They Still Don’t Get It

The Democrats seem not just helpless to deal with the crisis, but completely out of touch with the hardships that have fallen on so many Americans.

Comments: 125

  1. Americans keep complaining how we are going to pay for all these social programs. Easy. Stop engaging in wars we shouldn't be in! Such as fighting the Taliban and propping up the corrupt government of Afghanistan. Instead of spending $1 million per soldier per year, we can spend 20 times less and educate each American one time to be the most competitive worker in the world. You can argue wars are important too, but it's all about priorities.

    Thomas Huynh, founder

  2. Once again, Bob, you cut to the heart of the matter. And, your headline writer is right on point. President Obama and the Democrats really " Don't Get It". They honestly thought that the country had bought into the silly ideology that Democrats think is so important. Not one of them was smart nor wise enough to realize that they were only given a chance because of the bad economy and two unpopular wars.

    No, instead, Obama and the Democrats send even more young Americans to war, and then they give away the farm to the Wall Street bankers, while unemployment continues to grow. I thought the Bush Republicans were less than the best the country had to offer, but, compared to the Obama Democrats, the Republicans all seem like wise old men.

    Maybe one day we will see fit to start electing people who represent the voters rather than ideological contingents.; Maybe starting this November.

  3. Gee, Mr. Herbert, weren't you watching President Obama speak today in Ohio? Over and over again he told the local crowd and the national TV audience that he "..would never stop fighting.." for them. Fourteen times our intrepid leader used the words "fight" or "fighting"

    As I watched, a question came to my mind. Never stop fighting for us? When did he start?

  4. Right on target Mr. Herbert! Thanks for the reality check. I do not know what needs to happen for the political class to "get it." Yours is an honest voice.

  5. Mr Herbert,

    I have new-found respect for you. You have been one of the few people who've consistently sounded the alarm.
    It's just a pity that no one has been listening, maybe they will now.

  6. Again -- same mistake from you -- imagining people as important.

    The last time you did this was four days ago, in your previous column. But since then the radical right activists on the U.S. Supreme Court have usurped the court to rule quite finally to put you and your people interests in place. Hey -- it's the law. Corporations count not just as much as people, as if people had no particularly special qualities -- they count more -- their Big Money agendas dwarfing, belittling, reducing all that is merely human.

    Your column today cites disgust at the way sleazy abettors in Congress paved the way for the most cynical of corporate interests to abscond with America's health care system. But don't you know this is now not only mere politics -- it's the supreme law of the land. Mere people don't count anymore -- particularly not people in pain.

    Corporate profits count. Corporate spending counts. Corporate ability to wreck depredations abroad counts -- and don't worry -- the American people will never hear of these damages and provocations abroad. U.S. corporate interests won't allow reporting on that. And kids in school are all studying at their biz schools, some at the law schools, too, so all can all the more faithfully fasten on to the corporate beast.

    And you're still listening to mere people?

  7. Brilliant and right on as always, Mr. Herbert. Unfortunately...

  8. I don't believe the Democratic party is out of touch with the hardships that have hit so many. I believe the Democrats simply don't care, and neither does the Republican Party. The only thing the political parties are interested in is enjoying the perks of power. The solutions to the health care mess and the housing bubble debris aren't that hard; what's difficult is getting congress to act in the public interest rather their own, or their corporate benefactors. However, it will only get worse now that campaign finance reform was overturned. The United States is on its way to becoming a banana republic. In a generation or two the top 1% will hold 95% of the wealth and live behind razor wire, while the rest do laundry and sell coffee.

  9. Like poster #3 said, Obama is not "fighting" for us nor are our elected officials. The people need to wake up and fight for themselves.

  10. I feel like Obama has squandered his political capital and good will of the electorate as badly as Bush after 9/11. If the Democrats are to regain the trust of the people who actually put them in office they are going to have to do 2 simple but difficult things: 1- be honest and 2- represent the interests of the people. No amount of spin will conceal their further dishonesty and weakness. People's brains are made clear and impervious to spin by no food, no work and no hope.

  11. ..."The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely."

    Yes, we know, Bob! Americans are suffering! The economy is in the toilet! Older people cannot retire! Many thousands without health insurance are needlessly dying every year! We have a record number of bankruptcies. Now why is it that we are escalating the war in Afghanistan--spending many billions of dollars, primarily to rebuild a black hole? And the Afghan people do not even want us there? At the same time, we are putting sanctions on Iran and talking with the Israelis about their plans to bomb if Iran does not do as we say with their nukes. Why we might even nuke them!!!

    This insanity that is war is bankrupting not only our economy, but our very souls!!! And the giant war machine is just getting bigger, and bigger and bigger! Most of the Congress is happy to see this. You get it, I am sure! They are FOLLOWING THE MONEY!!!

  12. Bob, you're the best. Thanks again. I would like to know -- how seriously does Sulzberger take you and your columns? How much the Times understand its role as a bastion of "progressive"-ness in a desert of conservatism?

    People are suffering. It's only a matter of time before we get really really really angry. I think we're long overdue for a kind of self-correction. Not enough to plunge the world into chaos, but enough to effect nothing less than a social and economic revolution in this country.

  13. Maybe what we need to really shake things up is a National Strike. Unless we take to the streets and get real attention from the powers that be that we are tired of not being heard, then nothing will change for the better. Its time we take matters into our own hands because the political system has failed us. Both parties. Its the system, stupid.

  14. "The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation’s biggest problems, economic or otherwise" You probably forgot. Democrats in Congress had and have majorities. Forget Republican Party they are irrelevant till November 2010.After the election Democrats will become irrelevant in Congress. Then Obama may blame Congress. Not now. Not yet.

  15. We need some wisdom in Congress. Has the Massachusetts experiment in health care worked? If so, other states should adopt it. Has big government in California, New York and Illinois or small in Texas worked? Learn from it. Have vouchers for education in France and England been effective. Let states experiment. We learn through experience. Top down, one size fits all is a poor way to learn. It leaves little room for adaptation or innovation. And let's give peace a chance.

  16. If the Republicans had not decided to refuse to participate in governing the country, or if the filibuster threat that intimidates over 70% of all proposed bills was not in effect (it is nowhere in the Constitution), Democrats would have been able to make much more progress much sooner than they actually have. George W. Bush had, at the Republicans' zenith, a 55 to 45 majority in the Senate. At that time, the Democrats were not hell-bent on obstructing progress, the path that the Republican Party has now taken.

    To be sure, some blame rests with the Administration and the Congressional leadership for pursuing goals which are on the fringe of most American's priorities, and for wasting time bargaining with and capitulating to a party that is unquestionably obstructionist.

    That said, the Democrats have good ideas. It is the Democratic leadership in both the Legislative and Executive branch which has proved to be feeble and impotent in fighting for their ideals.

  17. Thank you for joining the only chorus that rhymes with the experience of every single person I know. I obviously do not know the President of the United States, or a single Democratic or Republican Party member of either house of Congress (I met one Republican Representative once, but he immediately turned his eyes away as if ashamed to have met a combat vet).

    So now, can we get back to the show about how Obama is fighting, yes fighting against all those fat cats he gave so much of our treasury's fat to and now wants to fight for us, or wants us to know he is and has been fighting for us, no matter how untrue, so we can know he is a real fighter who fights the real fight and talks tough to the real tough guys like they do on the world wrestling channel? Can we go back to that comfort zone? Without some fighting, it gets boring.

    Maybe Obama is telling us we don't have any money to build the nation's economy because we have another war to fight, and he wants to lead the fighting?

    What is all his fighting about if not with himself?

  18. For the unresponsiveness we see in our politicians, we really can only blame ourselves. We put politicians with the most money, but not necessarily the best ideas, into office. We do so because we are so lazy that instead of taking an active role in our democracy, we take the soundbites given to us by the best marketing campaigns money can buy. The sad fact remains that no person, no matter how great, can make it into elected office without huge amounts of money. And if special interests are the best way to get it, then special interest-owned politicians are what we are going to get. It is when we stop paying attention only to candidates who can spend enough to be in our faces 24/7 that we may actually start electing politicians that truly can afford to think about what's best for the country.

    So blame ourselves.

  19. Thank you, Bob. I don't think most of us have ever seen anything like what's in store for us in the near future. Maybe some of the idiots in office will read this. So far though, there's no reason to believe much will come of it.

  20. It seems to me that ALL politicians are out of touch with the realities of daily life in America, and indeed around the world. It is time to have a fundamental change in the way we conduct our national government. How about if we do away with elected government and institute political conscription. Each year, a percentage of the community is designated as our political leadership. Much like serving on jury duty, as long as you do not have a felony record, and are mentally competent, you must serve. This can't be any worse than what we have now. By the way, in ancient Athens, where Democracy was invented, this is how they did it.

