28 January 2010

SOTU - A Huge Expectations Gap!

We Americans are a conflicted lot. We want our political representatives to be just like us but we also want them to be ideologically heroic and without any of the failings which plague all of humanity. This is to say that at some psychological level, we want our politicians to be heroes and heroines. And, at that same level, we become outraged and scourge those politicians who fail in reaching the high level of our expectations when we first put them into office.

We want men and women who are veritable demigods; courageous and of noble purpose nearing the divine. We project these qualities on those politicians we choose to vote for and send off to represent us. We want them to be better than we are, less human and more divine and always of noble purpose. But, at the same time, we want them to harken to our best interests to the exclusion of competing interests or ideals. We want them to share our expectations and to always act upon them in ways we prefer.

We expect much of our politicians and react with anger and frustration when we inevitably learn that not all of them share our high expectations. Put aside, if you can, the notion of those with conflicting ideology, or fundamental beliefs and philosophies contrary to ours--those people do not get our vote. I am talking of those who got our vote and then fall woefully short of our expectations.

Thus, I find myself like many Americans on the morning following Mr. Obama's first SOTU; outraged, disappointed and thoroughly saddened that this man whom I expected to stand firm against the poisonous philosophies of the neoconservative policy makers and neo-liberal economists spoke as though those dangerous notions were the way forward.

I listened and watched in great discomfort as Mr. Obama touted tax cuts and a bi-lateral federal spending review committee as part of the solution to today's economic ills and the burden to be left our children and grandchildren. I listened and watched with a gnawing pit in my stomach as he uttered a few gratuitous lines about saving the "middle-class" without a word about strengthening worker rights to organize and negotiate. Notably absent from his laundry list of the obvious things which must be done was any reference of support for the Employee Free Choice Act. None!

Merely stating a wonderful grasp of the obvious with eloquence and passion does not put people to work, provide affordable, high-quality health care for those without, and it does nothing at all to advance the dreams and hopes of working America. At the same time, early indicators are that the market remains underwhelmed by recent words emanating from the administration. To that point, I would suggest that the market is never really about "now" but more about reaction to future risk assessment.

If my gut reactions and the market are reliable indicators, American workers are in for a very long and drawn out rough patch with little real job creation, few protections for those who still have jobs, and frighteningly volatile potentials for retirement security through 401Ks and investment.

Damn it! More of the same. And that was not part of my expectations of an Obama led federal government. Like I said, we have high expectations of our politicians and are outraged when they fall short. But, at least, I would like to have seen the effort put forth.

So, maybe I am like everyone else; disillusioned by expectations unshared and set too high, which were brought about by a belief that somehow, following the depredations of Bush and his coven of deep-forest hobgoblins, river trolls, liars, thieves, cut-purses, and mendicants, we had found a hero who would lead us to victory against the forces the forces of darkness. I was mistaken. Mr. Obama is turning out to be no hero at all.

I'll not be making that same mistake again.

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