Friday, July 15, 2011

Equal Opportunity Pain

I haven't been able to find an official transcript of President Obama's press conference yet, but here are some salient points that managed to find their way into my numbed and disbelieving brain:

-- The shared sacrifice mantra.  We can't ask the "less fortunate" to suffer even more without asking the millionaires and billionaires to also suffer just a tad.  Because misery loves company.  And if Grandma has to endure starvation and eviction and want, then Billionaire Corporate Jet Owner should have to pay "just a little more" to pretend we are all fellow travelers in this Great Journey of Austerity.  Again, Obama reminds us that as a wealthy fellow himself, he too will be selflessly paying a little bit more.  So everybody shut the hell up and suffer with joy.

-- The false family-government equivalence, again. " A family doesn't run up a credit card bill because otherwise they can't send Junior to college or fix the boiler.... so neither should the government".  Bullshitsky.  Families can't print money or sell their debt to China.

-- If we Do Something Big It Will Send a Signal.  A signal to whom?  He didn't say.  The mythical fence-sitting independent voters of the Heartland?  Nah.  Wall Street and corporations making about a third more in obscene profits this quarter and thus are so skittish they're afraid to hire?  Yep.

--" I am willing to let my base hate me, so the Republicans should just welcome their base's hatred too."  Because even corrupt politicians can totally embrace the misery-loves-company meme?  No.  Obama doesn't care about Democratic voters because they will hold their noses and pick him over Michele Bachmann.  Republicans do care about their base, because it's made up in equal parts of  crazy Tea Partiers and K Street lobbyists.  More proof that Obama is the antithesis of FDR, who welcomed the hatred of the bankers and was thus labeled a "traitor to his class."  Obama kisses the feet of the base bankers who basically are his new base.

--" I am still puzzled by the Republican pattern of voting against all my proposals".  Ever heard the word disingenuous, Mr. O?  But wait, he also said he never reads articles or watches news shows about himself, so I guess he has virtually no clue about the reality of anything.  He said he has a thick skin so the articles he never reads have no effect on him anyway.  He has no idea that Mitch McConnell has said the GOP's sole goal is that he not be given a second term.  Because he doesn't watch TV.  He has no idea.....

-- We should be sure that current beneficiaries of Social Security, "as much as possible", are not effected by changes to the program.  So current recipients may be affected just a little and future ones a lot?  How very reassuring.  Raising the retirement age is just one of many measures that are on the table.  No specifics, of course.  He is open to means-testing Medicare.  He again refers to his own looming 50th birthday and golly, he is going to be getting his AARP card soon, and yep, he's one of those millionaires who might have to be means-tested!  (He fails to mention that his health care needs, present and future, will be taken care of by a VIP retirement/benefits package shared by all the miscreants of Congress).  But the stenographic press corps chuckles appreciately anyway.

-- Chuck Todd marks the 493rd time he has been called on to the exclusion of 99 percent of the other reporters in the room.  Jake Tapper may be tied with him.  I don't know.

Did I leave anything out? 

Body Language Open to Interpretation (AP )


Marina said...

I am so, so discouraged...I officially hate this guy. Our pain and worries--our lives--mean nothing to him.

For a little light relief, see last night's Colbert (July 14), on his Guantanamo riff--it felt really good to laugh until I cried..,

Ciara said...

Karen, this is another brilliant post. I was particularly struck by this:

"More proof that Obama is the antithesis of FDR, who welcomed the hatred of the bankers and was thus labeled a 'traitor to his class.'"

Yeah, Obama is the anti-FDR. The lousy, no-good bastard.

Ciara said...

Is there anyone in history or film or literature to whom Obama can be compared? Who else was chosen or elected solely to act out a single role -- and was no sooner in place than he began his great betrayal? I don't mean an ordinary traitor like Benedict Arnold. I'm trying to think of someone whose betrayal was acted out in public, and unapologetically.

Bongo Bob said...

Stenographic press corps. Spot on.
By the way, Karen, your comment on Krugman's piece this week was superb.

Janet Camp said...

You know, I'm not sure I object to the idea of means-testing Medicare. I know a rich guy who has a super pension and great medical coverage for life. He uses that AND Medicare, which when combined, he ends up paying nothing, even for expensive surgeries. What does he do with all the money thus saved? Invests--he has made a bundle since the recession started. Don't it just break your heart? He has great retirement insurance; I see no reason why he should get Medicare as well--or at least he should pay more for it.

This does not mean that I appreciate Obama offering up concessions and endorsing the budget false equivalency, etc. Yuck--I can't even bring myself to watch it. Not one single one of these repubs he is kowtowing to will ever, ever vote for him. Why does he do it??? Note. It's a rhetorical question--no lectures required.

Anne Lavoie said...

Wow, Obama is publicly expressing to the whole country his willingness to let his base hate him, but has never ONCE talked about his willingness to let the Right spew their vile hatred towards him for some cause. But then, what cause did he ever stand up for?

Couldn't this bold statement be a message to Wall St. that he is going to the mat for THEM and to hell with his supporters?

