Saturday, February 9, 2013

Barack the Unbalanced

Millions of people are stranded or without power and heat today in the aftermath of the fifth or maybe sixth Storm of the Century to have hit in the past year, the direct result of a stunning lack of attention to climate change on the part of our leaders. Millions of us remain unemployed and underemployed, a fifth of us are in poverty, with almost half us in danger of becoming destitute within three months of a job loss or other catastrophe. Fifty million still lack basic health care. And millions of those who do have insurance still can't afford to see a doctor because of high copays and deductibles. We cannot afford to retire because our savings and pension plans have been wiped out by financial criminals who not only caused the economic collapse of 2008, but who now continue to rob, cheat and steal with impunity thanks to the complicity of our bought-and-paid-for public officials.

To add insult to injury, we have a president who has given himself the power to imprison or even kill us without charge and without trial. And what's even more chilling is that the vast majority of Americans are totally fine with this state of affairs. They reassure themselves that they will never be put on a Terror Tuesday kill list, or have their movements monitored, or be thrown in prison because of their ethnicity or journalism. They have given their president a 60% approval rating.

But maybe, just maybe, the vast majority of us will not be complacent for very much longer if Barack Obama gets his way. This morning in his weekly radio address, he finally delivered what is essentially a coup de grace to the American people. You may not yet be in danger of drones, but you're definitely on a Kill List. He starts out with a huge whopper of a Big Lie right in his very first paragraph. And he never lets up. Rather than comforting the victims of the many storms assailing us, he foments the fear. He presents a Code Red Threat Level:
Hi, everybody. Over the last few years, Democrats and Republicans have come together and cut our deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. That’s more than halfway towards the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists and elected officials from both parties say we need to stabilize our debt.
This deserves a Pinocchio nose the length of three football fields. Obama agreed to 100% cuts and zero revenue during the Debt Ceiling manufactured crisis of 2011. The second round, during Feckless Cliff Theater, gleaned only 30% revenue to 70% cuts. (see chart below). Moreover, not one legitimate economist has ever espoused reducing the deficit by $4 trillion, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. That toxic idea comes straight from Wall Street, straight from the plutocrats of the Fix the Debt campaign, and it's being kept alive by the echo chamber of inside-the-Beltway corporate media hacks. Barry the Unbalanced either needs some remedial 'rithmetic or an extended stay in an ethics rehab facility. 

Pies Don't Lie, Barry!

I believe we can finish the job the same way we’ve started it – with a balanced mix of more spending cuts and more tax reform. And the overwhelming majority of the American people agree – both Democrats and Republicans.

He doesn't so much want to finish the job as he wants to finish you off, as per his presidential candidacy audition, way back in 2006, to the Rubinites of the Goldman Sachs-funded Hamilton Project. The only reason that deficit reduction is the Number Three concern of those polled is because of that concentrated, relentless media propaganda campaign convincing them we have a fiscal crisis. Barry fails to mention that the top concern of all Americans happens to be JOBS.
Now, my preference – and the preference of many Members of Congress – is to do that in a balanced, comprehensive way, by making sensible changes to entitlement programs and reforming our tax code. As we speak, both the House and Senate are working towards budget proposals that I hope will lay out this kind of balanced path going forward.

"Sensible" changes for the continued enrichment of the plutocracy equal cruel changes for everyone else. The raising of the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and the chained CPI method of impoverishing already struggling retirees and veterans and disabled people remain on his table. The reformation of the tax code, rather than the scrapping of the FICA contribution cap or the imposition of a Wall Street transaction tax, is the exact same policy that Mitt Romney campaigned on. Rombama lives. Or is it Obamney? 
But the budget process takes time. And right now, if Congress doesn’t act by March 1, a series of harmful, automatic cuts to job-creating investments and defense spending – also known as the sequester – are scheduled to take effect. And the result could be a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole.
Time's a wastin'. Billionaire Shadow President Pete Peterson of the Third Way, the Council on Foreign Relations and Fix the Debt, is getting antsy. Ergo, Obama is sounding more and more like the trickle-down Reaganite he truly is. "Job-creating investments" and defense spending will help the middle class. Uh-huh. When Obama refers to "our economy" he is of course referring to the unregulated, reckless, and feckless free market -- not you. So now, it's time for him to pivot to some heavy-duty fear-mongering: 

If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or clean energy are likely to be laid off. Firefighters and food inspectors could also find themselves out of work – leaving our communities vulnerable. Programs like Head Start would be cut, and lifesaving research into diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s could be scaled back. Small businesses could be prevented from getting the resources and support they need to keep their doors open. People with disabilities who are waiting for their benefits could be forced to wait even longer. All our economic progress could be put at risk.

