Friday, December 06, 2013

Obama Gets Real

New Krugman:

First, about those truths: Mr. Obama laid out a disturbing — and, unfortunately, all too accurate — vision of an America losing touch with its own ideals, an erstwhile land of opportunity becoming a class-ridden society. Not only do we have an ever-growing gap between a wealthy minority and the rest of the nation; we also, he declared, have declining mobility, as it becomes harder and harder for the poor and even the middle class to move up the economic ladder. And he linked rising inequality with falling mobility, asserting that Horatio Alger stories are becoming rare precisely because the rich and the rest are now so far apart. 

This isn’t entirely new terrain for Mr. Obama. What struck me about this speech, however, was what he had to say about the sources of rising inequality. Much of our political and pundit class remains devoted to the notion that rising inequality, to the extent that it’s an issue at all, is all about workers lacking the right skills and education. But the president now seems to accept progressive arguments that education is at best one of a number of concerns, that America’s growing class inequality largely reflects political choices, like the failure to raise the minimum wage along with inflation and productivity. 

And because the president was willing to assign much of the blame for rising inequality to bad policy, he was also more forthcoming than in the past about ways to change the nation’s trajectory, including a rise in the minimum wage, restoring labor’s bargaining power, and strengthening, not weakening, the safety net.

More here.

We've heard this refrain before.  I mean sure, Krugman's got a point: Obama's liberal rhetoric was much more specific in this speech than the usual vague good-vibe platitudes he's offered us over the years.  So I guess that's enough for a little hope, at least.  But I've done a really good job over the years of avoiding playing Charlie Brown to Obama's Lucy holding the football.  I've never thought of the guy as a liberal, and his entire administration thus far has proven me right about that, which means I've never had to deal with the angst and confusion suffered by other liberals who thought of him as our progressive savior.  You can't be disappointed when you get what you expected to get.

Well, okay, I have to admit that the NSA surveillance stuff has disappointed me.  Being a neoliberal and having Orwellian fascist tendencies just aren't the same thing.  So that all took me by surprise.

But really, what I'd like to see is for Obama to put his money where his mouth is.  What's he going to DO?  Nice words are good and fine, but I don't give a crap about what politicians promise me anymore.  I want deeds.  Action.  Obama thinks we need stronger labor unions?  How are you going to get that, Mr. President?  You want us to have a higher minimum wage?  Who are you going to harass and intimidate in order to get the legislation passed?  You want an end to Horatio Alger mythology so we can all deal with the reality?  Are you planning on hitting the bully pulpit with this EVERY NIGHT OF THE YEAR?

So it's very nice for the President to use some language from the left.  Yes, very nice.  But it's meaningless to me until I see some presidential behavior befitting someone from the left.  Until then, it's all just a bunch of words.  And talk is cheap.