President Barack Obama is on the road again – some say he is on the road to recovery. In addiction circles this might mean that he is free of the heart and soul consuming compulsion of a past life. In political circles this might mean that he is either successful or he is spinning. The electorate is angry – but are we kicking the wrong dog? Here is the Obama camp argument defending their economic decisions:
One year in, the evidence is clear – and growing by the day – that the
Recovery Act is working to cushion the greatest economic crisis since
the Great Depression and lay a new foundation for economic growth.
• According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Recovery Act is already
responsible for as many as 2.4 million jobs through the end of 2009
• As a result, job losses are a fraction of what they were a year ago, before the Recovery Act began
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:
• Cut taxes for 95 percent of working families through the Making Work Pay tax credit
• Cut taxes for small businesses
• Provided loans to over 42,000 small businesses
• Funded over 12,500 transportation construction projects nationwide, ranging from highway
construction to airport improvement projects
• Made multi-billion dollar investments in innovation, science and technology that are laying the
foundation for our 21st century economy
• Provided critical relief for state governments facing record budget shortfalls, including help to
prevent cuts to Medicaid and creating or saving over 300,000 education jobs
Economists on the left and the right have stated that the Recovery Act has helped avert an even worse
So what do you think? Are these statements of fact? Even statements of fact can be misleading for what they do not state. These are confusing times – we are all asked to think long-term while digesting the 24/7 news cycle.
Many are ready to condemn the President. People are hurt – and are responding with anger. Any good anger management program teaches how to best focus or direct the anger. The classic story concerns the frustrated employee who comes home at night and kicks the family dog. Psychologically the frustration is taken out on the weaker target – if the employees kicks his supervisor at work then he is labeled as ‘going postal.’ The angry worker knows that the family dog will always forgive him.
What is an appropriate expression of frustrated electoral anger? The Anger Management Instructor would say that anger generates energy. They recommend taking that energy and focusing on positive outcomes. This refocusing might well explain the popularity of the 2010 Tea Party movement.
Anger is said to be a product of other feelings. Hurt feelings, fear, and feeling out of control are seen as root causes of anger. In the case of the angry electorate all of these feelings are in play. People legitimately fear their future economic security. The electorate feels hurt, ignored, dismissed, discounted after a two year election process that was supposed to bring positive change. The frustration of hard work being rewarded with further economic bad news genuinely gives a feeling of being out of control – that deep feeling of ‘Nothing I do seems to make my life better.’ At the extreme end of this spectrum people literally ‘go postal.’ They shoot someone.
The Tea Party movement offers an opportunity for people to act and feel that their action matters. Real or not – anything that gives a sense of hope – a sense that what we do matters – the feeling of taking control is a tremendous aphrodisiac. This is exactly the wave of emotion that carried President Obama to office.
The President and his team are working hard to present facts that support the idea that the economy is improving. The problem is that the only ‘fact’ that matters is the dollar amount on our pay check. Obama’s fact based argument can be interpreted in the negative:
- 2.4 million ‘other’ people got a job.
- 42,000 other small businesses got loans
- someone in another State is building a highway
- someone else has a job building windmills
These are the interpretations of the person engulfed in their fear, hurt, and feeling that nothing they do matters. These are the logical conclusions of supporters of the Tea Party. The 24/7 media has very little actual news – most of the air time is consumed by pundits – both left and right. These pundits are making a living by reinforcing the fears of the public.
We live in serious times. Serious times require serious dialogue. The complexity of a global economy is difficult to understand – and is especially difficult when wild accusations are broadcast as reputable dialogue.
Progress really is in the eye of the beholder. And a frustrated, angry, voter really will kick the family dog.