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It’s Still the Economy, Stupid!

New America Media, Commentary, Andrew Lam Posted: Sep 15, 2008

Editor's Note: With the meltdown on Wall Street and more and more Americans losing their jobs and homes and their savings and investments, Obama has the opportunity to capitalize on this dark turn in the American economy, comments NAM editor Andrew Lam. Lam is the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora."

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sarah Palin may see Russia from her cold, northern Alaskan shore but out my window here in San Francisco early this morning I can hear two homeless people fighting over recyclable trash. One of them, a white man in his 50s, relatively well-dressed, was yelling, “I was working half a year ago, I can’t f’n believe this!” He said this as he wrestled a bag of plastic bottles from a very indignant Chinese woman who was diving for the same treasure in the bin and who cursed back in Cantonese.

It’s getting worse, folks! Wall Street is having a meltdown as I write, suffering the worst day since 9/11. Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings-and-loan is plummeting while Lehman Brothers, one of the main pillars of Wall Street, filed the nation's largest bankruptcy after potential sources of capital evaporated. Bank of America bought up Merrill Lynch while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now more or less in federal custody.

As stocks stumble, this from CNN: "More than half, 56 percent, of voters surveyed September 5-7 in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll placed the economy as the most important issue." According to the poll, Obama is seen as being better at handling economic issues by 52 percent of the voters surveyed. John McCain, on the other hand, is viewed as better on economic issues by only 44 percent. The margin of error on that question was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Senator Barack Obama blamed the Bush administration and a do nothing Republican controlled congress, which only lost control to the democrats in 2006, and managed to tie his presidential rival, John Mccain to it. And rightly so – they had control for 7 years and implemented few regulations of market practices to insure financial oversight. The troubles, Obama said, "are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren't minding the store.”

“Eight years of polices,” he added, “have brought us the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression…. While I don’t fault Sen. McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. It's a philosophy that says even commonsense regulations are unnecessary and unwise, and one that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crisis."

With the situation on Wall Street remaining as volatile as it is, and more and more Americans losing their jobs and homes and their savings and investments, Obama, if he fails to capitalize on the situation, deserves to lose.

I’m reminded of the 1992 election. George H.W. Bush’s failure to win his second term was due to Bill Clinton campaigning on the phrase, “It’s The Economy, Stupid!” It’s an effective slogan and one that rolled off everyone’s tongue, even for non-political types. James Carville, CNN political commentator and now radio host, coined the phrase while a Clinton campaign strategist. It suggested that Clinton was better than Bush in dealing with the 1992 economy, which had fallen into a recession.

Yet George H.W. Bush was at one point considered unbeatable, having just won the Persian Gulf War a year earlier, liberating Kuwait from Iraq, and he thought campaigning on his war victory would translate into a certain presidential victory as well. America, besides, was just coming out of the Cold War and many considered Ronald Reagan as the main architect of the Soviet Union’s downfall, and Bush senior, after all, was his vice president.

As it turned out, it was, indeed, the economy, stupid.

In the last few weeks it seems Obama somehow has been losing steam, and his VP nominee, Joe Biden, seems to have disappeared completely from the limelight. Obama seems to be acting “presidential” and “dignified” too quickly when the empire still wants to see him as a gladiator fighting for his crown. It wants to see real blood spilled toward the final show down. Sarah Palin, republican VP candidate, has been the perfect entertainment and conversation sideshow, but the real fight begins now.

It is to the advantage of Senator Obama and his camp to capitalize on this dark turn in the American economy. They need to take it to the bank, as it were.

What Obama needs is Bill Clinton to help bring that message home. And to renew the old phrase, that “It’s STILL the economy, stupid!”

As America suffers and talk of the empire unraveling grows, if Obama doesn’t get a bump now in the poll then there’s something seriously wrong with American voters – fear of real change more powerful than a chance to overcome fear. One can, after all, put lipstick on a broken piggy bank and, frankly, it will still remain a broken piggy bank.

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