  21. Thank you Mr. Herbert for telling it like it is. The Democrats and Republicans are selling exactly the same product: USA of, by and for the big Corps. They just differ slightly in their respective sales pitches.
    We desperately need a pro-people party.

  22. While it would be nice to think electoral changes could bring in, as Mary H would like, people to represent, well, the people, in the current socio-political climate this is most unlikely: anyone who has not paid their dues and submitted in some manner to the world as it is simply will not be allowed to run - unless like Sarah Palin, they can be useful tools. Kucinich, Feinberg - people allowed inside are then maginalized and ridiculed for speaking unhappy truths. It will probably take a lot more collapse, a lot more misery - as happened in the USSR - before we get any meaningful "change." Meanwhile we'll all have to make do on chump-change.

  23. Even Bob still doesn't get it. Oh Yes, he bashed Obama in this essay, but that is not the point. The point that even Bob forgot, or chooses to avoid, is the American people dislike government! At best we humor it! The U.S. Constitution is short because there is little responsibility given to government - for good reason.

    Get the government out of the way and this economy will flourish anew soon! Already Barney Frank suggested today that Fannie and Freddie disappear. I guess some of that tea thrown into Boston Haba this week blew into Bawney's soup! Air America shut it's trap too! Progress not perfection. Now if Obama will stay on the Golf Course and stop talking we will get better.

  24. It isn’t so much that Democrats have lost their way as it is that most of them never take responsibility for paving the way. Today Chris Dodd said it would take presidential leadership to get health care done and that Congress should take time off from working on health reform. Translation: even though I'm a senior senator who headed a health committee, health legislation is somebody else's job, I'm tired & I'm outta here anyway.

    Meanwhile, ConservaDem Mary Landrieu, who belongs to that tiny sliver of Senators who actually control that body blamed liberal Senators for the Democratic loss in Massachusetts when it was she & her stalling & her $100 million deal for Louisiana that enraged so many voters. She runs the place, but its failures are not her fault.

    Down Pennsylvania Avenue, the President of the United States went out on a road trip & told folks in rural Ohio he was going to keep fighting for them. As commenter John Newlin asks today, “When did he start?”

    The Constant Weader at

  25. Mr Herbert, you fit the profile of critical theorist, always criticizing, but not offering any practical solutions. With your Utopian ideas, you leave readers thinking, nay believing, that things were so much better and have only recently been messed up by the current administration. Your relentless vilification of this admn has been noted. You will begin believing your press; that you speak for the people.

    So healthcare reform was a luxury? Just because you have healthcare. You too don't get it, I'm afraid.

    I for one would like to see you get off your high horse and get down and dirty remaking America and offering workable solutions that empower individuals to get into the workforce. Otherwise yours too is nothing but cheap rhetoric! And you dish plenty!

  26. No, there are not only two options - a third party could form!

  27. THEY don't get it because THEY don't want to get it AND, worst of all, THEY don't know how to get it. THEY are the ~50,000 people who run this country. THEY are not us, the remaining 300,000,000+

  28. I think there are leaders who do get it, but can never admit to it.

    There is simply no way to have everything out of a list of good jobs for all, cheap products made in China, lower taxes, a balanced budget, great affordable health care for all, a war on terror, etc.

    The Republicans, being out of power at the moment don't have to admit to any of it. Just promise it all and eventually they will get into power, in order to provide an easy life for the wealthy, while keeping the rest of their base happy by kicking sand in the faces of those who were the smart nerdy kids from high school who are now the "educated elites" of the world.

  29. Have no fear, President Barack Hussein will fix all of these problems by continuing to persecute the American Financial Institutions that are responsible for everything evil in the world.

  30. I'll say one thing for Republicans, they stand by their President. Somehow, they manage to keep their internal squabbles within the family and present a united front against the opposition. In contrast, with friends like Mr. Herbert and most of the left-leaning commenters here, Obama doesn't need enemies, though he certainly has plenty.

    It's not that Obama doesn't "get it", it's that his options in the real world are limited. Obama has to deal with something that none of the columnists or commentators do: political reality. So the stimulus package should have been bigger? The package that passed Congress barely got through; a larger one (twice as large, according to some economists) would have had no chance. It has less than no chance now. Bailing out the financial system was distasteful but not doing it was unthinkable. Doesn't anyone remember that the whole economy was on a cliff edge a year ago? People need to understand that if financial insitutions go under, their employers will not be able to get credit to finance their operations, their jobs will go away, and the whole economic system will crash.

    The American people are partly to blame for the no-win situation Obama finds himself in. They want the government to "create" jobs, but they don't want to add to the deficit or pay higher taxes. They want to rein in the banks, but they don't want the stock market to go down. They want cheaper health insurance premiums, but they cry "rationing!" or "death panels!" if there's any talk of eliminating ineffective treatments. Health care reform was not just a foolish sideshow. Health care already constitutes 16% of our economy and will only grow larger. Its high cost is crippling employers, hurting U.S. global competitiveness, and depressing wages. Over the long run, it's unsustainable. Fixing it is inextricably tied to achieving and maintaining a strong, competitive economy.

    Obama has not been perfect, he has made mistakes, but name me a President who hasn't. He's at least trying to deal with the hot mess he inherited. The tactics and rhetoric of the right are beyond disgusting but not surprising. That's what they do. But why do progressive columnists and commentators have to carry the right's water? If they wake up to President Palin in January 2013, they'll have only themselves to blame.

  31. There is a remarkable park in Washington DC that commemorates FDR and contains many of his quotations from the years of the Great Depression. I first visited it during the Clinton years, and I immediately realized how incredibly devoid of heroes our country has become in the face of corporate power. Around that time I recall Bill Clinton waxing about "the rising tide that will lift all boats." Clinton was rationalizing his own coziness with corporate finance, which will always require regulation to prevent it from eating the rest of us for lunch.

    Now that the "rising tide" is beginning to drown us, I think every Democrat in Washington should be made to spend 72 hours in the FDR Memorial, starting with Barack Obama. Each of them should be made to contemplate the crisis ordinary Americans face today and the enormous responsibility they have to push back against the corporations and give our citizens the support we need.

    Perhaps the like-minded media should be doing feature stories on that FDR Memorial. How about it Bob?

  32. Canvassed and voted for Obama and still want to believe he's learning something. I'm not sure if the problem is something he can solve. I think Congress is the entity that has really been caught with their knickers down. Even so, we've been through recessions before and we've made it through them.

    People are not as trusting or patient with government anymore. People are impatient all around I'd say. It doesn't help that the news cycle never really lets anyone take a breather and chill out. 30 years ago we had to actually sit down and open up a newspaper and read to get just a glimpse of what was going on in our country. Now you turn on the TV and you get every bit of minutia in one "cycle", which is what, 20 minutes?

    The world has changed. I don't think you can "blame" anyone for acting as they always have. What we can do is what Massachusetts did. Tell those in power to take note. The game has changed. We've changed. We're not going to let you sell our country to the highest bidder anymore.

    This is not about being conservative or liberal. It's about being damned mad that we've lost our jobs, houses, that they're not coming back, that our schools have to fight tooth and nail for everything they need, that corporations and banks have completely lost any communal or patriotic interest in our country, and that we can't raise our kids with the way we were raised.

    Damned angry and not about to get over it any time soon.

  33. To #2, Mary H: re: your last sentence "Maybe one day we will see fit to start electing people who represent the voters rather than ideological contingents; maybe starting this November."

    Alas, given the Supreme Court ruling yesterday to treat corporations as individuals when it come to elections, we the people have totally lost the power to elect anyone. There is no one now let alone in the future who is or will be the least bit interested in representing "the voters". Our voices are ignored now and will be increasingly dismissed in the future as the money begets power. When more and more citizens realize this, what would happen if less than 50 percent of the electorate go to the voting polls? Can that really be called a legal election? Half the population not making their voices heard?

    Or will it not matter at all?

  34. Bob

    Its gotten to the point now where you don't even listen to statements about what they are going to do. You look for what they actually do and which pockets they line. They other day, after the MA election, I saw a statement from the White House that they were going to get tougher on banks. I didn't even read it because it will probably never see the light of day. Enough with the window dressing. Get some real progressive policies happening and fight for them!

  35. Here in Newton, MA, a part of any increase in the population that is poor may have to do with poor people moving into this area. Simply by walking around parts of Newton, MA, it is easy to see this.

  36. WOW This is the first time in years, I think, that I have ever agreed with you.

  37. I say term limits for congress. Vote the bums out and never let them return as lobbyists. There are too many OLD men in congress who should be home with their families talking about how great theythink they are. Seriously, Arlen Spector, Joe Lieberman and Chris Dodd who was quoted on Bill Moyers Journal as saying that the Haitians - back in the day when they were fighting the corporations that had taken over their country - were a threat to the USA. Unbelievable what is available to us in that board game called washington.

