ALPERN AT LARGE--Watching the government pundits, I suppose we're all supposed to be singing that song, "Everything is Awesome" from the Lego Movie.
But despite the Big Lie (the economy is better, things are improving,) there are enough Americans to respond by quoting that song from The Who, “We Won’t be Fooled Again!”
Certainly, we all want things to get better, but we're killing ourselves with the self-destructive -- and self-inflicted -- wound of low, low, low expectations. Americans are, by nature, fiercely independent and willing to work hard to get ahead ... and most of are getting ahead, sort of ... but is that because or despite the efforts of our federal and state governments?
So, while maybe the Huffington Post is (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama,” it's to be reasonably and realistically referenced when roughly 2/3 of polled Americans acknowledge we're on the wrong track.
And maybe CNN (accused of being the "Clinton News Network") is also (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama" when it acknowledges that, while Americans are "vastly better off than they were eight years ago," we are still in a nation where "most are worried."
1) Politically, this is the last Labor Day before the post-Obama era, and this means that Ms. Hillary Clinton will have to thread the needle of maintaining the support of Obama voters while distancing herself from what many voters (including those supporting the President) want to change after President Obama leaves office. The "Obama Economy" isn't exactly the stuff of legends.
And of Mr. Donald Trump? He will certainly have no problem distancing himself from President Obama, and that same CNN article above notes that the low GDP growth (2%/year) during the entirety of this President's tenure is a real story. Furthermore, worker pay, student debt, government debt, and income inequality have also become very, very real stories.
And perhaps those following the news have noted that Mr. Trump trashed the "Bush Legacy" on his way to winning the GOP primary race? So his big question will be, "We all hate President Bush, but after eight years, is President Obama also guilty of keeping the American Economy down?"
Translated, that means, "If Bush was responsible for the Great Recession, is Obama responsible for the Second Great Depression?”
After all, could President Obama have listened to former President Bill Clinton's suggestions to make it easier for large employers to come back home to the United States, and could President Obama have listened to GOP leaders to make "Obamacare" less painful for both employers and employees alike?
While the 2008 election was an autopsy of the Bush Presidency, won't the 2012 election be an autopsy of the Obama Presidency? The President might have roughly half of Americans polled giving him a "favorable" rating, but stocks and housing prices being up doesn't really help Main Street as much as it does Wall Street and the better off.
2) We hear that the Unemployment Rate is down, but isn't that just more smoke and mirrors?
There's a high likelihood that Mr. Trump will raise this issue again, just as he did during the GOP primary debates, of distinguishing between the Unemployment Rate (4.9%) and the Unemployment and Underemployment Rate (9.6%).
CNBC reports on the vital distinction of the U-3 rate versus the U-6 rate and it's hoped that the reporting of the U-3 rate of "unemployment" will be discarded by our next Presidential administration in favor of the U-6 rate of "unemployment plus underemployment.”
Because if you're underemployed, life still sucks.
And if you're working 2-3 jobs and 50+ hours a week, and still barely making ends meet, your life still sucks.
And for those giving up on looking for employment, and don't even register in the "unemployment rate?” Your life really sucks!
And the proof? Why else would the Fed keep rates so historically low for so many years in a row?
3) So while some of us are doing well, perhaps we should be thankful for what we have while sparing a few moments for our less fortunate friends and neighbors.
Are those who've given up looking for work, or who've remained underemployed for years, real people or just a figment of our imaginations? They are Americans -- human beings with real needs and real hopes and real dreams. Ignoring them is just inhumane for this (or any other) Labor Day.
The freeways and roads and rails are filled with people spending money and going to or from work. But too often it's for lousy jobs without benefits. Furthermore, thanks to both state and federal shackling of employers, it's too often for jobs that are only 30 or less hours per week.
Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump have put the pharmaceutical industry on notice that we're paying too much for prescription medicines. The "Affordable Care Act,” despite its good intentions, was too politically-motivated and written by the health plans who helped cause our nation's growing crisis in affordable health care. This leaves health care still too darned unaffordable for too many.
Utility costs are also too darned unaffordable for too many so that our quality of life is yet again impacted negatively while trying to make ends meet and actually (gasp!) afford a vacation.
There's a limit that we all, as adults aware of the limitations of the real world and of physics, must confront with respect to infrastructure costs and the limits of "green" energy. Rebuilding our infrastructure is something we will have to pay big bucks for, but are we doing it wisely and efficiently, or just benefiting those in the energy industries?
And let's not kid ourselves: a home is all but unaffordable for anyone making less than six digit figures in the major metropolitan areas of California.
To conclude, Americans are to be commended for their never-ending fight for financial freedom and independence. Using our cars for Uber or Lyft, or using our homes for Airbnb, might be innovative and smart...but these "cottage industries" are not the cornerstone of an economy that favors the middle class as much as they help the rich while enabling a few smart, tough middle-class folks stay in their income bracket.
So here's to American Labor! Hanging in there, despite and not because of Washington, D.C. or Sacramento. And it's probably a labor force that is collectively looking forward to shedding the Big Lie in favor of embracing the Big Hope.
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.