Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The PR President Versus Reality

The Potemkin presidency is still alive and well as reported in this excerpt by Anne Kornblut of The New York Times:
In an event with echoes of his prime-time speech in Jackson Square here last September, Mr. Bush spoke in a working-class neighborhood in Biloxi against a backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes. But just a few feet away, outside the scene captured by the camera, stood gutted houses with wires dangling from ceilings. A tattered piece of crime-scene tape hung from a tree in the field where Mr. Bush spoke. A toilet sat on its side in the grass.

No doubt Karl Rove made sure the cameras were focused on the best PR shots possible on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Here's more from the British newspaper, The Times:
IT STARTED with the mournful sound of a lone trumpet on a bridge overlooking the flood-ravaged landscape of New Orleans. Then came the wreaths, the tears and a jazz parade.

As America marked the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a national day of remembrance, survivors gathered to remember the 1,695 lives and countless communities lost along the Gulf Coast to the storm, the flood and the chaos on August 29, 2005.

An army of politicians led by President Bush arrived in the region for commemorations that began with sombre ceremonies and ended in New Orleans with a traditionally upbeat jazz funeral parade.

But it was the pain of the people that spoke the loudest. “Mr President, are you going to turn your back on me?” a waitress asked Mr Bush as he passed by during a visit to a devastated New Orleans neighbourhood.

President Bush, who may not know how to be president, but who knows how to grab a quick PR moment said, "No ma'am. Not again."

But his failed presidency is not a failed PR event, it is a failure of reality that affects many people lives all across America. Here's a story from The New York Times by Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt about one of Bush's failures that hits close to home for many Americans:
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

Republicans like to deny the role of government in the economy but we have a president who consciously favors the wealthy, opposes a minimum wage hike and is clearly anti-labor. It is no coincidence that the income of the average American is falling while wealthy Americans as a group keep taking a larger and larger slice of the pie. Born into America's economic elite but without an ounce of Franklin Roosevelt's vision, Mr Bush is still turning his back on most Americans. It's not for nothing that Bush is often compared to the lackluster Republican presidents of the 1920s. But his failures are having enormous longterm consequences and a series of PR moments cannot change that fact.

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