    Give us back some of our money that you creeps in congress only know how to misuse and to feather your own retirement nests.

    A pox on all their houses!

  38. Every US senator is a millionaire. That means the average income per senator is above $1,000,000. What is the average income per capita in the regular population? My guess is around $50,000. There is no relationship at all between the interests of a senator and those of the vast majority of her constituents. Since when do millionaires care about anything but money - and those who have it? The same goes for "top" officials all throughout government. In this game of pay to play, most of us can only watch it on TV.

  39. It's a very simple analysis, Bob. And it's about 2000 years old. Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." So it's not hard to see where the hearts of our elected representatives are; just follow the rather wide trail of money.

    And with the Supreme Court's new ruling giving the green light on corporate political donations, the heart of our government is about to be swallowed up in an ocean of money. The people? Some other time.

  40. They'll never get it as long as the happy corrupt lives have no ending.
    For starter, how about 2 term limits for any politician, even too long?

  41. Let's see if the rise of Volcker in the White House's economic brain trust represents a real turn around of just more dithering and poking about the edges of the central problems: unemployment, consolidation (read "monopoly"), outsourcing and so on.

    Obama once promised to restructure the tax laws so there was a reward for creating jobs in America and a disincentive for sending them abroad. What happened to that?

    It's crunch time for the Administration and the Dems in Congress. If they really start working on the country's problems, they will remain in power and, with luck, make fundamental changes during the next two or three years. If they put on a populist show without putting up a real populist fight, the American people will see through the charade and punish them come November. That, of course, would put the Republicans back in power, but if the Democrats don't get their act together, what difference will it make which bunch of corporate mouthpieces is "in charge?"

  42. It's obvious to you, me & the 3 who commented above what the problems are that face our nation. Are all members of Congress so isolated that this message doesn't trickle up?

  43. in the ballpark and on point.

    You could have gone further and written "the power elite remain incessantly consumed with themselves and their own self-serving interests" -- no surprise there.

    And today Obama went back into campaign mode and sounded very much like an insincere rhetorically gifted politician who used to be much better at being convincing (before reality took over) and whose main talent remains speechifying, not leadership.

    The democraps are only slightly less gawd-awful than the republicons. Neither is there for we the great unwashed masses. To hell with all of them.

    And the supreme court has finally lifted the veil off of reality: we know for sure without a doubt that we actually ARE getting the government that corporations have paid for: lock, stock and barrel.

    Can't wait till all the foreign owned corporations -- China, Arab Emirates, etc -- have full reign to also elect our officials for us. Then we'll truly be globally multi-national (no longer a democracy/republic, but we'll be truly multi-national).

    Boy were we bamboozled or what?

  44. I think they should install an alarm at the white house that boars incessantly every time an economic indicator for average people heads south. And mocking laughs every time the stock market rises to give their tone deaf ears a wake up call.

  45. You're absolutely on the money, Mr. Herbert! Thanks!
    I've gone through jobless periods in my life.... times when a flat tire or dead battery was a major crisis. Times when pitiful unemployment insurance really mattered.... and wasn't adequate. But there's something very strange that happens fairly quickly after you get another job: you forget just how desperate you were when you didn't have one.
    Neither George Bush nor Barak Obama have ever had a significant period when they didn't have a job, I'm sure. And I'm even more sure that they never collected unemployment insurance. That's true of almost everyone in Congress. They simply don't know what the life of the average working American is like. They're not compassionate because they've never really faced the sort of financial hardship that many working (or unemployed!) Americans know intimately.
    Perhaps it's time for them to experience unemployment?

  46. You are absolutely right. Neither Obama or the Democrats get it. Forget about the Republicans--they are out of touch (and I say this regretfully as a former Republican).

    Obama was elected to CHANGE Washington, when it became too clear that the Republican Bush-Cheney was wasn't working. Obama and the Democrats were elected with large majorities to effect CHANGE.

    Obama and the Democrats knew the right things to say. But Obama and the Democrat Congress (but especially Obama) has turned out to be just Bush-lite. Despite spouting some good sounding CHANGE rhetoric, Obama has been implementing most of the very same policies of Bush-Cheney.

    Which is why Obama and the Democrats are losing support so fast. After one year, we can see that Obama is better than Bush, but he certainly has not been a big CHANGE: not in economic policy (he hasn't been for the little guy), not in foreign policy (we're still in 2 big wars and making threatening noises against Iran and North Korea), not in torture prosecution (we are not holding anybody responsible), not in gay rights (Obama hasn't even made noises to fix the military), not in health reform (the bills now being considered just will make the insurance companies richer)... not in any major area.

    Maybe Hillary would have been better...

  47. Fighting increasing poverty will require a stronger effort than the Jobs for Main Street bill passed in the House. The bill funds blue collar and forest fire control jobs and prevents teacher layoffs. But if you are a white collar worker whose field isn't construction management, transportation, or energy, there is nothing that specifically connects you to a job. I did not see any provision in the bill requiring filling the jobs with American citizens and green card holders or any provision requiring that jobs be filled with persons who are currently unemployed. Job training is a platitude for white collar workers, who will require several years of college and, probably, postgraduate training to transition into a new career. Even if the bill passes there will still not be an avenue by which the unemployed can sign up and obtain meaningful work.

  48. What are you worrying about? Obama is on our side! Just like he was on health reform and you saw what a fighter he was on that issue! I have to admit it is not easy for one guy to match wits with 450 elected Congressman and Senators, guys who know how to play the game, so we shouldn't expect too much. Heaven help us! Jerry

  49. I have been a life-long Democrat and, generally, an incurable optimist. Nonetheless, I'm in complete agreement with your pessimistic column today. Both parties in Washington seem so detached from the problems affecting middle-class Americans that a solution to those problems now seems beyond reach. As for President Obama, those of us who worked our hearts out to elect him thought he would be a new FDR. Unfortunately, we seems to have been way off the mark.

  50. I am getting to the point of where I no longer want to read newspapers, watch TV news or even listen to NPR anymore. The childish behavior Bob mentioned is heartbreaking. If we were to design a country, would it look anything like America today?

  51. It was painful to read Mr. Herbert's lines.
    It has been painful to watch what's happening to our country.
    But most disturbing though, was the supreme court's decision to facilitate big money's path into all levels of decision making, eventually taking control over the country.
    If we don't wake up, money and politics will enter into a bond which will govern all aspects of life as the rest of society will live on handouts.
    And then, we may not even be able to read Mr. Herbert again.

  52. Bob - we will need another civil rights movement to get things straight. It won't be about race this time, it will be the lower/middle classes marching, protesting war, demanding universal health care, affordable college educations and graduate education or vocational education.

    Until that happens, we will remain in this coma state. The republicans don't care about us, they NEVER have and the democrats need to be re-educated.

    I've been there and done that already. But I am ready to do it again. How about you?

  53. I find the ineptitude of a large majority of our Democratic legislators despicable. The Republican Party’s strategy is to ensure the failure of President Barack Obama by opposing in lockstep his legislative agenda…”they want their country back.” There’s a strong possibility that they may obtain their objective through artful political subterfuge – by encouraging the entry of an independent “people’s” candidate [e.g., Ralph Nader] in the 2012 Presidential elections. Given the recent election results from the outraged electorate in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts, in a three-way Presidential race (e.g, President Obama, Sarah Palin, and Ralph Nader) we are primed to have our first female [Republican] President. Wake up Democrats…who voted you in office?...corporations or people?

  54. Thank you for once again calling attention, for those with the willingness to see, to the huge disparity between the party in power today in D.C. and the once-unapologetic and committed corps of public servants who saw as their mission the need to treat public service as a privilege and an opportunity -- nay, an obligation -- to leave the world they inherited in better shape for the generation to follow and for those in their own cohort willing to spare no effort to make things better for their own kids, no matter how modest their material circumstances might be. With all the buzz about the virtual disappearance of the GOP as a national party after the 2008 election, one is more apt to wonder whatever happened to the real Democratic party?

  55. The Supreme Court decision certainly came as a shock... I and others had no idea things were so far along the road to ?????????? Thank you for your usual fantastic column.

  56. Inability to access healthcare because of the cost of insurance and services is among the hardships Americans are facing. Healthcare reform has to be part of the solution.

  57. The only way the president will signal to me that he is getting it is to fire Geithner and Summers. The problem, however, is who will replace them? The field of economics is rather a disaster zone filled with Friedman followers and market fundamentalists. Labor economists are almost extinct. Maybe Volcker, at age 82, can take over Summers' job. Whoever ends up on the president's economic team, their main focus has to be jobs, jobs, jobs, even if that means the creation of a civilian conservation corps as in the Great Depression. The president needs to take bold action to turn around the current economic disaster unfolding in the United States. The private sector, dominated by large corporations that think only in terms of short-term profits, is not up to the challenge. Let's hope that the next economic team, if there is to be a new one, has its priorities straight.

  58. Obviously no one in Washington reads your columns...and they are still no fee available. I only wish I could get some of whatever our "leadership" swallows to make me blind and ignorant of the real world. Meaningful work, as a friend once told me, is number one. Real work...that which leaves a bit of disposable income is what it is about in a vibrant economy. Heralding the creation of more minimum income jobs is not the answer unless, of course, Congress and the administration chooses to work for $10 per hour. I so enjoy your columns, Mr. Herbert, and will so until next year. At 67 I think I will spend my money on food not reading the Times.

  59. The poor or the working class do not cut campaign checks for politicians. Doesn't that explain everything?

  60. It's a shame that Herbert needs to be reminded that outrageous health care costs are a big problem for many Americans, especially if they are out of work. Healthcare reform was not, is not , a waste of time.

    How does he think the government can solve the unemployment problem? I wouldn't expect any substance.

  61. Mr. Herbert: You are so right and they will never get it. The ball is now in the court of the voters and citizens and whether they will fight for their rights will determine what happens to our tattered country.
    Voting time is approaching, marching in the streets is approaching, and the hope and quality of all of our futures is in our own hands.
    Eventually, if not immediately, something will be forced to change for the survival of everyone and that includes the misbegotten wars we can't seem to extricate ourselves from. I hope we can last until that something happens but until then, voices like yours must keep telling the painful truth to tone deaf Americans.
    How about running for office, Mr. Herbert? You will have lots of support.

  62. A well written piece Bob.

    The President and Congress are either out of touch or in denial. After the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts, Mr. Obama said in an ABC interview that Scott Brown's victory was similar to his own...voters were angry at the last eight years and both "rode the same wave" of voter discontent. More evidence of a massive disconnect.Stop blaming Bush for everything. Stop campaigning and start leading!

    This is difficult for me. I voted for Mr Obama in 2008. He is a brillant orator but a mediocre communicator who is trying to employ the clever chameleon strategy he's a populist...

    As a supporter this is smacks of the Carter administration ...lots of I.Q. but fundamentally out of touch. I do believe that Mr Obama has had poor advice from Axelrod and Emanuel and leaving his legislative agenda in the hands of Pelosi and Reid was a mistake. Going after capitalism and the banks is a mistake as well.

    The more germane question is can he turn his Presidency around? Today's performance was not encouraging ...especially if it was an angry preview of his State of the Union speech on the 27th.

  63. "The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings."

    Really??? If the Democrats actually did "extend a powerful hand," as you suggest, then the Republicans (who, of course GAVE the country to the big banks, giant corporations, and other predatory interests from 2000-2008) would be all up in arms about "big government." It is utterly unrealistic to expect the debacle that was the Bush administration to be overhauled in 1 year, especially with so much angry, petty fighting in Washington. The Democrats are not to blame for the economic crisis, but yet they are expected to create millions of jobs out of nothing in 1 year? That wouldn't have happened with Cheney in office, really?? The rhetoric wouldn't be cheap if people actually spent 5 minutes listening and making rational decisions. Come on.

  64. Politicians aren't the only ones who don't get it. Columnists who offer passionate complaints but not a single hint of any idea what can be done don't get it either. If you have any suggestions, we'd be glad to hear them. Problem is, there's probably nothing that can be done, short of starting a war.

  65. Well I was very surprised and thought that Herbert had finally Got It until the final paragraph when he goes off on the Republicans. It is time to drop that BS and strive to work for the people; we are paying all of their salaries and they need to get back to doing our work.
    That work is not just about distributing my income to people who have taken bad life choices and end up poor, by the way. Taking a childish, populist approach and being antibusiness is also not going to work either; businesses pay our salaries, not govt!

  66. Yes, Democrats have been out of touch but it is still just incredible that the party that created all the problems besetting us today can reap the benefits of their own mismanagement, corruption, lies and malfeasance. Just incredible. But not impossible. Americans are beset day in and day out with the lies of such as Limbaugh, Beck and other teabagging screamers who distort and twist every word and idea out of Democratic circles. Democrats have allowed this. But what is the solution? Become even bigger liers than the right? No. The problem is Obama and the Democrats tried to bring these charlatans in on a bipartisan basis and attempted to appease them but like Hitler on the Sudetenland, there is no appeasing these villains. They only want power for the sake of tearing down. They have no ideas, no morals, no scruples. no ethics. They are, at bottom, unscrupulously using the genuine angst of the American public and whipping it up even more to further their own ends of violence and discord. It doesn't matter to most members of the public that Republicans caused their problems and now have not a clue as to what to do. Someone must pay and Beck, Limbaugh and the rest of the screamers have a perfect scapegoat waiting for them to slaughter. And Democrats walked right onto the killing field without any kind of decent plan for attenuating and addressing the anger. What can we do with such a situation?

  67. You are sooo right!
    "It's the economy, stupid!"

  68. Don't kid yourself. Things are never going to go back to the times of the flourishing middle class of the 50's and 60's. That over forever. Starting with union jobs being shipped to the South and then shipped to cheaper labor markets overseas with no penalty for doing so, the productive base that generates jobs supporting a middle class lifestyle are mostly gone never to come back.

    Free trade, globalization, transnational corporations are the new order of the day. Corporations can continue to make money like no tomorrow playing the cheap slave-like wage markets against the eroding middle classes appetite for cheaper and cheaper goods.

    Money not traveling abroad in investments in capital expenditures for manufacturing capacity is staying in this country to fund the giant Wall Street casino which benefits mainly the richest 1% with a few crumbs dribbling out to the few who have any extra money left to try to place a bet in the flipping of money from here to there and back again. Nothing of any significance is deemed worthy as an investment that produces well paying jobs here. That's a sucker bet for an investor seeking a quick killing and a hit and run investment cycle.

    It's not by accident that the government is unresponsive no matter which party is in power. It's on purpose. What are they to do? Import jobs back into the country? Borrow more trillions to prop up a middle class that is dieing on the vine? They know better than to put money in a losing game.

    Just face it. Societies have a lifespan of birth, growth, maturity and gradual decline, devolving into decay and collapse.

    What would change this dynamic? I have no rabbit and I have no hat and I don't think anyone else does too.

    We now have the formalizing of the plutocracy's buying power in purchacing a government more to it's liking, beyond even the extent to which it has already corrupted and spoiled the democratic system with lobbyists and campaign contributions.

    These are very ugly truths and very pathetic in their starkness. They are nevertheless true.

    This is the New America.

  69. It's like a wild animal trapped on a small stretch of land with flood waters rising up around it's neck. They can't even see the hidden inflation out there. Ten bite-size Snickers went for one dollar nine months ago. Three months ago, they were eight for a dollar. Now they're eight for a buck and twenty-five cents. Extrapolate that across the grocery shelves and you'll see what I'm getting at. They haven't even begun to reckon with the fact that the increase in the minimum wage would make everything around it rise with the tide. "Out of touch" isn't an appropriate phrase. More like "alternative universe."

  70. Mr.Herbert,
    You give me hope finally! All through the Democratic primaries you sang the praises of your beloved candidate adnauseum and all of last year you defended him.Some of us expected him to be exactly what he is..a weak politician,aloof and inexperienced.After all the pundits made fun of Hillary offering to 'fight' for us,as i she just loves to fight tha's her Clinton personality,I hope you noticed the President's willingness to fight (about 14 times). Wise up Sir.

  71. This guy is really out of touch with why we are in this situation in the first place.

  72. Hi Bob,

    Government policies (both Republican and Democrat) are the #1 reason that the country is currently in this state. So why would you expect the government to be able to do something about it? If they were that smart, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.


  73. Where is the rest of the editorial page at your paper on this? I would have expected Krugman to have that statistic out there just as fast as you.

    Interested to know what David Brooks has to say about 91 million Americans being below the federal poverty line.

  74. I love Bob Herbert, but it is pretty easy to toss spitwads from the cheap seats.

    Wow, they took the better part of a year on health care. As opposed to what? There is a Democratic majority in name only. A not insignificant number of the "Democrats" are really Republicans who hold office as "Democrats." And, then there is Joe Lieberman. And, all the while they are fighting nihilists on the Republican side within a framework (aka the filabuster) that makes it next to impossible to get anything accomplished when you don't have people of good will on the other side, and the Democrats don't. They are fighting the most powerful and rich corporations in the country,containing a surprisingly ignorant populace that believes things like "death panels." And, they are getting precious little help from the Fourth Estate.

    Seriously, Bob.

