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Harold Meyerson

Obama’s Two Speeches in One

President Obama’s address to Congress tonight was really two speeches in one. The first laid out his jobs plan—substantively, an attempt to forestall a double-dip recession. The second laid out a longer-term economic vision that promised, however vaguely, to restore American manufacturing.

Politically, both plans are aimed at shoring up the president’s support within the Democratic base: the jobs plan by its relative expansiveness (compared to the low-ball estimates the White House was putting out earlier this week so that Democrats would be pleasantly surprised at the plan’s actual scope), the manufacturing plan by its promise to use state power, in some unspecified way, to help restore middle-class jobs.

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Obama’s jobs speech: Good plan, good vision, good politics

That was an enlivened President Obama we saw earlier this evening -- impassioned, indignant, non-professorial. And enlivened he should have been, because the American economy trembles on the brink of a double-dip recession, and the Republican opposition has been seized by an ideology that would erode what remains of the once-great American middle class. Not to mention, Obama’s own political future and that of his party are on the line as well.

For the past week, the White House has been deliberately low-balling its estimates of what the plan the president unveiled tonight would actually include. When word started getting around this afternoon that this new stimulus would be set at $447 billion for the next year -- a rate higher than the $787-billion-over-two-years stimulus that Congress enacted in 2009 -- leaders of groups representing the Democratic base breathed a sigh of relief. The size and the substance of this new stimulus give Obama and his party the ability not only to rally many of his disenchanted core supporters but to reach out to voters in the middle of the political spectrum.

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Two of Mitt's 59

Fully 57 of Mitt Romney’s 59 policy proposals to fix the American economy are as indistinguishable as Heinz’s 57 varieties of ketchup (and a lot less fun than Hitchcock’s 39 Steps). They are absolute standard-issue Republican dogma—reduce corporate taxes, pass the free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama (have you ever seen a prediction of how many jobs our free-trade agreement with Panama would create, even excluding the number of jobs it would destroy? Does it ascend beyond single digits?), repeal Obamacare, kneecap unions—utterly usual, utterly unsurprising.

But two are interesting.

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Initiating a fix for California

This week, the state Senate and Assembly may take up a legislative rarity: a bill that could actually strengthen democracy in California. The measure, championed by Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg, would mandate that initiatives be voted on only in general elections, not in primaries.

Steinberg's brainchild has been condemned as just the latest partisan ploy from a Sacramento pol. Republicans complain that it seeks to move a ballot measure they support — barring unions from spending some of their members' dues on election campaigns — from next year's June primary to the November general election. Democrats counter that next year's primary is likely to have a disproportionately Republican electorate, as the GOP's presidential nomination contest may still be ongoing while Democrat Barack Obama will be running unopposed.

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The fallacy of post-industrial prosperity

Of all the lies that the American people have been told the past four decades, the biggest one may be this: We’ll all come out ahead in the shift from an industrial to a post-industrial society. Yes, we were counseled, there will be major dislocations, as there were during the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy, but the America that will emerge from this transformation, like the America that emerged 100 years ago, will be one whose citizens are ultimately more prosperous and secure than their industrial-era forebears.

What a crock.

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Dodger red?

Just when you thought the soap opera that is the Los Angeles Dodgers couldn't get more ridiculous, reports came Thursday that embattled owner Frank McCourt had received a $1.2-billion offer for the club from L.A. businessman Bill Burke, with some unspecified share of that $1.2 billion to come from "certain state-owned investment institutions of the People's Republic of China," according to the letter from Burke's group to McCourt.

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Harold Meyerson Named One of Nation’s Top 50 Columnists!

awardIn September, 2009 Atlantic Monthly named Harold Meyerson one of 50 Most Influential Columnists. Calling its list “its all-star team,” Atlantic Monthly’s Top 50 are the most influential commentators in the nation – the columnists and bloggers and broadcast pundits who shape the national debates. Harold Meyerson is honored to be in their midst.

To get a complete list of the country’s Top 50 Idea-meisters, click here.

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Harold Meyerson's Book
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