Mr. And Mrs. America fall through the economic cracks...
By Jeanette Pontacq
The year 2002 saw an exponential increase in the number of "invisibles" in America. The classic invisibles in this country have been the working poor, minorities and anyone else who doesn't vote and/or doesn't contribute to politicians' coffers. But the times (to paraphrase Bob Dylan) are most certainly changing. The newest invisibles are those who consider themselves solidly middle class, moderate to conservative, true believers in our economic system and taken to the cleaners by The Market. And if they voted, they probably checked the box for George W. Bush and his Team.
The collapse of the Market Bubble, Osama bin Laden and Corporate Corruption have gutted the market holdings of millions of these patriotic stalwarts. The worst hit are those close to or already in retirement, depending upon interest or dividends from their portfolios for income. Every time Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates to try to stimulate the economy, those people's income fell.
When Enron officials, and other high-profile corporate criminals, were temporarily dragged into the spotlight, the media gave visibility to some who lost everything because of specific corporate malfeasance....but only for a short time. They soon became invisible too, joining the wider cross-section of newly-invisible Americans experiencing fear of their future.
Invisibility is an important component of the economic non-strategy of the Bush Administration. It allows Congress, supporting the Bush agenda, to cut government help for the disabled, minorities and community health (to name a few). In the middle of a deep recession, huge layoffs and growing public fear, Bush pushed for and got tighter bankruptcy regulations, targeted at a middle class with huge debt. Overall, the public safety net is being sliced open, leaving huge holes for people to fall through on the way to poverty.
The Administration needs to pretend that the market is not inherently flawed and that all will be made right as soon as "we buy more and have more confidence in the future." The big losers will be anyone, either Republican or Democrat, who believes the market will return to anything close to previous highs within the next ten years without a massive and sophisticated intervention by the government, along with a thorough restructuring of our financial institutions and regulations.
Since few savvy economists believe the Bush Team has either the will or the smarts to correct market corruption and stabilize the economy, the resultant social domino effect will continue, hitting the working poor in the service sector as well as laid off white-collar middle managers and retirees.
The majority of invisibles in America do not vote. The left needs to plan their 2004 strategy around reaching out to these very people. Self interest can be a powerful tool for the left in 2004, potentially cutting across both party affiliations and apathy. It will be beneficial to an invisibles' own self interest to v-o-t-e for regime change as long as the Democratic candidate speaks directly and powerfully to this issue with a realistic and effective plan of action. Clinton was right all along...it IS the economy, stupid. The left needs to push, harass and harangue the Democrats until they come up with a forceful, efficient, realistic economic plan to present to the people. After all, the idea in 2004 is to win, not to "make a statement" or support "the process." Regime change in 2004 is of paramount importance: we cannot afford to split our efforts or votes between candidates this time. If someone other than Bush is to win, it is going to be a Democrat...not a Green or a Libertarian or the Natural Law Party. We need to make sure the Democratic candidate is the best we can do, even if we have to hold our nose on some issues.
Accepting that simple reality is the first step to regime change. The second step is putting aside the left's natural inclination to form a circular firing squad. The entire left must work together to get rid of Bush, some of us biting our tongues, but doing it for the common good. We need to use the issues....the economy, for example...fate has dealt us. Otherwise, the sky's the limit on how much more of the Constitution will be gutted and how many more people will descend into poverty if Bush is re-elected. Time for the left's reality check. The stakes are high.
Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election will be shown at the San Geronimo Valley Cultural Center on January 8 at 7 p.m. Free to the public. Come to see how it was done. Bring a friend.
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