by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
April 18, 2008
OBAMA'S WHACKED FOR TELLING THE TRUTH
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It never ceases to amaze me to see the lengths that the press and the politicians go to in trying to pretend that class doesn't exist in America.
Class remains one of the taboo subjects in public discussion. That's why the political spin machine is working overtime as Hillary Clinton tries to turn Barack Obama's recent observations on the winners and losers in this nation's economy into a major controversy.
For those who may have missed it, Obama said these words last week at a fundraising event in San Francisco:
"Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive Administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
What Obama said wasn't anything new to anyone paying attention. But the corporate press wants to pretend there is something controversial about acknowledging that there is a class divide in the United States. And Hillary Clinton and Republican rival John McCain want to pretend that saying these things is elitist, condescending and disrespectful.
Here's a news flash for Clinton, McCain and their enablers in the press. There is a class divide in this country, and people are more and more aware of it.
The Pew Research Center recently put together an analysis of the attitudes and lives of the American middle class based on relevant economic and demographic trend data from the U.S. Census Bureau and public opinion surveys.
Pew found that fewer Americans today are feeling that they are moving forward in life than at any time in the past 50 years.
A majority said that they have either not moved ahead (25 percent) or have fallen behind (31 percent) over the past five years.
From 1983 to 2004, the median net worth of upper income families more than doubled, while middle income families' net worth increased by only 29 percent. Middle income families are deeper in debt as the anchors of a middle class lifestyle - housing, medical care and education - have risen in cost much faster than the overall inflation rate. Nearly 8 in 10 respondents to the Pew survey said it is harder to maintain their standard of living now than five years ago.
Then there are the economic realities facing younger people. Average Americans between the age of 25 and 34 spend 25 percent of their income on debt payments - mostly student loans, credit cards and auto loans. That's double what people in their age group paid in 1989.
Between 1995 and 2002, rents in virtually every metropolitan area increased more than 50 percent. Combine high rents with high debts, and younger Americans are behind the eight-ball before they even get started in their professional careers.
Too many Americans have seen the good times pass them by. Too many Americans are indeed bitter and frustrated with politicians who promise everything and deliver nothing. And for years, the Republican Party has always been ready to exploit that anger and frustration by playing on their fears.
We've seen and heard it in GOP campaigns since Richard Nixon ran for president in 1968. The Democrats are going to take your guns away. The Democrats are to blame for the moral decline of America. The Democrats are weak and wimpy and lack the toughness to protect America. And so on. And so forth.
Why is America in trouble? It's the immigrants fault, the Republicans say. Or the welfare mothers. Or the gays. Or the latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, NPR-listening liberal elitists. They are all to blame for your problems. And so on. And so forth.
The interesting thing in this year's campaign is that fear and divisiveness - the calling cards of the Republican Party for decades - aren't working anymore. People are angry and frustrated and looking for change. They see Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and see more of the same policies that have shipped jobs away from America and have benefited the few at the expense of the many.
I'm still not convinced that Barack Obama will be better, but I can't help but feel that there is a least a slight chance that things might be different and that Obama realizes the pain and frustration in the lives of many Americans.
Once again, it is worth reminding everyone that Clinton cannot win the nomination. The delegate math is still not in her favor. The only way she can win is to attack Obama, raise doubts about his electability and force him to quit the race. That's the only shot she has.
Outside of political writers skilled at making molehills into mountains, most Americans know the score right now. There is only one candidate trying to build a broad and bottom-up coalition of young and old, Democrats and Republicans, independents and party loyalists. There is only one candidate trying to bridge the gaps of race, gender and class. There is only one candidate who recognizes that only by bringing people together for a common purpose will change occur. That candidate has been, and remains, Barack Obama.
AR Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.