You remember Bob Herbert, right? The only New York Times columnist who wrote about poor people in America? What he said:

There is always some excuse, some reason for not bringing all of the president’s energy and resources to the fight.

On jobs, the biggest crisis facing the country, the excuse for not having done more has been Republican obstructionism. There is no doubt the Republicans have tried to thwart the president every which way from sundown. But Obama never fought back in kind. He never found his inner Harry Truman, never took his case forcefully to the people. He kept trying to accommodate the other side long after it was clear that no accommodation was possible.

In the face of the worst economic calamity since the 1930s, the United States needed a mammoth job-creation and economic revitalization program, a New Deal for the 21st century. But that would have required presidential leadership capable of challenging the formidable opposition mounted by the very folks who caused the crisis in the first place. Instead we got a woefully insufficient stimulus program and a failed effort at some kind of grand bargain between the president and the retrograde Republicans in Congress. That grand bargain would have imposed austerity measures that would have further crushed the poor and the black and the middle class.

On Wednesday night nearly 60 million television viewers got to witness this chronic unwillingness of Barack Obama to fight. He did not hammer Mitt Romney for his ugly, all-too-revealing comments that demeaned nearly half the population as slackers and ne-er-do-wells. He did not go after Romney’s terrible job-creation record as governor of Massachusetts. He did not assail Romney for his callous contention on 60 Minutes that people who don’t have health insurance actually do get care — in the nation’s emergency rooms. “If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die,” said Romney. “We pick them up in an ambulance and take them to the hospital and give them care.”

Obama never bothered to bring up that cold-hearted comment during the debate, never bothered to explain why the reliance on emergency room treatment is one of the worst possible approaches imaginable to providing health care.

One of the more remarkable things about the debate was Mitt Romney’s absolute contempt for anything resembling facts, truth or reality. Deliberate deception was the bedrock foundation of his strategy. He wouldn’t even come clean on the tax cuts that are a cornerstone of his campaign. And yet it was Romney who had the chutzpah to look Obama in the eye and assert: “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”

How in heaven’s name could Obama let him get away with that?

The harsh truth is that President Obama seemed unprepared for the debate. He came off as a man who didn’t really want to be there, who wondered why he should have to be bothered fending off the impertinent attacks and serial untruths being flung at him by his opponent. The millions of Obama supporters who wanted to see flashes of passion and fire from their guy — from a president fighting effectively on their behalf — were left with nothing but the bitter taste of disappointment.

Romney, in contrast, seemed not just confident but in command. He was dynamic (as he fashioned one falsehood after another), while Obama seemed flat, uncomfortable and unwilling to vigorously counteract the falsehoods. Most important, Romney was the one far more willing to fight.

There will be more debates. And the election has not been decided by any means. But Obama’s supporters need to make it clear that the time for excuses is over. The president had no right to show up for a debate unprepared and offer an expectant nation an embarrassingly half-hearted performance. Progressive leaders, who represent Obama’s strongest and most faithful supporters, have an obligation to convey that message in the strongest possible terms.

The president let his people down. And if he’s capable of doing that in an election that is clearly so important, it means he’s capable of doing it again if he wins a second term.

See, this is my problem with Obama, and why I’m so unwilling to get on the Blue Team bandwagon. Obama’s policies (or lack thereof) have been just as bad for the poor and unemployed as if Republicans were in the White House. And he seems to be fine with that! He wasn’t being funny when he told Romney how they agreed on Social Security — he’s a corporatist asshole who sees his job as herding us meekly into our new Third World reality.

Well, I won’t be quiet. This man doesn’t care enough to fight for us. He only fights for himself.


So we have 23 million people out of work*, and the big story this morning is that the official unemployment numbers (not counting those who have stopped looking, of course) have edged down. Conservatives are accusing Obama of manipulating the numbers, and so-called progressives are gleefully ridiculing them.

In the meantime, uh, 23 million people are still out of work and you’d think real progressives would be fighting for them — and not just for the Blue team.

*U.S. Labor Department counts 12.8 million people as unemployed. Add in the people not actively looking, and it brings us to just over 15.3 million. Then we have 8.2 million part-time workers who can’t find full-time work = 23.6 million.


Sick again. Back to the old broth and Jello routine! I slept most of yesterday afternoon and night, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in. I did manage to wake up for the season premiere of “30 Rock,” though.

Facts don’t matter

They just want to keep kids from having Teh Sex, so don’t expect this information to enlighten those who need it:

WASHINGTON Free birth control led to dramatically lower rates of abortions and teen births, a large study concluded Thursday. The findings were eagerly anticipated and come as a bitterly contested Obama administration policy is poised to offer similar coverage.

The project tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured. They were given their choice of a range of contraceptive methods at no cost — from birth control pills to goof-proof options like the IUD or a matchstick-sized implant.

When price wasn’t an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.

The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.

There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That’s lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.

In fact, if the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, Peipert’s team reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The coming retirement crisis

Helaine Olen in Forbes:

We are on the verge of a retirement crisis, something pretty much everyone knows except, apparently, people campaigning for president. Private savings schemes have not worked out for the vast majority of us. Very few have six figures saved in our 401(k)s, something that is unlikely to change any time soon since about half of us are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to save for an emergency that could happen tomorrow, never mind an event twenty years off. Pensions are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Stock market returns have been anemic for more than a decade, compounding the problem since even those who have saved money are not seeing the returns on it that financial advisers and the like assured them would occur. As for interest rates …well, let’s not go there.

Social Security has kept millions of elderly men and women out of poverty. According to the Census Bureau, more than 20 million of us would live in penury if not for the program. Yet Washington deficit hawks are fond of bashing Social Security as a major source of our budgetary woes. Solves are recommended such as raising the retirement age to 67, in line with rising lifespan, and turning some portion of our Social Security funds over to Wall Street, a position that is about as popular with the American public as paroling Charles Manson.

Mitt Romney has made vague statements of support in the past for allowing the financial services sector to have a role in our Social Security accounts. His running mate, Paul Ryan, is an out-and-out cheerleader for the concept, and was a big backer of President George W. Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security by allowing people to divert some of their mandated contributions into personal investment accounts. All of this should have been said by Barack Obama last night. Inexplicably, it was not.

The fact is even as more and more Americans express a willingness to work longer than in the past if needed, no one has proven the jobs will be there for them to do just that. Nor is our longer, healthier life span a guarantee. A study published last summer documented that for white men and women without a college diploma, life expectancy had declined by three and five years respectively between 1990 and 2008. Others have found that Baby Boomers are less healthy than their parents at the same age, which might well be one of the factors behind the increasing numbers of Americans applying for disability coverage.

Not surprisingly, survey after survey shows that about eighty percent of us are absolutely petrified about how we will get by after our working lives end. It’s likely that every time someone tells us they plan to “tweak” Social Security, like President Obama did last night, that number goes higher.

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