You're all gonna DIE. America will become Max Max's Thunderdome. Your kids will turn stupid as they wander the filthy streets, your houses will burn down, a plague of disease and senility will descend upon this great land, only Walmart will be left standing to squeeze every last nickel out of you, people will thrown out of their wheelchairs and rendered incapable of even reaching a dumpster for their next meal, which will have been poisoned anyway owing to layoffs of food inspectors. Oh, and Wall Street will get the vapors. All because of a crisis manufactured with the full cooperation and connivance of the executive and legislative branches, for the sole purpose of providing a fig leaf for no less damaging (because they will be permanent) cuts to social programs.

And then there’s the impact on our military readiness. Already, the threat of deep cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf. As our military leaders have made clear, changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats in an unstable part of the world. And we will be forced to make even more tough decisions in the weeks ahead if Congress fails to act.

He won't be able to kill as many people or occupy as many countries or drone as many drones? His Kill List will resemble a frayed baseball card collection that loses all its value? Well.... okay.
The good news is, there’s another option. Two months ago, we faced a similar deadline, and instead of making deep, indiscriminate cuts that would have cost us jobs and slowed down our recovery, Democrats and Republicans came together and made responsible cuts and manageable changes to our tax code that will bring down our deficit. This time, Congress should pass a similar set of balanced cuts and close more tax loopholes until they can find a way to replace the sequester with a smarter, longer-term solution.

See above charts. The Feckless Cliff Aversion Act punished the poor and gifted the rich. We let the Social Security tax holiday expire for no apparent reason. People have less money to spend. People still have no jobs, no health care, no retirement savings. Nonetheless, Obama wants you to feed what little you do have into the voracious maw of the ruling class. Work till you die, if you're lucky enough to still have a low-wage job, so that your betters can maintain, even improve, the lifestyles to which they are accustomed. Be placated as they close the tax loopholes of the wealthy with their flimsy thread, be ignorant as they wait thirty seconds before sewing them all up again.

Right now, most Members of Congress – including many Republicans – don’t think it’s a good idea to put thousands of jobs at risk and do unnecessary damage to our economy. And yet the current Republican plan puts the burden of avoiding those cuts mainly on seniors and middle-class families. They would rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy.

Republicans want you to suffer. Your president wants you to suffer too, but only when he can call it even by easily making Lloyd Blankfein give up the tax deduction on his Lear jet. Temporarily, that is. Because once the retirement and Medicare age goes up, there will be no givebacks to poor people, who don't have lobbyists at their beck and call.
Over the last few years, we’ve made good progress towards reducing our deficit in a balanced way. There’s no reason we can’t keep chipping away at this problem. And there’s certainly no reason that middle-class families and small businesses should suffer just because Washington couldn’t come together and eliminate a few special interest tax loopholes, or government programs that just don’t work. At a time when economists and business leaders from across the spectrum have said that our economy is poised for progress, we shouldn’t allow self-inflicted wounds to put that progress in jeopardy.
There is no good reason why we should be worrying about the deficit at all. Chipping away at it serves no useful purpose and will, in fact, make recovery even more difficult. Barack the Unbalanced disingenuously does not admit that the very austerity he is espousing is a self-inflicted wound. Actually, that is not quite right. The wound he is inflicting is on us, not on him or his Wall Street backers. And anyway, Congress could repeal the self-inflicted wound of sequestration any time it wants to. It obviously does not want to, preferring instead to use it as a manufactured crisis to give cover for austerity and the continued unraveling of our social safety net. 

So my message to Congress is this: let’s keep working together to solve this problem. And let’s give our workers and our businesses the support they need to grow and thrive. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Psssst! Hey, Congress and fellow plutocrats. Let's work together to gin up another phony crisis and the rubes'll never know what hit them. Together we will grow and thrive. See you on the slippery slopes.

Share the Sacrifice


Denis Neville said...

“I'm not absolutely certain of the facts, but I rather fancy it's Shakespeare who says that it's always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping.” - P.G. Wodehouse, Carry on, Jeeves

Obama is more like something out of Dickens than anything human.

Members of Congress are not any better. When jackasses and elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled and we the people are the grass.

Solemn austerian politicians, upper servants of the elites, grind the faces of the poor. Add the following to all the insults and injuries that Karen lists:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) benefits will be cut for all participants in November 2013, causing significant hardship for 22 million children (ten million of whom live in deep poverty) and nine million people who are elderly or have a serious disability. It will be the equivalent of taking away 24 meals per month for a family of four, or 18 meals for a family of three. Since current SNAP benefits are already inadequate, this cut will significantly increase the number of poor households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.

Hunger causes only the faintest ripple in upper society, like soup in a poor restaurant, better left unstirred.

