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THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE
Posted by Time for change in General Discussion
Fri Sep 02nd 2011, 10:23 PM
President Obama echoes too many Republican talking points, both in his rhetoric and in his policies, in his efforts to “compromise” with the Republican psychopaths in Congress. That’s a terrible shame, because it should be obvious by now that those C
It is widely recognized that unemployment is one of most crucial, if not the most crucial problem facing the American people today. From about 4.5% in early 2008, the
unemployment rate in the United States began a sharp climb, which peaked at a little over 10% in October 2009 and has remained unacceptably high ever since, never falling below 8.8% during this time.


Historic differences in the Republican vs. Democratic approach to unemployment

From the time that Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) ran against President Herbert Hoover in the Presidential election of 1932, the Democratic and Republican parties have held very different views on how to approach employment issues. The Republican Party has consistently adopted a laissez-faire economics approach to unemployment, while the Democratic Party has generally held the view that it is the responsibility of government to create jobs.

The contrast was never greater than when Roosevelt ran against Hoover in 1932. Hoover, under whom the Great Depression began, was adamantly opposed to government intervention to end the Depression – and indeed, he steadfastly avoided government intervention, no matter how bad things got. FDR on the other hand strongly believed in government intervention on behalf of the American people.

FDR took office in March 1933. Unemployment rate stood at nearly 22% when FDR took office. It declined steadily during his presidency, so that by 1939 it was about16% - not good, but quite an improvement, as noted in the graph below.



Consider how that translated into job creation. During the 80-year period from 1929-2009, Hoover’s presidency was the only one during which jobs were actually lost – though George W. Bush’s two terms came mighty close to zero job growth, and Obama’s first term may end up in the red as well. Job growth during this 80-year period exceeded 4% during only two of the twenty presidential terms – FDR’s first term (5.3%) and his third term (5.1%). Job creation during his second term (2.6%) was tied for 7th of the 20 terms.

During the whole 80 year period from January 1929 through January 2009, the annual job growth record of every Democratic presidential administration was superior to the record of every Republican presidential administration. The huge difference between Democratic and Republican presidential administrations abruptly disappeared (so far) with the Obama presidency (January 2009 – present). More on that later. Here is the approximate record of average annual job growth, from best to worst, from 1929 to present, with Democratic presidents indicated in blue and Republican presidents in red:

Roosevelt: + 4.3%
Johnson: + 3.9%
Carter: + 3.2%
Truman: + 3.0%
Kennedy: + 2.6%
Clinton: + 2.4%

Nixon: + 2.2%
Ford: + 1.7%
Reagan: + 1.6%
Eisenhower: + 0.7%
Bush I: + 0.6%
Bush II: + 0.4%

Obama (through July 2011): -2.4%
Hoover: -9.0%


Reasons for the superiority of Democratic presidents on job creation

There is no question that the consistent superiority of Democratic presidential administrations compared with Republican presidential administrations is related to the basic differences in philosophy regarding the role of the federal government in job creation.

The Democratic Party’s traditional perspective
FDR has the best job growth record of any presidential administration in U.S. history. Yet, probably no figure in American history is despised as much by conservatives as FDR, who was accused in his day of being a Communist by many a conservative. Cass Sunstein, in his book, “The Second Bill of Rights – FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need it More than Ever”, describes the philosophy that motivated Roosevelt to fight for his radical (at the time) programs to benefit the American people:

To Roosevelt, human distress could no longer be taken as an inevitable by-product of life, society, or “nature”; it was an artifact of social policies and choices. Much human misery is preventable. The only question is whether a government is determined to prevent it….
Foremost was the idea that poverty is preventable, that poverty is destructive, wasteful, demoralizing, and that poverty is morally unacceptable in a Christian and democratic society.

Consequently, FDR introduced the concept of economic and social rights, which had not gained much traction in the United States until his Presidency. FDR’s Presidency and fervent advocating of these rights coincided with circumstances (The Great Depression) that made their need glaringly apparent to a large proportion of American citizens.