Here's how I think this 'negotiation' over Obama's Really Big Deal will end up. The lower income 50% of the population that currently pays no taxes will have higher tax rates. The rich will have slightly higher rates with the same loopholes and a few extra. Payroll taxes cuts for Social Security will be extended or the payroll tax simply eliminated.

Social Security is being lumped into Obama's Really Big Deal because that is where most of the debt money has been borrowed from in the past. I don't know if it is true or not, but I hear it dwarfs the amounts owed to China and Japan.

If they can eliminate having to make future payments by mandating private retirement plans sometime soon, the amount needed to be paid back shrinks. That's as good as paying it back because it eliminates future beneficiaries.

Same with means testing - eliminate some future beneficiaries so less has to be paid back to cover them when it would have been due them.

And of course without the Social Security piggybank, they need a source of revenues, thus the agreement to tax increases that aren't really increases except for the poor.

Obama's Really Big Deal will signal to Wall St in a big way the 'certainty' to position themselves to offer mandatory retirement plans and be ready for other Privatization schemes in the near future (such as in a second term), and that includes Medicare. It has the added benefit of actually decreasing the national debt by simply eliminating debt obligations. Right? Tell me how this couldn't happen, and I'll be happy.

Marie Burns said...

@ Clara. Was this a set-up? Sure, I can think of someone whose "betrayal was acted out in public, and unapolgetically": the last guy who had Obama's job.

George W. Bush ran in 2000 as a "compassionate conservative."

If anybody saw the "compassionate" part, do tell. His base was just as miserable as we are about Obama. David Kuo, a sincere young Christian conservative, who administered Bush's faith-based programs, soon discovered that not only had Bush drastically cut programs for the poor, he was using so-called "faith-based" grants -- that were supposed to go to organizations to help the disadvantaged -- to fund phony "nonpartisan" efforts designed to mobilize voters in targeted Congressional races. The Bushies did not even consider granting funds to legitimate do-gooder faith-based groups that weren't Bush allies, Kuo wrote in his Book of Disillusionment, a/k/a "Tempting Faith."

As for the "conservative" half of the equation, the deficit hawks found out that was a ruse right quick. Republicans want to pretend George Bush never happened. He massively let them down.

So, yes, there is someone "in history ... to whom Obama can be compared." Betrayal is what politicians do. Our mistake is to expect more of them. I think the main reason that I'm not as upset at Obama as are some on the left is that I'm old, I haven't forgotten the past, and Obama hasn't done anything I haven't seen before. Was I disappointed he isn't what he pretended to be? Of course. Do I oppose his right-of-center policies? You betcha. Do I think he's a tool of oligarchs? Yup.

So I agree wholeheartedly with all of Garcia's criticisms of Obama's let's-kill-off-fewer-poor-people-by-tweaking-taxes-on-my-book-royalties worldview. But he is what he is, and as Garcia has written elsewhere, as have I, the most obvious way to advance a progressive agenda is to elect progressives to Congress. Nate Silver has run the numbers, and he says it can be done. We should do it.

Napoleon said...

I agree with Ciara that this was absolutely a great post by Karen.

What was particularly striking about it was that Karen provided a perfect illustration of how journalists should report speeches and press conferences by government officials on major issues of public policy.

She didn't allow her coverage to be simply an affirmation of what president Obama had said, thus handling the president a propaganda coup, but rather she examined in realistic detail the merits of points the president had made, in effect subjecting his remarks to a rigorous 'stress test'.

This made her posting informative, exciting to read, and a nice model for how to help educate the public. A very nice job indeed!

Ciara said...

Anne, I love your opening --

"Wow, Obama is publicly expressing to the whole country his willingness to let his base hate him, . . . "

I think perhaps it makes him feel good when we hate him. It makes him feel virtuous and martyr-like and all George-Washingtonish. It's almost what he craves.

What he really can't stand is when Republicans don't like him.

Draft Spitzer said...

Re means testing:
I briefly worked for an obscenely (and I mean obscenely) wealthy philanthropist. We're talkin' Marie Antoinette and le Petit Trianon level. To which I can only say: mazeltov! So I was shocked when she asked me to fax a copy of her Medicare card to her physician. Why does someone like that require Medicare? But she was no dummy when it came to money... Health care COSTS, baby!
However, I did learn, while in her employ, how major political donors can get history textbooks tweaked. That alone was worth the prix of admission...

You wrote a great comment in response to Karen's previous post. (#14, I think.)

Ciara said...

Nice points, Napoleon, about what Karen did in her post. You are certainly on the money there.

I'm still searching for a comparable figure in history or literature. There is something about this that makes me feel it is not a garden-variety political disappointment. This is, I guess you could say, a Really Big Deal.

(And I'm not very sensitive to the disappointments of the right, so the GWB analogy doesn't really ring true for me.)

Napoleon said...

@Marie Burns.
You are quite insightful in your comments. I take for granted they represent something more than the result of age. My perceptions, and judgments, in the areas you mentioned don't differ significantly from yours.

