Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bigness and Civic Culture

In our chapter on civic culture, we note that Americans dislike concentrations of power. In the Progressive Era and the New Deal, people supported expansions of government and union power to curb the power of big business. Later on, they supported curbs on government and labor. Michael Barone argues that the Obama administration and its congressional supporters have gotten into political trouble by appearing to support all three at once:

Their financial policy has been to freeze the big banks into place. Their industrial policy was to preserve as much as they could of General Motors and Chrysler for the benefit of the United Auto Workers. Their health care policy was designed to benefit Big Pharma and other big players. Their housing policy has been to try to maintain existing prices. Their macroeconomic economic policy was to increase the size and scope of existing government agencies to what looks to be the bursting point.

What we see is Big Government colluding with Big Business and trying to breathe life into Big Labor.

Barone writes from a conservative perspective. But from the other side of the spectrum, Jerome Armstrong comes to a similar conclusion:

I thought that Stan Greenberg's book "The Two Americas" was phenomenal in laying out the undercurrencts of the populist sentiment, published in 2004, from focus groups in Aug 2001 to 2003. Had John Kerry listened to Greenberg instead of Shrum, he'd have won the Presidency in 2004. This is what Greenberg wrote:

Because the Republicans have overreached on behalf of corporate interests in an age of public revulsion against it, Democrats have the opportunity not just to attack but to become champions of the whole, by defending the public interest and its values.

Democrats had that opportunity after the 2008 election. Instead, Democrats went down the bank bailout path. Then, on what should be the signature issue, healthcare reform, they burdened it with a pro-corporate mandate. At that point, they pretty much sealed the deal with the public trust and opinion for 2010.

It's common to believe that if unemployment were less than 9.5% things would be different, but that's just the point. The problem is the perception as to where the priority lays; and the actions point toward a different direction than the public interest with things like the bank bailout and mandate.