Among the rights that FDR fervently believed in and aggressively supported was the right of every American to a decent paying job. This was manifested in his programs to create millions of federal jobs, which were major factors in the declining unemployment rate and record-setting job creation during his presidencies, as explained by Stuart Rosenblatt in “The FDR Jobs Program that Saved the Nation”:

In 1935, Congress appropriated $5 billion directly for the Works Progress Administration (WPA)… Did this break the bank? By no means. In fact, the investment increased the productivity of the economy as a whole, and therefore yielded more “payback” to the economy, including through taxes, than it took.

Roosevelt’s method for establishing a Second Bill of Rights was through more than twelve years of advocating for these rights and putting them into practice through executive orders and pushing Congress to enact legislation. Perhaps more important, by the end of FDR’s Presidency large segments of the American population accepted many aspects of his Second Bill of Rights as legitimate rights – for example, the right to a good education.

The Republican Party’s traditional perspective
In marked contrast, Republicans continually spout off the idea that the federal government has little or no role to play in job creation, other than to stand aside and let the private sector work its magic through principles of the so-called “free market”. Unfortunately, President Obama has internalized and supported these Republican concepts – which is without a doubt the reason why Obama has by far the worst job creation record of any Democratic president since official government records on job creation were first developed.

This is what Obama said on the subject in September 2010, in the midst of the worst job crisis in our country since the early years of FDR’s presidency:

See, I’ve never believed that government has all the answers to our problems. I’ve never believed that government’s role is to create jobs or prosperity. I believe it’s the drive and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs, our small businesses; the skill and dedication of our workers that’s made us the wealthiest nation on Earth. I believe it’s the private sector that must be the main engine for our recovery.

I believe government should be lean; government should be efficient. I believe government should leave people free to make the choices they think are best for themselves and their families, so long as those choices don’t hurt others.

Well, good luck with that approach, President Obama. I suggest you get rid of your conservative economic advisors and look at the historical record of those presidential administrations that spouted your Republican philosophy.

This is what Bob Herbert had to say on the subject last year:

Mr. Obama’s problem – and the nation’s – is that in the midst of the terrible economic turmoil that the country was in when he took office, he did not make full employment, meaning job creation in both the short and the long term, the nation’s absolute highest priority….

Such an effort, properly conceived, would have put millions to work overhauling the nation’s infrastructure, rebuilding our ports and transportation facilities to 21st-century standards, establishing a Manhattan Project-like quest for a brave new world of clean energy, and so on… There was every reason to use those enormous amounts of public dollars… for investment in projects and research that the country desperately needs and that would provide enormous benefits for many decades. Think of the returns the nation reaped from its investments in the interstate highway system, the Land Grant colleges, rural electrification, the Erie and Panama canals, the transcontinental railroad, the technology that led to the Internet, the Apollo program, the G.I. bill.


More on the Obama record on jobs

In defense of President Obama, it could be said that presidential efforts are not the only factor that impacts on job growth. Furthermore, Obama did make some effort, through his stimulus package, to boost job growth. There is much evidence that that program did create a lot of jobs, and it is probably something that no current Republican leader would have supported. There are undoubtedly reasons beyond Obama’s control that account for the fact that his job record is so far the worst of any U.S. president since Herbert Hoover.

But at the time he put through his stimulus package, with Democrats in full control of both houses of Congress, our nation’s best economists warned him that it was much too small. Yet, in the interest of “compromise” with obstructionist Republicans, Obama settled for that much too small stimulus. And not surprisingly, his poor record on the economy led to a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010.

Many Obama defenders have pointed out that he inherited one of the worst economies in U.S. history. That is true – but the economy that Obama inherited was not as bad as the one that FDR inherited in 1933. Obama is not responsible for the unemployment rate that he inherited. But he is largely responsible for the U.S. job growth record since he inherited that high unemployment record. Bob Herbert comments on what FDR had to say about the situation that he inherited:

During the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt explained to the public the difference between wasteful spending and sound government investments. “You cannot borrow your way out of debt,” he said, “but you can invest your way into a sounder future.”