@Janet Camp
I have certainly been in opposition to the idea of means testing Medicare. After reading your comments, I find I am still remain opposed to the idea, the main concern being that it will make Medicare look too much like welfare with the result that it will remove mainstream political support for Medicare and will stigmatize, in the eyes of many, Medicare recipients when they show up to seek medical care. Still, your comment seemed to raise an interesting issue.

Upon reflection, I can now think of one possibility which might avoid both of the above pitfalls while simultaneously having the Medicare take on one aspect of a means tested program.

The idea would be to leave the Medicare program as it is but at income tax returns time, have people who have incomes over a stated amount, say $250,000.00, and who use Medicare in conjunction with private health coverage, pay a tax on a certain percentage of their receipt of Medicare payments in excess of a stipulated amount.

This is a form of means testing but the identity of who is or who is not paying the tax would be known only to the IRS, and no one else. At the same time, it would provide the advantage of a means testing method that would provide redress for the harm you believe is caused by the facts you described.

I don't know how practical this is and can't yet be sure of how I feel about the idea but I think it might meet the problem you described.

Anonymous said...

The problem is the size of government and not who is running the government, as you have discovered with the current Administration. Nothing at all has changed from when the prior administration left. You blame the President and you may be right. I never thought he was up to the job before he was elected. That said it's unclear if anyone could have done better. I believe that the only way to solve the problem is to decentralize the government and set the different parts to watch each other. As it now stands you are expecting more from ordinary people than they are capable of. Even electing zealots and sending them to the cesspool that is Washington will not achieve your goals because some degree of compromise is always required to accomplish anything and compromise is corrosive to the soul especially for a zealot. In fact the environment in Washington is corrosive to most honest souls whatever they believe politically.
The system needs to be reformed after it's reform we can debate the best direction in which to go. The time is now, the need is great.


The Black Swan said...

Do you think the Republicans will run someone like Bachmann for the express purpose of getting Obama re-elected? Since both parties are tools of the wealthy and he has done everything he can to help out wealthy, you would think the Repubs would gain a lot by getting him elected. He is truly their best candidate. He can eliminate the Democrats from running the White House and then end up as the perfect Republican president once again. I have this feeling that the two parties are playing a game, where one is so far to the right they can treat the center as the left, and the other sitting at the center is willing to split the difference with the far right. In this way we only have right wing and far right wing policies being enacted.

Draft Spitzer said...

That sounds like a pretty complicated method for dealing with means testing.
Let's simplify in this manner:

1) Return to Eisenhower-era tax rates.
2) Provide universal health coverage.
3) Problem solved.

I think if one's employer maintains, on her estate, her own private, full-time beekeeper in addition to full-time gardener, butler and servants, then it's likely that the real problem isn't means testing for Medicare, but government refusal to raise revdnues through proper taxation.

Ciara said...

@Draft Spitzer, Oh, I like your style. And your substance too. It just breaks my heart that there are all these good ideas out there and no one in a position of power has the slightest bit of interest in them.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

"Social Security is being lumped into Obama's Really Big Deal because that is where most of the debt money has been borrowed from in the past. I don't know if it is true or not, but I hear it dwarfs the amounts owed to China and Japan." Anne Lavoie

You are totally right Anne! Well done for bringing such an important fact into the discussion.

"According to the official 2010 Social Security reports, between 1984 and 2009 the American people contributed $2 trillion, that is $2,000 billion, more to Social Security and Medicare in payroll taxes than was paid out in benefits. What happened to the surplus $2,000 billion, or $2,000,000,000,000.The government spent it." Paul Craig Roberts (economist, columnist and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan)

According to a recent Treasury report, we owe China 1.116 trillion (a third more than the government admitted before now) and we owe Japan 8.83 billion.

I encourage all of you to check out "The Looting Social Security w/ Paul Craig Roberts" interview on The Young Turks. It is a great education in what is really going on with Social Security, Medicare and the cost to our country of this state of perpetual war.

Check out Cost of War . com THAT is why our country is broke! Not because we can't afford Social Security and not because we can't afford Medicare.

Neil said...

re Clara: "Is there anyone in history or film or literature to whom Obama can be compared?"

Yes, Judas Iscariot

When Obama was elected in 2008 he was an inexperienced political lightweight with little history. Since then Obama’s opponents have used his inexperience to their advantage.

Obama also has a serious character flaw, the need to be liked above all else, and as Clara notes, "What he really can't stand is when Republicans don't like him."

There is something terribly wrong with a purportedly smart guy like Obama flattering Ronald Reagan. Obama should realize that Reagan was an actor, and his deficit policies of the 1980’s led us to the brink of economic disaster today.

Marie Burns said...

@ Clara. Sorry, I didn't know the rules were that "the right" doesn't count. So here are a few leftist leaders who "unapologetically" & "publicly" betrayed their followers; I'm sure other readers can think of dozens more:

Robespierre, Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro, Sekou Toure (of Guinea), Robert Mugabe, Charles Taylor, Tony Blair, Hugo Chavez.

Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.