After treating bonuses paid to bailed-out AIG executives as a passing, "flavor of the week" story, the media has moved on to obsessing over Michelle Obama's fashion choices while in Europe, over minutiae about the latest gory mass shooting, and breathlessly tracking minute-by-minute stock market movements.
But most Americans... beset by raging unemployment now at a 25-year high, and frazzled by slumping real estate prices... remain steamed about the obvious gap between their struggles and the financial goodies that seemingly continue to rain richly down on executives and political leaders.
In my home of Orange County, California, for instance, public furor is boiling over layoffs of county social workers and service providers to abused children, the elderly and "those on the lower economic rungs of society," while the five county supervisors retain their fat car allowances, benefits plans and even a lavish office remodel.
For full details, take a few minutes to read Perks for Orange County Supervisors, Layoffs for Workers, an articulate op-ed by Tim Steed, a labor relations representative with Orange County Employees Association and past President of California Young Democrats, who is infuriated by county executive management's "let-them-eat-cake package of perks."
"Big Shots Whinin’ on My Evening News"
When I caught a few TV minutes last night of the Academy of Country Music Awards, I was fascinated by a tune sung by country star John Rich, that inspired impassioned cheering and fist-pumping by crowd: a song entitled "Shutting Detroit Down." Sang Rich with angered vigor (YouTube clip of a Jan 2009 performance of the song.):
"My daddy taught me that in this country everyone’s the same
You work hard for your dollar and you never pass the blame
When it don’t go your way
Now I see all these big shots whinin’ on my evening news
About how they’re losin’ billions and how it’s up to me and you
To come running to the rescue
Well pardon me if I don’t shed a tear ‘cause they’re selling make believe
And we don’t buy that here
Cause in the real world they're shutting Detroit down
While the boss man takes his bonus pay and jets out of town
And DC’s bailing out the bankers as the farmers auction ground,
Yeah while they’re living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town,
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down.
They’re shuttin’ Detroit down."
The popularity of this new tune perfectly summarizes the justifiable "populist" sentiment overtaking the country.
Obama Seen as Coddling Bankers, Wall Streeters
This past week, President Obama was widely glimpsed at the ornate palaces and palatial settings of Europe, and before that, he was accurately portrayed at home coddling wealthy bankers and preserving the compensation and benefits of Wall Street executives.
Meanwhile, most Americans keenly feel the pain of their beleaguered family finances. And unemployment, homelessness and hunger continue to rise dramatically.
During his presidential campaign against John McCain, Barack Obama successfully appealed to the angry blue-collar workers of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and in other parts of the country. (See Why Red States Turned Blue in 2008.) Obama's electoral victories in these states caused him to win the White House in 2008.
But less than three months after taking office, President Obama appears to have forgotten this vital constituency... their needs, concerns, values.
Obama Increasingly Dwarfed by Economic Anger
Yes, I fear that Barack Obama is making a mistake that could prove costly to his reelection efforts in 2012: he appears to be ignoring the so-called populist rage still gripping middle-class and working-class households across the country.
As Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne brilliantly penned a few weeks ago:
"We are at the beginning of a great popular rebellion against those who showed no self-restraint when it came to lining their own pockets... Is this not an entirely appropriate reaction to elite decisions dating to the 1980s that ultimately ran our economy into the ground?
"The Obama administration has sent thoroughly ambivalent signals on this question... Obama can work with the populist wave or he can be overwhelmed by it."
I'm saddened to report that, thus far, President Obama looks increasingly oblivious to and dwarfed by this ever-growing, righteous American anger.
Read Perks for Orange County Supervisors, Layoffs for Workers as an excellent example of public furor over "... obscene perks (that) continue today, even as providers and recipients continue to suffer because cuts have been made to some of the most essential services in our community."