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The Right’s Inequality Ruse: What GOP’s Faux-Concern For Needy Americans Really Shows

February 7, 2015 in Blogs

By Elias Isquith, Salon.com

Phony Populism Won't Rescue Our Politics

With the economic recovery finally beginning to reach the millions of Americans in the bottom 95 percent, there’s a temptation among political reporters (for whom the Great Recession was more of an abstraction than a lived experience, anyway) to move past the gloom and negativity of recent years in favor of a new narrative. True, the last six years may have been characterized by economic stagnation, political dysfunction and a growing chasm between the power and priorities of the wealthy and the rest. But that was before the dawn of “morning in Obama’s America.” Nowadays, as Politico Magazine put it, everything is “awesome.” Well, at the risk of being a wet blanket, I’ll ask you to count me among the skeptics.

There’s no denying that the U.S. economy is in much better shape than it was six years ago. But contrary to the conventional wisdom, the primary reason the Obama era has been so difficult has always been political rather than economic. It wasn’t because of a bad economy that Wall Street paid no price for throwing the world into recession; and it wasn’t because of a bad economy that Washington spent years doing nothing as unemployment rose, household wealth plummeted, infrastructure deteriorated and wages flatlined. To paraphrase President Obama, that monument to failure and neglect? The economy didn’t build that.

No, those mistakes and others were the fault of American politics. More specifically, they were a result of our politics’ devolution back to Gilded Age-style plutocracy, and Washington’s ever-increasing tendency to focus on the issues that matter to the 1 percent at the exclusion of anything else. So if we’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the United States’ future, we’re better off looking at the political realm — where the 2016 presidential election is effectively (and unfortunately) happening already — than combing through economic data in charts and graphs and spreadsheets. And as we can see in the first big speech that de facto presidential candidate Jeb Bush delivered in Michigan on Wednesday, the signs …read more


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