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Thu Feb 21, 2013, 04:04 PM

"The Missing Link in Obama's Liberalism" (Eric Alterman on Obama's SOU Speech)

The Missing Link in Obama's Liberalism
Eric Alterman
February 6, 2013 | This article appeared in the February 25, 2013 edition of The Nation.

Obama cannot be said to have ignored the plight of the poor and the middle class; indeed, some of the poetry of the address came on exactly this topic, as when he asserted that “the commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” But the crisis of inequality that threatens not only our economic recovery but also our democracy went almost entirely unmentioned. You’ve heard the statistics: household income in 2011 fell to its lowest level in sixteen years, while the gap between rich and poor is now larger than it has been in the past forty. As corporate profits rose to their biggest share of the national income in seventy years, workers’ wages fell to their smallest share in the same period. And wealth is even more concentrated at the top than income. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans now own more than 35 percent of the nation’s household wealth, and 38 percent of the nation’s financial assets.

Remember, we live in a country in which the Supreme Court defines money as speech. Political campaigns, whether official or Rove-ian, are funded by the wealthiest 0.05 percent. And their power can be measured by the ability of corporate lobbyists to force members of Congress to dance to their tune or risk unemployment themselves.

Previous progressive presidents, at least since Franklin Roosevelt, could have looked to a strong union movement to help narrow these gaps, both politically and economically. But thanks in part to a vicious campaign to change labor law in favor of corporations as well as a national shakedown of workers aided by “free trade” agreements like NAFTA and GATT, our national unionization rate is just about one-third what it was when Dwight Eisenhower put his hand on the Bible sixty years ago. (The labor movement, too, went unrecognized in the inaugural address, as it has in almost every Obama speech, despite the relentless assault it faces in Michigan, Wisconsin and, of course, Congress.)

If liberals really are ready to give up on fighting inequality, then while you may be able to marry your same-sex partner anywhere in the country one day, you had better be wealthy if you want your children to have any hope of going to college or making a decent life for themselves. Already, according to a Pew report last year, we know that nearly three-quarters of children raised in the bottom 20 percent of income brackets remain stuck below the middle of those brackets in the future, while a mere 4 percent can expect to make it to the top 20 percent. Figures like those spell the end of the American dream, whether it’s defined economically, socially or politically. And if Barack Obama would prefer to focus on other causes, however worthy, we had better find a way to change his mind.

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Reply "The Missing Link in Obama's Liberalism" (Eric Alterman on Obama's SOU Speech) (Original post)
KoKo Feb 2013 OP
Bill USA Feb 2013 #1

Response to KoKo (Original post)

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 07:57 PM

1. Alterman rocks!


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