Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From the New Deal to a Raw Deal

But do you know what people are fed up with most of all?
They’re fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word. They work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table. And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington. They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans. They’re offended by that. And they should be. -- Barack Obama's Speech, 7/25/11

Clueless much?

What should offend most people is the fact that Washington (and that includes Obama) has taken the humanitarian crisis of massive and unrelenting unemployment and turned it into an utterly phony Debt Ceiling/Deficit Crisis. And what passes for TV news has turned journalism on its ear.  Rather than Republican seditionists being called out for what they are, they are given equal time in the name of "fair and balanced".  The pundit class and the President are on the same page in thinking (or pretending to think) that Republicans actually have the interests of the country at heart. Begging traitors and terrorists to make deals is symptomatic not only of political weakness, but a kind of pathological complicity.  And we are supposed to  feel sorry for a beleagured president as he asks us to call Congress and demand some niceties. And help his re-election, of course.

(The fact that John Boehner lied through his teeth in his follow-up riposte should come as no surprise.  Like many a mendacious psychopath, he could probably pass a polygraph test with flying colors -- he has no conscience, no shame.)

Obama took some precious TV bully pulpit prime time and wasted it.  He could have reassured the nation and announced that he would invoke the 14th Amendment and unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. Of course, that would not have been in keeping with the maintenance of National Crisis Mode, and would have ruined the 11th hour rescue in which he unilaterally orders the Debt Ceiling raised anyway, and makes us all so grateful we will become true believers in cutting Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security to save them.  Instead of mouthing the same tired platitudes of shared family sacrifice and timidly "asking" hedge fund managers to pay just a little more, he could have called for an increase in the FICA tax on only the first hundred grand to "protect Social Security for future generations." (Congressman Dennis Kucinich is pointing to the many occasions when Candidate O promised just this option.)

Kucinich asks: "In a lifetime, will our party have journeyed from the New Deal to the Raw Deal?"

Exactly.... and the journey to perdition is commencing at such breathtaking speed, we are left sitting open-mouthed, not knowing what has even hit us. Or, as Paul Krugman put it in his blog today: "Meh, Bleh and Eek."

Update: Speaking of mendacity and cluelessness, Dean Baker now writes that Obama committed a real bad gaffe (or lied) about the origins of the deficit. Obama blamed the trillions number purely on the Bush tax cuts and wars. But according to Baker:

The huge deficits came about entirely as a result of the economic downturn brought about by the collapse of the housing bubble. This misunderstanding of the origins of the budget deficit could explain President Obama’s willingness to make large cuts to core social welfare programs, like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Do you think that Obama's "misunderstanding" has anything to do with the fact that his treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, was chairman of the NY Fed during the bubble and collapse --  that he was asleep at the switch or complicit when the banks were recklessly funding and investing in and selling toxic subprime mortgages?  Or that his current Chief of Staff, Megabanker Bill Daley, was on the board of the public/private Fannie Mae when it was buying up Countrywide mortgages and enriching its CEOs with obscene bonuses even as it too burst from the bubble of its own  greed?  The Oval Office is a corporate racket, notwithstanding the equally corrupt lunatics of the Republican wing of the Uniparty.  Obama's minions are among the tangled web of culprits who helped cause the suffering that just won't stop, the ones who left we the taxpayers holding the bag. Not only have they never been held to account, they have been rewarded with the job of running the  country.  And yet we still wonder why Obama is doing nothing about jobs for the rest of us.


John in Lafayette said...

"What should offend most people is the fact that Washington (and that includes Obama) has taken the humanitarian crisis of massive and unrelenting unemployment and turned it into an utterly phony Debt Ceiling/Deficit Crisis."

Truer words were never spoken.

Whatever happened to cause and effect? Want to increase tax revenue? Put people to work. Want to reduce the cost of entitlements? Put people to work. Want to shore up the Social Security trust fund? Put people to work. This ain't rocket science.

The Republicans are fond of saying we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. But when you start saying the revenue you have means there won't be money to pay for medical care for the elderly and the poor, or that it's not enough to maintain our national parks or help sustain the unemployed, you have to have a pretty warped system of values to say the problem is the spending and not the revenue. This is especially true when you also refuse to cut spending for three wars or the police state apparatus that is the DHS.

