U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York recently said there were two mandates from the 2010 midterm elections, but lawmakers only talk about one, which is to reduce the deficit. An examination of the data from the media’s exit survey proves his point. Four of 10 (40 percent) voters indicated that Congress’s first priority was to reduce the federal deficit. But almost as many (37) voters wanted Congress to spend money to create new jobs. Only a few brave souls dare to speak the truth, which is that federal spending is the investment that corporate America won’t make. At least in the United States.
Schumer’s statement came before the Republican presidential debate on Monday. I’m sure he and I were thinking same thing as the Republicans talked about corporate tax cuts and regulations and pandered to the Tea Party with gay and Muslim bashing. What happened to jobs? [See a slide show of GOP 2012 contenders.]
Is it crazy to spend federal money on job training, education, transportation, and green energy to create jobs when there’s a budget deficit? That approach makes a lot more sense than reducing taxes on bankers, brokers, and billionaires in order to increase tax revenues. George Orwell would appreciate GOP economic message, which is “less is more.” The Election Day poll indicated that almost two of every three Americans (64 percent) did not want to extend the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. But the first thing Congress and the president did after Election Day was to extend the Bush tax cuts for rich people. So much for election mandates.
The same exit poll indicated that more Americans blamed the economic collapse on Wall Street than President Barack Obama. But Wall Street is having its way now in Washington. All of the Republican candidates beat up on corporate regulations Monday. Congressional Republicans are trying to undo the reforms passed by Congress last year to limit abuses in the financial industry. The Bush administration killed many corporate regulations in the last decade. And look what happened: The bad boys on Wall Street took advantage of those regulatory cuts to kill the economy, which in turn led to millions of Americans losing their jobs and then their homes. [Check out political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]
Sam Rayburn, the late, great Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, once said, “Any jackass can knock down a barn door, but it takes a carpenter to build one.” The jackasses were on full display Monday night. It’s time for Democratic populists to step forward and call for building things up rather than burning them down.
The GOP has succeeded in hijacking the mandate of last year’s elections. Democrats need to show some guts and reclaim the economic populist part of message from the 2010 campaign.