Another Obama administration policy that has not helped with our job crisis is putting so-called “free trade” above job creation in our country. An article titled “U.S. to Train 3,000 Offshore IT Workers” explained:

Despite President Obama's pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $22 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia. Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent's low labor costs...

David Sirota commented on this program:

In recent months, President Obama reversed his campaign promises on trade issues – first by dropping his pledge to renegotiate NAFTA and then by pushing to pass NAFTA-style trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia…

Now look, I'm all for a robust foreign aid budget – we don't do nearly enough to help the developing world. However, using foreign aid money to specifically help private corporations "take advantage of low labor costs" in the developing world – that's not "aid," that's rank taxpayer subsidization of for-profit exploitation. Right now, Even if we do not reform our atrocious trade policies that incentivize the ongoing wage-cutting race to the bottom, the least we should be doing is investing every single available dollar we have in job training and job creation here at home. Doing the opposite – actually using public dollars to intensify that wage-cutting race to the bottom – is grotesque.


What more is there to say?

One could speculate (and many have) on why Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 as a Democrat, and yet as president has governed largely as a Republican – but that is not the subject of this post. Suffice it to say here that his economic strategy has worked well neither for him nor for the American people. We continue in the midst of our worst economic crisis since the Great depression, the middle class continues to shrink, the income gap expands to record highs, and the poverty rate continues to rise.

I’m sure that all U.S. presidents want to have a good record on jobs. Even Republican President Richard Nixon supported a jobs program, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, to facilitate job creation, in response to a struggling economy. Maybe that’s why he has the best job creation record of any Republican president from Hoover to Bush II.

But President Obama echoes too many Republican talking points, both in his rhetoric and in his policies, in his efforts to “compromise” with the Republican psychopaths in Congress. That’s a terrible shame, because it should be obvious by now that those Congressional Republicans are not the least bit interested in helping Obama create jobs for the American people. Their attitude seems to be that if they can obstruct all efforts by Obama to create jobs, then they can blame our continuing economic crisis on him. Rather than helping them with that effort by “compromising” with them and spouting Republican rhetoric, President Obama should be fighting them all the way in behalf of traditional Democratic Party principles that have a long-standing excellent track record.

It’s not too late. He’s still president, and if he radically changes his approach soon, he may yet be able to begin to bring us out of this very long recession, and may even get a chance to do more in a second term. But if he fails to make efforts in that direction, we really need a good solid primary challenge against him in 2012.

Discuss (61 comments) | Recommend (+40 votes)
The Unfulfilled Promise
The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream: The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals




Time for change


Notwithstanding the lofty sentiments and purpose of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the reality of the United States of America did not then – and never has – lived up to its ideal. Our nation remains today a long way from fulfilling the promise implied by those ideals. Yet, our Declaration was a great start, and it has long shone as a beacon of hope for people all over the world.

Throughout our history, while many have striven to close the gap between our highest ideals and the reality of our nation, others have focused on the accumulation of private wealth and power, at the expense of everyone else. In recent decades the latter have gained much ground, leading to increasing imperialism abroad and deteriorating democracy at home, characterized by routine (and legal) bribery of our public officials, the fusion of government and private corporate interests (corporatocracy), a corrupt election system largely in the hands of private corporations, a corporate controlled communications media, and the widespread acceptance of Executive Branch secrecy, routinely justified with little if any questioning, by the magic words “national security”. All of this is rapidly turning our country from the democracy proclaimed at our founding into a plutocracy (government by the wealthy and for the wealthy). The result is the most obscene wealth gap our country has ever known, the highest imprisonment rate in the world, rampant militarism, routine flaunting of international law, the least efficient health care system in the developed world, a pending environmental catastrophe that threatens to destroy the life sustaining forces of our planet, and myriad other problems that threaten to destroy our nation and tyrannize our people.

My new book, The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream – The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals, explores the roots and consequences of the demise of our democracy, and why most Americans have been unable to understand this process or even become aware of it. A good understanding of why and how we have deviated so greatly from the ideals of our nation is the first and necessary step towards getting back on the right track and revitalizing our society.

