I may be dating myself, but I remember back to the day when stores were closed on Sundays. You couldn’t shop, go to the grocery store or grab a bottle of wine. I barely recall those times because very slowly convenient stores began to appear with better hours for people who forgot that loaf of bread or needed milk late at night.
The rocky roll-out of the president’s health care law has been holding steady as the media’s top focus for the past month or so. I will not fault them for it either; this is a law that will transform the American health care system (for the better, I believe), and the administration should be held accountable as they work to implement it.
What has gotten little attention, though, is some good news about the economy, which I think has bigger implications for the legacy of this president – and all presidents - than any other issue, even if it hasn’t been on the front pages lately.
Pretty soon you’re going to hear Fox News claim that the U.S. stock market has a liberal bias.
Since the president took office in 2009, the Dow has nearly doubled and the S&P 500, the broadest measure of how the stock market is doing, is up nearly 110 percent. That makes President Obama just the fifth president since the Great Depression to see a doubling of the U.S. stock market.
In this year alone, the S&P has jumped 24 percent.
I don’t think that Wall Street got the memo about Barack Obama being an anti-free market, big government socialist.
Just last week (Friday, Nov. 8), the Bureau of Labor statistics released better-than-expected employment numbers for October that showed pretty solid job growth. Despite the government shutdown pushing the unemployment rate up by .1 percent (to 7.3 percent), employers still added 204,000 jobs last month.
The same report also revised job creation for the previous two months, which added 60,000 more jobs in August and September than were previously estimated.
In addition, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell back to pre-recession levels, meaning businesses are laying off fewer of their employees.
Hey, Republicans, wasn’t the Affordable Care Act supposed to lead to massive layoffs?
Economics had expected economic growth to be slightly above 1.5 percent in the third quarter of 2013. Surprisingly, growth exceeded those expectations by a over a full percentage point as the economy expanded by 2.8 percent from July through September.
The one shade of bad news that could be on the horizon is that fourth quarter growth will most likely slow down due to the absolutely avoidable and irresponsible government shutdown brought on by extremists in Congress.
Regardless of what you think is the root cause of these numbers, it is clear that the United States economy is on a pretty stable path to fully recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
That’s news that should make every American happy.
Saying “thank you” to any veteran who has served or is currently serving in the military is a good thing to do on Veterans Day. After all, these are people who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms, and they deserve nothing but our endless support and gratitude.
We can start by electing leaders who understand that it isn’t weakness to show restraint when it comes to using military force. As a former president once said, “We should lead by the power of our example, not the example of our power.”
We have a moral responsibility to make sure we only send our troops into battle as a last resort – and when we must send them, we should give them clear objectives to secure the peace and an ultimate plan to get the hell out.
The other side of the equation, caring for our veterans when they come home, is just as important. One example of just how much our leaders have failed our returning soldiers continues to be seared into my memory.
Just last year, a jobs bill specifically designed for veterans came to the floor of the U.S. Senate. The legislation would have provided funding for communities to help returning soldiers find work. It was estimated that 20,000 veterans across the country would find work as a result.
What happened? Republicans, determined to block any legislative accomplishment for the president weeks before the election, filibustered it. It was a blatantly political vote.
What’s so striking about it is that many of the same Republicans who voted to send our troops into a misguided war in Iraq also voted to block this measure from becoming law. Essentially, it’s okay to send our soldiers into a quagmire in the middle east, but it’s not okay to help them find work when they return home.
And it doesn’t stop there.
A more recent attack on our veterans comes in the form of Republican-demanded cuts to food stamps, which took effect at the beginning of this month. There are 900,000 low-paid, active duty members of the military who receive these benefits. Before the cuts, the average recipient would receive about $4 a day for food; this year that number will be less.
Republicans and their sheep certainly get their rocks off whenever they have the opportunity to label food stamp recipients as ”lazy freeloaders.” What they seem to forget, or at least conveniently ignore, is that nearly a million of those “freeloaders” are men and women who have fought or continue to fight for this country.
These politicians like to talk about how much they appreciate our veterans, but their records prove otherwise. Over course of the past year they have shown just how empty their appreciation is.
So while saying ”thank you” to our veterans is a great thing, it’s far from enough. And it certainly doesn’t give any of us an excuse to ignore how poorly our veterans are being cared for every other day of the year.
We all have the ability to put some meaning behind our words, and it starts by electing leaders who support our troops as much as they say they do.
Because our veterans deserve more than words, and right now they aren’t getting it.
It’s been somewhat of a trend over the last few years: instead of stores keeping their doors closed on Thanksgiving, they decide to open late on Thanksgiving night – or even stay open the entire day – in order to cash in on consumers that just can’t wait one more day for all of those Black Friday sales.
