Jarding told a small audience at the University of South Dakota School of Law Tuesday that Republicans, and especially President George W. Bush, must be held accountable, however, for their flawed strategies and leadership.
Jarding was in Vermillion to visit his alma mater and to pitch his new book, co-authored with Dave "Mudcat" Saunders titled Foxes in the Henhouse (How the Republicans Stole Rural America and What Democrats Must Do to Run 'Em Out).
"We're in the third week of the book tour, and we're happy to come back to the university," he said.
The tour started in New York, headed west to Colorado with stops in Denver and Boulder, and arrived in South Dakota this week with stops in Rapid City, Alexandria, Jarding's hometown, and Sioux Falls on Monday. "It was time to come here, to USD in Vermillion, where I went to college starting in 1976."
Jarding said the United States seems, as a nation, to be adrift when it comes to the values of family, the values of hanging together, the values of understanding that when the least among us need help, we should provide it.
If we were a nation that did not have the gifts that we have, we might have an excuse.
"We do not have that excuse in the United States of America," he said.
Jarding admitted at the beginning of his talk that he would sound somewhat biased toward the Democratic Party. "I plead guilty to being somewhat biased on the Democratic side," he said. "But you'll also hear a fairly sharp criticism of the Democratic Party, because in America, I believe you have a responsibility to lead even when you are in the opposition and I don't think we have lead. I think the Democratic Party has let America down."
Jarding, formerly of Mitchell, has spent most of the past 25 years studying, teaching, writing, analyzing and working in American politics and has become arguably the most sought-after expert on southern and rural politics in America today. Jarding has established himself as a hands-on tactician who knows how to win. He was instrumental in ?red state' campaigns, including Tom Daschle's first U.S. Senate win in South Dakota in 1986 and Bob Kerrey's U.S. Senate races in 1988 and 1994.
He was a senior adviser to the Democratic Senatorial Committee for three years and executive director of U.S. Sen. John Edward's leadership political action committee. He teaches at Harvard University.
The state of America
Jarding said working on the book allowed him to identify plenty of reasons to worry about the current state of affairs in the United States.
According to Jarding:
? 47 million Americans in the United States lack health insurance � an increase of 7 million since George W. Bush was sworn into office.
? Another 45 million Americans lack health insurance for six months to a year, because they can only find temporary work.
? 36 million Americans today fall below the poverty line � an increase of 15 percent since Bush took office.
? One third of Americans living in poverty are children. Twenty percent of every child living in America today, Jarding added, goes to bed hungry.
? During every year of the Bush Administration, the productivity of American people has increased a total of 16 percent. Their wages, however, have gone down.
"Americans are working just as hard, they're just as productive, but we're not taking care of them," Jarding said. "They're lacking health insurance, they're lacking benefits, their wages are suppressed, and their jobs are being outsourced. That's what we've got in America today."
Rich getting richer
Adding to this problem, he said, is a frightening trend. In the last five years, the largest redistribution of wealth in the history of humankind has occurred in the United States.
"We are now approaching $3 trillion transferred from working average Americans to the richest Americans in five years," Jarding said. "We passed a tax cut in this country that gave $1.7 trillion, and the top 1 percent (in wealth) got 43 percent of that tax cut. The top 5 percent (in wealth) got 55 percent of that tax cut. And the top 10 percent of the wage earners in America got 87 percent of that tax cut.
"That is wrong," he bellowed to his small Vermillion audience. "Because that was our tax cut. That was a transfer of a tax, and every man, woman and child in America today has a $30,000 tax hanging on their head because of that redistribution of wealth."
The nation, he said, eventually will pay a severe price for undermining American workers with such flawed policies. Poverty, hunger and
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homelessness will go up.
And even though workers will remain highly productive, they, too, will find themselves slipping behind in many ways.
Insurance premiums, for example, have increased 70 percent in just the last five years.
"The average American today that has to pay his own health insurance on the average has to pay $10,888 of that insurance, and that is wrong," Jarding said. "We should be able to provide health insurance to our citizenry when our nation has historically been so gifted."
Lack of leadership
The problem lies, he said, with national political leadership that lacked the courage to act.
"Our government does not have the leadership to address the issue and say, ?do we want to take care of the American worker while we have the resources to do it?' The answer was no, the answer was we have the money but we're going to give it away."
Both Republicans and Democrats, Jarding said, have lacked leadership to stand up and define the nation's future.
He noted that there is technology available today to clean up 95 percent of all greenhouse gases produced in the United States.
But, there is no political leadership in place to put such technology to use. So the United States continues to contribute approximately 25 percent of the total greenhouse pollution experienced around the globe today.
The result, according to student researchers at Harvard University and a group of attorneys who doubled checked all of the data in Jarding's book: Bush has severely rolled back regulations on industry that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Today in America, one-third of all American women have mercury levels in their fetuses that exceed the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA. That's our future," he said. "A third of our kids with the potential to have neurological, emotional, even physical ailments because we didn't have the guts or political leadership to say ?we will not pass that on to our children.' "
In their book, Jarding and Saunders present a method to secure a Democratic victory by gaining the lead in the South and the Midwest. The book encourages Democrats to open their minds to the rural culture of "Bubbas," or blue collar, religious folks who despise government intrusion, have been voting Republican and would respond to political "NASCAR marketing."
The co-authors use statistics, political history and strategies for Democrats to connect with Bubbas over contentious issues like gun control, environmental protection, gay marriage and abortion.