As any political junkie can attest, senators and congressmen are huge fans of using props to spice up their often-dry speeches, especially big cardboard cutouts that might catch the eye of viewers flipping channels on their TV. (Here’s an entire Tumblr devoted to them.) To wit, our very own May cover story made an appearance on the Senate floor Wednesday, thanks to first-term Republican Dan Sullivan of Alaska:
Sullivan quoted extensively from Neal Gabler’s piece, “The Secret Shame of the Middle Class,” which describes how the author is one of millions of Americans—nearly half the population, in fact—who are so financially strapped that they could not come up with $400 in a crisis. (Many of those Americans are reflected in our reader series on financial insecurity.) Sullivan juxtaposed Gabler’s reporting with President Obama’s much rosier view of the economy under his watch and Obama’s assertion that Americans are much better off than they were when he took office. “I guarantee you the president is not agreeing with this article,” Sullivan said. (His speech didn’t have anything to do with the defense policy bill being debated on the floor, but senators can pretty much talk about whatever they want, and often do.)
Sullivan used the cover story to buttress what has been the central economic argument from Republicans over the last several years: The recovery under Obama has been lackluster, and that regardless of the increase in overall jobs and a healthy-seeming 5 percent unemployment rate, most Americans have not seen much of an improvement. “A big part of the problem that is playing out in our politics right now, is the fact that those who are hurting, are not being heard,” Sullivan said. “They see their lives. They know their lives. They know the challenges. Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 in a crisis, as this article lays out, and yet it doesn’t match up with what their leaders are telling them.”
“I would recommend this article to my colleagues,” Sullivan said in the middle of his 15-minute speech. On that point, Senator, we can agree.