Back in college we were taught about John Rawls and his veil of ignorance. The idea is that, in trying to fashion a fair society, you imagine that you have no idea what position you will hold in that society once its laws are established. Rawls is probably rolling over in his grave right now. What sane person would countenance the creation of a society like ours unless (s)he already knew that (s)he'd be in the top 2%?

"You call it England, you call it Spain,
Egypt rules with the whip and chain,
Moses, free my people again,
We're all working for the Pharaoh."

Richard Thompson

Ciara said...

Karen, you've hit multiple nails on the head, as usual. Yes, Obama wasted his TV time. He finally "went to the country," as he should have done numerous times in the last 2-1/2 years and what did ask people to do -- to call their congressmen and tell them To Behave.

And yes, it is all happening at breath-taking speed! The chopping up of SS and M/M - wasn't it just 2-3 years ago that these were the "third rails" of American politics. There's been no big change since then, yet these are not only now thinkable but essential and even somehow virtuous.

I think there's a very big fact of economic life that none of the bigwigs have pointed out as yet. We can be sure that all these cuts will slow the economy down in a major way. IINM, slower economies always produce less tax revenue. So the deficit will actually increase as a result of these false economies!

I can't help but wonder -- does Obama ever think about these things?

James F Traynor said...


Of course he thinks about these things, but his world is not our world, his priorities not our priorities. I sometimes wonder which of these worlds is real, ours or his. Fifty years from now, his will be the real world while ours will be a footnote, like Shays' rebellion or the claim that Benedict Arnold won the Battles of Saratoga (which he did), not Horatio Gates.

Anonymous said...

The Federal Budget is out of balance by more than 40 cents on the dollar that is a lot of missing revenue. The U.S. Is currently borrowing a good percentage of the Total World's GDP, Google it for yourself. That can't go on for ever. It seems we should be talking about raising taxes by how much and on whom?


John in Lafayette said...

Brilliant response to a NYT editorial today from Leah in NYC. I suggest we all follow her advice.


She's number 5.

Karen Garcia said...

I saw that one too and wish I could have given it ten recommendations. Leah suggests that if the country defaults, we should default too, and stop paying our credit card bills.
I can't do that, because I have no credit cards any more. As a result of carrying no debt, my credit score is 0. That should be a plus, but the credit rating agencies think I am un-American. Too bad. I'll just have to find another way to be subversive.

Denis Neville said...

As Jeffrey Sachs said in the Huffington Post/July 23, "America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites. Until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, American militarism will continue to destabilize a growing swath of the world, and the country will continue its economic decline."

However, memories of the 2000 election remain an obstacle for any third party candidate.

As Glenn Greenwald says today, fear-mongering will replace "hope" as Obama's re-election strategy, and like most fear-based campaigns it will be effective.

Greenwald sites “the stunning silence in the face of Obama's efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits (along with his pursuit of a whole slew of other policies ostensibly anathema to liberals)” as evidence that there will not be any mass defection of liberal voters in 2012 to a third party.

The result? A political constituency that slavishly and unconditionally supports Obama and the Democratic Party will inevitably be ignored by Obama and the Democratic Party as The New Deal transforms into the Raw Deal.

What a disaster this is!

James F Traynor said...

A solution, but a dangerous game, would be to deny Obama the presidency and, at the same time, work for and donate to progressive candidates. What we need is revolt within the Democratic Party. Obama, the Clintons and like thinkers must be purged from the party.

Neil Gillespie said...

@Karen Garcia

"Leah suggests that if the country defaults, we should default too, and stop paying our credit card bills." Yes, this is the way to bring change, break the system, revolution will follow.

And given your correct assessment of Obama and, "The Oval Office is a corporate racket, notwithstanding the equally corrupt lunatics of the Republican wing of the Uniparty" attempts at voting for change are futile.

Like you, I have no credit card debt...but those student loans? Even those without debt can become "couch potato" revolutionaries. Stay home, buy the essentials, and nothing else. Starve the corporate consumer beast. Consider it our Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Then kill off the Federal Reserve and world-wide central banks. See why here http://vimeo.com/14924997, or click my name up top to my banking page.

