Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On Messaging

David Dayen was trying to be helpful today in this article at FireDogLake:

People have a generally dour outlook on the state of the economy because they’re responding to signals of their personal struggles with it. They aren’t spending any money out of concern for the near future and their personal security. This isn’t all that complicated.

However, another reason that the public has soured on the economy, and in particular the current ruling party’s ideas for fixing it, is that they’re not hearing anything substantive or new from those in the ruling party, or allies nominally on the Democratic side of the ledger.

Democrats Need Better Policy, Better Messaging

No, let's be clear. The problem is that we haven't seen anything from the Democrats of a substantive nature. They've been in power for a year and a half, and have yet to accomplish anything that's making the country better. They can't even really claim TARP, not that anyone with any sense would want to, because that was the Bush Administration's idea. They passed a health care "reform" bill that was worse than no bill at all, given how much more institutionalized for-profit insurance is in the health care process. (If you're one of those folks who can now get Medicaid, you're better off, but everyone else got boned.) They didn't do a damn thing worth talking about to fix our financial sector. They passed a stimulus bill that wasn't a quarter of what it needed to be.

And guess what, the economy is getting worse again. That's a problem. I'll just quote something I wrote several months ago to give you an idea why:

One thing that's often lost in the debate over whether the stimulus worked, at times deliberately I'm sure, is that to the average guy in the street, it hasn't worked. At least, it hasn't done its alleged job, which is to right the economy. In some sense, it clearly did work. The economy would have been worse without it. But, as many of us warned, it wasn't anywhere near enough to get the economy going again, even assuming that the government had done all the other things necessary, like curbing the banks and investment houses. Meanwhile, people heard about TARP, and all the other money we poured into the banks to keep them afloat, and all they see is that one out of every five of us still can't find a job.

Krugman On The G-20

How is better messaging going to make this economy better? How is it going to give people hope that, after eighteen months of inaction punctuated by moments of screwing us, the Democrats are really about to do something to make our lives better?

Besides, there are a whole lot of "old" ideas that no one's really given a try in a while. Besides really fixing health care, there's rebuilding infrastructure to help create jobs, and funding education so teachers don't lose their jobs, and aid to the state and local governments so emergency workers and other state and local employees don't lose their jobs. How about extending unemployment benefits without spending weeks in recess?

Every time I see an article about “messaging” I cringe. Since it was by someone whose work I've come to respect, I was hoping this one would be different, but it’s not. We’re way past anything messaging can fix. Deeds trump words. So does lack of deeds. The Democrats need to go big or go home.

Or maybe, they should go big or shut up so the don't make fools of themselves. Leave that to the Republicans.

There, that's some useful advice, not that they'll take it.

UPDATE (Aug. 4): Here's a clue that the Democrats aren't going to go big:

The Senate has begun their cloture vote on the state fiscal aid bill, which would provide $26.1 billion dollars in Medicaid and education jobs funding. The bill, a gut-and-amend of an FAA Authorization Bill, is fully paid for through a series of measures, including an $11.9 billion dollar cut to the food stamp program, starting in 2014. Allies pushing for this vote vow to restore that funding in later years.

Voting on State Fiscal Aid Bill Happening Now – UPDATE: Snowe, Collins Vote Yes, Bill Will Pass

Even compared to the shortfall it's meant to address, this bill is pitifully small. It was done at the expense of the food stamp program's budget in 2014. It ain't squat, and the poor are getting screwed for it, not the people who created this mess.

Who wrote that article? David Dayen.

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