The “Bigs” vs. the Working Class

It’s no surprise that we spend a lot of time on this site discussing the working class. After all, it is named Working Class Perspectives.

We’re not alone.  Over the eighteen month run up to the general election pundits, professors, poets, and political hacks were consumed with thoughts about the tens of millions of people who, by one definition or another, qualify as working class.

It now appears, however, that far too much time has been devoted to the working class-especially by President Obama.  At least that’s the opinion of Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman, who writes in the March 10 edition of Newsweek that the country’s “Establishment” comprised of Beltway insiders, the chattering class including the Manhattan-based media, and Wall Street are  “taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking.”

According to Mr. Fineman, although the President still has the approval of the people [his approval rating has averaged between 65 and 60.8 percent since the inauguration], the Establishment is beginning to mumble that the president may not have what it takes.  He provides a litany of issues that are making the “Bigs,” as he calls them, restive:

  • The failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to “give up” something.
  • A 2010 budget that tries to do far too much, with way too rosy predictions on future revenues and growth of the economy.
  • Obama is no socialist, but critics argue that now is not the time for costly, upfront spending on social engineering in health care, energy or education.

He then concludes “Other than all that, in the eyes of the big shots, he is doing fine. The American people remain on his side, but he has to be careful that the gathering judgment of the Bigs doesn’t trickle down to the rest of us.”

Mr. Fineman is dead wrong.  The fact is, the “Bigs” are the last people Mr. Obama has to worry about for a number of reasons.  First, because they didn’t vote for him.  Second, because they never will.  And third, because his presidency will be doomed if he focuses on mollifying the elites rather than on meeting the needs of the millions of working families those very elites have dragged to the edge of the economic abyss.

It’s apparent that Mr. Obama grasps this point.  He clearly understands that after being ignored by pundits and politicians and suffering abuse at the hands of Wall Street for the last two decades, the working class has more than earned the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame that’s come their way.  After years of wage stagnation, job loss, and the resultant evaporation of the American Dream, the nation’s working families not only need, they undeniably deserve the government’s full attention.

That’s exactly what they’ve been getting from the new chief executive.  Nearly every domestic policy or program emanating from the White House is discussed in the context of its probable effect on workers and the middle class.   And while economists like Paul Krugman and others have raised legitimate questions about how effective the administration’s approach to the crisis may ultimately be, no one has questioned the new president’s concern for or commitment to the millions of men and women who placed their trust in him on November 4.

That commitment is obviously at the heart of the Mr. Obama’s adherence to the bold agenda he has established for his presidency, despite warnings from the all-knowing Establishment that his plans are overly ambitious given the state of the economy.  Far from retracting or retrenching, he continues to move forward with plans to provide tax cuts for the working class, reform health care, increase access to education, and invest in a real energy policy that will create jobs and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

Just as importantly, he appears to be unmoved by warnings from the “Bigs” that allowing the Bush tax cuts to sunset in order generate the revenue to pay for his programs will stifle growth and job creation.  He recognizes that working families, beset by falling wages and deteriorating home values have sacrificed enough and that efforts to revive the economy will only succeed if sufficient stimulus is directed toward those who need it most.

Contrary to Mr. Fineman’s contention, what Mr. Obama should fear most about the Establishment in not that their discontent will trickle down to the “little people” who live outside the Beltway and Manhattan, but that the “Bigs” will succeed in derailing his effort to remake and reorder America and in so doing cause him to break faith with the people who elected him.  It is then, and only then that his presidency, his legacy, and our country will be in jeopardy.

Leo Jennings

This entry was posted in Leo Jennings, The Working Class and the Economy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The “Bigs” vs. the Working Class

  1. Kim says:

    Without the upper class, there would be no working class? I wonder how we managed to crawl out of the proverbial primordial soup without proper “management” by our betters? The things claimed about the “reality” or “nature” of class interaction are bogus. There is no “nature” of class interaction. Economics and its claims of “laws” is bogus. They are based upon assumptions (every economist will admit this, they just don’t see a problem with it). We are supposed to take these assumptions as gospel. Corporations are not our saviors. They never will be. They will only give us more misery, more scandal, and more economic disasters.