Neil Gillespie

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Why do I have the creepy feeling that something is going on in Washington and within the DNC that is keeping a challenger or Third Party Candidate from running against Obama? I would think, more than ever, that person could expect to gain a lot of support from all of us who are disillusioned and disenfranchised. I have heard it said that no one running against Obama will get the black vote. What a tragic concept as no group has suffered more under Obama's false leadership than African Americans.

If you haven't read it, I encourage all of you to read, "Ralph Nader Is Tired of Running for President." written by Chris Hedges and can be found on Truthdig - which is a GREAT website. Nader's despair and exhaustion from spending a lifetime fighting for a Middle Class that doesn’t appreciate or support what he is trying to do comes through in the interview. We need to get off the fence and start voting for AND SUPPORTING IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE the people who are willing to fight for our interests. If that means "throwing our vote away" then so be it. It is not like Obama is going to be less of a sell-out to the oligarchy if we re-elect him. In fact, if re-elected, Obama and Co. will take it as a mandate (I have grown to hate that word) to keep doing what he is doing.

No, we need to give a clear signal to those in power that we will not accept crumbs and will not be scared into voting for TLOTE (The Lesser of Two Evils) or a Republican. If no one runs, we need to seriously consider getting an organised effort for writing in a candidate like Bernie Sanders who represents the interests of the Middle Class. We can’t afford to wait until 2016 – We need a plan for 2012.

James F Traynor said...

@Valerie Long Tweedie

Hip, hip, hoorah!

I've decided to write in Bernie Sanders. After reading today's Glenn Greenwald I'm even more inclined to believing that we can do it, we can deny Obama the presidency. It is more likely that we can affect a revolt within the Democratic Party than we can create a successful third party. We don't have to organize within the party. There is enough angst within it so that we can succeed in our endeavors by encouraging the alienated members within to organize a coherent opposition.

VLT said...

I just got an e-mail from BoldProgressives - It looks like they are having real success running the recall effort and the election is just two weeks away. They need funds (only asking for $3 - which ever the poorest of us can surely spare) and they need help phoning.

This is a great opportunity to get involved in change and I encourage everyone reading this to do their part. We can't afford to sit back and wait for someone else to fight the good fight for us - We have to get involved. I am even going to phone bank from Australia!

Lafayette - Thanks for the head's up on Leah's comment! I would have missed it otherwise.

James F Traynor said...

I just got a form email from Sen Nelson, Florida. I think he's caved in to Obama.

I wrote that I'd thought he'd definitely caved and that if the leadership of the party sacrificed the legacy of FDR and LBJ that they should rot in hell.

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I had a bit of an epiphany evening last. Here is what is wrong with the two major political parties:

The Republicans long ago forgot that they are the party of Roosevelt - Theodore.

The Democrats long ago forgot that they are the party of Roosevelt - Franklin D.

Well now! That sums things up rather nicely, doesn't it?


Tom Degan

Karen Garcia said...

Yep, that just about nails it. I would call the current two-party joke Dumb and Dumber, but that is too kind. How about Insane and Depressed.

Napoleon said...

Part 1
In assessing president Obama's address to the nation on Monday night, Marie Burns took one position and Karen took another. I don't

accept either of these extremes but adopt instead a balanced and fair assessment, one that is representative of the nation's values and

exemplifies that we are one nation.

On the former, the problem with the president's address was how he said what he said, why he said what he said it, and, in large part,

what he said. On the latter, the president was right in calling upon the people to petition their representatives in Congress and protest

what was going on because this was a vindication of the need for collective public action to take place long in advance of the 2012

presidential primaries and election.

More seriously, what we saw Monday night was a consistent pattern in the president's speeches to careen off course and to gravitate to,

or center around, a persistent identity theme, namely, talking about who he is, what he believes, who the American people are, what they

want, and using innocuous homilies in which to embed the point.

What is missing overall is a narrative style that grasps the need to put to the public an analysis of both the macro conditions and the micro

conditions, how they dangerously interact, and to perform this educational function by emphasizing how Congressional action must take

account of how individuals, like social security beneficiaries, unemployed workers, and distressed home owners, are struggling to

survive under these conditions. Perhaps, a small part of the inability to connect and convey, except with pundits, reflects more of the

president's professional experiences as a professor and organizer, and less of any experiences the president may have had as a

practicing courtroom attorney.

