It seems as though the Republican mantra of trickle down economics is something that we are sticking resiliently to. The notion that giving $700 billion dollars to Wall Street is going to, in turn, trickle down to the mythical “main street” both McCain and Biden have spoken of in debates. But where is the evidence of this working? Certainly not anywhere in the last 9 to 10 years. The parallel of our times to the Great Depression has been omnipresent, both in straight comparison of the economic downturn and when the comparison has been shrugged off, like McCain’s former advisor calling American’s a nation of whiners, invoking the Great Depression as something we couldn’t fathom.
Yet, looking back at one of the nation’s darkest economic times seems entirely relevant to a country where relatively few people remain from that difficult era. It was not a trickle down effect that led America out of the Depression (though war, in the end, didn’t hurt either). FDR’s New Deal policies never took the stance that a trickle down was an option, that there was time to watch the money trickle at all. The New Deal policies held it most important to get money in the hands of the middle and lower classes first. To allow the, um, steam to rise…I’m not exactly sure what to call this, but I guess that’s the only way I know that water rises.
Putting systems in place, such as social security, and using the government to temporarily employee citizens while they assisted in making the country a better place were policies that attacked a number of the nation’s problems at once. With Bush’s approval rating in danger of falling far below 30%, and congress at dismal 15% (who knows where Cheney is, what the percentage for 40 people in the country?) it seems more than reasonable to suggest that it is this kind of multi-pronged policy that is necessary to pull the nation out of this turmoil, to let the steam rise.
Obama has promised change relentlessly, but as the election lumbers forward his policies seem to be inching closer to centrist than ever before. Election years are notorious for making centrists out of the most earnest reformers, because that’s politics, policies can change; once the votes are cast they are cast. But isn’t it time for America to take on some bold new ideas, because whatever is happening now, isn’t working. Unemployment is at an all time low, the stock market has bottomed out in the past couple of weeks, increasing amounts of corruption are being unveiled on Wall Street, gas prices are at all time highs, the government is about to offer fiscal assistance to Wall Street while the housing market is collapsing, global warming is taking place at an alarmingly fast rate, parts of the country are still in need of repair from a hurricane that hit over three years ago, our president and congress are universally disliked, America is more unpopular than ever abroad, oh, and there are those two wars we are still involved in.
Obama once taunted Senator McCain’s adaptation of his “change” slogan saying, “Change isn't about slogans. It's about substance.” How about some substance? How about we implement a program that employees the growing number of unemployed whose jobs are being outsourced because of loose tax regulations, who are loosing their homes because of loose oversight on shady mortgages, who are loosing their social security and retirement funds due to poor oversight and the market crash? It’s no coincidence that some of the best policies still in place for the middle class were implemented by FDR. If the government helped the middle class to get back on their feet by assisting the country in rebuilding crumbling infrastructure such as old bridges and levees in disrepair, if they could help housing developments in urban centers go green to offset fears about global warming and the increased burden of gas prices on the lower class, wouldn’t that help everyone? Wouldn’t the steam rise?
With that increased income in their bank account maybe the bank wouldn’t have to close and they have some dispensable income that they might invest, or just try to clothe their families with, maybe they could keep up on their mortgages and not lose their homes because of laws that were loosened during the Clinton administration that had lasted from the original New Deal.
To some this might sound like Socialism. But desperate times call for some new ideas, and after Friday night’s presidential debate and last night’s abysmal vice presidential debate I’m tired of hearing the same old centrist banter, name-calling, and partisan politics. I’d like to hear some new ideas from a leader. I’d like to see them throw some water on the smouldering remains of the reigning policies of trickle down economics, so that the steam can rise.