George Mitrovich: An Open Letter to President Obama
My dear Mr. President:Many Americans thought the 2008 presidential election was as important as any in our history. The previous eight-years under Mr. Bush were among the worst ever, and your victory held the promise of a new beginning. Your campaign said you were the change we could believe in — and we did. For many of us your election as the 44th president of the United States was not about the color of your skin; it was about the content of your character. We witnessed your intelligence, heard your eloquence, admired your grace, and marveled at the dignity you displayed during a long and difficult campaign. But more than any of those admirable qualities we believed, Mr. President, that you understood the real issue before America was not “the war against terrorism” but the war against the middle class; that the nation most in need of your attention was neither Iraq nor Afghanistan but America; that unless America could be strengthened at home it would fail abroad.
We believed you knew Main Street was falling into an economic Black Hole of lost jobs and lost homes, and that our fellow citizens were losing a salient feature of our character and history — confidence in the future.We dared to believe that you, the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansas mother, a man who achieved great things despite the limitations of your childhood, that you, above all others, understood that Main Street was under siege, that blue-collar America was reeling from the Great Recession, and while neither Senator McCain nor the Republicans seemed to get it, you did.
But now, one year into your presidency, our confidence has been challenged, and we wonder whether your understanding reaches beyond Wall Street and Washington? Whether in the rush to save the financial markets and the wealth accumulation of bankers and Wall Street CEOs, the down and out on Main Street were overlooked.As rational beings we know it is unfair to accuse you of the problems you inherited upon taking office. We know it is problematical any new president would have fared better. We know you walked into a daunting state of affairs. But our rationality is conflicted and our goodwill is strained, not by what happened before you became president, but by what’s happened since.
It began for many of us, Mr. President, when you announced your finance team — Timothy Geithner at Treasury and Larry Summers as your principal White House economic advisor. Moreover, in due course you would compound that error by nominating Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.As Clinton administration creations, neither Mr. Geithner nor Mr. Summers had previously evidenced knowledge of Main Street’s collapse. They had participated in the stunning success of President Clinton’s wealth creation agenda; an agenda that obscenely enriched the privileged few at the expense of Main Street, the middle class, and America’s blue-collar workers.
The Clinton and Bush years were heady times and Wall Street was king and a whole lot of people who should have known better, didn’t. But when money is rolling in and bonuses are huge and regulatory walls fall, who was to stand in the temple and say no? In normal times Democrats might have been cautionary, but given the seeming success of Clinton’s economy policies and the Democratic Leadership Council’s philosophical hold on the Clinton White House, rare was the voice in Washington warning of the dangers ahead – on either side of the political aisle.But the Clinton people, amid the good times, may be forgiven for failing to grasp the grave consequences of their economic policies. But their mistake grew exponentially under Mr. Clinton’s successor and your predecessor, George W. Bush, a president who saw tax-cuts as the sine qua non of government policy; a president who foolishly believed you could cut taxes, grow the government, and fight a war with impunity; a president whose philosophy of market place economics was highlighted after 9/11 when his advice to the American people in the days after the most devastating attack upon our homeland in our history was brief and direct, “Go shopping.”
None of this, Sir, occurred on your watch, and while many Republicans have serious memory lapses about the presidency of Mr. Bush 43, decent and fair-minded Americans know it wasn’t your doing. We do not blame you for his manifest failures. Neither do we blame you for the accumulative effect of the economic policies of Mr. Reagan, Mr. Bush 41, and Mr. Clinton.To be very clear about this, Mr. President, we do not blame you for anything that preceded you into office. The economic royalists of Wall Street and the political savants of Washington may think the rest of us are idiots, incapable of placing blame where it belongs, but we know this was not your doing. However, when a majority of your fellow citizens elected you in November of 2008 they did so with certain hopes and expectations. Not least among those expectations was a belief your administration would initiate a major effort to restore economic fairness and close the income disparity between Wall Street and Main Street, between bankers and the middle class, between hedge fund operators and blue-collar workers; a disparity, Mr. President, that has grown to 344-1; a disparity that may be explained in economic and political terms, but never in moral terms.
But in your 366-days in office neither you nor your economic advisors have demonstrated an understanding of so ominous a divide, which if allowed to continue threatens the very foundation of our democracy. For no democracy, even the world’s greatest, can long endure when such a disastrous division exist in the body politic.It has been often said in our history that it’s “morning in America.” But now the shadows of late afternoon lengthen and fall across the land – and our people are confused and fearful and angry. We love you, Mr. President. We care about you. We pray for you. We want desperately for you to succeed. Not for the sake of your presidency but for the sake of the America we love. We know you can’t do this alone, but we need you to keep the promise inherent in your candidacy — to be the change we believe in.
With the greatest respect and highest regard, I remain your humble servant,George Mitrovich
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