Sure, the stores are partly to blame, but we can’t really blame them all that much, can we? They are in the business of getting as much of our money as possible, and they wouldn’t open their doors on a holiday if there wasn’t a sizable demand coming from the throngs of sheep that ignore Thanksgiving so they can head out to K-Mart for a good deal on a new TV.
What we can blame the stores for is forcing their employees to work on a day when they should have the choice of being with their families. After all, there was a time when holidays weren’t commercialized out the wazoo, and people actually enjoyed driving to grandma’s house on streets lined with empty parking lots and “Closed” signs.
Over the last few years a lot of stores have still been closed, but we’re starting to see more and more stores with flashing “Open” signs in their windows. And every time an open sign flashes to life on Thanksgiving, the holiday loses a little bit of meaning.
There is more to Thanksgiving – and any holiday, really – than getting together with the family for a big meal. What makes it even more special is that mostly everyone is celebrating it, just like you, with the people they love. If this trend of commercialization continues, it won’t really be a holiday at all.
Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been a tradition in the United States. If we want to keep it that way, we shouldn’t be rewarding companies who care more about overworking their minimum wage employees and squeezing more money from consumers than they do about preserving the great tradition of Thanksgiving.
So stay home on November 28. Spend time with your family, and keep the annual tradition of Thanksgiving alive and well. You might not think it’ll make that big a difference, but you never know.
What we do know is this: if we keep going in the direction we’re going, this holiday will become just another day. Do we really want that to happen?
Clearly, no Americans have benefited from the Republican-forced government shutdown. Pay for government workers has been delayed, benefits for military families have frozen and a lot of national parks and monuments have been locked up. But Republicans made the calculation that it would benefit them to shut down our government in an attempt to drag President Obama and his health care law down.
It was obvious from the beginning that Republicans would never achieve what they wanted from a government shut down. The president was soundly elected to a second term and the Affordable Care Act has been on the books for almost four years. What remained to be seen though was how the American people would react to this stunt.
Well, the numbers are pouring in, and it doesn’t look good for the Republicans. And by that, I mean it looks awful.
Here’s a round up of recent public opinion polls:
- President Obama approval rating (Rasmussen, Oct. 13): 50 percent
- President Obama approval rating (The Economist/YouGov, Oct. 9): 48 percent
- Republican Party approval rating (NBC News/Wall St. Journal, Oct. 10): 24 percent
- Tea Party approval rating (NBC News/Wall St. Journal, Oct. 10): 21 percent
- Blame for government shutdown (NBC News/Wall St. Journal, Oct. 10): 53 percent blame Republicans; 31 percent President Obama
Clearly, no one is winning in this situation. But the public opinion polls show, in an unequivocal way, that Republicans are losing.
After making the decision to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Party is receiving their lowest approval rating ever recorded – just 28 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the GOP, while 62 percent of Americans disapprove of Republicans – according to a new survey conducted by Gallup.
These numbers come on the heels of an absolutely irresponsible and avoidable government shutdown perpetuated by Republicans who still can’t come to grips with the results of last fall’s presidential election.
To make matters worse for the GOP, the same poll shows that 27 percent of Republicans have a negative view of their own party. Ouch.
Perhaps constant obstruction and economic sabotage aren’t very popular with the American people?
I’m not going to be long-winded or professorial about what’s happening in Washington right now. After all, sometimes the simplest explanations are the best.
A little over a week ago, our government shut down. This means that the United States Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution, or a budget, that would continue to fund the government.
Sure, this affects parks and memorials, many of which are now closed, but it also has an adverse effect on almost a million government employees across the country. The government is the nation’s largest employer, so a lot of workers will be forced to go without pay. Others, including the families of our fallen soldiers, will not receive benefits.
So while we all understand that our government is shut down, some of us may not understand why it’s shut down.
That explanation is even simpler.
Republicans that control the House of Representatives decided to hold the basic operations of our government hostage in order to fight over a law, the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), that has been on the books since 2010. Instead of just passing a resolution to fund our government, the GOP attached to it a measure that would defund or delay ObamaCare.
Basically, Republicans are trying to set a new precedent where the minority party can just shut down the government whenever they find a law they disagree with.
So just remember this the next time you vote: the closed memorials, the delayed benefits for military families, and the frozen paychecks of nearly a million government employees were all caused by a Republican Party that felt it was more important to cater to a group of political terrorists, the Tea Party, than to keep the United States government open.
That is it. That is all of it. There is nothing else to this.
This is the GOP shutdown. Anybody that suggests otherwise just isn’t paying attention.
Oh, and call John Boehner at (202) 225-0600, and tell him to schedule a clean vote to reopen the government.