Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Pelosi Pity Party

Mitt Romney was rightly castigated for his "binders full of women" remark at the same town hall presidential debate in which the binding and gagging of two female Green Party candidates precluded any real discussion of human rights.

 And now there's the trumped-up angst over Barack Obama keeping his own female Democratic minority leader in such a bind. For it is now Nancy Pelosi's onerous task to become loyal marionette to the martinet in the Oval Office. She has accepted the challenge to lead the Party of FDR over a right-wing cliff.

Her current job description: getting her caucus to cut Social Security earned benefits and still get away with pretending they're on the side of the same people that they will condemn to pain and an earlier death. Will Democrats win votes by reasonableness? Does compromise with nihilist Republicans trump the well-being of Grandma? Is anybody questioning why such a question is even being asked?

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or, in multimillionaire Nancy's case, a diamond and a continuing seat at the Obamian Wall Street Roundtable.

The Grand Bargain for the Grandees puts her in such a difficult situation, commiserates Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who very centristically balances loyalty for his fabulously wealthy friend with his concern for his own struggling constituents. Instead of outright condemning a Grand Betrayal, he is in ruminating mode: "The question is, are you going to balance the budget on the backs of seniors who have already paid into the system?" he mused. From The Hill,
Cummings also noted a political advantage in the openness of Obama and Pelosi on the chained CPI: “They're trying to show that they are being reasonable,” he said. “It shows the public that if a deal is not struck, it's not our fault.”
Cummings said, despite liberals' reservations about the chained CPI, there's near-unanimous faith in Pelosi to protect the Democrats' ideals.
"She finds a way to bring her party to some type of consensus," he said. "It may not be 100 percent, but consensus."
These clowns are still operating under the false impression that the public gives a crap about whether an elite group of One Percenters can strike a deal among themselves. More than 90% of Americans, according to polls, do not want Social Security benefits decreased, tweaked, protected or improved -- unless it is to raise or scrap the cap on currently regressive FICA contributions. But you wouldn't know it from the corporate coverage, framing the issue around the professional juggling act of an obscenely rich politician who has already and very truthfully allowed that she, personally, can "live with" chained CPI.

Of course, making the story about personalities rather than the real issues makes it easier for the plutocracy-funded media functionaries to function. The fact that Social Security has added not one penny to the deficit, and should not even be included in budget talks, is a secondary sidebar in typical coverage of the political theater.

To further illustrate how far right the Democrats have gone in the Age of Obama is today's New York Times editorial praising Senate Democrats for their own deficit-hawkish, conservative milquetoast of a budget and totally ignoring the more liberal document released by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Readers' comments rightly castigated the Times for this glaring oversight. 

And while Paul Krugman, the lone token liberal voice at the newspaper, did mention the jobs-promoting progressive budget in his last column, he failed utterly to mention the president's role in steering his party into Republicanville. I corrected this obviously inadvertent oversight in my own comment:
President Obama is not impressed with any plan, whether by moderate Democrats or progressive Democrats, that does not include gratuitous cuts to the social safety net.
As Dean Baker points out, Obama's deficit-cultish "balanced approach" does, in fact. favor the wealthy. His chained CPI plan would slash Social Security benefits by 6% after 20 years. For the average retiree, whose benefits amount to two-thirds of her total income, this amounts to a 2% total net reduction in cash flow. But for a couple earning over $450,000, the hit will only be .07% of total income, based on the fiscal cliff tax plan enacted at the beginning of the year. The poor, in effect, will be sacrificing at triple the rate of the rich.
Paul Ryan's plan may be a pathological joke, but he is simply playing his extremist part of court jester in the class war. Obama, on the other hand, is deadly serious as he pressures his own party to join him in what can only be described as a narcissistic exercise in presidential legacy-burnishing.
He seems to be maligning our great social insurance programs as addictive candy that the Democratic children simply must give up for Lent. This, despite the fact that chronic and unaddressed joblessness means that more minor dependents and their surviving parents, veterans, and retirees are falling into poverty.  
(this is the part where I say Obama is full of shit, in censorproof Times-speak) Politicians who persist in calling Social Security a "sacred cow" in this time of economic trouble are not only insulting and cruel. They're full of bull.
Meanwhile, about that progressive Back to Work Budget: I tend to agree with John Stauber, the (retired) founder of the Center for Media and Democracy, that this is just the latest going-nowhere-fast manifesto which, along with the new Organizing for Action Obama astroturf slush fund, is just one more empty, slippery aspirational straw for the veal pen inmates to suck on, just a convenient cover for the real corporate movers and shakers of the Democratic establishment to rake in cash and pursue their Wall Street-enabling agenda. Stauber's recent piece in CounterPunch is well worth a read.

