Sunday, September 9, 2012

Are You Better Off Today vs. We Leave No One Behind

Are You Better Off? (9.5.2012, M.A. Reilly)

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said:
 … I think that the real issue this week and what you’re seeing happening yesterday on the Sunday morning talk shows is the fundamental question back on the table for Americans, which is: Are you better off today than you were three or four years ago? Issues come and go and they will, but at the end of the day this is going to be about facts.
It was considered a provocative question in 1980 when Reagan posed it and in post-1980, I can't help but think that this question ought to give us all pause.  

Reagan's policies provided permission for many to not care about others, especially those who were poor, homeless, or ill.  Reaganomics harmed us.  From a column from  2011, Bob Herbert had this to say about Reaganomics:
Paul Volcker, who served as chairman of the Federal Reserve during most of the Reagan years, commented in the film about the economist Arthur Laffer’s famous curve, which, incredibly, became a cornerstone of national economic policy. “The Laffer Curve,” said Mr. Volcker, “was presented as an intellectual support for the idea that reducing taxes would produce more revenues, and that was, I think, considered by most people a pretty extreme interpretation of what would happen.” 
Toward the end of his comment, the former Fed chairman chuckled as if still amused by the idea that this was ever taken seriously. 
What we get with Reagan are a series of disconnects and contradictions that have led us to a situation in which a president widely hailed as a hero of the working class set in motion policies that have been mind-bogglingly beneficial to the wealthy and devastating to working people and the poor.
I am reminded of the damage of Reaganomics when I hear Paul Ryan and company forward more trickle-down economics and pose what they think is a gotcha question. But does it reveal more about the asker than what might have been intended?

Are you better off today may in fact be irrelevant, especially as it was intended to be a question solely about income. The hyper-attention by the GOP on the self and money underestimates us.  We are bigger than our pockets. We must be. The messages that form the base upon which our political parties rest are important as they are revealing.

In contrast to the gotcha question, I think of the words Bill Clinton spoke at the DNC.  He closed his speech saying this:

I love our country— and I know we're coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we've always come out stronger than we went in. And we will again as long as we do it together. We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor— to form a more perfect union. 
Patriotic. Hopeful. Responsible. As long as we do it together...

Few adults would question that the economic times we live in are difficult for most everyone--save the super wealthy. The differences though between now and four years ago are considerable as I have a hopefulness that I did not feel at the hawkish end of the Bush-Cheney years.  I appreciate the slight changes that have been made in the name of equality. Even though I am disappointed that Congress and the President had such incredible trouble working together, I am nonetheless grateful for the changes that have happened during the first Obama presidency for our military, for gay rights, for the uninsured, and for the the little bit of tax reduction that came our way. The good person our president is, inspires me to do good as well. 

President Obama closed his acceptance speech at the DNC with these words:
America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now. Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. (Cheers.) Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. (Cheers.) 
We don't turn back. We leave no one behind. (Cheers.) We pull each other up. (Cheers, applause.) We draw strength from our victories. (Cheers, applause.) And we learn from our mistakes. But we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon knowing that providence is with us and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth.
I ask you: Which of these do you want to get behind? 
"Are you better off now than three or four years ago?"  
"We leave no one behind. We pull each other up."


  1. Spot on, Mary Ann. Thanks. I think it's time to put the myth of the gunslinger – the lone, self-sufficient individual – to rest. It's nice for the movies, but really bad policy, I think.

    1. Thanks Keith. Amen to putting to bed the gunslinger. We have lived with that myth for too long.

  2. I made myself watch the RNC. I thought Ayn Rand had been laid to rest, but I guess not. Both Ryan and Romney would push us into plutocracy (if we are not already there).