I believe the only way to create an economy built to last is to strengthen the middle class. Asking the wealthy to pay a little more so we can pay down our debt in a balanced way. So that we can afford to invest in education, manufacturing and home-grown American energy for good middle-class jobs. Sometimes politics can seem very small. But the choice you face? It couldn't be bigger.
That, in a nutshell, is Barack Obama's agenda for a second term. The wealthy will be politely asked, but not forced, to pay a wee token smidgen more. There will be no scrapping of the FICA cap in order to make the Social Security trust fund solvent for generations to come. The "debt" (new-speak for what little of the nation's wealth is still in the hands of the underclass) will be "paid down" (transferred up) in a "balanced" way, meaning that the Grand Bargain of Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security cuts is still very much on the table. Grandma will have to go a little cold and hungry at the same time Jamie Dimon might have to give up the tax deduction on his corporate jet, at the same time "entitlement" cuts will mean he gets another raise and buys a tenth vacation home. That is what is meant by the "balanced approach" by the centrist cult of the Third Way.
In his kinder, gentler campaign ad, the president does not mention that deficits should not matter in recessions. He chooses not to tell us that borrowing costs are now so low we could actually profit by borrowing more. Profits will continue to be privatized at the very top, and the costs will go on being socialized.
And forget about legislation for a living wage to lift Americans out of poverty. The short-lived middle class jobs of the future are in fracking and deepwater drilling and construction of the tar sands pipeline -- "home-grown" energy projects tantamount to a Garden of Earthly Delights. He does not mention climate change, pollution of air and water, or the health hazards of his folksy panacea for middle class angst. He euphemizes fracking as though it were a horticultural project.
You have to give the guy credit, though. He is not lying. He is not bothering to make campaign promises he has no intention of keeping. He has been there, done that, and lived to suffer the onslaught of disappointment from the Professional Left. He is telling us exactly what he plans to do --which is to preserve, protect and defend the interests of the One Percent. He just does it more circumspectly, classily and charmingly than that plutocratic parody named Mitt Romney.
The choice you face? It couldn't be smaller. Pick between the personable technocrat you know, and the robotic technocrat you don't know. Take your fourth Bush Term as a main course of corporate Clintonites with a side of Wall Street transplants, and some national security Bushies for dessert. Or choose as your Bush Fourth Term entree some aged corporate Cheneyites with a side of Wall Street transplants, topped off by national security Bushies for dessert.
As Matt Stoller wrote on Naked Capitalism over the weekend, this presidential election is probably the least important contest of the past half-century. Neither Romney nor Obama is really all that into us:
As an experienced political hand told me, the two candidates are speaking not to the voters, but to the big money. They hold the same views, pursue the same policies, and are backed by similar interests. Mitt Romney implemented Obamacare in Massachusetts, or Obama implemented Romneycare nationally. Both are pro-choice or anti-choice as political needs change, both tend to be hawkish on foreign policy, both favor tax cuts for businesses, and both believe deeply in a corrupt technocratic establishment.
It’s useful to remember, this election season, that the way the debate is framed matters. That Obama isn’t choosing to discuss in public what he will do to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and that Romney isn’t specific about it either, should show you who this election is for. But in addition, that both Bush, Clinton, and Obama (in his first term) failed at cutting Social Security means that an aroused public can stop austerity, when politicians feel their office is at risk. Clinton chose to abandon his plans to gut entitlements when facing impeachment and Bush chose to stop when his plan threatened the Republican Congress.So, how to stop austerity this time? Despite what the mainstream media would have us believe, the Occupy Movement is not dead. Its first anniversary is less than two months away, right after the political conventions, when campaign frenzy will be in full swing. That the government is still taking desperate measures to suppress dissent should be cause for encouragement, not despair. It shows they're worried about the real anger of real people.That the United Nations, and the rest of the civilized world, are noticing that the American police state continues its crackdowns on protesters should theoretically keep the political elites on their best behavior, at least until November. Neither Obama nor Romney want a repeat of '68 Chicago at their little shindigs. And we can always dream that at least one of the debate moderators will ask them how they will protect the social safety net, demanding substance over the current empty posturing.
We are the richest nation on earth, yet the One Percent would have us become a country of serfs. The politicians give us bland promises of a fair shot and a fair shake at a fair share. What is true is that we have a fair chance of actually getting shot, thanks to the shadow government of the NRA and 300 million weapons for anyone with a pulse. Fair share is more like the big short. Shared sacrifice is a euphemism for the most blatant wealth disparity in American history. We are shaken, and we are stirred. History, as well as the laws of physics, have proven that too much weight at the top always causes the whole structure to collapse.
Keep Sept. 17th open on your calendars, and keep making them sweat even more in this climate-changed summer of our discontent. What else have we got to lose?