“May the hearthstone of hell be their bed rest forever!” - Old Irish Curse

Kat said...

I'm not really sure how you tolerate listening to these weekly addresses, but I'm glad you do.
Politicians and the press-- they keep us worried about trivialities and ignore the real threats. They've been doing this for years-- well, decades actually. Back in the end of history days when everything was just fine and dandy and the biggest worry for the economy was "is it growing too fast?" (or so we were told) remember all the child in distress stories-- why if they weren't under the influence of the satanists at their daycare center they were being snatched off the street. Now we have the deficit bogeyman.

James F Traynor said...

Haven't had as good a laugh in days! Really wonderful.
Takes the women to do it.

Patricia said...

There is NO recovery and there isn't going to be one. Not one politician has mentioned poverty. No one cares about access to healthcare for everyone. It's status quo for everyone in the 1%, while the rest of us slide into serfdom to corporations. If you don't do it calmly and quietly, maybe, there will be a drone, coming to a neighborhood near you.

James F Traynor said...

I try not to listen to Obama at all - very irritating. As a matter of fact I seldom listen to politicians at all and I don't read anything by Friedman or Brooks. I don't even look at Brooks or Friedman - the impulse to seize their throats and squeeze is overwhelming.

spreadoption said...

Yeah, the only politician I can stand to watch or listen to is Bernie Sanders. He sure is persistent! The rest I don't trust. I've developed a very fast reflex to hit the Off button when any of the others come on.

I am looking forward to whatever Elizabeth Warren can stir up, but I'm not allowing myself to be hopeful. She and a few others will never amount to more than 5% of the Senate that we can count on. Geithner didn't want her within a hundred miles of the CFPB she created, so of course, Obama blocked her from chairing it, hoping she would just go away. Now that she's in the Big Club, as George Carlin called it, I suspect she will become "duly respectful" and will just fade into grey.

Meanwhile, our guy, Ron Wyden, long-time "liberal",is being hailed by progressives for speaking up against the drones. How quickly we forget that not long ago he partnered up with chief Very Serious Person, Paul Ryan, for the Wyden-Ryan Breakthrough Bipartisan Plan to reform Medicare. No, I won't forget that! Isn't it treason when you conspire to harm your fellow countrymen?

Chris Hedges seems to assume that sooner or later we will have a revolution, the 99% against the 1% - an American Spring. I'm not so sure. The way we folks are, I think that if a revolution did get started it's more likely to devolve into a civil war. It may be in the epigenetics of too many of us Americans that it's every man for himself (Oh, and bring along the women and children too, if you can).

People all around me want me to give up and just accept my powerlessness. The Dalai Lama says, What is, is. On the one hand, I'm coming to agree with all that. On the other hand, I can't. And so I find micrograms of hope here in the Sardonicky community, and as others have said, I'll just keep on doing what I do. It ain't much, but who knows...

Denis Neville said...

@ spreadoption - re: micrograms of hope

“Our system is one of detachment: to keep silenced people from asking questions, to keep the judged from judging, to keep solitary people from joining together, and the soul from putting together its pieces.” –Eduardo Galeano, “Divorces”

I’ve been chasing rainbows all my life. They are my favorite color. Today those rainbows are missing. Where did they end? In my soul, or on the far horizon? The winds are howling across our barren moral landscape.

“The vulgar sham of the pompous feast
Where the heaviest purse is the highest priest;
The organized charity, scrimped and iced,
In the name of a cautious, statistical Christ.”
- John Boyle O'Reilly, 19th-century Bostonian and Irish-born poet

Bugger them all!

“Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it's broken, but you can still see the crack in that motherfucker's reflection.” - Lady Gaga

Wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless? I think not!

Despite these pitiless storms of life, we must somehow struggle to put rainbows back in the hopes and dreams of the powerless.

Imagination is the only key to the future. Without it none exists. With it all things are possible.

spreadoption said...

Thanks, Denis. "Despite these pitiless storms of life, we must somehow struggle to put rainbows back in the hopes and dreams of the powerless. Imagination is the only key to the future. Without it none exists. With it all things are possible." Yes.

Just read the following about Allen Ginsberg, on hope:

"Barbara Lubin tells the story of a dinner with Allen Ginsberg. She was talking about Rwanda, Iraq, and Palestine. “None of the news was good,” she recounts, “and we were getting more and more depressed. I turned to Allen and asked, ‘So, Allen, where’s the hope?’ Allen jumped up, taking the table and the food with him. He was furious. ‘Fuck hope,’ he yelled. ‘It’s not about hope. You don’t do what you do because you hope things will get better. It’s about getting up every morning and asking yourself what’s the right thing to do and doing it.”"