    As for this:
    “The fact is, the “Bigs” are the last people Mr. Obama has to worry about for a number of reasons. First, because they didn’t vote for him. Second, because they never will. And third, because his presidency will be doomed if he focuses on mollifying the elites”

    You do realize that Obama took in huge amounts of money from the so-called “Bigs,” right? You paint him as the People’s President. I call B.S. He is just another mainstream politician: he was elected because he is rich, he has contacts with rich people, and rich people gave him money to get elected (quid pro quo to come later). Stop treating this man like he is something that he just isn’t.


  2. Laura says:

    Oh, my, I don’t know where to start after reading several of the editorials here. First, you made it sound like corruption in Youngstown is a relatively new development, caused by all the economic turmoil that has befallen the Valley. Corruption goes back a long way – we weren’t called Little Chicago for nothin’, and those who have grown up here knew long before the steel plants shut down in the 70s and 80s that mafia activity was rampant (how many times did the Flamingo burn down before they finally closed it?), and corruption in our political and legal system was beyond the pale.

    And you make it sound like the upper class needs to be forced to fail to make up for what the middle class has had to endure. However, you seem to conveniently forget to take into consideration that without the upper class, the management, the white collar, the business owner, there would be NO working class. Don’t make the troubles of the Valley into a bogus class war, because that’s not what caused the problems. We were far to dependent on a few industries, and when those few took a nose dive (thanks in large part to a Democratic president allowing a huge influx of cheap, junky steel into the country as well as cheap, but good on gas foreign cars), we were hosed.

    At the end of the day, the reality is that management needs labor and labor needs management. Every tier of the class make up needs the other tiers or they will cease to exist.

    If we make running a business in the Valley too expensive (high corp taxes, wages beyond what the company can reasonably sustain based on its product and profit margins), business will leave the Valley for a friendlier, most cost effective climate, and then the working class won’t be working any more.

    By the same token, if we lower corporate taxes, make tax incentives for companies that maintain old jobs and create new jobs at a reasonable, livable wage, and use the stimulus and other funds to make up the difference in the tax revenues lost at first, in the long run, we’ll not only create more jobs, but a stronger, higher tax base because of all the people who will both continue to pay tax on their wages and those that have increased wages to pay taxes on.

    There is no class war. It’s not us vs them. Neither side is the victim. We all need each other, regardless of our class. We all sink or swim together. Yes, some corps have abused the worker – and some workers have taken some corps to the very limit of what they can sustain. It cuts BOTH ways.

    Until Obama and congress stop playing the class card and do something that actually stimulates job creation, it doesn’t matter how much money they throw in the economy pit, it’s all going to fail. And lest you folks forget, that money they are throwing at the problem is YOUR tax dollars. Not just the rich. Even the poorest of the poor smoke, use gasoline and have to pay for their utilities – all things the genius congress who voted for the stimulus want to tax to help pay for their crazy spending (trains to Vegas and endangered rats indeed! Yeah, those spending projects really help the national economy and create jobs for our Valley.) The fact is, the people you laud have done precisely what they swore they wouldn’t – they are raising the taxes on not only the middle working class, but the poorest of the poor, and there are no tax deductions or write offs for these kinds of taxes.

    So sing their praises, feed into an unwitting audience’s lack of understanding of certain economic realities, and pitch your book. But by doing so, you do a disservice not only to students at YSU, but the citizens of this Valley who read this blog and take you at your word.

    Instead of rallying the working class to fight an enemy that doesn’t exist, why not show everyone ways this Valley can pull together, and make the Valley prosperous for everyone once again.

    For the record, as much as I’d like to be upper class, one of the rich, someone who makes obscene sums of money, I am, in fact, part of the working class, and most likely, on one of the lower rungs of the class ladder. I just realize that without the other classes, I might fall right off the ladder altogether.


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