Barack Obama gave a brilliant speech in Kansas yesterday, one steeped in history and explicitly clear in its message.
Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger.
… Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. … But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade…..
We simply cannot return to this brand of ‘you’re on your own’ economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.
For his words, we need to thank not only the president, but the Occupy movement which, even as its camps are systematically being broken down by police from coast to coast, has ingrained the sharp and growing inequality of income and wealth in this country into the nation’s vocabulary and consciousness. These aren’t slogans. They are facts.
As the president noted yesterday:
- In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent of wage earners in this country has gone up 250 percent to $1.2 million a year.
- In the last decade, the average income of most Americans has fallen by 6 percent.
- The typical CEO now earns about 110 times what his or her workers earn.
With the Republicans in Congress playing the game “total obstructionism,” Obama’s jobs initiative on ice, and his Social Security tax cut extension in peril, the president has little choice but to turn at last to the people who brought him to the White House — the American voter. Yesterday, in Kansas, he did so effectively.
Particularly given the policies and personalities of those Republicans lined up to run against him, we can only hope he is not too late.