The book is currently being sold in electronic PDF format and can be purchased at http://www.unfulfilledpromise.com/Buy-the-... for $3.99. It will also soon be available in Amazon Kindle format. DU members who cannot afford to buy the book but would like to read it can pm me with your e-mail address, and I will send you a free PDF copy.

I’ve previously posted on DU a slightly earlier version of the introduction to the book, which is also posted at my site. Here is the Table of Contents, followed by a brief description of the three parts of the book:


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Acknowledgements
Prologue – What is Wrong with the United States of America?

Part I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy
Chapter 1 – Legalized Bribery
Chapter 2 – Human Psychological Factors
Chapter 3 – Corporatocracy
Chapter 4 – Corporate Control of Media
Chapter 5 – Corrupt Election System
Chapter 6 – Government Secrecy
Chapter 7 – American Exceptionalism

Part II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions
Chapter 8 – Slavery and its Legacy
Chapter 9 – Early U.S. Imperialism
Chapter 10 – U.S. Imperialism in Cold War
Chapter 11 – Iraq War and Occupation
Chapter 12 – Afghanistan War

Part III – Consequences
Chapter 13 – Election of George W. Bush
Chapter 14 – War and Imperialism
Chapter 15 – Class Warfare
Chapter 16 – Predator Financial Class
Chapter 17 – Shock Therapy
Chapter 18 – Contempt for Int. Law
Chapter 19 – The “War on Drugs”
Chapter 20 – Climate Change
Chapter 21 – “War on Terror”
Chapter 22 – Health Care
Chapter 23 – Unaccountable government
Chapter 24 – Response to 9/11 Attacks
Epilogue


PART I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy

It is somewhat difficult to separate the causes of our problems from their consequences, since they combine to form a long chain of cause leading to consequence, leading to more consequences, etcetera. Nevertheless, it seems worth while to identify the root causes of our problems, those that occur early in the chain and lead to so many of the tragic consequences we see today. The only chance we have of reversing the demise of our democracy is through addressing and attacking its root causes.

At the top of the list is the systematic bribery of public officials by the powerful corporations (Chapter 1) whom our government is charged with regulating in the public interest. Instead of calling it bribery, we call it “campaign contributions”, but what we call it isn’t as important as what it is. It is hard to fathom how democracy can survive when such a practice is legal and condoned.

Working in tandem with our system of legalized bribery is the nature of the people who inhabit our country. That is not to say that Americans are inherently substantially different than any other people. Human beings are imperfect, and that is probably a major reason why in a world where civilization began more than five millennia ago, the oldest written national framework of government in the world today – the Constitution of the United States of America – is only a little more than two and a quarter centuries old. Chapter 2 explores the roles of basic human needs, authoritarianism, psychological defense mechanisms used to prevent us from perceiving reality as it is rather than as we’d like it to be, and corrupted ideologies in causing us to passively accept the accumulation of power in the hands of ambitious and ruthless individuals who care about little else than expanding their own wealth and power.

When bribery of public officials is tolerated as an inevitable aspect of public life, government inevitably grows close to the wealthy interests that shower it with money in return for legislative and other favors. A malevolent symbiosis grows between the state and corporate power, resulting in rule by an oligarchy that is highly detrimental to the lives of ordinary people (Chapter 3). Using their accumulated wealth and power to manipulate our legislative process, the oligarchy grabs for more and more control of the communications media (Chapter 4) that are used to control the information available to and shape the attitudes of our nation’s people, in pursuit of their own narrow interests.

Since the 1980s an orchestrated campaign has been underway to demonize “big government”, thereby paving the way for private corporate control over more and more functions that were previously deemed intrinsic functions of government. Among those functions is the running of public elections (Chapter 5) – the function that symbolizes democracy perhaps more than any other single function. Consequently, the purging of selected registered voters from our computerized voter rolls has become a routine recurring event throughout much of our country, and without a doubt determined the results of the 2000 – and probably 2004 as well – presidential election. Just as bad, more and more of the counting of votes in our public elections have been turned over to private corporations, which count our votes using electronic machines using secret software to produce vote counts that cannot be verified by anyone.