Real change only comes from the outside. Rights are not going to be bestowed upon us by any group of politicians, no matter how progressive the message. Rights are something to be grabbed, something that we must bestow upon ourselves. 


James F Traynor said...

I don't think the American people have the guts for the struggle. In a way, I don't blame them. The political parties, the federal and state governments have been preparing for the sort of political unrest that never comes. If it did come, they would act swiftly and ruthlessly. We got a taste of that with Occupy. And a fair size of the American public would be with them, out of fear, if nothing else. At his point I don't think there's a way out of our dilema in the present political system.

James F Traynor said...

Strike 'dilema'. 'It's dilemma'.

What I'm saying, really, is that there is really no way out of this but violence. Forced upon us, yes (and it will be should we have an 'Arab Spring') but violence nevertheless. It won't be a revolution, but a civil war.

Zee said...


How short your memory is! If you think that Nancy Pelosi is an UNWILLING sock puppet for Obama and his efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare, think again!

I suggest you re-read Throw Them All Out! by Peter Schweizer, and refresh your memory on just how big a self-dealing crook she and her husband have been through the years.

She does not now--nor has she ever--cared about Mr. and Mrs. Man on the Street.

Denis Neville said...

John Stauber is right. Rich liberal DINOs, like the Repugs, think all the nation’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. But that is bullshit. The laws of justice and mercy are what separate us from rats and roaches.

We live during a time in which violence is right before our eyes - the structural violence of economic domination and exploitation, vulture capital-labor relations, and the everyday violence against the nobodies - women, children, disabled, elderly, and all those excluded by our political and social system.

“Events of massive, public suffering defy quantitative analysis. How can one really understand statistics? Do numbers really reveal the agony, the interruption, the questions that these victims put to the meaning and nature of our individual lives and life as a whole?” – Rebecca Chopp, The Praxis of Suffering

They are supposed to be the great defenders of human rights. They say they are against poverty, but their actions reveal that they are not at all bothered by inequality. America does less than almost any other rich democracy to limit social and economic inequality. They say very little about these social and economic inequalities. Their political agenda does not include the powerless and the poor. How can they distance inequality from poverty?

They proclaim they are humane, but do they have any idea what it means to be sick and poor in this era of globalization? The most basic human rights, the right to survive and the freedom from want, have been lost in this new gilded age. Neoliberal cant conceals and even justifies these assaults on human dignity. Human rights violations are pathologies of power and the terrorism of money – the Wall Street banksters.

The silence of the poor is conditioned, imposed from above. But underneath that silence is anger born of countless small indignities and great irremediable ones.

“The headlong stream is termed violent
But the river bed hemming it in is
Termed violent by no one.
The storm that bends the birch trees
Is held to be violent
But how about the storm
That bends the backs of the roadworkers?”
- Bertolt Brecht, “On Violence”

Jay - Ottawa said...

As we are all dragged into this circling around the drain of Obama’s Grand Bargain, I am beset with deja vu. Remember the Backus slow motion merry-go-round, which led us back to the beginning. The Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – turned out to be the same old healthcare system, still broken but now on steroids, the perfect present to Big Insurance.

Pollsters told us most Americans were for single payer. They would even settle for a public option. Obama ignored their needs and their wants. He doubled down on the broken system that provided substandard care, weakened Medicare and bankrupted millions. Single payer and public option were dead on arrival when Obama took office.

Now Washington armed with knives is dancing around Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as helpless as three captives lashed to a post and braced for the worst. From the looks of it, these programs don’t have a chance. Just a matter of time before they are cut back and privatized.

Anything – ANYTHING! – so that Obama can bring Republicans around to the realization there is no need for a Romney or a Ryan or filibuster. They have him.

Denis Neville said...

What is the central moral issue of our national politics today?

On the tenth anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq, recall that Obama once declared the Iraq war “a success” and "an extraordinary achievement."

