I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I know where Dems and liberals have been getting their asses kicked on economic issues among middle class white men, and I think I know how we can kick conservative Republican asses in the future, if we have enough sense to do so.
The problem is that liberals have allowed conservatives to frame the debate about the economy, as about so many other things. If you are not for the free market, conservatives say, you want everyone to wear ill-fitting gray jumpsuits and live in concrete block dorms while standing in long lines to eat thin, tasteless gruel at community kitchens, riding the bus and watching only PC entertainments designed to uplift and instruct us, primarily about the importance of rejecting God for atheism and tolerating gay people when they force you to marry them and have sex with them.
OK, perhaps I exagerrate – but not very much. Talk radio and Fox News commentators have fairly consistently painted this kind of picture without putting it quite so bluntly. It only looks ridiculous because the vision itself is ridiculous, when fully expressed. The conservatives’ nightmare vision of liberal social engineering is loosely based on many of the worst features of socialist governments in places like China, Korea and Soviet Russia. These kinds of societies, conservatives claim, are the direct, logical outcome of liberal thought, and are what liberals want America to become.
It’s a big, steaming, pile of shit of course, but quite consistent with all the other lies and so forth that have been foisted on the American public by the conservatives. The much higher standard of living enjoyed by folks in Europe’s socialist democracies are ignored. Workers there work less, get more vacations, and unemployed folks are able to live decent lives until they are able to find work. Unemployment rates are higher at times, but the stress caused by unemployment is so much lower that it isn’t the problem it is here in America, where unemployment can and does lead to homelessness and increased chances of illness and even early death (due to loss of health insurance).
Even when they’re unemployed, Europeans generally feel like citizens in good standing, unlike unemployed Americans who are generally made to feel like useless, lazy supernumeraries who would do everyone a favor by killing themselves in a way that doesn’t cost others too much money.
European workers, even with their greater risk of unemployment, lead better, healthier, happier lives than American workers. They are the opposite of the poor in socialist China, North Korea and Russia – not American workers, who stand somewhere between them and the Communist workers.
If American liberals want to kick conservative ass on economic issues as they have in the past, they have to create a vision of a more socially egalitarian future that will appeal to middle class folks – just like they once did. American middle class folks don’t want choiceless comfort, the want greater freedom and power, just like rich people do. What American liberals have to do is come up with a vision that offers that vision to Americans.
The current conservative vision is, “Sure, you don’t have necessarily have health insurance, or a nice place to live, or sometimes even a place to live, period. But you’ve got a chance … a chance to be rich someday. If not you, your kids.” This is ENORMOUSLY appealing to many middle-class and lower-class Americans, MUCH more appealing than the drab Communist vista the conservatives like to paint when they describe liberal goals. It’s the lotto vision of economic progress, and it only takes a look at the success of lotteries themselves to deduce its popularity among the poor and the middle class.
What liberals have to do is come up with a vision for middle America that OUTDOES the conservative vision. And we can, in fact, it will be EASY, because the liberal vision actually IS more appealing than the conservative vision. We need to communicate that we want more personal freedom and more personal power for middle class people.
We don’t want to put middle class people in dorms, we want to make it easier for them to keep their homes. We don’t want want to make middle class people ride buses, we want to make it easier for them to avoid long commutes. We don’t want to make middle class people eat government cheese, we want to give them enough economic clout to eat out at nice restaurants when they feel like it. We don’t want to make middle class people work at boring jobs, we want to give them an economy that makes it easier for the to change jobs if they want to or need to. We don’t want to restrict their choices, we want to give them more of the one thing that will do the most to increase their ability to make choices … money.
The real problem with the American economy is that rich people have too much of it. That’s why “the economy” keeps doing well but job growth never seems to happen. The rich folks are making their companies more productive, firing more people (or “outsourcing” them as it’s now called) and working those that are left like dogs. The Republicans and conservatives give them all kinds of tax breaks and let them and the corporations they own have such huge tax loopholes that a lot of them are able to stash their money away and pay no taxes at all on it, while middle class and poor folks get their money taxed before they even see it.
It’s an obvious telltale that whenever liberals and Democrats mention how well the wealthy are doing compared to the rest of us, the conservatives cry “Class warfare.” Guess what … class warfare has been going on in America for decades, and the rich have been winning because they’ve got people convinced that they shouldn’t fight back, because that would be … class warfare.
The liberals and the Democrats will make the rich pay their fair share of taxes and ease the tax burden on the rest of us. We’ll regulate corporations so that companies are encouraged to hire people, not fire them, and so that sending work to foreign corporations is costly. We’ll make it harder, not easier, for creditors to sieze homes when people lose their jobs. We’ll encourage builders to come up with new ways of making houses that are less expensive. (There’s gotta be something we can build besides mansions.) We’ll work on getting everyone health insurance, not just those who are lucky enough – at the moment – to be working for an employer who offers health insurance. We’ll also work on making drugs and medical treatment less expensive. We’ll protect the environment and save money while we do it.
Now, it really doesn’t matter if we do every last thing promised here, the most important thing is to make those promises. We can beat the Republicans on the economy if we just don’t behave like a bunch of drunken fools. We can beat them on national security just by promising that we won’t start wars for no reason and we’ll get America off its dangerous dependence on foreign oil – and we’ll make the economy stronger while we’re at it. We can beat the Republicans on health and jobs just by TRYING, something they aren’t even PRETENDING to do. Our vision for middle class America is, everybody healthy, no one in fear of losing their home, jobs aplenty and opportunity aplenty. If we espouse THESE as our goals and don’t let the Pubbies and the conservatives frame the debate in terms of their way vs. total Communism, we can beat them senseless at the polls … if we do one other thing.
It doesn’t matter if our candidate is a wealthy nabob with a family background of wealth and privilege. George W. Bush has proven that. He just better not LOOK and SOUND like a wealthy nabob with a family background of wealth and privilege. John F. Kerry proved that.