Obama spoke to a labor crowd in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Monday, calling for new energy investment and new infrastructure. The word most people want to hear from him, of course, is "jobs." Where are they going to be, when are they coming back?
Wisconsin’s a place where that discussion’s getting very twisted. Once a solid progressive state, home of "Fighting Bob" La Follette, now it’s "purple"—and solid progressive Senators like Russ Feingold, the sole Senate vote against the Patriot Act, are feeling the lash this election cycle because of misplaced anger from the Tea Partyers and Republicans decrying "big government" while enjoying cash from big business.
In 1931, La Follette wrote in The Nation of the failure of the Hoover administration to deal promptly and sufficiently with the Depression, saying "The bankruptcy of his leadership in the worst economic crisis in our history reveals the tragic failure of rugged individualism and places the major cost of deflation upon those least able to bear it—the unemployed."
Yet here we are again, nearly eighty years later, and that same rugged individualism, tax cuts for the wealthy and weak stimulus are being tossed out as solutions, as if we’ve forgotten what ended the Depression, namely spending. Give money back to those who already have it, John McCain and Feingold’s foes argue, and they’ll fix the economy.
As Katrina vanden Huevel put it on GRITtv yesterday, when the very rich are sitting on $1.8 triillion in assets and wanting more, but not hiring or paying living wages, that’s class war. La Follette knew people needed leaders willing to fight it. As he noted back in 1917, that "wealth has never yet sacrificed itself on the altar of patriotism." No indeed.
For more Fighting Bob talk, come on the Barrymore theater, Friday night in Madison, where I’ll be kicking off Bob Fest—with the likes of Feingold, Thom Hartmann, Greg Palast and Jim Hightower.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.