Next week, President Obama will unveil his Jobs Plan. The economy is the most important issue of this election cycle, and there seems to be exactly zero overlap between the strategies of each of the political parties.
Democrats, more or less, favor raising taxes on the wealthy, spurring the economy with a new stimulus, and extending the payroll tax break for working Americans. Republicans, more or less, favor cutting taxes for businesses, further deregulation, broadening the income tax base to include more people in the bottom 50 percent, and eliminating government entities like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts. November 2012 will be a referendum on each of these divergent paths.
So in this week's edition of Of The People, we went to Mimi's Subway Bar and Grill in Ferguson to hear what The People think the government should do to fix the economy.
A hearty chunk of patrons thought that the solution is easing taxes on employers.
"Lower the tax rate for businesses, but they have to use the money to hire people," said Bob Saudefur, as he stood by the bar.
He believed that the government must give employers more incentive to hire Americans instead of outsourcing their work.
"I would argue that corporations don't pay as much as we do," said his wife Donna, who sat on a stool next to him. But then, after a moment of thought, she added, "Is that a problem? No, I don't think so. They still have to pay a lot."
This perspective aligns with the narrative Republicans have championed since the days of Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economics. It is the message they are banking on this campaign season. And the message Democrats have been working to undermine (a perspective concisely articulated by Paul Krugman as, "Over the last two years profits have soared while unemployment has remained disastrously high. Why should anyone believe that handing even more money to corporations, no strings attached, would lead to faster job creation?").
Republicans would be even happier to hear what another patron said when asked how the government can help pull us out of these tough times.
"Elect a new president," said Jim S., who declined to give his last name because of, in his words, "paranoia." "And I'm serious. This president is not friendly to business, not friendly to corporations."
As he leaned back in his chair at the corner of the bar, Jim echoed Bob's sentiment on tax breaks.
"They need to cut corporate taxes," he said. "They need to make the country more business friendly so that all these jobs don't go overseas."
His frustration was not limited to one side of the aisle -- it was directed toward all of Washington.
"This congress and this president have the wrong approach," he said.
Interestingly, although Jim wants a new president, he acknowledged that he is unimpressed with the current field of Republican candidates, stressing that all of the viable nominees, including good ol' boy Rick Perry, have been a part of the the Washington establishment for too long.
Disillusionment with the government was a consistent theme at Mimi's, as it probably is in just about every bar in America right now.
"I would throw them all out," said Donna Dillingham, as she picked at a plate of french fries at the bar. "I think all of their salaries should be cut in half, at least. They have no idea how the average person lives."
The Democrat narrative did catch on with one patron, though.
"I think they should give everybody a $300 stimulus check -- not the wealthy, though," said Emmett Shaw, who sipped on a Budweiser. He added that he would support a new stimulus package.
The Dems will need to better establish their narrative for them to hold on to the White House. So it will be interesting to see if, on Thursday, Obama dusts off his "Yes We Can" campaign-style rhetoric to better connect with a public that has seemed wholly uninterested in his stoic "adult in the room" in-office rhetoric.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.