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The State of the Union, 2010: President Obama, the Democratic Party, and Change Betrayed

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Republican Scott Brown's stunning defeat of Martha Coakley in the race for Edward Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts has finally gotten the voters' angry mood through to President Barack Obama and his White House. The President acknowledged as much in his State of the Union speech. But what he seems unable or unwilling to admit is that much of the voters' anger is the consequence of the failure of the Democratic Party to keep the promises it made in the 2008 elections.

Those promises were best articulated by the then candidate for president, Barack Obama: "We can't settle for anything less than fundamental change" in politics, he told voters during the campaign, "so that your voices are heard in Washington" and not those of the special interests.

Among the specific changes candidate Obama promised Americans were:

A serious plan to create new jobs and new industries

A foreclosure prevention fund, to help ... keep people in their

To make sure that the economic pie is sliced more fairly

To make sure that the economic pie is growing

To restore balance and fairness to the American economy after
years of ... policies that tilted the playing field in favor of the
wealthy and the well-connected

President Obama and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress failed to keep these promises.

Instead, it has been largely politics and economics as usual. In no place is this clearer than in the Democrats' core economic policies and appointments.

Instead of "change," President Obama kept key Bush-era policymakers in power--reappointing Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Bernanke and promoting President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank Geithner to Secretary of the Treasury. These were the very regulators who watched Wall Street financiers and bankers drive the U.S. financial system off a cliff in the 2008.

Their post-crash policies, endorsed by President Obama and the Democratic Congress, have been to lavish taxpayer-financed aid on those very same bankers and financiers, while keeping them in their jobs and defending their royal prerogative to enrich themselves with "bonuses for performance."

While spending trillions to bailout the banks and financial companies, the Democratic team put together a too small stimulus package of $787 billion and a hopelessly inadequate series of homeowner mortgage modification programs. These programs slowed job losses and home foreclosures, but they have not been nearly enough.

A year into the Obama administration and 111th Congress, little has changed. Unemployment and home foreclosures continue their march to record highs. The financial system continues to be run and overseen by the most of the same people, and banker bonuses are approaching pre-Crash levels.

Hurt badly by economic decline and an economy and political system that has shoveled most rewards to the top twenty percent, working and middle class Americans in the 2008 elections were unhappy and anxious. In those elections they got a lot of fine promises and they voted for change--a government which listened to them and addressed their problems. They got a new president, and Congress, and politics, more or less, as usual.

Now, in 2010, those Americans are downright angry. They still want the changes promised in 2008. They want jobs; they want their homes; and they want fair, just, and equitable policies and programs from Washington. But President Obama and most Washington Democrats have failed to deliver on these promises. Instead of hearing the majority's cries for help and justice, Washington still largely hears the voice of the wealthy and well-connected.

In November working and middle class Americans will voice their anger over the Democratic Party's betrayal with their votes.
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Dr. John Paul Rossi is a associate professor of American history at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. He writes on business and economic history, and has co-authored ENTREPRENUERSHIP AND INNOVATION IN AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE: SAMUEL P. (more...)
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