Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Every Way You Look At This, You Lose

(graphic by Kat Garcia)
Where have you gone, Barack Obama? The nation turned its lonely eyes to you. Woo, woo, woo. But now your approval rating among the young has plummeted to an all-time low, thanks in large part to the NSA spying revelations. You seduced the young folks, and now they've abandoned you for Edward Snowden.

And then there's that little matter of a 65% summer unemployment rate among teenagers. And new college graduates who can't find decent jobs. A whole lost generation of the permanently indebted is ending up in part-time, low-wage hell. They're sleeping in mom and dad's basement. That is, if mom and dad are lucky enough to have jobs themselves, and still have a non-foreclosed home, and basement.

What's that you say, Mr. Obama? You just want to learn a little bit about us for your files? Maybe that's why you're embarking on yet another propaganda bus tour, visiting elite colleges located smack- dab in the middle of Long Depressionville. You'd like to help us learn to help ourselves. Look at you -- all we see are your sympathetic eyes and all we hear is your melodious voice. (When it comes to the president, son, let me just describe him in one word: Plastic. He's a Wall Street robot. And he drones on, and on, and on. From Buffalo all the way to Yemen.)

Since the success of Obamacare hinges upon those millions of healthy young people signing up and paying up in order to keep premiums low for everybody in the pool, and Obama's popularity among young people is rapidly eroding, will Edward Snowden now also be blamed if the Affordable Care Act falls flat on its insurance-predator bum?

It's too early to tell if such P.R. efforts as the "Young Invincibles" campaign to sign up healthy young people for Obamacare will have any effect. It's Not Always Sunny in Young America, their slogan goes. No kidding. You think your life is an economic disaster now, just wait until you get run over by a truck while you're reading about the latest NSA dirt. So buy, buy, buy.

Meanwhile, from The Hill:
Some polls show a double-digit drop in Obama’s approval rating since Edward Snowden revealed NSA secrets, weakening the president ahead of fall fights with congressional Republicans over the budget and immigration.
Polling taken by the Economist and YouGov finds a 14-point swing in Obama’s approval and disapproval rating among voters aged 18-29 in surveys taken immediately before the NSA revelations and last week.
“Younger voters tend to believe the Internet should be an area of free speech and free communication, and the idea that the government is looking into what you’re doing is distasteful — and particularly distasteful if run by a president they voted for,” said Julian Zelizer, a political science professor at Princeton University.“The narrative also goes against the fundamentals of President Obama, representing status quo politics and more of the same kind of policies that existed under President Bush, so Obama ceases to be an agent of change,” he added.
So is it any wonder that Obama is now suddenly pivoting to the college tour circuit in yet another one of those folksy, homespun bus trips? The email he sent out to "supporters like me" last night was full of vague platitudes wrapped in a warm fuzzy blanket of bromides: 
Michelle and I know exactly how tough it can be to pay for higher education. By the time we finished paying back the loans we took out to go to college and grad school, I was on my way to being a U.S. Senator.
I believe that anyone who works hard should have the same opportunities that our educations gave us. That's why, as President, I've made it a personal mission to make higher education more affordable -- and why I'm going to be visiting school campuses later this week.
Whenever Obama begins a spiel with "Michelle and I", get ready for the next big onslaught of unadulterated bullshit. And sure enough, his latest announcement is replete with colorful charts showing how expensive college is getting, with not one hint about how he actually plans to fix this.* But I imagine his plan will include giving immediate tax breaks to obscenely-salaried college presidents who vaguely promise to stuff more tech courses into their curricula, the better to prepare new hordes of grads for $11/hour jobs at an Amazon Fulfillment Center, or maybe even a non-unionized job in an Ikea factory in a right-to-work state. Those hard-workin' families aiming to put their kids through school are sure to be thrown another crumb of a tax credit as well, just to give the crap that now-familiar "balanced approach" patina of populism. (He won't ask the strapped students of America to pay another penny more in tuition unless boards of trustees first agree to put up a jobs bulletin board in all the dorms.)

