribune noted at the end of the Civil War, in crisis situations beliefs once pronounced "impractical radicalism" suddenly become "practical statesmanship."

(Emphasis supplied.) Foner's point is that Lincoln's actions were not solely shaped by his own perceptions of what was possible, but very much influenced by the spaces created by the public discourse. With regard to our current economic crises regarding joblessness and income inequality, the period where the Obama Administration would welcome the notion that we are in a "crisis situation" has clearly passed. The President's State of the Union address demonstrates that, either for political or policy reasons, the Obama Administration wants to signal an "all clear" on the economic crises and focus on "winning the future. Ezra Klein wrote:

I sat in on a briefing yesterday where various "senior administration officials" explained the theory behind the State of the Union. When they were asked about shifting their focus to the future when the economy was so bad in the present, they explained that they got pretty much everything they thought they could get -- and, in fact, more than they thought they could get -- in the tax-cut deal, and it was time to let that work. Left unsaid is that they can't get anything more out of a Republican House, and so there's little point in begging.

This is, essentially, a bet: The economy isn't currently growing fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate. But the administration expects that it will be growing that fast very soon. The early numbers are looking good, the forecasts are optimistic, and Americans are more confident than they've been at any time in the past three years. But if that doesn't happen, it's not at all clear that they have a workable policy or political theory for what to do about it. And so far as the future goes, it doesn't matter how many tax credits you offer for college students: If 8 percent unemployment becomes the new normal, we've lost.

(Emphasis supplied.) 8 percent unemployment would require 1.5% drop in the current unemployment rate. The Obama Administration has decided that it has to sell something along those lines as a success - a crisis averted. Politically, I can understand why. It is hard for someone to argue that 4 years of their Administration failed to alleviate a crisis.

But activists do not work for Obama or his political fortunes. The fact is that America is in crisis - an economic crisis, a jobs crisis and an income inequality crisis. And if you care about creating space for policies to address these crises, in many ways, your interests now diverge from those of President Obama, who wants to win reelection and has decided that pretending the crisis is over is the way to do that.

It's a tough spot for activists, who know the politically viable alternative, the Republicans of today, are not looking at these crises in the way that they do.

But activists really do not have the luxury of being particularly "strategic." Here's why, if they do not say it, no one will.

Speaking for me only

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    The fact is... (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 11:50:05 AM EST
    only part of America is in crisis...the part with no voice and no representation in government.  

    In between shovel shifts this morning I watched a little Fox Business Channel...that smug british bastard grinning ear to ear with his cohorts. Apparently the only market that matters is doing great...the stock market.  Job market?  Thats our problem.

    It's ironic (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 11:58:08 AM EST
    that "win the future" can be shortened to WTF.

    As in "WTF is Obama doing plagiarizing (none / 0) (#4)
    by observed on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:10:19 PM EST
    Newt Gingrich and David Brooks? (win the future is gingrich, "think big" is Brooks)

    Neither slogan (none / 0) (#40)
    by TomStewart on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 06:54:16 PM EST
    is particularly original, and I'm betting prior examples can be found.  

    is it ironic (none / 0) (#13)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:28:55 PM EST
    I think Palin was late to that party, (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Anne on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:49:45 PM EST
    and cribbed it from others; I first saw it referred to in the comments at the Washington Monthly, after Steve Benen posted on the e-mail he got from OFA before the speech was delivered.

    Win the future! Abbreviated as WTF!

    -even funnier than Gerry Ford's WIN buttons (Whip Inflation Now).

    Posted by: DAY on January 23, 2011 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

    And that was Saturday, January 23rd.

    And I posted a link to it here, then, when I saw a headline about it on the TL sidebar.


    she manages to get credit (none / 0) (#17)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:52:17 PM EST
    for all kinds of things doesnt she

    Sarah Palin turns Obama's 'Win the future' into 'WTF' (video)

    All the WTF stuff (none / 0) (#39)
    by christinep on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 06:52:06 PM EST
    Sort of cutesy and cutting-sy. Mostly, it tells one right off whether a person has their own opposing political agenda from the get-go, doesn't it?

    Maybe it means that people can see (none / 0) (#46)
    by Anne on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 08:43:40 PM EST
    both the emptiness of a corporate-speak slogan, and the acronym it breaks down to; I mean, Americans acronym-ize everything, but maybe you haven't noticed that.  And maybe you haven't noticed how many slogans have been created intentionally to break down to shorthand acronyms that also signal the message of the original slogan: "Whip Inflation Now" translating to "WIN" - courtesy of Gerry Ford - is one political slogan that comes to mind.

