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May 11, 2010

It's The JOBS, Stupid! Why DC Elites Don't See This

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project, and the "Virtual Summit on Fiscal and Economic Responsibility for People Who Did Not Wreck The Economy." I am a Fellow with CAF.

People care about jobs. They still care about jobs. And politicians who don't care about jobs will lose their jobs, because that is what motivates voters.

Polling at Pollingreport.com proves that people are much more concerned about jobs than deficits. (Note there are some polls that show equal concern, no polls that show deficit with a higher concern)

* FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. May 4-5 Economy and jobs 47% Deficit, spending %15
* BS News/New York Times Poll. April 5-12 Economy/Jobs 49% Budget deficit/National debt 5%
* CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. March 19-21 The economy 43% The federal budget deficit 8%

Lesson: Spending and deficits matter, but jobs matter more. When Dick Cheney said, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter" he meant that voters didn't vote against politicians like Reagan and Bush for running up huge deficits. Bush's tax cuts and military spending increases left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit, but that isn't the reason people voted for Obama. The biggest reason was that we were losing millions of jobs.

Why don't DC elites see this?

It is obvious that people vote on jobs, not deficits. But for some odd reason the DC politicians don't seem to grasp that. I think I know part of the reason why they don't. If you are in DC the "information environment" is making it look as though the public is clamoring about deficits and don't care that much about jobs.

DC is a manufactured information environment

People in DC see things differently because there is a manufactured environment there. The one time when lobbyists do care about manufacturing is when they are manufacturing the appearance of public support for their issue.

If you are trying to influence national policy you influence DC. You spend a lot of money to make the DC opinion leaders think that your issue is urgent and the public is demanding action. You create "astroturf" which is a name for a lobbyist-manufactured appearance of grassroots support. You get your stories into the morning Politico, which every DC staffer reads on the train into the capital, but no one outside of DC cares about. You get the cable news show producers to book your talking heads. You wine and dine (and get lucrative speaking engagements for) the DC punditocracy so they'll talk urgently about your issue. You put ads on the DC radio stations.

After a while everyone in the DC area thinks your issue is the only thing voters are concerned about, while outside of DC everyone wonders why DC people are talking about something so idiotic and unimportant to regular people.

Deficits: a manufactured drumbeat

There is a well-funded effort to stampede Congress into thinking there is an urgent voter concern about deficits. One source of the manufactured concern is a Wall Street billionaire named Peter G. Peterson, who has for years been trying to get the Congress to cut the Social Security benefits that people paid for all of their working lives. Recently, for example, he made a deal with the Washington Post to print stories for the DC elite to read, about how the deficit needs to be cut and that "entitlements" like Social Security are the problem that needs fixing. There are numerous other examples of the deficit drumbeat manufacturing process..

Tea Party vs real grassroots concerns

Example: The other day there were mass rallies all around the country, by people who want the government to act on immigration. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out in cities from LA to New York. But if you are in DC, this barely registered. In DC it is "Tea Party, Tea Party, Tea Party." A few hundred people turn out (also here, here, here,here) for Tea Party rallies, and "the Tea Parties" are just about the only thing in the news, and the discussion topic on the cable news shows for weeks. (And never mind the Coffee Party, with more members and more events than the Tea Party.)

Politicians should remember the bailouts

These were just a few examples of how it works. And, for sure, it works. The process is so well-tuned that DC politicians can be stampeded easier and faster than Wal-Mart shoppers promised $100 flat-screen TVs on Black Friday.

Remember the Wall Street bailouts, with the Bush administration demanding they be passed in just 48 hours, or the entire world would end? (Remember "non-reviewable by any court or any agency?")

So how is it working out for politicians who were stampeded into voting for bailouts for Wall Street instead of jobs for Main Street?

Lesson: It's the jobs, stupid. JOBS FOR MAIN STREET!
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Posted by Dave Johnson at May 11, 2010 12:10 PM


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