So there was Air Force One landing at Whiteman Air Force Base, home to the B-2 bomber, Wednesday afternoon, delivering President Barack Obama for a heavy-bomber speech at the University of Central Missouri in nearby Warrensburg. How appropriate.
A few hours earlier, Obama had begun his new shock-and-awe economic policy campaign at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. Obama believes utterly in his rhetorical gifts, so over the next six weeks he plans a series of bunker-buster speeches trying to move public opinion toward what he called a “better bargain for the middle class and folks working to join it.” It’s not a bad idea if you assume dropping 66-minute policy-heavy speeches on a weekday afternoon will somehow change the tone of the national conversation. More about the policy shortly, but first a word about tactics.
Whiteman also is home to the Air Force Reserve’s 442nd Fighter Wing. Its pilots don’t fly the glamorous big-mission B-2 Spirits. They fly an ungainly attack jet officially called the “Thunderbolt II” but known affectionately as the A-10 “Warthog.” Warthogs fly close-air support, bombing slow and low and strafing relentlessly.
Troops pinned down by the enemy would far rather see a Warthog on the attack than the contrail of a B-2 at 40,000 feet. Same goes for the middle class. That’s because even as the president was preparing eloquent pleas in Galesburg and Warrensburg for a better, less selfish America, back in Washington his opponents were taking pre-emptive steps to gut many of the programs the president was calling vital.
The House Appropriations subcommittee was drafting a 34 percent budget cut for the Environmental Protection Agency and eliminating greenhouse gas regulations. Another Republican-controlled committee was proposing cuts in labor and health programs and cutting education grants for poor students. Off-the-deep-end Republican senators were threatening to block any new spending in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 if there is any money spent to implement the president’s health care act. Meanwhile, in the Midwest, Obama was talking as if most congressional Republicans were reasonable people who secretly believed in his plans to strengthen the middle class and not toadies for plutocrats. He said he’d be “calling on” them.
They shouldn’t be called on, they must be called out, by name, every day. Obama must lend his voice and his presence to ceaseless close-air support, district by district, state by state, on how GOP policies would hurt the 90 percent of Americans who have yet to enjoy the blessings of economic recovery. He must connect the dots and name names.
It is fine to lay out a vision, as he did in Galesburg and Warrensburg, of bipartisan cooperation on “middle class cornerstones” like job and wage growth, educational opportunity, retirement security, boosting manufacturing and green energy, social mobility, immigration reform and home ownership. It is fine to tick off programs and proposals that will strengthen the middle class. Obama gives his opponents entirely too much credit. Before he spoke in Galesburg, Republicans had taken the floors of the House and Senate to criticize his ideas. It is as if the country’s economic problems, and those of the middle class, began with Obama’s election in 2008.
Obama knows all of this. In Galesburg, he said, “If you ask some of these Republicans about their economic agenda, or how they’d strengthen the middle class, they’ll shift the topic to ‘out-of-control’ government spending — despite the fact that we have cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office. Or they’ll talk about government assistance for the poor, despite the fact that they’ve already cut early education for vulnerable kids and insurance for people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Or they’ll bring up Obamacare, despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as they had at the same point in the last recovery, when there was no Obamacare.
“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop.”
More of this, Mr. President. The part of the middle class that isn’t angry already needs to be. Don’t be afraid to pitch inside. Fire up the Warthogs.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch