I’ve been a politics geek since I was about 10 years old and I went from reading the sports page of the Detroit News to the front page. I’ve been reading about it, arguing about it, covering it on some level as a journalist, and some times writing about it as an advocate, ever since.
So getting invited to the White House as part of a delegation of California activists, organizers and bloggers, organized by the Courage Campaign, is a big deal. A lot of us have expressed frustration with the Obama administration for it’s unwillingness to focus on jobs and housing in a more effective way, for its embrace of the austerity agenda, and its failure to hold bankers accountable in any meaningful way for the financial collapse that the whole country is still suffering from.
I was ambivalent about going at first, because this administration has sometimes seemed so determined not to get to it, to prize elusive bipartisanship over a strong fight for what’s right, for its cluelessness about the depth of the unemployment and housing crisis that continues to cause so much misery across the country.
That cluelessness was on display again in the past few days, when the president proclaimed no deficit deal would be fair without “shared sacrifice” that would require hedge fund managers to pay higher taxes while the government cut Medicaid. Does the president really believe that the sacrifice is equivalent – millionaires having to get by on a little less while people who are dependent on the government for health care get less care?
Even in planning our visit, the White House doesn’t seem to get it. We’ll have break-out sessions on education reform, the new health care law, lesbian gay transgender bisexual issues, the environment and labor – but no session on the foreclosure crisis and housing. The administration’s efforts in this area, so crucial to California’s economy, have been particularly lame. Whether or not the president’s staff wants to focus on it, I’m sure they will get an earful.
What I will suggest to the president’s people is that he’s vulnerable because he hasn’t done enough to reduce unemployment or to address the foreclosure crisis, and because too often he has accepted the Radical Republicans’ and the deficit hawks’ terms of the debate. When the president debates on those terms, he loses. We all lose.
Still, I don’t want to give up on the administration or the people who continue to put their faith in him. I’ll go in memory of my father, Irving Berg, who would be 90 this year. He saw great promise in Obama and wouldn’t allow frustration to cause me to give up on him, or fail to participate in some effort that might set Obama on a firmer course.
We meet with the president’s top staff on Friday all day. Any messages you want me to deliver?