Movies and Real World Politics

By Jean Mavrelis - 09.13.2010

Movies like On the Waterfront, Grapes of Wrath, Norma Rae, and Erin Brockovich are etched on the psyche of baby boomers like myself.

The theme of all of them strike the same chord: working people who take a stand and fight back against a system that serves everyone’s interests but theirs.

Great stories for movies–the heroic efforts of  individuals, families or communities prevailing against great odds. The theme continues to resonate and sell tickets.

But it would be nice to have government and the system once in a while work for the have nots and not always or only for the haves and those who lobby for them.

It may not make much of a story for a movie, but it would sure help average working  people living next door.

That’s why I was so heartened by Obama’s latest stand, taking on the Republicans, in discontinuing Bush style tax cuts for the rich but keeping them for the middle class.

He also hit the nail on the head in identifying what is a major difference between Republicans and Democrats in terms of America going forward.

Republicans will likely grow the economy for rich Americans, and for Americans with big stock portfolios, but they will do it by sending jobs overseas, at the expense of American workers.

Democrats are protecting a U.S. middle class. Republicans are protecting money at the expense of American workers.

I was at a barbecue over the weekend where my liberal family members were complaining about Obama.  Maybe Jonathan Chait is right about Democrats’ biggest problem being liberals.  I thought Obama was fabulous in his speech from Ohio.

We are looking at a midterm election that pits the “Smiths” against the “Grabowskis” — the upper class against the working class.

Obama is working to reward companies that keep jobs in the U.S., provide health care for the everyday man, pass a job infrastructure bill, and promote good education for all.

These efforts undermine the Smiths who want to grow the economy in terms of dollars, not in terms of the well being of most American citizens.

The Republicans would boost the economy by helping those who make over $250,000, and have big stock portfolios.

“Trickle down” economics doesn’t work. But the myth –promoted by those who would keep wealth in the hands of the few– keeps it alive, and gains support from people who support it even though it works against their economic self interest.

I also vote against my own economic self interest but in a different way.

I grew up in a union family, and labor stories have shaped my values. So my vote goes for the working class whether my stock portfolio takes a hit or not.

It may be inevitable within our capitalist-run oligarchy that big business will make its money in the global market and send jobs abroad, and the middle class will suffer for a couple of generations until we hopefully switch over to a clean energy, service economy.

In the meantime, I vote for making it easier on the Grabowskis.

Freedom as a Cultural Universal

By Thomas Kochman - 07.09.2009

In both his Cairo and Russia speeches and in his news conference reacting to the government suppression of freedom of assembly in Iran, President Obama proposed the view that rights to free assembly and free speech are “universal”, not simply “American” values.

As a political strategy this approach is brilliant insofar as it allows the President to establish and promote \”America\’s interest in democratic governments that protect the rights of their people,\” without appearing to interfere in the sovereign right of all nations to govern as they see fit.

But thinking about freedom and human rights as “universal” does make us wonder how these values would express themselves in countries whose social and political history and culture are so markedly different from ours. Read more »