Last night’s acceptance speech by Barack Obama as the Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States was excellent. Senator Obama did what he needed to do — define himself and counter Senator McCain’s claims that he’s elitist and out of touch with Americans. The Democrats have done quite well for themselves this week and it was good to see Bill Clinton come out unabashedly in favor and in support of Senator Obama. If anyone is out of touch with the state of America and Americans it’s Senator McCain and the Republicans.

Consider that Senator McCain and the Republicans have been chanting the tired old mantra of “Drill Here! Drill Now!” for several weeks — knowing full well that drilling “here” and drilling “now” will do absolutely nothing to lower energy costs here in the United States in the near or mid-term future. It’s all a matter of producing a platitude that resonates with the fears of Americans rather than their aspirations. The Republicans are way off the mark and out of touch with Americans these days and it represents a dramatic difference in perspective. Paul Krugman in his latest op-ed piece in the New York Times notes

Democrats say and, as far as I can tell, really believe that working Americans are getting a raw deal; Republicans, despite occasional attempts to sound sympathetic, basically believe that people have nothing to complain about.

(Krugman, Paul, “Feeling No Pain“, The New York Times, August 29, 2008 )

As Krugman outlines in his opinion piece the census of 2007 shows that Americans are worried about the direction this country is taking. And that was in 2007 — before the financial crisis really tightened its grip on the economy and made it’s impact known. Median incomes for American families fell between 2000 and 2007, poverty was up, health insurance down. And even with all these indicators pointing to significant problems the Bush administration puts its head in the sand and proclaims that the economy is “basically sound” and there are no problems. At least no problems that tax cuts for businesses and the rich won’t cure.

On the health care side we are facing a looming crisis. Health care costs are increasing faster than the rate of inflation in the United States on a year-over-year basis. Employers, facing an economic downturn, are looking to cut costs whereever they can to stay profitable. That means cutting the health care benefits of workers or pushing more of the costs of health insurance onto workers who are seeing the power of their paycheck decline already due to the skyrocketing costs of gas, food, and electricity. As these individuals face declining health care the Republicans can only repeat their tired old mantra of “tax cuts for businesses will cure the economic ills.” Many Americans don’t even have health care insurance.

visiting the emergency room in a medical crisis is no substitute for regular care. Furthermore, while a hospital will treat you whether or not you can pay, it will also bill you — and the bill won’t be waived unless you’re destitute. As a result, uninsured working Americans avoid visiting emergency rooms if at all possible, because they’re terrified by the potential cost: medical expenses are one of the prime causes of personal bankruptcy.

(Krugman, Paul, “Feeling No Pain“, The New York Times, August 29, 2008 )

As for health care coverage, President Bush and Senator McCain seem to think that the emergency room at the hospital is “affordable” health care. In fact President Bush stated so last year: “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.” (Bush, George W., HealthCareTalk.net,July 10, 2007).

It’s hard to sympathize with the plight of people when you don’t even connect with their problems. And therein lies the Republican’s dilemma. How can they relate to voters when they don’t even recognize their problems. The disconnect is so bad that former McCain economic advisor, the former senator Phil Gramm, described America as a “nation of whiners.” (“Dr. Phil Gramm knows what ails America“, LA Times, July 11, 2008) How out of touch can you be?

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