  75. Great column Bob. I agree with you about the absurdity of the budget and deficit clamor going on now when Keynesian injections are what we need. And you're so right about the decline of the Middle Class. This has been under way for a couple decades but accelerated mightly under Dubya, when income actually declined from 2000 to 2008, the first time it's happened since the start of the post-WWII baby boom.

    The full onset of the Great Recession, which of course occurred before President Obama was even in office (500,000 jobs were lost in Dec. 2008, 600,000 in Jan. 2009) exacerbated this decline. And the plight of the truly poor has only slid further, faster during the entire, sorry decade that just ended -- bookended by the right-wing Supreme Court outrages of Bush v. Gore and yesterday's crowning achievement allowing corporations to control public policy through aggressive, negative campaign spending.

    But I'm really getting sick of all the Obama bashing at a time when he could use a little support. What has Obama done? He has tried to create health care coverage for growing legions of Americans who do not have it, many of whom desperately need it. He's tried to introduce cost controls and consumer protections into the health care system, which has neither. The estimates are still around 40 million uninsured, but with all the layoffs and lost homes the number must be way over that by now. He's tried to save us from future national bankruptcy caused by rising health care costs. And he's been obstructed at every turn by racist Republicans and thwarted by whiny, wimpy, conservative Democrats in the Senate and gamed by the supercilious turncoat Lieberman. This has turned a legislative process that should have taken at most six months into a 14-month nightmare highlighted by geriatric activists on government-sponsored health care spewing lies at town meetings. But he's continued to push. To all the Republican commentators here spreading the usual misinformation ad nauseum, I'd say that's fighting for us.

    As for the wars, Obama is withdrawing troops from Iraq, so that war is slowly coming off the table. The buildup in Afghanistan, while I rue it, is a gamble necessitated by the entire region's instability, from the reaches of Afghanistan (where terror camps sprout like mushrooms) through Pakistan (a nuclear power) and Iran (soon to be a nuclear power). Let's hope and pray Obama and our military are successful there or else we'll all be in serious trouble.

    On the topic of jobs, Obama's stimulus bill (too small because of Republican interference) saved and created several million, including those of at least 500,000 teachers nationwide who would have been laid off. He got that done for us, too.

    He saved perhaps a million or more jobs in the auto industry, engineering a smooth bankruptcy, leadership changes and a chance for recovery.

    What our cerebral, careful, thorough president hasn't done is fight hard enough publicly against these entrenched, right-wing forces of hate, regression, selfishness, greed and spite. He's tried to rise above it, a tactic that may work in civil company but won't work with rabid ideologues.

    But I think he's finally getting it. I think he's coming to understand that all the education and smarts in the world may be of little use when what you really need is a set of brass knuckles. The president's remarks Friday that he's fighting for us is music to my ears.

    Meanwhile, the vision of the return of the old wise-guy, white-guy Republican club, raised by one of the early posters on here today, is enough to make my skin crawl and my stomach churn. I'm not religious, but in this case I will ask assistance from God to help Obama deliver us forever from that evil.

  76. Thanks Bob Herbert and your first commenter Thomas Huynh. It only takes a few words to say that the billions spent on GW's Iraq war, the war without borders stretching from Pakistan to Yemen and beyond - and we might add the "drug war" might better be spent at home for education, medical care, infrastructure and in Haiti. Would that President Barack Obama would read Herbert, Friedman, Kristof, and Krugman more carefully - every day.
    Larry Lundgren, Linkoping SWEDEN

  77. After the health care debacle and looking at the gridlock I am not sure what Obama could do. The Republicans just want to cut taxes for the rich and cut non-military spending even though deficits supposedly didn't matter when they were in control. The federal gov. could help bail out the states if Congressional Dems could pass a bill. This would save some jobs and social services, but something has to give.

    Sadly, the bubble economy concealed the reality that we have been squandering our economy and systematically destroying our middle class. Only the financial elite have gained from the economic policies we have pursued over the last twenty-five years.

  78. Thanks Bob for this. I question when will the White House and supposedly "liberal" members of Congress actually speak out for the working class. As the Mass. election showed, people with "limited" intellectual capacity are working against their best interest. When will Democrats demonstrate the spine to counter the "tea party" people, who are those actually work against their own interests. The United States cannot be a viable country in the 21st century with a tax structure that heavily favors the super rich. Eisenhower built the interstate highways and other necessary infrastructure when we had a maximum tax of 90%. With a maximum tax as we now have, we cannot even maintain the highways. We will just be a vehicle for the ultra-rich to completely control the government and our services. Is this what Americans want? I am asking those in the "red" States? Do you want to subsidize the ultra-rich at the expense of yourselves and your own children?? Why would you you do this? Can you not you read and write? Do you not even understand your own interests? How can we have a democracy when Americans do not understand the basic issues?? Perhaps we are a doomed plutocracy. But what can we do when so many people are so ignorant? And these people vote.

  79. A major part of the problem is that our representatives in Congress seem to have forgotten that they were voted into Congress to represent the people.

  80. I can't, in a good conscience, agree that the Obama and the Dems have done nothing. Everything they try gets stopped by the Repubs and Blue Dogs.

    The obstructionist party just got worse with the Supreme Court ruling yesterday.

    And our democracy is in peril.

  81. Republicans are wackos and Democrats are hypocritical incompetents. That last description especially applies to the president who seems to think the most important thing in the world is to be nice to the wackos. I've never seen anybody squander so much good will so fast.

    This country will never make progress on anything until we figure out that the two party system has doomed us. We need to go outside of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party if we want to find people who can effectively lead this country. Both parties, by their very natures, breed mediocrity, incompetence, hypocrisy, and lack of principle.

    I am so sick of Democrats and Republicans, I have forsworn ever voting for a member of either party again. In 2008 I voted for Nader. I'm really proud of that fact. He was the right choice.

  82. "Democrats in search of clues as to why voters are unhappy may want to take a look at the report."

    And "...Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations..."

    If this is what the common man, the ordinary folks want then do tell us why they are voting in droves for the party that is aligned with the bankers, with the giant corporations, the party that created the present supreme court. Why is it that Americans seem to be voting against their own interest?

    We were told that people were angry about the banks and that they were hurting because of the economy. And guess what? They voted for the party that was fully in favor of the bailout, that opposed regulating the banks and did its best to stop the stimulus. Boom there goes NJ and Virginia.

    And then we were told about how America was suffering because of poor health care, how the market was failing to deliver a decent life for millions, how Americans would never forgive those that caused all this. And then we find not only that Americans forgive the party that blocks health care reform and the party that gave us the market myths, but they vote that party to power and vote against the party that is trying to do something about giving them a better shot at coming out of this recession.

    Time to end this spin cycle and admit a few home truths:

    1. Elections are decided by middle class America. And the middle class generally likes its health care (the 47 million that have no health care are not in the middle class).

    2. The middle class does not want radical change. Certainly not enough radical change to enable a better life for the poor.

    3. Mr. Obama in trying to bring some justice to the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the society, made a mistake. The poorest and most vulnerable sections do not decide elections. Middle class Bill and Elaine do. And Bill and Elaine are afraid of the scale of change.

    4. Bill and Elaine want status quo - but with some minor tinkering at the edges of the policy framework so that they can feel good about doing something for the poor.

    5. What policies should the administration push? Those that advance middle class welfare - better infrastructure, national security, reducing urban crime - or play to its fears - stop outsourcing, limit trade, restrict immigration. In short the president should read the Lou Dobbs play book.

    That Mr. Obama has not pandered to the middle class says two things about him (1) he is a deeply honorable and principled politician (2) And not a very savvy politician.

    The government did not get the people that it deserves.


  83. Robert. I've asked the RNC to send you an application first thing in the morning, along with a box of tea bags.

  84. The great tragedy of health care reform was the unseemly sight of the President and Democrats, and Republican legislators falling all over themselves to do the bidding of the health care industry so that it could drag unconscionable amounts of money out of consumer and the federal treasury.

    Neither concern nor compassion existed for consumers or taxpayers only how can legislators assure health industry profits.

    A slime feast like we watched for months would have had a short life if we had an honest game in Washington.

    Each side would have disclosed the others misbehaviors to voters which would have ended it.

    The Massachussetts Mircle was not a vote to return power to Republicans it was the manifestation of a screaming rage demonstrating that voters understand what legislators were doing.

    It demonstrated that voters are motivated to hunt down trecherous politicians be they Republican or Democrat and especialy President Obama who flim flamed us to get elected and then sold us out to Wall Street and the health care industry.

    Elections, criminal investigations or repentance will be required to rescue our country from the traitorous politicians whoes behaviors have caused and are prepetuating the miseries of so many.

    To fix health care two different systems coexisting one public the other private could serve everyone.