Although people obviously can reasonably disagree, I thought the president erred in speaking first about crafting a budget with cuts and

taxes, and speaking secondly about the debt ceiling. The president should have reversed this and started out by pointing out that prior

presidential and Congressional approval of unfunded wars and tax cuts, the recession, stimulus, and borrowing money from the Social

Security Trust Fund, had resulted in bills coming due whose amounts were greater than the debt ceiling Congress had so far authorized.

This could have been followed by comments such as those he made in the address as to why the Republicans were refusing to increase

the ceiling to make the authorized payments. This however should have been said without complimenting Boehner unless, of course,

similar compliments were made about Reid and Pelosi.

Next, the president could have emphasized that by refusing to lift the ceiling, the deadline of which was near, unless massive spending

cuts were made with no increase in tax revenue, the Republicans were holding as hostage the ability of the country to meet social

security and Medicare payments, to decrease unemployment, and to pay holders of the nation's debt, including many pension funds.

Napoleon said...

Part 2
Following up, the president could have said, that to make such decisions in the space of a few days and with the people having no time

and opportunity to put in their input through their elected representatives and otherwise, would make a travesty of democracy, enhance

the influence of lobbyists, and result in making all kinds of bone-headed decisions.

Finally, the president could have emphasized that putting together a budget of spending cuts and revenue increases should be done

under circumstances where Congress could weigh all the relevant considerations, including the need for a financial transaction tax (given

that such transactions were transferring wealth from the middle class to the rich and the government was receiving no income from the

transactions despite having to bear a lot of expense in monitoring all such transactions), the need for increasing the income limit for

paying social security taxes, the need for general tax reform, the need to create a budget that would reduce unemployment, and the need

to do what's necessary to maintain social security and Medicare benefits.

The president's address didn't go off like this. Democratic leaders need to attack what the president says and what he doesn't say.

Undermining the president's statements is important and doesn't require undermining the president' as a person except insofar as results

collaterally by rational deduction. These are critical things to do irrespective of the positions one takes on the president's values, beliefs,

or on whether to support him for re-election if he runs.

Karen Garcia said...

Democratic leaders need to attack what he says, of course, but thus far, there seem to be no Democratic leaders. Harry Reid is essentially offering a package that the GOP crafted, with no revenue. Barbara Mikulski, one of those putative Dem leaders, has just announced she is "reluctantly" going along with the Reid plan, because otherwise we shall all be destroyed. Call me cynical, but I think this Shock Doctrine of a corporate/Wall Street takeover has been in the works for quite some time. Obama was long on platitudes and short on specifics, because the specifics would have too many people up in arms. Better to keep the masses ignorant, pass something at the last minute and claim victory.
Incidentally, Ralph Nader is organizing in several states to get some primary challengers to come forward. This is a man who is constantly being called a spoiler, esp. in Bush/Gore -- but just remember Gore lost in his own home state in 2000. Obama and the whole Democratic Party are in sore need of some opposition from the left. (the left being defined nowadays as anyone interested in keeping Social Security, some environmental protections and fighting back against too big to fail, taxpayer-subsidized banking behemoths).
Bernie Sanders is not running in any primary, because he is an "Independent Socialist." No other takers, so far. It will take a few brave souls to rise to the challenge, with all the DNC millions Obama is raking in.

Napoleon said...


I don't think the absence of revenue increases in the Reid plan is crucial at this stage. What is crucial is that the plan doesn't include any provision for next year to keep the Bush tax cuts from lapsing. As long as that is intact and Obama doesn't try to prevent the lapsing, then they will lapse and we will get the revenue increase.

Then, if Obama has any kind of values, he either won't support legislation to restore the tax cuts for the middle class or will bargain with the Republicans for restoration of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class only on the condition that there is a law imposing a financial transaction tax to take up the slack. This could result in two new streams of revenue, the end of tax cuts for the rich and a financial transaction tax.