Sami Ramadani writes about that “extraordinary achievement,"

"Nothing is more difficult than the recognition of dishonor at the very center of national authority. The quick tendency on the part of those resisting that recognition is to rally around desperately contrived images of pseudo-honor - to insist that 'good men have made honest mistakes' - and to mobilize this amorphous imagery via the mass media on behalf of blocking precisely the moral probing and self-questioning that might initiate the kind of shift we are discussing. For such a shift would call forth an ancient principle of responsibility dating from the beginnings of Western civilization, one all too rarely upheld but never fully forgotten: namely, that mortal and fallible men of mixed virtue, at a critical moment, have taken their people down the wrong ethical path, and have had their honor - their integrity and intactness - profoundly compromised." - Robert Jay Lifton, Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans, Neither Victims nor Executioners

Pearl said...

Nancy Pelosi comes from the group that believes you can never be too thin or too rich. I got her number early on in the game when she answered a question during a discussion on TV about the new health care system Obama was pushing for with her help. "What about a window for a public option clause in this voluminous health care plan?" an audience member asked. "It is off the table!" she replied arrogantly while making a sweeping motion with her hand illustrating clearing a table. Then continued warning us what would happen if Obama was denied his dream for all of us.

I never changed my opinion of her after that which was proved many times over by further sleazy tactics, imitating Obama's style. I think she IS too thin and too rich and too artificially young looking as well. (?)

CitiZen said...

"If you don't have a lobbyist in DC, you aren't at the table, you're on the menu."

So true. Spoken in a moment of lucidity by S. Palin.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Good post here and good comment at Krugman's Friday column, Karen. (A typo by you: The Dean Baker calculation for the wealthy is 0.7%, not .07%; but the 3-fold difference you cited regarding the sacrifice asked is correct).

You've probably seen my comment at Krugman's column. I hope you don't mind that I piggy-backed my comment as a reply to yours. (Yes, I did realize that you were restraining yourself so as not to be censored by the Times). Not being one of their privileged commenters, my comments, if they even appear, usually end up several hundred down the line no matter how early I post. So since my comments are essentially disappearing into the ether, I usually don't bother commenting there anymore, but in this case, I did. Ultimately, it made little difference that I piggy-backed, they delayed putting up my comment until after probably the majority of Krugman's comments readers had finished reading. Only three "thumbs up", though that may be as much due to the Obamabots reading the NYT disliking my bluntness as from the tardiness of my comment's appearance! Anyway, if you don't mind, I'll repeat it here:

"Karen, you have been too diplomatic as regards Dr. Krugman's own sins of omission, ignoring them entirely. By my reckoning --- based on my own searches using Lexis-Nexis, Google, and New York Times search tools --- today's mention of a Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposal by name is the first time Dr. Krugman has done so within the pages of the New York Times since his "Let’s Take a Hike" column of April 24, 2011.

Surely in the nearly two years since that column, Dr. Krugman has had ample opportunity to draw attention to CPC proposals while still maintaining journalistic integrity and economic objectivity.

If even avowed public liberals will not even mention --- let alone vigorously advocate and fight for --- moderately progressive budget proposals such as those from the CPC, then shills for the plutocracy such as Ryan and Obama and the "Blue Dog" Democrats will be more than happy to take up the slack with their own destructive legislation."


Thanks for calling attention to the John Stauber piece at Counterpunch. And I too am beginning to feel suspicion about the CPC having been co-opted as part of "veal-penning". It's still possible that they are just incompetent at proper advocacy. No question that the mass media is suppressing their message, but if they are to be considered serious, then they need to find alternative ways to disseminate their message and instigate significant popular pressure in favor of their proposals. That they seem unwilling to do so, instead year after year just cranking out new proposals that go nowhere, is not promising.

You're right, Karen, in your statement here that "Rights are not going to be bestowed upon us by any group of politicians, no matter how progressive the message. Rights are something to be grabbed, something that we must bestow upon ourselves."

Hear, hear!

Pearl said...

Maybe this is the beginning of democratic criticism of Obama and in the Wall Street Journal yet!

My Unrecognizable Democratic Party via @WSJ

James F Traynor said...

The first article I read about the Cypriot raid on the accounts of ordinary bank depositors to share in the reimbursement of bailout money mentioned that the action met with the approval of the IMF (international monetary fund). I found this interesting since the IMF is essentially the U.S. ( I was going to write 'us' but since we are no longer 'U.S.' the latter is more accurate). Then I realized this to be just another indication that the 1% are global, no longer national. It is a consortium of crooks, an international mafia. There is no longer a system of laws, national or international, that they do not either control or unduly influence. They are human predators.