Jun 18th 2010

Real Factor in Midterms: Too Few Jobs, Not Too Much Spending

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.

"I know we should provide more money for state government to prevent hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, and public workers from being laid off, but I just can't vote for one more bill that increases the deficit."

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that - or something similar about other job creating programs from a Member of Congress - I could probably retire.

Many Democratic Members of Congress are convinced that it is bad politics for them to support more spending on jobs, if it isn't "off set" by other cuts or increases in revenues. They're convinced by polls that show great public concern over "government spending and the deficit."

But they are dead wrong about the political consequences of the choices before them.

There is one factor driving the anger and unhappiness that is so palpable in the electorate: people are worried about the economic prospects of their families. They are frightened about their futures. They worry that their children may have less economic opportunity than they did.

And there is only one "political message" that really addresses this sense of economic insecurity. Voters have to see things actually getting better for their families and their neighbors. They have to see their brother-in-law finally get a job.

Yesterday, Economist Alan Blinder published a piece in the Wall Street Journal that clearly stated the case that the economic policies undertaken by the Obama Administration and Democratic Congress have done an enormous amount to create new jobs - and to rescue the economy from the potential of another Great Depression.

There is no doubt that this is true. Of course it's hard to get credit for avoiding disaster. But more importantly, the everyday economic circumstances of everyday people - while they are definitely improving - aren't improving enough to make them feel hopeful. That's why the single most important thing Democrats in Congress can do to improve the political climate this fall is anything that creates or saves more jobs.

Don't get me wrong. There are many things that Democrats can do to take back the political momentum in the midterm elections.

We can make certain that the debate presents the voters with a choice of paths to the future, not just a referendum on the status quo. Do we want to go back to the failed Bush economic policies that favored Wall Street, Big Oil, and Insurance Companies and that devastated the Middle Class and Small Business? That is a very resonant message. The polling shows that most Americans understand that the policies of the Bush years - and the Wall Street banks were the real culprits that cost eight million Americans their jobs. We have to constantly remind them that the Republican alternative involves going back to the bad ole days of yesteryear.

We can make a strong case that if the Republicans are the Party of "No" now, Republican control of Congress would deliver gridlock. Remember many voters who are angry at what they perceive as inaction (notwithstanding the health care bill, stimulus bill, and Wall Street reform bill) - not too much action.

And increasingly, focus groups show that there is much unease that many Republican candidates are simply extremists.

Polling and focus groups show that these are very compelling messages for the fall. And they will be strengthened mightily when we put meat on the bones - when we spell out exactly the policies that the Republicans would like to put in place.

A lot of swing voters find it easy to fall for the Republican posturing about "government spending" until we drive home the fact that they want to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a system of vouchers - or privatize Social Security.

All of these are important elements for a successful Democratic strategy in the fall. But to deal with the underlying sense of anxiety and anger, nothing will work besides actually creating more jobs - more short term economic opportunity.

Less than five months before Election Day there are very few ways for Congress - or the White House - to affect the jobs situation in November. Most new government action takes months to actually kick in.

There is, however, one, that does not. Providing money - and guarantees of funding - for state and local governments will actually prevent the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs. With the assurance of Federal funding, states and localities can act immediately to keep people working - with incomes that keep them buying the products that keep other people working.

If the Congress does not act, hundreds of thousands of Americans will be laid off. That is horrible politics for Democrats - particularly Democrats in swing Congressional Districts.

With the economy actually creating jobs, the last thing we need are massive state and local layoffs that offset that job creation. That would involve snatching economic defeat from the jaws of victory.

And contrary to the Republican blathering that "only the private sector can create real jobs," there is no one that would argue that teachers, firemen, police officers, emergency medical personnel, and the people who build and maintain roads do not do "real jobs." These are jobs performing some of the most economically vital tasks in our economy - and if they are not done, real damage will be done to the present economy and the future prospects of our children.

The Democratic leadership in both Houses - and the White House - understand this political and economic reality clearly. But fear of voting to "increase the deficit" has infected many Members of the Democratic caucus so completely that they risk failing to take actions that can actually improve their own chances for reelection.

Voters will not remember or care whether they vote for this or that funding bill that "increased the deficit" -- and the Republicans will say they voted to increase the deficit no matter what they do. What the voters will remember is how they feel about the overall direction of the economy and the jobs situation. That feeling is the starting place for any other message that Democratic incumbents will try to communicate this fall.

The fact is that voting for jobs is always good politics.

Democratic Members of Congress can't let Republicans frighten them into doing something that is both bad for the economy and bad for themselves politically. Congress needs to pass a robust jobs bill - including aide to state and local government now.

Robert Creamer's recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available onAmazon.com.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."