I think the financial transaction tax is important because the ability to engage in an endless number of financial transactions without penalty is one of the main ways in which wealth is siphoned from the middle class to the rich. The Europeans are willing to impose such a tax but need support from the U.S. Even Larry Summers once supported a financial transaction tax.

I agree with the rest of your post. I don't think, however, it is much of a hurdle for Democratic leaders to denounce or undermine Obama's statements, at least not as much of a hurdle as running against him.

Napoleon said...

I just read my posts above. I don't know what caused the bad formatting. I apologize to all readers and will find out the cause, at least, other than my carelessness.

VLT said...

I am sick of “shared” sacrifice that isn't shared and I am sick of Obama “compromising.” It occurs to me that Obama is simply putting forth the oligarchy’s REAL agenda, to start nibbling away at Social Security and Medicare thus weakening the Middle Class, and the so called “conservatives” pretend to stand for such irrational governance that Obama is made to look reasonable (the only adult in the room) in comparison. But the truth is Obama is weak at best and colluding at worst - and possibly both: a weak, colluder. Whatever he is, he isn't a leader and shouldn't be the head of the Democratic Party. The fact that more Democrats aren’t up in arms, says a lot for our party.

As for the debt ceiling – it is a false crisis. The bankers and corporations that run this country are not going to allow the U.S. to default on its debt simply because it would hurt their financial interests considerably. This whole debt ceiling crisis is a way for Obama to get at Social Security and Medicare with the grudging blessing of the Middle Class. I say call them on their bluff – either Obama needs to just raise the debt ceiling himself or he needs to let the corporate Republicans fight it out within their own party. I feel absolutely sure there will be an eleventh hour save and the debt ceiling will be raised. My concern is that we will be going through this fake drama again and again and each time we do, we will have a “reason” to chip away at more and more of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all in the name of “shared sacrifice” and “compromise.”

God bless Ralph Nader. Eighty years old, reviled by the Main Stream Media and by those too lazy to be well-informed (of which group I was a former member), and he is still out there trying to stir up some interest in political action and to find a leader for our little rag-tag progressive group.

Karen Garcia said...

Maybe it's not so much Obama's principles that will keep the Bush tax cuts from expiring again, but fear of the electorate. But I am a pessimist. I foresee him winning the election after running on taxing the rich, then doing an about-face once the last vote is counted. It won't matter if the Democrats retake the House, either. The man is a conservative Republican.
I think a transactional tax on Wall Street is a super idea, especially a tax on the high-speed computerized trades that are really rigging the system. Again, not something Obama has ever campaigned on. (look at Geithner, Daley et al).
All the humanistic economists have left.

VLT said...

Neil says, “Even those without debt can become "couch potato" revolutionaries. Stay home, buy the essentials, and nothing else. Starve the corporate consumer beast. Consider it our Montgomery Bus Boycott."

I couldn't agree more, Neil. Over-consumption of cheap stuff, mostly on credit, has made the Middle Class terribly vulnerable to the banks. On a personal level, the less we buy, the better off we will be. I understand that this doesn't work well for the economy as a whole, but I DO think a boycott of any product made in the Third World country would punish those corporations shipping jobs overseas. It is not too hard with concrete products like the ones we buy at Walmart - and let’s be real with ourselves, most of us have enough clothes in our closets to last us for the next ten years - The problem is those under-the-radar off-shoring products like call centers and x-ray reading services.

Does anyone know of a website that is keeping track of all the off-shored work and products so we could participate in a boycott of those products?

We also should make the effort and be willing to bear the expense of supporting locally grown food as opposed to supporting Big Agra - This is where a liberal really has to "put his/her money where his/her mouths is." We often sit around complaining that our government isn't doing what it is supposed to be doing when there are small ways in which we, too, can hold these corporations accountable by voting with our dollars.

Karen Garcia said...

I haven't been inside a Walmart in over a decade and try to buy food grown locally, shop in locally-owned stores, etc. These places are more expensive but have better quality stuff, so you need less of it. We each of us can belong to our own little resistance movements, each and every day. Anything to feel a bit more empowered, eh?

VLT said...

It is not just feeling empowered, it is supporting and empowering those who are on our side. We can't keep cutting those people who are working for our way of life off at the knees and then wonder what the hell has happened to our Middle Class.