Bribery, the fusion of government and private interest, fake and biased news, and corrupt elections are not things that government and its corporate allies want us to know about. Consequently, they construct walls of secrecy (Chapter 6) to keep us from obtaining information that sheds light on their activities. The perfect phrase for facilitating this is “national security”. When our government tells us that the “national security” requires that certain things be kept secret from us, the understanding is that to question such a pronouncement is unpatriotic, and to actually attempt to obtain the “secret” information may be treasonous.

But indefinitely maintaining secrets from the American people can be very difficult, because at least some people want to know what their government is up to. So in addition to the formal mechanisms of secrecy, informal mechanisms are constructed (Chapter 7) to keep vital information away from us. One of the primary methods for doing this is to make certain sensitive subjects taboo – that is, to create the widespread belief that discussion of these topics is so outside the bounds of acceptable human discourse that anyone who discusses them should be shunned by society, or worse. The most common issue that falls into this category is any discussion that sheds light on the disparity between American ideals and the reality of life in our country today.


PART II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions in U.S. History

Notwithstanding the fact that our founding document says that “all men are created equal” and speaks of the inalienable rights of humankind, the United States has throughout its history partaken of massive exploitation of other peoples.

It is estimated that at the time of our birth, 18% of our population was black slaves. In our expansion westwards during the late 18th and 19th centuries, we decimated the original inhabitants of our continent, and often treated them with great cruelty. In 1846 we manufactured an excuse for war with our neighbor Mexico, in which we continued to expand our country westwards and southwards. In 1893 we began our overseas imperialism with the conquest of Hawaii. Our overseas expansion was greatly accelerated in 1898 with our participation in the Spanish-American War, which led to our conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. With our arrival at world superpower status at the end of World War II, we began the Cold War, which led to and served as a rationalization for covert and/or direct military actions against myriad foreign nations over the next 46 years. With the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country, we declared a perpetual “War on Terror”, which served and continues to serve as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, nations that posed no threat to us. We do not know when or if this perpetual war will ever end. We don’t know how many additional imperial conquests it will lead to.

Most Americans don’t think much about all this. Many of these actions are done in secrecy, and the American people don’t find out about them until many years later – or we never find out about them at all. Those that we do know about are spun into the most favorable light, to make them seem benign or even noble.

But these actions come at great costs: in the lives of our soldiers; in the ruined lives of the peoples of the victim countries; in trillions of dollars cost to our people and their future generations; in our international reputation; in anti-American hatred leading to terrorism; and, to our democracy itself. For how can a nation claim to believe in the inalienable rights of humankind specified in its founding document, while making a mockery of that belief in the way it treats other peoples? For that reason alone it is worth while to take a brief look at our long history of imperialist actions.


PART III – Consequences

In the Prologue I give a brief account of what I see as some of the worst and tragic consequences of the root causes that I discuss in Part I – to enable the reader to see where this book is heading. When elections of our public officials are for sale to the highest bidder… when our public officials are so addicted to the “campaign contributions” of their wealthiest constituents that they develop a symbiotic relationship with them… when our communications media are owned and controlled by an oligarchy of wealthy elites… when our citizenry lack the ability to differentiate propaganda from reality… when we allow machines provided by private corporations to count our votes using secret electronic software… then we should expect that the consequences will not be pretty or comfortable for the vast majority of our citizens.

In Part III, I explore those consequences in much greater detail, in the hope that the reader will agree with me that these are very serious problems, and that they must be successfully addressed if our country is ever to fulfill the promise of its ideals, or even make progress in that direction. When enough Americans recognize our problems as problems, stripped of the gloss and spin put on them by our oligarchy, they will rise up and do something about them. Until then there will be no progress, and we are very likely to head in the direction of all the former empires of our planet, ending in chaos, widespread catastrophe, suffering, and ignominy.

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