In the classic movie Cool Hand Luke, the prison warden, played by the great character actor Strother Martin, always said the same thing to the inmate, Paul Newman, after he misbehaved and before he got beaten: “What we've got here is failure to communicate.”
What we have in Washington now is a Democratic failure to communicate effectively.
Wall Street profits are huge and corporate taxes are at their lowest level since the Eisenhower administration. But Republicans and even the president are talking about cutting corporate taxes.
Supply-side economics, the idea that you can increase government revenue by lowering taxes is fuzzy math and a discredited theory that led to big deficits left behind by the last three Republican presidents. Yet the president and Congress just extended the big Bush tax bonanza for bankers and billionaires. [See who donates the most to your member of Congress.]
The failure of the Bush administration to enforce federal regulations governing the financial industry contributed to the collapse of the economy in the Fall of 2008. But the president and congressional Republicans want to ease federal regulations on corporations.
All the national polls indicate that the most popular idea for raising enough revenue to maintain vital federal programs is increasing taxes on wealthy Americans. Yet after he agreed with congressional Republicans on keeping the Bush tax cuts for rich people, the president is asking Congress to cut in half federal spending for financial assistance for home heating for Americans living below the poverty line. Baby, it’s cold out there. By the way, the poverty rate is climbing steadily, and now one in five Americans lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. [See a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]
Despite all of this, many Democrats, including the president, fail to take a stand against big business, which is bleeding this country dry financially. Bipartisanship is fine, but unipartisanship based on Democratic surrender to failed GOP economic dogma is bad. I congratulate the president for the courageous stands that he has taken on social issues, especially gay rights. But his failure to communicate effectively with the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, homes, and pensions to big business is one of the reasons we did so badly in 2010.
Democrats can’t win if they are afraid of their own shadows. The public mood presents a great opportunity for Democrats to run as economic populists. We should keep in mind the words of Harry Truman when he said “a pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities. An optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties. Truman also said, “if you give Americans a choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time.”