19 September 2012: We are not as broke as Republicans say

We are not as broke as Republicans say

The conventions are over, consigned to history.  Memories remain of the scenes, people, speeches, and one-liners.

From the Republican gathering, one remains particularly etched in our political consciousness: a doddering octogenarian talking to an empty chair.  It’s sad to see Rowdy Yates/Blondie/Dirty Harry declining so embarrassingly.

Democrats, on the other hand, had fun, lots of it.  It wasn’t supposed to be that way with them in a funk due to the lingering weak economy and Republicans/Teas on the ascendant.

The energy, however, of the delegates and speakers was not to be repressed.  No stuffy button-down shirts, silk ties and spiked-heels in Charlotte.  Democrats came to party.

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick excoriated the crowd, telling them to “grow a backbone,” to defend Democratic/liberal/progressive positions and they ate it up.

San Antonio mayor Julian Castro regaled us with his story, an immigrant’s story, which has been retold innumerable times by virtually every other American.  Bootstraps are proliferate in Texas for obvious reasons, he said, and are expected to be used.  He brought laughter with his line “Why didn’t I think of that?” when addressing Mitt Romney’s suggestion young adults simply ask their parents for a hundred grand or so to go to school or start a business.

The First Lady humanized the President and, of course, who can forget Bill Clinton’s performance?  He picked apart Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Republican platform with simplicity and humor.  His zinger about Ryan—“It takes some brass for someone to attack a guy for doing what you just did”—is unforgettable.

As Shakespeare noted, the world’s a stage and no one owns it like Clinton.

For me, though, the best line came from the loquacious one, Vice-President Joe Biden.

“Don’t ever bet against America!” he advised.

“Right on!” I yelled, but not to the empty chair next to me.

There’s a lot of betting against America going on.  So permit me to set the record straight:

We’re not broke.  America remains the richest country ever.  The ongoing upward redistribution of wealth skews that reality.

Not since the Gilded Age of the 19th century has so much wealth, and therefore power, been concentrated among so few.  As Joseph Stiglitz points out in the May Vanity Fair and his book The Price of Inequality, “[T]he six heirs to the Walmart empire possess a combined wealth of some $90 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of U.S. society.”

We are not bleeding jobs.  Job growth, which had been red-lining as George Bush’s term neared its merciful end, has been steady for 30 months.  Admittedly, the growth has been anemic, which goes to show how the so-called job creators have sucked doing their job of creating new jobs for the plebeians while enjoying their decade-long tax cut.

Further, had Congress acted on President Obama’s jobs program, it is estimated another million Americans would be gainfully employed primarily rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

We can tax more—see above—without throwing the economy into a Great Recession II.

As Clinton pointed out, it’s one word: arithmetic.  Republican-Tea Partyers believe that since we’re in a hole—national debt—we should keep digging, in this case by giving more tax breaks to the upper crust.

Notes Stiglitz, “When too much money is concentrated at the top of society, spending by the average American is necessarily reduced—or at least it will be in the absence of some artificial prop.

“Moving money from the bottom to the top lowers consumption because higher-income individuals consume, as a fraction of their income, less than lower-income individuals do.”

Warren Buffett said it best though: “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.”

Finally, not only are we not broke, we are not broken as a people.

Are we facing hurdles?  Absolutely, but nothing that cannot be overcome.

When Americans are told they can’t do something, they say, “Watch me” and go about proving their critics and doubters wrong.  But it cannot nor will be done by subscribing to the same prescriptions and shibboleths that put us in this chasm in the first place.

We need to invest in ourselves in a variety of ways: from supporting small businesses to infrastructure reconstruction. That requires, as it has in the past, a private-public partnership.

Biden is right: Don’t bet against America.  After all, we only have a few centuries worth of lending helping hands and pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps under our belt.


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