    All 300million people in the US could have totally free health care paid for with sales tax funding instead of insurance if all care was dispensed through government hospitals rather than private systems and it would cost $1trillion less than the $2.6 trillion spent last year leaving millions without care.

    Of course everyone in the US would not choose to use public care but the stark difference in costs dramatically demonstrates how much more efficient proven government systems like the VA are.

    Government run VA style hospitals for civilians could be half of the reform solution.

    Everyone choosing public care regardless of age, financial circumstances, or pre existing conditions, could have it no restrictions, no insurance, no co pays, free period.

    Employers who select public care for their employees would not be required to pay for or have any further involvement with health care.

    A National Health Care System could also take over states and local government’s health care systems to assure operating standards and relieve local funding problems while providing total transferability for patients.

    Paying for public health care using sales tax revenues would be hundreds of billions of dollars cheaper each year than using private insurance and it would be a prudent cost effective way to collect the money and spread risks while paying for health care as it is used instead of increasing the national debt.

    Everyone shopping in the United States would pay pennies on the dollar supporting public health care, citizens, immigrants, 40 million visiting tourists annually, and rich, poor, everybody contributes.

    The system could be jump started by acquiring health delivery systems around the country that would choose to sell to, and be integrated into, the new public National Health Care System.

    Building new public health care facilities would produce capital assets that will continue to serve Americans for generations, and provide millions of construction jobs today and millions of new health care jobs forever.

    Private systems would comprise the other half of the solution no government funding should be paid to private systems nor should they be subjected to any government mandates nor should their plans be taxed.

    Consumers using private systems would never be required to give information to or step into a public care facility.

    Private health care's roll in public/private reform should be to attract every client they can who would find their services so compelling that patients would pay to voluntarily purchase their services.

    The private care option would allow individuals or businesses to keep or select from an unlimited choice of doctors, clinics, hospitals, timing, and treatments, Ford Fiesta or Rolls-Royce, but it would require the user to pay privately for their health services, either by self pay, company pay, private insurance, whatever, but government funded programs should only be distributed through the new national system to assure cost control and outcomes.

    Going back and forth between free public, and user purchased private care, would allow unlimited choices, ultimate freedom, and always free public care would be available.

    America’s Veteran Administration is the largest, lowest cost; best outcome producing at any cost, health care delivery system in the US, it uses the world’s best medical software, and it has been controlling the problems with access, cost, quality, and malpractice successfully for years.

    Why can't civilians choose free government care?

  85. We have not reached the miserable conditions of widespread starvation throughout France pre French Revolution but our politicians seem to have the same "let them eat cake" attitude. Banks, pharma and the medical insurance interests have been preying on the populace for decades. They own the majority in Congress, the Supreme Court and Obama's advisors. The Progressives need to form their own party to counter the Tea Baggers. Now there is change we can believe in.

  86. Obama and his buddies understand everything very well. It's just that they were bought and sold by interest groups even before Obama became the President. That's really it. No need for eloquent articles day after day. I only wonder how these people look at themselves in the mirror. And us, the suffering folk, can either write miles of comments in NYT or organize and protest.

  87. Bob: This may be the greatest editorial I have ever read in the New York Times, the nation's greatest newspaper by far. I have been advocating for a 21st century Works Progress Administration for the past year to be funded by a huge TAX on the thieves of Wall Street. Put people back to work repairing the crumbling infrastructure of the United States and developing new industries, such as renewable energy! I have supported Obama since the day he declared for the Presidency in February 2007, however, it is way past time for him to grow a spine along with the other spineless Democrats and get something done for America!

  88. Let me introduce you to the solidarity movement. The Sons of Liberty and the Daughters of the American Revolution are united in taking back our country; restoring our basic and fundamental freedoms and principals that our founders gave us in this noble experiment in government for the people by the people!

    First and foremost, we must take back the political process which is broken beyond repair. We can not expect those now inhabiting the positions of power to do their duty whether it be the impotent, criminal Congress; the impotent misguided administration; nor the corrupted politicized Judicial branch.

    The only hope is for the people in each States to bring their numbers and their dedication to our countries potential bright future stolen by the corporate bosses and the powerful financial Lords of the Universe, the military-industrial-congressional complex, the reactionary religious right, and the Fascist wannabe Neocons! Our need is to have a Constitutional Convention of the people to wrest our nation from the venal hands of our domestic oppressors and restore our freedom, our rights, and our sacred honor.

  89. Solution is simple - Stop spending on wars and invest in America.

    Recent column from your colleague Tom nailed it when he asked where is today's sputnik. Recent PWC report says China will surpass US in GDP by 2020. Consider the implications when some one else is calling the shots and he is our creditor. So that is a decade from now. As we know from your another colleague Dr. Krugman who said about the last decade was zero sum for economy.

    Nations decline when they spend more on their security than their resources.

  90. The reason Democrats don't seem to care is because they do not know how to solve this economic mess. For liberals, the only way to solve problems is tho throw money at them, which of course is not the answer, particularly in times when deficits are huge. What good is it to throw money at problems like infrastructure improvement? Yes it will create some jobs for contractors, and for all activities related to the infrastructure work. But this is money coming from taxpayers. It is not money generated from private economic activity, which would fill the Treasury coffers through taxes. It depletes the Treasury coffers. Liberal ideology refuses to lower taxes across the board, particularly for small businesses, the only way to trigger economic activity by inviting private enterprise to restart. There is a huge difference between throwing money at problems, and reducing taxes. Sure in both cases the Treasury coffers will be depleted. But there is no way to recover this money after it is thrown away. When economic activity restarts from private business, this activity generates taxes which will refill the Treasury coffers.
    By the way, as you say, poverty is rampant. So Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, where billions of dollars were thrown at the problem to "reduce" poverty did not do much good. The government is still engaged, in a way, on a war on poverty.

  91. When did the democrats champion the poor—the 1960s? The 1930s? The two parties really are seeking to empower different factions among the nation's rich. There is no serious engagement with the poor at all from either party. Their engagement with the middle class is at best smoke and mirrors and at worst—well really they just lied, we didn't get change we can believe in, did we.

  92. Hang on, this is gonna get good.

  93. I'm an avid reader of your column, and I think your point of view is often remarkably insightful. I respectfully disagree with part of your analysis in this column, because I think you're forgetting the fact that health care reform will help our economy, and it will help poor people who cannot afford health care, as well as all the people who lose health care when they lose their jobs. Our current system of spiraling health care costs is unsustainable, and we *need* reform. Too much health care money in this country goes to wasteful practices, and too many Americans go bankrupt because of our broken health care system. Too many people avoid preventive care because they can't afford it, and then they end up going to hospitals when their condition becomes much more critical. That loss of life and well-being has a terrible human cost, as well as an economic one. Reforming health care is *part* of the process of restoring our economy and helping the country as a whole.

  94. Will the Cacophony of Conceited Condescending Clueless Clowns of Congress ever "get it"... Keeping a roof over our heads and having the ability to earn the money to pay for that roof are 1 & 2 on the list... health care reform, as critical as it may be, is a distant 5th!!!

  95. This assessment of the "economic plight of ordinary Americans" is accurate. But the Health Care situation is definitely a large part of that "plight", especially for the unemployed. Attention had to be given to that matter and it is regrettable that greater progress was not made. The only sensible solution still remains to be a Single Payer System (HR 676) or the Public Option solution.

    The fast growing population of poor people in the suburbs indicates there is an assault upon the Middle Class. The poor economy is now impacting this class and to slowly destroy the middle class will finally destroy the ability of the nation to function effectively. The Middle Class is the backbone of any viable nation - especially a democracy - and the devaluation of the middle class is destructive of any society.

    Any organization (Supreme Court) that devalues ordinary Americans and the personal effectiveness of each American, only serves to put our society on a perilous path. Such a path ultimately leads to the destruction of the society itself, as to its basic function as representative of the people. Equating monolithic corporations to the basic unit of a society is to negate and destroy that representative society. We are confronted with a major problem and it must be addressed in every way possible and as soon as possible.

    Addressing the serious problem of unemployment, a plan to consider would be to return to this country all those jobs that have been outsourced to other countries because of their lower labor costs. Has there ever been a more short-sighted maneuver?

    Require all corporations to return all service-oriented jobs to this country, and certainly any job having to do with technology. In addition require manufacturing companies to reinstate manufacturing plants and processes of all kinds in our country and to repair the damage done by this neglect. Reinstate production workers to alleviate the employment situation. The time has come to seriously look to our own well-being.

    Those corporations that have out-sourced employment of any kind should be required to pay taxes on the subsequent differences in labor costs and at a meaningful rate to discourage further destructive employment practices. We owe it to ourselves and our work forces.

