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Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012

Keeping Despair Alive

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It's becoming increasingly obvious that the Republican candidates for president leave a lot to be desired for most Americans, including Republicans.

But all their glaring individual flaws aside, the real reason Republicans running for president have so much trouble stirring any enthusiasm in these troubled economic times is their losing message of despair.

That was on full public display last week when President Barack Obama visited Master Lock headquarters to celebrate the American success story of a major corporation bringing 100 jobs back from China to Milwaukee's inner city, where its flagship plant is running at full capacity.

Republicans belittled the appearance as exaggerating the importance of a paltry number of jobs for a photo op. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, in the definition of a photo op, met the president arriving on Air Force One and then ducked out, claiming illness, instead of joining Obama at Master Lock.

The contrast between Obama lauding a Milwaukee company for reversing the flow of jobs overseas and Walker's own policies that have resulted in six straight months of job losses in Wisconsin would have been too embarrassing.

Besides, union workers at Master Lock wouldn't really want Walker crashing their party with the president after Walker's demonization of unions and destruction of 50 years of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The economically depressed black community, where Master Lock is located and where a large proportion of its workforce resides, is the same neighborhood that saw its first new factory in decades, the train-building company Talgo, sabotaged by Walker's rejection of nearly a billion dollars in federal job-creation funds for high-speed rail in Wisconsin.

Walker's unpopularity with workers is the same problem Republican candidate Mitt Romney faces in trying to win the presidential primary in his home state of Michigan, where his father, George Romney, was president of American Motors and an extremely popular governor.

The Milwaukee rally continued the president's celebration tour of sites across the country illustrating growing signs of recovery from the Great Recession, the second-worst economic crisis in national history, which Obama inherited three years ago.

There is no better example than Detroit, the headquarters of the American automobile industry that was on the brink of collapse three years ago.

If the auto industry had gone under, it could have taken down related industries all over the country, including Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, bringing on the Mother of All Depressions with no end in sight.

Almost unanimously, Republicans, including Romney, who should have known better, said: "Let 'em go bankrupt."

Instead, Obama supported an $80 billion federal loan to save the automobile industry—a dreaded bailout. It worked, the loan is being paid back and this year the car companies didn't just return to profitability but, in the case of General Motors, record profitability.

GOP's Political Ploys

Here's the truth: The auto industry's success story, just like Master Lock's, is good news for everyone in America, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor. When you are coming out of the second-worst economic disaster in American history, you welcome every glimmer of hope, every positive sign.

But the Republicans and their candidates have put themselves in the position of being the only ones in the country who don't welcome an end to our long, national economic nightmare.

In fact, Republicans hope it's not really happening. They may be the last people in America fighting to keep despair alive.

That's because Republican elected representatives forgot what their jobs were. Three years ago when President Obama was elected, economic recovery should have been the No. 1 job of every elected official in America.

Recovering from a catastrophic economic meltdown wasn't a Democratic or Republican issue. The billionaires and millionaires who are represented by Republicans and the workers who are represented by Democrats all do better during good economic times and worse during economic disasters.

Yet, for some reason, Republicans didn't see job creation as their No. 1 job. Their highest priority, in the words of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, was to make sure Obama was a one-term president.

That meant forestalling economic recovery because anything that improved the lives of the American people would benefit Obama politically.

Until Republicans suddenly reversed themselves this election year, they repeatedly voted against job creation, the extension of unemployment benefits for those out of work and even a middle-class tax cut that would put money into the hands of struggling people who needed it instead of millionaires.

It's a classic case of putting party ahead of the public good. Another word for it is un-American.

Republicans are always quick to attack the patriotism of anyone who doesn't support their dirty, little wars. Yet, they were the ones committing the ultimate un-American activity: intentionally prolonging the economic despair of millions of Americans to try to benefit themselves politically.