, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“The easiest thing in the world for a politician to do is tell you exactly what you want to hear.”Senator Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign when the other candidates were calling for a gasoline tax holiday in the face of soaring oil prices.

It’s time for President Obama to take some advice from Senator Obama and not from his political advisers in the White House, like David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, who are telling him that the public mood is anti-spending and anti-deficit, and that it will be politically advantageous in the upcoming mid-term elections for him and the Democrats to play to the fear of a deficit boogeyman being ginned up by the right-wing noise machine and the president’s political opponents. Opponents who, let’s face it, don’t want to see unemployment go down or the economy improve between now and November. If the Republicans can get the president to focus on the deficit and cutting spending while unemployment hovers around 10%, they’ll be happy as pigs in slop, so to speak.

President Obama doesn’t help to counteract  the fearmongering when he does things like proposing spending freezes and initiating a debt commission stacked with deficit hawks and Social Security privatizers. In my opinion, this is a golden opportunity for a teaching moment.

If I were advising the president I would suggest a series of television appearances like Ross Perot did during his short-lived presidential campaign in 1992, (before he went all black helicopters, that is) complete with charts and graphs to illustrate his points. The American people, for the most part, aren’t stupid. We get a lot more than politicians and their political advisers give us credit for.

The president could start with a history lesson from 1937. About how FDR gave in to the deficit hawks of his day and started cutting spending before the country was out of the Great Depression which led to a “recession within the Depression” and delayed the recovery.

He could explain the stimulative effects of unemployment benefits. How that every dollar which goes out comes back as $1.64. How that almost half of the unemployed have been out of work for 6 months, something that hasn’t happened since the Labor Dept. started keeping that statistic in 1948. How the unemployed aren’t lazy bums looking for a handout—another popular meme of the noise machine—but that there are 6 applicants for every job opening, and that those over 50 who are disproportionately affected are Americans who have worked for the better part of their lives and have been caught up in an economic situation beyond their control. In their time of need they need our compassion, not our condemnation.

He could use the Gulf oil spill as a springboard to re-invigorate American manufacturing jobs in the field of clean energy, which leads to more people paying taxes and reduced deficits. We could be a country that makes things again, and in the process breathe new life into the rapidly disappearing American middle-class. As Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) said recently:

“We know what happens when the economy depends only on financial services and the creation of wealth through bookkeeping. Manufacturing jobs are good paying jobs that support families and communities, create spin-off jobs, and leads to innovation…We’ve spent the last 30 years pandering to those who have taken manufacturing off shore and in turn we lost the heart and soul of our country. We need to see ‘Made in the USA’ again.”

With signs of a slowing economy and the prospects of a double-dip recession looming, this is not the time for a politician with his finger in the wind gauging public opinion or re-acting to the misinformation and disinformation being put out by his opponents. This calls for someone to lead, educate to populace, and shape public opinion, not react to it.