Strong Like Bear

I have a question for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  It’s about this quote:

“I do agree that fundamentally America has an economy that is strong,” he said. “America’s great strength is its diversity, its hard work, its good financial statements, its broad capital markets,its enormous natural resources” and its work ethic, he said at an afternoon press conference devoted to reassuring New Yorkers that the city’s finances and its economy are intact.

I get what you’re saying, and you have some valid points.  But, in all seriousness, wouldn’t you call our banking system one of the fundamentals of the U.S. Economy?  Because I’m hearing it’s not doing too well.

We’re having one of those stupid campaign arguments where we bicker of the exact meaning of a sentence.  I’m talking about McCain’s oft repeated claim that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong, a statement he made again yesterday in Jacksonville as the Dow plunged 500 points.  If the point he was trying to make was that things suck but we’re still better off than, say, Mexico, I concede that point.  I’m just curious what possible weight that kind of point is supposed to carry.

When a politician stands in front of a bunch of working family and says “The fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong,” he’s not making a nuanced point, regardless of what spin you hear later.  That’s big-word speak for “Things don’t actually suck.”  Senator McCain has a vested interest in you believing that, because as someone allied with the sitting President, saying “Things really suck” is akin to saying “Don’t vote for me.”

The spin is now that Senator McCain was talking about American workers when he said “fundamentals,” and that we, the workers, are strong and innovative and because of that we have nothing to worry about.  I hope this isn’t what he meant, unless he intends to explain how that matters when the number of strong, innovative fundamental workers who aren’t working is at a 5 year high.

Senator Obama’s campaign has been using the quote to pain Senator McCain as out of touch, and Senator McCain’s spin simply backs them up.  Is the economy about to mimic the Great Depression?  I don’t know.  I hope not.  But suggesting that the economic conditions in this country are even remotely tied to its workforce demonstrates a lack of understanding that frightens me.

When a major corporation tanks due to, say, shoddy mortgage lending practices, what happens?  Well, the workers prepare to be laid off and go on unemployment.   Shareholders, many of whom own stock through retirement funds, watch their investments evaporate.  Meanwhile, the executives don’t get punished, but instead get, say, a $22 million package on their way out the door.  A failed CEO gets more for being fired than most of us will make our entire lives, even as the shareholders of that company lose money due to his failure.

That’s what Senator Obama means when he calls his opponent out of touch.  The fundamentals of our economy are strong.  If you’re already rich.  There are no consequences for failure if you’re at the top of the heap.  But the workers – the innovative, tenacious workers McCain is praising – lose their jobs, their homes and their futures.

I need to repeat my earlier question.  If the housing market, the banks, the credit system and average family wages aren’t fundamental parts of the U.S. economy, what are?  If my home is losing value, I’ve lost your job, I can’t get a loan and my 401k just lost a third of its value, where’s this upside that I’m missing?

Oh wait.  You’re going to fight earmarks.  Never mind, we’re all good.

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