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.