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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Many commentators and observers, including this writer, argued for a far more aggressive and comprehensive strategy from the White House for getting America out of its economic morass. Obama’s team chose a half-hearted, half-assed stimulus package, and the result is what we see today. Don’t get me wrong, the stimulus helped. But it is running out, and you can see the effects that the empty well is having on state and local governments as they proceed to cut education and essential social services and programs.

Unemployment is high, twice as high for blacks, and the jobs aren’t coming. 80 percent of recent college graduates are moving back home. And there is talk of a double-dip recession on the way, as housing prices are falling, with a faltering real estate market threatening to pull us back down into the hole. The President’s abysmal failure of a foreclosure relief plan is blamed, in part, for the economic woes.

A new Washington Post-ABC poll reveals that President Obama has lost his post-Bin Laden bump in popularity. And more importantly, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans believe the country is seriously on the wrong track. Nine in 10 rate the economy negatively, and six in 10 say the economy is not on the road to recovery. About six in 10 give Obama negative marks on the economy and the deficit. This comes on the heels of the departure of Austan Goolsbee - one of Obama’s progressive-leaning economic advisors - who was frustrated that the President abandoned more stimulus investment to spur the economy, opting instead to pursue the folly of attacking deficits.

Polls at this early stage in the game don’t mean a whole lot, but it is worth noting that Obama leads 5 of 6 Republican contenders, and is in a dead heat with Mitt Romney. I believe that Obama could handily beat any empty suit the GOP throws his way. Given the proclivities of the Republican primary electorate, I’ll bet that Romney’s status as frontrunner will be short lived. I will bet on Sarah Palin or someone of her ilk. Howard Dean said himself that Sarah Palin could defeat Obama in the general election, particularly with unemployment as it is.

Now, do I really think that Palin is presidential material? Not for a moment. Her latest gaffe - actually a botchery of the historical account of Paul Revere’s ride, in which she claimed Revere warned the British - shows how ignorant and flighty the woman truly is. That is precisely why she could win. I don’t trust the American electorate, especially when times are tough. Too many Americans drink the stupid juice when the economy is in the tank, and pull the lever against their own economic interests. Or, demoralized and disenchanted, they just stay home and don’t vote at all.

The results of the 2010 midterm elections provide all the evidence you need of that proposition. Voters cast their ballots for some of the most regressive governors, state legislators and members of Congress one can imagine. The country is hurting, but instead we get voter ID legislation, decimation of labor rights, criminalization of abortion, Vouchercare, and laws banning sagging pants. We knew they would do something like this, even though they didn’t explicitly say they would. The Republican track record on overreach speaks for itself. And the lackluster Democrats did their best to bring a GOP victory last year, eager as they are to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Although Palin and the other Republican hopefuls hardly seem viable candidates at first glance, consider Ronald Reagan. People laughed at the prospect of an actor becoming president. His opponent, the incumbent, was smart and capable, and didn’t drag the country into war. But he was done in by stagflation and the Iran hostage crisis, not to mention an intra-party challenge from Ted Kennedy, and two opponents in the general election.

If the economy continues to suffer enough, as it appears it will, Obama should take heed. Americans will elect the factually challenged, knowledge deficient and intellectually starved if given half a chance, which is why Obama needs to get serious about jobs, jobs, jobs. Regardless of how much he can accomplish on that front between now and Election Day 2012, he needs to get started yesterday. And it is time for him to ignore the Republicans. They have two goals in mind: First, to wreck the economy for 2012, and second, to establish a nation fully owned and operated by religious fanatics, the greedy and the unstable. They are making good on both these promises.

That’s the short term situation. Obama must find some jobs or he’ll be out of one. Now here’s the long term problem, which leads us back to the short term: America is a feudal capitalist state with the highest inequality in the industrialized world. The inequality has widened over three decades, and is now at chronic proportions - the highest since the Great Depression. The elites have decided to ride this one out, not through economic growth, because all they have to do, they’ve decided, is to squeeze as much as they can from the rest of us. And they’re doing a superb job of it. Favorable tax policies and deregulation ensure that they get more and more, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowed them to buy the political system outright. So, a bribery-based political system - concerned only with the next election cycle - serves the interests of a crony capitalist system that cares only about the next quarterly profit statement.

Say what you will about China, but at least they never pretended to operate under any pretense of democracy. However, China does look one hundred years into the future, when America can barely look past the latest episode of Celebrity Apprentice. And as China silently colonizes Africa and wrests the leadership in renewable energy, the U.S. has no industrial policy other than military contractors. We can’t even build a national high-speed rail system because the superstitious among us brand it as socialist big government welfare spending.

These are the problems that President Obama must face, because hell, world leaders are paid to do that. He can solve this whole thing tomorrow if he just calls for a new New Deal program already. But will he have the courage? Time will tell, but the President, like this sad nation, is short on time. Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington Post, the Grio, The Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs at, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.

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