Article first published as A.D.D. America on Technorati.
How short is the memory of the American People? How ephemeral is their focus and attention?
Do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot? How about when the Iran hostage crisis occurred? The opening of the Berlin Wall? If you’re of voting age, there’s no doubt you remember the events of September 11, 2001.
It’s equally certain that you remember the bank collapse of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed. Americans seem to have vault-safe memory of those events that are etched into our collective consciousness, but somehow when it comes to remembering the facts leading up to those events, that steel vault is all too often turned into a plastic sieve.
The 2010 midterm election will happen tomorrow, and virtually all polls indicate that the American people will return control of at least one chamber of the Congress to the Republican Party. Much of this is anti-incumbent hostility stemming from a bad economy, but that’s certainly not the whole story. The most recent Gallup poll on the question of whether voters believe the country would be better off with Democratic or Republican control of the Congress shows a clear plurality, 45% compared to 23%, backing the Republicans.
Those people who dig beneath the hyperbole and spin, those who actually check facts are likely to shake their heads in bewildered disbelief at the writing now on the wall. They may still be in denial, as so many in Washington still appear to be, or they may have resigned themselves to the expected outcome of the election. But regardless of their reaction, knowledgeable voters must all be stupefied at the amazing capacity of the American people to be manipulated and used by those willing to play on their fears and ignorance.
President Obama is fond of using the “drove the economy into a ditch” metaphor to describe the Republican-created mess that he inherited. He asserts that they “can’t have the keys back, because [they] don’t know how to drive.” The Republicans naturally respond that the President needs to stand on his record and stop trying to blame his predecessor.
Well, there is a problem with President Obama’s metaphor, and there’s also a practical sensibility to the Republican response. The President is patently wrong about the Republicans driving us into a ditch — it was a freaking canyon — it was the economic Mariana Trench. And it makes perfect sense that those responsible for the collapse, the feed-the-rich Republicans would be vehemently opposed to assigning any blame where it was due.
The truth of the matter is that the American public has been ripped off by the nation’s corporate elite and had their return to prosperity held hostage by the corporate lackeys commonly known as the Republican Party. And now, in order to punish the innocent and avoid holding accountable the thieves who helped pillage the wealth of the American middle-class, the electorate is going to put the greed-drunk drivers back behind the wheel.
Hurray for the American way!
If only the American people would recall the events that brought us to this point. If only they remembered that George Bush inherited a $236 billion budget surplus that he turned into the $1.2 trillion deficit he passed to President Obama. If only the sting of the 3 million jobs that were lost in President Bush’s last year in office was still clear in their minds, or if they were still mindful that the economy was hemorrhaging nearly 600 thousand jobs per month when Obama took office.
Would we be in the same situation for election 2010 if American voters would call to mind the fact that 65% of the Bush tax cuts went to the top quintile and 50% if his 2001 cuts went to the top 1%. What if they remembered that the price tag for the cuts to the top 1% in 2008 alone was $79.5 billion? How about if the average American even understood that 37% of the much maligned Stimulus, $288 billion, was in the form of tax cuts that went to 94% of the working families in America?
Would it make any difference if the people were aware that, as bleak as things have been, more private sector jobs have been created in 2010 than under the entire 8-year term of George Bush? How about if they grasped the fact that the Republican policies that wrote the economic book for the past decade and tested the effectiveness of growing the economy and creating jobs by cutting taxes, has been proven to be an abysmal failure? If they knew that the first decade of this century produced ZERO net job growth, while no other decade going back to the 1940s produced less than 20%
Americans should be casting their votes with full awareness that Bush and his Republican colleagues had the worst job creation record since 1945, established the policies that gave America its first decline of median household income since 1967, while simultaneously giving the top 1% it’s highest share of after-tax income since 1979, and concentrating more wealth in the top 1% than in the bottom 90% combined.
But the truth of the matter is that, while Republican policies have nearly destroyed America for all but the very rich, a manipulated electorate has allowed itself to fall prey to the incessant Republican barrage of distorted facts and fear mongering. The American people are suffering from severe Attention Deficit Disorder and have sadly forgotten who was driving when our economy went off the cliff.
President Obama has certainly made some mistakes since he took office. In retrospect, the biggest amongst them was probably to underestimate the gullibility of the American people — perhaps he should have played the Republican game of politics over people — he could have omitted the Stimulus and allowed the Great Recession to take its full toll.
But that’s not what real leaders do. No, they set about the hard work of recovery, and when you’re in an 8 million job hole, that takes some time. It’s too bad the American people can’t stay focused long enough to ensure it happens.