But here, as Barbara Garson points out in an excellent piece in TomDispatch, is the ugly reality:
21% of the jobs lost during the Great Recession were low wage, meaning they paid $13.83 an hour or less.  But 58% of the jobs regained fall into that category. A common explanation for that startling statistic is that the bad jobs are coming back first and the good jobs will follow.  
But let me suggest another explanation: the good jobs are here among us right now -- it’s just their wages, their benefits, and the long-term security that have vanished.
Obama, you may remember, once suggested a hike in the minimum wage to a miserly $9/hour. Not only has he seemingly abandoned even that pathetic goal, he has never put the onus of blame for high tuition and low wages on the real culprits: corporate welfare behemoths like Walmart and G.E., and the political donor class bribers, who once upon a time actually did fund state schools through a fair, progressive tax system. Nor will he blame his own Wall Street-friendly, misguided austerian policies, put in place after the financial meltdown.

A White House press flack, with the ironic name of Josh Earnest, was coy about exactly what Obama will announce later this week. The president doesn't "want to give the secret away now.... but it'll be good" he promised the other day. "Stay tuned."

I reckon Obama is still busy stashing it in the propaganda pantry with all the rest of his verbal cupcakes. It's a little secret, just the plutocrats' affair. Most of all, he's got to hide it from the kids.

Update: Watch for Obama's approval ratings to erode a little more each day that he doesn't pardon, or commute the sentence of, Bradley Manning. May his black bus be greeted by protesters galore.
*Update 2 (8/22): The White House snuck the New York Times a cupcake before dinner (an advance copy of talking points.) I wasn't all that far off in my predictions. It seems Obama's big plan is to rate colleges based on affordability, percentage of low-income students, and amount of post-graduate debt -- and eventually/maybe/ someday give them less federal aid if they don't meet his small-bore criteria. All of this, of course, hinges upon Congress acting on his bold plan to give greedy colleges 50 lashes with a wet noodle. Oh, and don't forget a Thomas Friedman-esque internet connection for every hard-workin' student.   


Fred Drumlevitch said...

Great post, Karen.

I'm not sure, though, whether I should be heartened by the drop in Obama's poll numbers that you reference, or depressed that many millions of citizens still buy into his "sympathetic eyes", platitudes, and mendacious assurances.

This President's "affair" with the rich, the corporations, and the traditional powers-that-be stopped being a secret long ago — to those not enslaved by wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, too many are so-enslaved, and he might yet sway some of those late-teens or twenty-something young impressionables to which you refer. Many people — of all ages, I'll hasten to add — still don't have adequate political experience/sophistication, and remain too plugged into dangerous beliefs: i.e. lower taxes should be a nation's prime directive, little-regulated capitalism is the best economic system, too-big-to-fail-corporatism is fine, national planning is bad, the poor are lazy, it's all God's will, ... .

It doesn't require many false memes to ruin a nation, and we've had quite a few running amok for several decades now.

So those sympathetic eyes can still work some degree of magic. And Air Force One, no matter how many platitudes its occupant serves up, is still a helluva lot more impressive than the Alfa Romeo Spider that "Benjamin" drove.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Fred. I'm a glass-full kind of gal, I guess,as regards the body politic. Of course, I unscientifically base my opinion largely upon the reader commentariat of the NY Times, who seem to have evolved from Obamamania to more reality-based thinking since his re-election. For example, see the comments to the Bradley Manning verdict story. The pro-govt faction is now in a distinct minority.

Zee said...


Regarding the “glass-full” theory of the “body-politic,” several counter-thoughts from people far wiser than me:

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” --H.L. Mencken

“Vote, v. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” Ambrose Bierce. The Devil's Dictionary

“In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue, but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” --Mark Twain

“You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, and that's enough. --Unknown politician

The glass is never half-full or half-empty; it's always full (save in a vacuum). But sometimes, it's only full of bad gas.

Pearl said...

Statement from Bradley Manning:

Pearl said...

Global progressive community reacts to Manning verdict.

Will said...

Thanks for the links, Pearl. Here's Chris Hedges' piece published yesterday:

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Some details on how U.S. government surveillance of the people seeks to extend to more than just our internet and telecom usage: