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Obama’s Job Gig: Pin-Up to GOP Voodoo

| September 9, 2011

Lousy Rerun. (White House)

If America’s 14 million unemployed had their own state, The Economist tells us this week, they’d form the fifth-largest one in the union, right behind Florida and ahead of Illinois. If you include the underemployed and those who’ve dropped off the unemployment rolls altogether, that population would be bigger than that of Texas. You could call it the State of Flagler (hold the Perry sauce).

Ten years ago it took an unemployed person an average of 17 weeks to find work. It now takes 40 weeks, assuming that person keeps looking. Florida has discovered an innovative way to kick people off the unemployment rolls. It requires workers to submit to interrogations first, docks them whatever meager pay they may be earning that month, puts them on hold for about four weeks if they have a question and are dumb enough to call, then leaves them with unemployment checks smaller than some sub-Saharan wages, if they make it that far. Tens of thousands don’t, opting out along the way. Problem solved, and Rick Scott takes credit.

It’s now clear that the first stimulus bill did not work as it should have—not because the stimulus wasn’t needed, but because it was too small, too brief and too lopsidedly favoring tax cuts instead of actual stimulus. It stopped unemployment levels from heading toward the 1930s and brought down the rate a full point. But devoting a third of the stimulus to tax cuts was worse than useless: it added to the deficit instead of creating jobs, Giorgio Armani stores aside. And the frenzy of cost-cutting at every level of government in the last two years, state and local governments especially, has been plain mad: the stimulus was taken out back, shot and buried–then blamed for failing by its executioners as tea party hypocrites, a Social Security check in one hand and a Medicare card in the other, danced on its grave.

Yet here was Barack Obama again proposing more tax cuts Thursday evening, playing into the very dogma that’s netted us colossal debt and zero return. Unless, that is, you’re sharing in this nation’s sacrifice from that top 5 percent bracket, the only bracket to reap a windfall from three decades of upper-class welfare, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s hand-outs to the top.

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George W. Bush peddled two of the country’s largest tax cuts in history in 2001 and 2003 as job creators. His two terms created the fewest jobs since Herbert Hoover. Put another way, 10 times more jobs were created during Jimmy Carter’s four years–yes, Jimmy Carter–when the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent, than the 1 million net jobs created during Bush’s eight years, when the tax burden was lowered to the 1920s’ insignificant levels. And the Republican priesthood still preaches tax cuts as a miracle cure.

Compare that to Bill Clinton, who was blamed early in his first term as a job assassin for pushing one of the largest tax increases in history. His tax package didn’t get a single Republican vote when it barely passed Congress in August 1993. The change Clinton stood for, Dick Army, the Texas Republican congressman said at the time, is “change for the worse.” Some worse. The nearly 23 million jobs created on his watch were a record, and Clinton left office with a budget surplus. Give me his stained blue dresses over Republicans’ phony sanctimony any day.
Obama had the right idea when he proposed, on that yellow-brick campaign trail of his, that it was time to go back to Clinton-era taxes, if only for the richest 2 percent. Of course, even on that slither of a beachhead, he caved, signaling that he was all talk. Obama’s first stimulus had $350 billion in tax cuts, a tax cut as large as Bush’s in 2003. You see the results. He caved in December to another demand by Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts yet again, and cut the payroll tax by two points, at a cost of nearly $1 trillion. That did nothing to the unemployment rate, because it isn’t workers who need help, it’s the unemployed.

Last night he proposed extending that payroll tax holiday to employers, a bottom-line padding gift that’ll have virtually no effect as long as there’s no demand for products—the real and only incentive for employers to hire anyone. Look at Palm Coast Data. It’s had literally millions of dollars thrown at it in taxpayer-funded incentives, from the state of Florida and local governments, only to keep bleeding jobs because there’s no demand for its product.

And that, in the end, is what’s hurting the economy: not high taxes (not in the lowest-taxed, least regulated, most millionaire-stuffed western democracy on the planet), but demand and spending capabilities. Germany and France aren’t facing depression-like conditions–their economies are growing–because their home-owners didn’t turn their homes into credit cards. Their housing industry was better regulated than ours, which turned the keys over to bankers and developers until the crash, when homeowners discovered themselves much poorer, or homeless, overnight. With almost a quarter of the nation’s homeowners owing more than their properties are worth (the proportion is much higher in Florida, and in Flagler) most consumers simply have no money to spend.

Businesses don’t need cash incentives, either. American businesses are sitting on $1 trillion in cash, the result of record profits during the Bush years and continued sky-high profits despite the downturn–an obscene contradiction, considering on whose backs these businesses are profiting. They’re not investing that cash because they’re squeezing plenty from overworking existing employees while betting that demand won’t increase in line with investments. Proof: Productivity has increased 80 percent in the last 30 years; average worker wage increase in the same time span? 8 percent. Not much math needed there to figure out who’s been cashing in.

That cash pile is about to grow fatter with Obama cutting businesses’ payroll taxes in half, while taking a shortcut to the Social Security trust fund’s demise. It’s a dream of a perfect storm, if you’re a Republican more interested in defeating Democrats’ legacy than in salvaging what’s left of this country’s rank-and-file economy.

The story goes that Obama’s real interest has always been stimulus spending that puts money directly in people’s hands in the form of unemployment compensation and immediate jobs for infrastructure and teachers and state and local government aid. There’s some of that in his $447 billion stimulus proposed last night. If it was up to him, he’d skip the tax cuts altogether. He’s no fool. But he’s no leader, either.

Republicans won’t let him have his version of stimulus without something of their own. That’s a given. But Obama has capitulated every time instead of fighting back. He’s the smart kid either too chicken or too arrogant to stand up to bullies. He’s lost every time. The bullies know it. His former supporters, myself among them, know it. He’s lost credibility. He’s lost respect. He’s losing the nation right along with him.

Thursday night he was back to spoiling what works with political pandering that doesn’t. More tax cuts. More sacrifice to supply-side voodoo. More babble for bullies. Republicans have never had such an effective lackey. They’ll surely miss him when his one and only term will be up in 14 months, and they’ll again have only themselves to blame for the empire’s slow-motion suicide. It started on Rev. Bush’s watch. Obama  did a fine imitation of hospice care. It’ll soon be time to bring in Rev. Perry or his Mormon sidekick for the wake. You can order the sauce now.

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8 Responses for “Obama’s Job Gig: Pin-Up to GOP Voodoo”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Excellent Pierre. I also rather have the “stained and tainted blue dress” other than the realistic (counted all that exhausted their benefits plus the hopeless part timers) now 20 million unemployed caused by the undermining Bush, Cheney driven 8 year blunders. Not that I justify Clinton’s sexual illegal escapades but I always believed that were well planned and planted to him and other politicians prone to womanizing in DC and with success:
    Unfortunately our President is still stepping up to the destructive agenda plate of these “extreme conservative” Republicans. While these dudes like Mitch McConnell only working their only goal to make Obama one term Prez . No working on jobs, no working to stop the unfair evictions by these banks to bulldoze those homes. No working on the millions without health insurance. No working on repairing our decaying infrastructure. Just talking about their Golf game like Bohenner yesterday to hardly listening Vice Prez Joe Biden, about his pars and birdies right before Obama speech. What a slap on the face of our unemployed and homeless these bourgeois politicians what a lack of compassion for their fellow American. Did anyone else saw and heard that one on TV live from the chair of the house? That is the only thing these “extreme conservatives” care about. So I am almost sure that the proposal wont be passed with this crooks attitudes. This President need to exercise his Commander in Chief powers and stop these wars and bring all home manpower and our $$ and repair the country infrastructure. Tax the wealthy and corporations. Tax imports, as no matter how many tax cuts he gives them corporations, they will go for the slaves hiring overseas.
    Impose the oil futures trade limits on Wall Street no matter that Goldman Sachs and others gets pissed. Mr.President, you already have enough millions donated for your next election campaign. We are sick and tired to be gouged at the pump, because these Wall Street hedge funds and large traders can buy oil future contracts without collateral funds deposited, like the small investor is obligated to do. The crazy trading is what keeps the gas price gouge. Simple the more stocks (oil futures contracts)are bought the higher the price of the goods. Venezuela is selling oil to China the barrel at 5 bucks each
    No here we are fighting with dude Chavez…use him! to our advantage and do not give in to the special interest in DC.
    Stop the banks from evicting home owners to bulldoze their homes…demand them to use the stimulus received to help with those mortgages. I see a case of a lady that had to move and live with her relatives in order to rent the only home she owns, so she can pay the mortgage with that rent income in order not to loose it after being laid off due to slow sales of her giant corporation employer 24 months ago. In 30 years of work this lady had a great career that was destroyed, in the last years of Bushonomics.The bank does not want to reduce her interest or give her a better deal “because she rents her home”.In few words Chase bank is doing everything it can do, for this lady to loose her home. She paid over 20,000 down in 2006, then 5 years at 1,300/month and that house now is worth half its original bank contracted value. She was given only an ARM deal that is a real rip off. Chase bank has made in interest only in 5 years 78,000 plus the 22,000 cash paid up front a total of more than 100,000. The house is worth now 98,000 and this woman owns it at 185,000 valued by the bank. Being unemployed she stands to loose all she paid for this ARM if she can’t rent this house. One of the many American tragedies of today that our President should address immediately and much better done than last evening on TV.

  2. Rick G says:

    Tax cuts are not the answer. If it was true we would be swimming in jobs since 2003. Its that simple. Wake up everyone and stop hypnotizing yourself by watching Fox News!

  3. Rob says:

    The reason that members of Congress are blocking efforts to tax the wealthy is that they represent those who are paying them. And some of them are among the class of citizens who would be taxed.

    As a whole I rank those people lower than a used car salesman.

  4. Outsider says:

    I find it interesting that when liberals blame Bush for the mortgage/economic crisis, they always seem to forget the key role FNMA director Franklin Raines played in the meltdown. You know, the guy who cooked the books at FNMA, pressed for approval of risky mortgages, all so he could walk with $100,000,000. Oh yes, the Bush administration DID in fact try to reign in FNMA and in fact warned congress of exactly what was about to happen. What was the result? They were stonewalled by some of the greatest Democratic geniuses in Congress. Here’s the evidence:

  5. mike bencal says:

    I am appalled at Eric Cantor’s reaction to the president’s speech. He told NBC that he generally supports the Presdident’s plan “but I object to the all or nothing approach.” Just what, then, do you call what the Republican/Teabagger position in the recent debt ceiling debate? Another Republican/Teabagger inconsistancy.

  6. Jojo says:

    Glad to see Obama bringing his economic plan to Republican Eric Cantor’s home turf today in Virginia. Obama was yelling, “Pass this bill now!” Next stop, the tan man’s district, John Boehner. Two can play that game.

  7. Liana G says:

    Actually Rob these members of Congress are also members of the millionaires’ club, the upper class, so they too stand to benefit from these tax cuts along with the extreme rich, their owners. These are the folks who are the real liability, they are worst than leeches because they serve no purpose. At least the Queen of England give the Brits royal nobility. What do our extreme rich give us?

    And for those who want to parrot that they create jobs, not true, the independent small business owners create more jobs than the rich and without the monopolies which lead to worker exploitation and corporate welfare.

  8. Jack says:

    Great article! I agree with everything you have said .

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