    Solutions do exist and the best place to start is with the reform of those corporate entities responsible for the decline in employment that our country has suffered. Corporations must be taken to task in this matter. All else will fall into place when unemployment, our main problem, is addressed and solved. Do we have any other choice?

  96. And now the United States Supreme Court, the body that is supposed to protect the little guy, has just sold out the citizens of this country to corporate America. "By the people, for the people..." has become a joke. And we just sit here and take it.

  97. Which part of this surprises you, the fact that they don't deal well with the real world or the fact that they are out of touch with the needs of people who live in the real world?

  98. Obama's next campaign motto:
    The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

  99. The Democrats don't get it because they don't want to get it.We the people are on our own now and the only way to fight this out of control corruption throughout the government is to throw every single incumbent in both the House and the Senate, regardless of party affiliation, out in November. The remaining 2/3 of the senate can be thrown out in the following two elections. At least we can start with a clean slate and will put the new members of Congress on notice that we the people are still in charge and will do the same thing to them if they dare follow the same path.Obama is finished. He deliberately took the public option at the start and his talk is all lies and hot air.Every single word he utters from now on has zero credibility.
    He should be thrown out in 2012.God help us all.

  100. Obama has been a huge disappointment. It seems like he does nothing but (1) give a great speech of what he wants to do, (2) take a bunch of meetings with bankers, pharma reps, and insurance industry people, (3) let said special industry set the agenda and craft the policy or legislation, then (4) take a vacation (multiple) or a foreign trip for reasons that are a mystery (what was the point of going to Africa or China?) Obama was elected with a mandate for change but it is business as usual. Why are people angry? Their lifetime of savings was wiped out and they lost everything (including their credit) for the sake of short term financial profits for the wealthy. The rest of America didn't have the luxury of a year to waste.

  101. Good job of calling it like it is. I propose we consistently vote out all incumbents until we get some candidates that are committed to reform.

  102. This deaf, dumb and blind kids ain't no wizards!
    They won't get it until it is too late. They should go play some other game.

  103. Dear Mr. Herbert, I agree with your opinion piece. Please email a copy of it, along with Readers' Comments to anyone with any authority whom you can reach in the White House. I have tried doing this by email and snail mail - to no avail. I hope that your public forum could reach someone like David Axelrod or Mrs. Obama. (I am assuming that Barack is completely cut off by the shell of orchestrated platitudes with which he surrounds himself whenever exposed to public input.) My hope is that someone, not in the spotlight, still has some perception of reality and public opinion.

    What's up with the Obama Administration? Their lack of action on the main issues of America - the economy and healthcare, is incomprehensible. They control all two branches of the Federal Government (only the Judicial is outside their control at present). I think their failure to inact legislation and implement changes is Obama's fault.

    I could always see a financial incentive for Republic actions during Bush/Cheney. Obama's strategies for Wall Street and healthcare are incomprehensible. Why can't he make a few clear stands on any issue/legislation and ask the American people to support him? If he did this clearly, day after day, he would make the changes he promised us. The public would find a way to carry out good policies, just as we got him elected, weathering major storms on the way.

    FDR asked Americans for specific practical actions in his fireside chats. This saved us during the Great Depression and during WW 2. I expected Obama to lead the country just as he so skillfully led us to take actions to get him elected. Former supporters like me just tune him out when he speaks now because he just blathers the same old platitudes which, with no corresponding actions, have long since passed their shelf dates. Unlike during his campaign, no one is communicating specific steps people can take to implement his programs and legislations. The result: stalemate. Nothiing gets done, and the Republicans are having a field day with Obama's batting average.

    Have you any idea why Mr. Obama is not calling upon the American public to support his policies with specific actions? He seemed to have more sense when he was campaigning. His campaign staff knew how to reach the American voter and overcome long odds. He now acts like he is still lecturing law students in Chicago, or smoothing the feathers of the disenchanted poor on the South Side with soothing words and little action. Is he really just an an empty shirt? I simply don't get why he misses every single chance to wake up and tell Americans what we need to do to dig our of our holes in the economy and healthcare.

    His latest failure was not seizing the reins after the significant loss in Massachusetts. He needed to react the way American education reacted to Sputnik. Instead , we got the usual sputternik. David Axelrod rambled on TV on Wednesday. Neither Axelrod nor Obama got the message that the bluest voters in California - in Nancy Pelosi's district in San Francisco, are furious at Obama and his administration. James Gibbs blamed the loss on Sarah Coakley. What a bunch of losers! I think it was much more likely that Democratic voters in Massachusetts registered their disapproval of Obama by not voting for Sarah. Don't Obama and his sycophants understand what they sounded like? Obama's batting average is about 2 out of 500.

    Why don't reporters from the NYT ask Obama why he seems to be so out of touch wit voters and reality?

    Do you have any idea why he is performing so poorly? What could be his motivation? Were we wrong to believe in Obama's platitudes in the first place?

  104. But when did the Republicans care about anyone except the rich? When did they ever get it?

  105. Bob is right: What a joke the Democrats, including our fearless leader, Obama, have been over the last year. They totally caved on getting a decent stimulus passed, they didn't lift a finger to regulate the out-of-control financial industry, they capitulated on healthcare and gave us a pathetic, pro-insurance, pro-pharma piece of crap bill, and they failed to close Gitmo or reduce our presence in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    The reason people are so pissed off is they voted for change in 2008...but really nothing has changed! The Republicans are totally bankrupt of morals or ideas, but many of us thought perhaps the Democrats, in control of Congress and the White House, might actually DO something. But they haven't! Bob's right: They just don't get it!

  106. Well, Mr. Herbert, spending a whole year hammering out a not-so-progressive healthcare is not as unproductive as prosecuting dead-end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of promoting democracy.

    The irony, though, is to have congressional representatives like Mr. Joe Lieberman, who staunchly supported both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan behaving as if forging a poor-friendly healthcare policy is the greatest tragedy to have befalled the United States, since Pearl Harbor!

  107. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. It is so nice to read truth instead of the constant propaganda that we are being bombarded with. Things are not fine, and the whole thing is just going to collapse again, wait & see. How do I know - hey BANKS are having another record breaking bonus year!

  108. It is frustrating to know that a program exists that could be used to create thousands of jobs, yet it goes underused. The VA Vocational Rehabilitation Self-employment Program is authorized to provide nearly all the assistance needed for a disabled veteran to start a small business. In turn, those Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business' would create tens of thousands of jobs.

    Who is more deserving of government assistance: disabled veterans who served and sacrificed for the country, or the mega-corporations that helped create the economic mess?

    I know this to be true b/c I am a disabled veteran trying to start a company and create 200 jobs and hundreds, if not thousands, of indirect jobs through the program. Everyone qualified to judge such things agrees it is a feasible plan with a high likelihood of success. Everyone, that is, except my VA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in the Las Vegas VA office. He said before he ever knew what the business was or read the business plan that he wasn't going to approve it. So one guy has decided that Las Vegas, with a 13% unemployment rate, doesn't need the jobs. Of course, that guy has a job.

    Actually, I'm a bit more than a disabled veteran. I'm a well-decorated, disabled veteran and former Soldier (NCO) of the Year. I still want to believe that our government will work if we give it the chance. I don't know anymore.

    I had an appointment at Sen. Harry Reid's office. I thought it ent fairly well. His staff requested additional information on the program that I supplied the next business day.

    I sent faxes to key people in The White House to make sure they were aware of the potential for the program to create jobs.

    I haven't hear back from either one. Does that mean our gov't doesn't work?

    I appreciate his honesty in telling me, but something said by Senator Reid's staff member bothers me. He said not to expect anything too soon because "nothing happens too fast around here."

    I just hope it happens fast enough for the people who need jobs. It's an existing program. It could create jobs tomorrow and have people receiving paychecks within weeks. Being quite familiar with the program, it seems to me that the only thing that needs to be done to create jobs through the program is to send out a memo to the field offices to create jobs, not obstacles.

    I realize it is a bit unrealistic, but I'd love for a reporter type to pick this story up and run with it. I have prepared a fair amount of materials for them. As much as I hate putting my email address on the net, this would seem worth the risk: JetWest at Shorttimers dot com

    Thanks for reading.

  109. Bob, is it possible for you to write a column without including the phrase "young black men"? Your points are pretty on target, but you always lose me at the YBM part... if we're all being hammered why do you always single out one segment of the population?

  110. Poor folks, lots & lots of poor folks ... good for military recruitment.

  111. It would be great if one of the parties could truly represent the middle class...but the Supreme Court made sure that wouldn't happen by allowing unlimited campaign contributions from corporate America.

    Message to the next generation of Americans...

    "Work for corporate America, or be left behind. If you are not a corporate suit or a lobbyist, then you are not important. Do not be an entrepreneur and start your own business. Do not work for a small company. The American Dream and the Fortune 500 are now synonymous."

