Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Obamericial and the Tax Credit

Hullabaloo preferred the policy, as did PZ Meyers; Erv cried. And had the best line: "Because the status quo is not quo."

(Though the one on Wonkette I saw saying "Bottom line: From Day One, this guy’s had the smarts to surround himself with genius. The campaign has reflected it, his recent endorsements from all across the spectrum have reinforced it, and this little bit of cinema verite has only confirmed it" comes really close.)

But the story that grabbed me was on DailyKos. From "kmiddle":
It's been a while since I diaried here, but I felt compelled to offer the following after watching "the ad" from a Philly bar/restaurant.
Now, this wasn't a "shot and a beer" Philly bar; this was a high-scale, downtown $36 steak-and-Italian place near the convention center. 95% white, upper middle class.
My seat was in the back corner of the bar area, perched on a high stool, with a great vantage point not only of the TV, but of the crowd.
The place was full of revelers awaiting the World Series game. The TV was on but silent.
Then "the ad" came on.
A few observations:

1. After a few minutes, someone asked the bartender to turn up the sound, which he did.

2. And then the place got quiet. This is a bar-full of crazy Philly phans, chomping at the bit for the ball game to start. And the place got quiet to listen to "the ad". People were actually listening and watching.

3. When it was done, people applauded. Yes. Applauded a political ad.

4. The game coverage came on; and during the first commercial break, a McCain attack ad came on. The reaction was mainly shaking of heads.

I don't know what to make of all that, but to me it spoke volumes about Senator Obama, about the campaign he's run, and about the real connection he appears to be making with real voters of very stripe.
My reaction was a bit simpler. "Holy crap, the good guys might be winning for a change." And, yes, that's exactly what I was supposed to think. Obama put good writers and directors and producers on this thing. But it's not a feeling I get much of the time from politics.

And it did something that EVERY single politician needs to understand down to the bone: relate policies to the real problems of real people. Don't talk about the billions for the economy as a whole; talk about the hundreds and thousands to the people within it. People don't relate to economies. They relate to people. Heck, they don't actually have to be real people; people relate to fictional characters all the time, if they can identify with them.

That said, I'm not necessarily getting a positive feeling from that "going line by line and cutting programs that don't work" rhetoric. Cutting programs that don't work is fine, but the vast majority of federal outlays are on non-discretionary entitlements. Those that aren't can be (and often are) cut to the bone in the name of "trimming the fat".

Balancing the budget is a fine idea, but no government should be under the illusion that it can (or should) balance the budget during a recession. Government borrowing is a drag on the economy, but it did not cause the current downturn. Borrowing is still a good idea, if it's going to help America and provide a stable target for skittish private investment.

That said, it doesn't look like he's adverse to the idea of using money for the public good. I had forgotten about that pledge of tuition credits for volunteer hours. That's an incredible idea. Not just because it'll provide NGOs and non-profits and governmental agencies and the like with a flood of manpower, although that's great. No, it's incredible because it teaches youth about public service; about why organizations like these exist, why volunteerism matters, and what it's like to serve the public good.

Yes, many (most) of them will just be doing it because of the money. But spending a big chunk of your youth volunteering is going to do more than just build a habit of volunteerism that will not only benefit volunteer-based organizations over the long term. It will reinforce the very notion of an individual's connection to community and society. It'll help root out the "screw you Jack, I've got mine" sort of political infantilism that helps propel both modern conservatism and libertarianism. And it'll reconnect them with the value of political activism, giving the American political discourse increased passion and vigor.

That's change I believe in.

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