Between December of 2000 and late 2007, as far as the American electorate was concerned, no one really cared about far-off wars (except the people who fight in them and their families and friends, I suppose), or damage to the Constitution, or unsustainable economic growth based on an illusion (much as the dot-com bubble had been).
Over those seven years it became obvious to anyone that Bush, Cheney, and the various clots of the Republican Party swirling around them who had run the country for nearly a decade had lied, repeatedly. That the wages of ordinary Americans had risen very little (which was okay for some; they could just pull cash out of their homes, right?), and the lifestyles they saw on television were always just out of reach. Still, no one did anything -- even the Democrats, who bided their time waiting for the wheels to come off Bush's little wagon.
Entrance, Goldman-Sachs' Main Office, In The First Circle Of Hell
When the wheels did come off, it wasn't because of a massive scandal a la Nixon and his Men (though the politicization of the Justice Department came close); even torture as policy, extraordinary surveillance of communications, and the reasons Bush gave as justifications for invading Iraq were lies weren't triggers enough to move the American people; God bless their collectively tiny little heads.
It was the Economy. By the summer of 2008, after millions had lost their jobs and the Banksters were still partying like it was 1899, it was clear we were badly screwed. Obama was elected because, on one level people perceived -- they hoped -- he would do something to help us. We were tired of being lied to so badly and consistently. And because the best the GOP had to offer was More Of The Same, and a batshit crazy Moose woman.
However, looking at the government's actions so far, the poll Ezra Klein highlighted would seem to indicate Americans still feel that we're still being lied to -- and that is 'Obama's problem'.
Homeless Mother And Children In Local Shelter, circa 2008
Matthew Saroff, a columnist at Talking Points Memo, notes, So, here we are, 8 months into the Obama administration, and a year into the financial crisis, and the American public gets it: No one is the least bit interested in doing anything to help them.
The actions of FDR's government during the Depression (as Ezra Klein notes) were aimed at protecting individuals -- the creation of the Fed, the SEC, regulation and oversight, were all done to protect the small, personal savings of individuals from the actions of the few with large financial and personal power.
The American government's message to its citizens was "A New Deal" -- and whether it was FDR explaining it by radio, or reflected in legislation, people understood it: We care about you as people, as citizens; your welfare is our first concern. You matter.
Hurricane Katrina's aftermath was, on one level, a preview of what was to come. The government's response was tardy, incompetent, wasteful and misdirected. The (so-called) President played guitar while people drowned -- and his mother, laughing, said of the survivors (who had lost everything and were living on cots in the Houston Astrodome) that things had "worked out very well for them".
In our current financial crisis -- the worst since 1930 -- the government isn't concerned about individuals, but institutions. The banks and financial investment firms which created the crisis aren't to be regulated and no one will be held responsible.
Somewhere, Reagan is laughing; he's cackling to himself -- because this 'recovery' is a Supply-Side obscenity; it's "trickle-down economics" no matter how thinly it's sliced. The government is giving money to banks, to automakers; CEOs are still receiving obscene pay packages; corporate staffs of companies receiving bailouts are taking wonderful spa vacations; bank executives are living in foreclosed homes; while families and the elderly eat dog food and wait to be evicted.
The message of government in the Great Recession, reflected in its major actions since the Fall of 2008, is different than in 1933: You don't matter. The institutions which create wealth (out of thin air, usually) and manage wealth; the people who operate them; their major shareholders and investors ... they matter. Goldman-Sachs, AIG, Citicorp, and their management teams and senior executives... they matter; the Crowninshields and Saltonstalls and Prescotts and Bushes and Walkers and Biddles and Coopers and Adamses -- they matter.
But not you. And, not me. Looking at the poll numbers, Barack -- and I take no pleasure in telling you -- I'd say that message has been received and understood.
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