    So it would seem that the brain trust behind "Win The Future" might have taken 10 seconds away from congratulating themselves on their brilliance long enough to see what any American with a quorum of brain cells was going to do to their slogan.

    Given that more than one lefty blog and blogger figured it out, what does that tell you?


    i saw it first (none / 0) (#41)
    by TomStewart on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 06:55:16 PM EST
    on TPM during Josh's live blogging the SOTU.

    Reminds me (none / 0) (#50)
    by cal1942 on Thu Jul 28, 2011 at 06:50:53 PM EST
    of Ford's statement ' .. clean up your plate'

    I can't help but be reminded of a similar reaction to Obama's ' ... time to eat your peas.'


    or (none / 0) (#14)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:29:56 PM EST
    Palins speech writers I should probably say.

    I didn't (none / 0) (#23)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:31:48 PM EST
    even know she said that.

    Neither did I (none / 0) (#25)
    by Zorba on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:46:37 PM EST
    But you can bet that her adoring fans knew.

    not a fan but (none / 0) (#26)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:47:46 PM EST
    I have seen it 20 times today.

    Aw, jeez (none / 0) (#30)
    by Zorba on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 03:44:16 PM EST
    But then, I tend to avoid the "mainstream media."  And I particularly try to avoid any mention whatsoever of Princess Sarah.  ;-)

    this (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:48:13 PM EST
    is a great post

    So, in other words, the administration (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by Anne on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:38:08 PM EST
    is just going to pretend things are better than they are for average people, and use the metrics of the stock marktet and corporate profits as proof that their policies and decisions are working to improve the economy.

    It's almost like they are saying to the jobless, the homeless, and the working poor, "we're not going to measure the economy, or our policies, by how you're doing, we're going to measure it by how the wealthy are doing."

    As for the administration believing its policies are going to goose the economy to where demand increases such that unemployment can come down to 8%, that seems like Fantasy Land stuff, especially if this factors in the budget freeze and other cuts in spending.

    Anne....it works (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by NYShooter on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 04:51:06 PM EST
    The fat cats got everything they wanted, and the rest of us got our wind-pipes ratcheted shut.

    But, we're moving forward, we "got things done." All they had to do was see the ear-to-ear grin on O's face; "he must have done something really good." What? who knows, who cares, just look at those pearly whites.

    He told you it would work; That's bi-partisanship for you.

    The polls shot up....

    And the crowed moaned and swayed in orgiastic adulation; Obama! Obama!


    Obama to business: I'm lowering your taxes (none / 0) (#22)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:31:05 PM EST
    NOW will you create some jobs?

    I don't think it will work.


    Their Probable Response (none / 0) (#27)
    by The Maven on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:47:46 PM EST
    "That was yesterday.  What are you going to do for me tomorrow?  Will you commit to never, ever raising those taxes like our GOP buddies have promised?  If not, then we can just continue to hoard our cash or consider a share buyback to goose our stock price."

    Obama is arguably decent enough with the carrot, but he doesn't seem to believe a stick is ever necessary (except for use when bashing liberals).


    Oh but how 'bout if I get rid (none / 0) (#28)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 03:29:14 PM EST
    of some regulations? NOW will you create some jobs?

    Nah... (5.00 / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 03:44:12 PM EST
    the yacht needs painting...try me next month...sucka!

    Unless of course the chess play is to intentionally be suckered...then on the 2012 trail say "I just need 4 more years, the jobs are on the way, I'm tellin' ya we're this close people!".


    kdog.... (none / 0) (#31)
    by NYShooter on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 04:43:07 PM EST
    when the yacht needs painting, the new yacht gets delivered.

    This is The Oli-EFFEN-Garch Era. "repainting?" ooh, that's for the pissy billionaires; we're talking Trillionaire time.


    Touche my friend... (none / 0) (#37)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 05:50:11 PM EST
    I'm a little behind the oligarchal times...that was yesteryears robber baron.

    It won't work (none / 0) (#43)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 07:50:27 PM EST
    They won't do anything different until they feel like their profit margins are in danger.  Why should they even consider taking any calculated risks when they are rolling in it.  And why should they increase manufacturing in the US when nobody in this economy can buy their new stuff?  Sadly we have passed the window when the fixes were easier.  They stood there and too many jobs evaporate while Larry Summers beat on the table that nothing could be done

    Lowering (none / 0) (#47)
    by cal1942 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:30:15 AM EST
    corporate taxes will mean they can invest more money overseas.  

