In his most recent blog post, Robert Reich writes of "The Big Economic Story, and Why Obama Isn’t Telling It". He asks: "What’s responsible for the lousy economy most Americans continue to wallow in?"
Story A is the answer Republicans and right-wingers are giving. It faults "big government, bureaucrats, and the cultural and intellectual elites who back them."
Story B is the answer "closer to the truth", Reich explains. "Big business, Wall Street, and the powerful and privileged who represent them" caused the economy go off the cliff.
Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor most Washington Democrats are explaining that to the American people, and so the Republicans' spin "deflects attention from the real problem". So Congress and many others are offering for solutions that will worsen our country's underlying economic problems.
If Obama and the Democrats were serious about story B they’d at least mention it. They’d tell the nation that income and wealth haven’t been this concentrated at the top since 1928, the year before the Great Crash. They’d be indignant about the secret money funneled into midterm campaigns. They’d demand Congress pass the Disclose Act so the public would know where the money comes from.
They’d introduce legislation to curb Wall Street bonuses – exactly what European leaders are doing with their financial firms. They’d demand that the big banks, now profitable after taxpayer bailouts, reorganize the mortgage debt of distressed homeowners. They’d call for a new WPA to put the unemployed back to work, and pay for it with a tax surcharge on incomes over $1 million.
They’d insist on extended unemployment benefits for long-term jobless who are now exhausting their benefits. And they’d hang tough on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy – daring Republicans to vote against extending the cuts for everyone else.
But Obama is doing none of this. Instead, he’s telling story A.
Obama, explains Reich, is moving right just like President Clinton did after the 1994 midterm elections. The rational given is that it will take away the Republicans' ground by preempting their arguments. "They're wrong," he writes.
By telling story A and burying story B, the President legitimizes everything the right has been saying. He doesn’t preempt them; he fuels them. He gives them more grounds for voting against raising the debt ceiling in a few weeks. He strengthens their argument against additional spending for extended unemployment benefits. He legitimizes their argument against additional stimulus spending.
The more Obama and Congressional Democrats ignore the truth behind the the economic collapse — big business, Wall Street, and the rich and powerful — the more likely it will be that the Republicans will continue to have their way: big tax cuts for the richest Americans while hurting everyone else.
That will mean more hardship for tens of millions of Americans. It will make it harder to remedy the bad economy. And it will set Republicans up for bigger wins in the future.
Obama has already presided over the biggest lost political opportunity in his lifetime and the 2010 mid-term elections have given the Republicans the greatest total legislative seats throughout the U.S. since 1928. I'd hate to see what "bigger wins" for the Republicans are coming in 2012 if the president and the Washington Democrats continue to move to the right and ignore story B.