    God Bless America and the Supreme Court for its infinite stupidity.

  112. It really is disheartening. It seems that both parties have not found a simple solution to all this mess: Put America first.

    The Democrats were elected to end expensive foreign entanglements and concentrate on building our own infrastructure and economy, including health care reform.

    I do not see where going back to Republican rule will make matters any better. Now that the SCOTUS has ruled that lobbyists can use any amount of money to influence legislators, what hope do we have that ANY of our elected officials has our best interests at heart?

    Obama is failing badly and he knows it. And the goal of alQaeda to bankrupt us is working.

    Only the war profiteers have no complaints.

  113. Thank you, Mr. Herbert. You are the only one of the New York Times columnists who gets it, the only one who looks past the Beltway and sees ordinary Americans suffering the highest levels of economic insecurity since the Depression.

    We need to roll back our foreign involvements, stop trying to run the world, and get our own nation in order.

  114. No, they still don't get it, but I can guarantee you that they are going to get it, Mr. Herbert. We the people are fed up--with BOTH parties. We the people are going to take back OUR government because we the people are going to hand out pink slips. We the people can't fire Congress? Oh yes we can! And we will begin those firings in November 2010.

  115. Thank you Mr Herbert for the most astute column I have read in the past two years! President Obama's program has been hijacked by Rahm Emmanuel who has never seen a war he did not love! I know because he was my Congressman! Stop the wars and use the money gained to create jobs at home and meaningful health care reform that takes on the insurance companies!

  116. As a San Francisco resident, I really get sick of reading about Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi only coming to San Francisco to attend a couple of fancy fundraisers at $30,000 a couple but not spending any time with everyday Americans. Is it any wonder that they have lost touch with Americans?

  117. "The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings."

    Wake them up? Sure. They've always been awake. But as long as: the GOP remains unified in its goal to oppose everything Obama and the majority of Democrats advocate so that it can disingenuously turn around and blame them for "inaction" and "promise-breaking;" it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture and the Democrats can't find 60 such votes; and it takes 67 votes to change any Senate rule (such as the one requiring a supermajority to invoke cloture), then the Democrats can be so awake that they're bouncing off the walls but still be thwarted from accomplishing anything. And until they start teaching civics in high school (and require adult educations in remedial civics for those who never did learn it), the vast majority of American voters will continue to tune their brains in only to catchy soundbites and shibboleths the right-wing media and corporate-funded-phony-grassroots-with-patrioric-names organizations spoon-feed them ("big government," "tax-and-spend," "socialist control," "rugged individualism") and swallow everything they find easy to comprehend in this age of the ADD electorate. (Adderal in the water supply might not be a bad idea. Just kidding.......sorta).

    Obama HAS been fighting for us. Congress has been the bully holding him powerless.

  118. Let's be honest here. Democracy in America was in coma before the Supreme court decision. Now it's dead. A country where to be elected president,you have to spend $500 millions. Explain me where that money comes from? From corporate America of course and what you do when you get elected? you pay back. If a study is made people will discovered that Wall st gave millions to Obama and they were expected to be pay back, what he did with the help of the FED. Explain me in which world companies that were in the verge of collapse in 2008 can make one year later billions and billions and pay out to the same employees who put the rest of the country where it is now more than 50 billions?
    In response to the article, if the aim of being a politician is to be elected. i would like Bob to tell me what does he expect from politicians? To say no to corporate money and lose elections. They will never do that and after the supreme court decision it will get worse. Americans be aware, we will live in a jungle beginning next November.
    The military industry will spend billions to make sure we stay in Afghanistan and Irak or try Iran for the next 50 years.
    Wall st will spend part of the bonuses to make sure they charge us $40 for $0.50 overdraft.
    The pharmaceutical industry will spend billions to make sure we get the most expansive medicine in the world and not import them from Canada or another country where they are cheaper, but they will fight for the right to go and produce all that in a cheap country.

    Welcome to the USA a country that has the same conditions that had France before the revolution, but the king of France didn't have Alqaeda, Iran, facebook ,DVD players, and american idol to distract the people. Hey i forgot football, baseball, and basketball...

  119. Jayzuz Bob, even my neo-con friends have suddenly become sympathetic - how could the Democrats have so quickly driven directly into the ditch. I tell them this is some kind of rope-a-dope strategy - punishing, yet will bring everyone to a crystal momemt: what DO we want from our government? What party will lead us will become moot, we need our union back.

  120. America: if you love it, leave it.

  121. Frankly, I'm not sure any politician will ever 'get it'. They are too concerned with their own self-interests and those of their largest campaign supporters; allowing teams of 'czars', recycled political hacks, 'teams', 'councils', and self-proclaimed 'policy experts' adding progressively thicker veils of elitist delusion to cloud their views.

    Instead of allowing aides well schooled in the PR game of politics picking venues to 'speak directly to the American people to let them know we get it - and are fighting for you' as carefully as a Hollywood producer would; wouldn't it be great to have a politician from either party live the life of a handful of an average American across the country for one week? Now THAT would be a reality show worth watching!

  122. Well said. Although I think you were much too nice to the Democrats.

  123. It was pathetic to see President Obama speak today telling Americans how he was going to fight for them. He sounded like a father who abandoned his children asking for one more chance, or a cheating spouse.
    He seemed desperate. I am waiting for the book to explain how his presidency could go so far off course. Who was he really listening to, and what were they saying to him? Worse yet, is the performance of Obama during this first year who he really is in reality? Is he really good at making speeches and getting people to believe in him, only to be revealed as lacking the qualities of a strong leader?

    As the saying goes, you can't serve two masters. In these times, triangulation, which is probably what Rahm Emmanuel is preaching to Obama, won't work. Times are too desperate, the nation is in crises.
    Either Obama is with the people who have been deeply injured by the voracious greed infested banking and insurance industries, or he is with those interests who caused our nation"s current woes. He can't be for both at the same time, as Clinton was able to do. Obama is misreading history and the precarious state that our country is in.
    We are not under attack from foreign terrorists, but from corporate entities who have seized control of the country's political institutions.

    Obama has about another year to prove, by his actions, and not his words, that he will use all his powers of governance and persuasion to ease the lives of the victims of our economic Katrina. There is not one controversial issue that I can remember Obama taking a strong position on and use his bully pulpit to fight for it. Not one!

    The recent Supreme Court decision regarding corporate person-hood and political spending during election is coming very close to legalizing fascism in America, the control of the political process being in the hands of corporate and political entities in a partnership to rule the country. Maybe it will be American style fascism, not exactly what existed under Franco for example in Spain, but fascism none the less.
    I truly believe that the Dick Cheney's of the world, many Republicans, and millions of Americans would believe that a fascist system would be more efficient to pursue the domestic and foreign policy that the Republicans desire.

    The sad thing is that the Republicans have co-opted a vast amount of the populist rage in this country via the Tea Party movement which is growing stronger because many Independents, frustrated by Obama's impotence and lack of leadership are joining them.

    So far, Obama has chosen not to become the spokesperson for the economic casualties of the Great Great Recession. These people need to be mobilized into a movement for progressive policies so that their needs can be met, whether via jobs, affordable health care or mortgage relief. Banks need to be forced or shamed into lending to small businesses so they can start hiring again.

    People elected Obama because they thought he was going to be a progressive president. Obama himself said that his election was the beginning of a movement for change from the bottom up. If he doesn't do this in the next year, his presidency will be a total failure, the country will continue to decline, and Republicans will be back in power in 2012.

    FDR said that he welcomed the wrath and hatred that the monied interests had for him. Even though he was wheel chair bound, he knew how to stand up and fight for what he believed in. He had to courage to take a side. So far, Obama does not have the spine to do this.
    People are suffering because of his lack of courage. For starters he can get rid of his economic team and replace them with competent individuals who also have the capacity to have empathy for the common man. Geithner and Summers just don't have the values and empathy to include the well being of ordinary citizens in their economic plans and proposals. The are of the bankers and for the bankers. Period! Who is Obama really for?

    Will the real Barack Obama please stand up!

  124. The Democrats don’t get it? The country doesn’t get it, and they deserve the government that they have. On the heels of a candidate for one of the worst administrations in the history of the country, an economy which is acknowledged to be the worst since the depression, a few percentage points advantage in the popular vote doesn’t produce a mandate, and obviously not a workable government. The situation has been made worse by the movement of jobs offshore, so even if we start spending more it’ll primarily benefit the largest Communist country in the world. The usual advice when you find yourself in a hole is to ‘put the shovel down’, but we keep digging, evidently because so many despise the sight of others around them.

  125. What an absolute disappointment this Mr. Ob guy has been. If not for Republicans' jingoism and religious zeal, I'd be voting Republican.