    To get business to invest here at home will require incentives.  A lower rate without loopholes/incentives, IMO, will make maters worse.  Anyway who believes that Congress will pass a lower rate without keeping special favors.

    Obama and his shills will say 'it's the best we could do.'

    It appears that Obama's announcement of new trade agreements, those 'job sustaining' agreements, has made investing overseas a little easier.


    MSNBC on at the gym this morning. (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 05:18:59 PM EST
    Mast of the Universe types standing around watching it.  Rioting in Egypt.  Banner below:  unemployment in Egypt:  8.6%  

    Hoover, Hoover, Hoover! (5.00 / 0) (#38)
    by Robot Porter on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 06:29:02 PM EST
    Once again the Obama administration chooses the rhetoric and policies of the Hoover administration over those of FDR.

    It didn't work then.  It won't work now.

    The administration's variation on the "prosperity is just around the corner" concept is not only wrong, it's bad politics.  Very, very bad politics.  It fact it's the historic template for how to lose a re-election.

    I mean, c'mon, it's not even working for Ezra Klein.  Ezra Klein?!?  Ezra's so far up Obama's back-end that he's doubling as a secondary digestive tract.  And even he can't swallow this nonsense.

    Robot (none / 0) (#51)
    by cal1942 on Thu Jul 28, 2011 at 07:12:51 PM EST
    I visited the Lincoln Museum/Library in (none / 0) (#6)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:48:28 PM EST
    Springfield IL last summer (which I recommend).  Much of the Lincoln memorabilia is held by other museums and so the Museum doesn't rely on artifacts as much as technology-enhanced exhibits that try to make a historical point.

    One of the most effective is a simply exhibit showing Lincoln standing behind the presidential desk after signing the Emancipation Proclamation.  Behind him shadows of the "people" who are talking to him come and go and their voices can be heard.  

    All are berating him.  He went too far.  He didn't go far enough.  No one was happy.  In the end, though, the abolitionist/activists got the 13th amendment.  But then the naysayers got Jim Crowe. Then the civil rights/activists got Brown v. Board.  Activism requires activity.  Constant activity and vigilance.

    I think there isn't such a thing as one crisis moment in situations such as we find ourselves in.  There are multiple crisis moments of greater and smaller dimensions that offer different kinds of opportunities. The key is to keep pushing the idea and hope that the President seizes the opportunity if it presents itself.  Backing off isn't the answer. Accepting a status quo that doesn't meet your goals isn't the answer.  

    Accepting 8% unemployment isn't the answer.

    Yes but you also need (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by brodie on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 04:46:48 PM EST
    more than hope -- you need a leader willing to listen and learn and adapt.  Lincoln was such a president, who grew in office on c.r. issues much as a century later JFK would on c.r.  Both their successors however were unwilling to listen to critics, change, adapt -- the first on Reconstruction, the second on VN.  

    Had Lincoln lived, for instance, it's highly likely he would have constantly sought to adjust for the better the living conditions and legal rights of blacks in the South.  Morally, intellectually he was capable of change and charting a new course.  Very flexible president, as was JFK.  Not so Andy Johnson or Lyndon who treated their detractors as enemies of the state and personal threats to the presidency.


    LBJ (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Towanda on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 05:19:23 PM EST
    did what JFK could not do, and LBJ got the most progressive Civil Rights bill passed.  That counts for nothing?

    Go back and read (none / 0) (#36)
    by brodie on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 05:21:21 PM EST
    carefully what I wrote -- I referred to LBJ and his rigid mindset in the context of VN, not CR.

    You credited (none / 0) (#48)
    by cal1942 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:42:19 AM EST
    JFK with the Civil Rights Acts that he was hesitant about that LBJ got passed.

    You're ignoring the fact that JFK upped the ante in Vietnam well beyond what the Eisenhower administration had done.

    There's another big part that you preferred to ignore. During that part of the cold war era there was general foreign policy consensus.  The domino theory permeated the foreign policy establishment.  The public initially supported large scale intervention in Vietnam. Hell, Daniel Ellsberg supported intervention in Vietnam.


    "....general" foreign policy consensus? (none / 0) (#49)
    by NYShooter on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 09:30:46 AM EST
    I couldn't swear whether it was a majoriy, or a plurality who felt that way. but I remember quite vividly that the debate was very vigorous "for and against" the Domino theory.

    Kind of like "do they, or don't they" re: WMD. I realize that both parties jumped aboard the invasion juggernaut, but that was for politics, not common sense.


    hmmm (none / 0) (#7)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:50:44 PM EST
    All are berating him.  He went too far.  He didn't go far enough.  No one was happy.

    Re: activism (none / 0) (#8)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:56:55 PM EST
    I was watching Fox News last night which has become more interesting now that they have a little bit of power, and for two hours on separate shows they basically just ranted and raved about cutting spending.  To the point where John Stossel had a giant pair of scissors and was cutting paper in half on air.  Nothing ever changes on that network.  But they still have all the power over the party.

    My understanding of the blogosphere was that it was to be an antidote to all that.  More than anything else I think the enemy is not the GOP per se, but Fox.  

    not the GOP per se, but Fox (none / 0) (#9)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:58:40 PM EST
    theres a difference?

    Conservatism can never fail (none / 0) (#11)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:21:00 PM EST
    it can only be failed.  Ideology hardly has the same sway over Democratic politicians.

    never (none / 0) (#12)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:24:32 PM EST
    you know why.  because we are capable of independent thought.  the line about "democrats falling in love and republicans fall in line" is about a lot more than elections.

    we discussed their ignorant easily manipulated audience yesterday.


    In the case of political activism (none / 0) (#18)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:02:25 PM EST
    I don't see that the capacity for "independent thought" is the most prized quality.  It leads to fractioning more than anything else.  Conservativism works because they blindly believe that they are right.  Progressives do not have the same coherency.

    Obama didn't come running to the Left with a promise after he capitulated on the Deal.  Republicans run to the Right with new promises and apologies all the time.


    prized by who (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:16:52 PM EST
    I certainly wouldnt agree.  I would say that capacity for independent thought is the single most important quality an activist or anyone else can have.

    as Bubba used to say 'we dont beat them by becoming them we beat them with better ideas'.

    I relish the chaos of real democracy.


    Well yeah I agree (none / 0) (#20)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:29:27 PM EST
    I'm referring more to the people who run Fox and host their shows.  I think most of them probably know better but they know how to hold the line.

    It is just not prized by the people (none / 0) (#21)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:29:32 PM EST
    on the receiving end of the criticism. Too bad for them!

    "The early numbers are looking good" (none / 0) (#10)
    by NYShooter on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:02:59 PM EST
    what numbers are we talking about?

    Foner's Book is a Good One (none / 0) (#24)
    by kaleidescope on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 02:41:38 PM EST
    Lincoln's odyssey is fascinating to watch.  At first, morally opposed to slavery but unwilling to do anything to stop it.  Then, in essence, forced by circumstances -- the war and the work of slaves and their abolitionist allies -- to abolish slavery.

    The lesson I took from Foner's book is that it is up to us to create the circumstances where a reluctant or timid president sees personal benefit in moving our way or is forced to do so.  The lesson of Richard Nixon signing the Endangered Species Act is a more recent example.  So -- from the other side of the coin -- is Clinton's signing welfare "reform."

    A crisis is certainly one way that happens and the civil war was certainly a crisis.  But at the start of the war Lincoln shied away from any hint of abolition.  More than anything it was the work that black Americans played -- fighting as soldiers and providing labor for the U.S. Army -- that forced Lincoln's hand on abolition.

    Which means it's time for us to get out there and start organizing.

    turns out hopey, changey meant and means (none / 0) (#42)
    by pluege2 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 07:28:05 PM EST
    not doing anything to address problems and obamadmin keeping their fingers crossed, hoping and changing that some improvement will happen.

    There isn't any other choice (none / 0) (#44)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 08:00:15 PM EST
    Too many people are really beginning to suffer.  I will have to let the White House do what it feels like it must do, won't much change what the serfs need or argue for as the crisis blooms on.

    it's time for americans to start emulating (none / 0) (#45)
    by Bornagaindem on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 08:28:24 PM EST

    I am not sure that turning the house over so completely after just two years of hopey changey isn't a reflection of  americans getting fed up.  If so it could mean that  the house at least will be dramatically turned over in 2012 yet again.

    There is no way the policies that this administration has started are going to do anything good and the soak the middle class to help the rich can't last either. Even the middle east  recognizes they are getting screwed by their so called leaders - now that the borrow and spend days of the 90's are gone you'd think americans  would get it too.