I was going to do one of my occasional Parse-a-Presidents today in the wake of yesterday's unusually protracted Obamian assault on the American people. But since Michael Hudson did it first, and did it exceedingly well, I won't be redundant. You can find his smackdown here.
In the midst of all the G-droppin' populist pabulum designed to disguise the reality that Barack Obama considers all of us potential terrorists and wants to continue sweeping up all our phone and internet records, he also signaled that he finds us despicable enough to still want to impose his wildly unpopular chained CPI safety net cuts and other bargains. Now that austerity as an economy-booster has been debunked, he of course must be more circumspect than ever in dog-whistling to the plutocrats of the Fix the Debt crowd. He can no longer brag openly about cutting the deficit better and harder and crueler than any other president in modern history. He dare not openly proclaim his love for Simpson & Bowles. So he was more effective than usual in disguising his hatred under the mask of Populist Hero. Here are the salient weasely parts about the safety net (the parentheses are my own thought-bubbles):
We’ll need Democrats to question old assumptions, be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that no longer work, and embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age. For if we believe that government can give the middle class a fair shot in this new century, we have an obligation to prove it. (Grandma eating three meals a day is one of their sacred cows. Get over it. Be bold and cut her off at the knees. Bring on the cat food. Since the middle class can never get ahead because of his Wall Street-friendly policies and the Wall Street crowd that makes up his cabinet, he'll just keep dusting off the generational theft canard so beloved of David Brooks.)
And we’ll need Republicans in Congress to set aside short-term politics and work with me to find common ground. The fact is, there are Republicans in Congress right now who privately agree with me on many of the ideas I’ll be proposing, but worry they’ll face swift political retaliation for saying so. Others will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or because they have a fundamentally different vision for America – one that says inequality is both inevitable and just; one that says an unfettered free market without any restraints inevitably produces the best outcomes, regardless of the pain and uncertainty imposed on ordinary families. (his people are meeting with the Republican leadership even as we speak, to try and hammer out a Grand Bargain and set up another phony debt ceiling crisis to make him come smelling like a rose at the bitter end. It'll be something along the lines of cutting Social Security and raising the Medicare age in exchange for them not de-funding Obamacare. Just you wait.)
In either case, I say to these members of Congress: I am laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. Now it’s time for you to lay out yours. If you’re willing to work with me to strengthen American manufacturing and rebuild this country’s infrastructure, let’s go. If you have better ideas to bring down the cost of college for working families, let’s hear them. If you think you have a better plan for making sure every American has the security of quality, affordable health care, stop taking meaningless repeal votes and share your concrete ideas with the country. If you are serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces the mindless cuts currently in place, or tax reform that closes corporate loopholes and gives working families a better deal, I’m ready to work – but know that I will not accept deals that do not meet the test of strengthening the prospects of hard-working families. (Like any good passive-aggressive liar, he is laying out ideas like a rug. And here again is the clue that he will cut programs that benefit the retired, the disabled, the poor: he limits his great deals to working families. Contrary to what the Pope said the other day, old and disabled and prematurely and permanently unemployed-because-they-gave-up people are not part of the American dream equation. He does not mention them. They don't produce anything for Late Capitalism.)
We’ve come a long way since I first took office. As a country, we’re older and we’re wiser. And as long as Congress doesn’t manufacture another crisis – as long as we don’t shut down the government just as the economy is getting traction, or risk a U.S. default over paying bills we’ve already racked up – we can probably muddle along without taking bold action. Our economy will grow, though slower than it should; new businesses will form, and unemployment will keep ticking down. Just by virtue of our size and our natural resources and the talent of our people, America will remain a world power, and the majority of us will figure out how to get by. ( He must be dying for a cigarette as he nears the end of his harangue, so his speech-writers put in the Virginia Slims marketing slogan to ease the nicotine craving. He's come a long way, baby. And he's dragged you right along with him. By your feet, face down, choking in the fumes),
But if that’s our choice – if we just stand by and do nothing in the face of immense change – understand that an essential part of our character will be lost. Our founding precept about wide-open opportunity and each generation doing better than the last will be a myth, not reality. The position of the middle class will erode further. Inequality will continue to increase, and money’s power will distort our politics even more. Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, and the fundamental optimism that has always propelled us forward will give way to cynicism or nostalgia. (To show that he still has some lingering fear of the Occupy movement, which he was so instrumental in quashing by virtue of both police state repression and co-optation by MoveOn, he offers some lip service to income inequality without actually offering to do one damned thing about it. But by 'putting it out there', he does manage to fool some of the people at this particular sometime.)
That’s not the vision I have for this country. That’s not the vision you have for this country. That is not the America we know. That’s not a vision we should settle for, or pass on to our children. I have now run my last campaign. I do not intend to wait until the next one before tackling the issues that matter. I care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s how to use every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term to make this country work for working Americans again. Because I believe this is where America needs to go. I believe this is where the American people want to go. It may seem hard today, but if we are willing to take a few bold steps – if Washington will just shake off its complacency and set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship we’ve seen these past few years – our economy will be stronger a year from now. And five years from now. And ten years from now. More Americans will know the pride of that first paycheck; the satisfaction of flipping the sign to “Open” on their own business; the joy of etching a child’s height into the door of their brand new home. (this is over-the-top demagogy, even for Obama. Actually, this is the America we know. And drone strikes and authoritarianism are who Obama is. Did you ever notice the human shields he uses as back-drops at all these speeches? They clap, they cheer. But their faces remain impassive. Are they on drugs? Does the NSA vet these people for original thought before they're allowed in? Are they promised a plea deal if they cooperate? Where the heck were the hecklers at this shindig?)
After all, what makes us special has never been our ability to generate incredible wealth for the few, but our ability to give everyone a chance to pursue their own true measure of happiness. We haven’t just wanted success for ourselves – we’ve wanted it for our neighbors, too. That’s why we don’t call it John’s dream or Susie’s dream or Barack’s dream – we call it the American Dream. That’s what makes this country special – the idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from or who you love – you can make it if you try. (the incredibly wealthy will continue to get incredibly wealthier. And they of the ruling class retain their ability to give you a chance of scrambling for the meager leftovers the politicians throw your way, He, Barack of Barackistan, will boldly admit to being one of them, will make them all feel less guilty by pronouncing that it is their good intentions that count, not the deeds that they never get around to actually doing. It's the process, not the policy, that keeps him going at an unbelievably high and probably faked 45% approval rating. The Republicans playing the part of fools in Congress will comedically thwart his every good intention, so it will never be his fault if you suffer and die. His function is to be perceived as caring. And that is all, folks.)As I pointed out yesterday in a Times comment, that little House rebellion against the Spy Who Pretends to Love Us did bring out in glaring relief that the myth of Congressional partisan gridlock is just that -- pure fiction. Call it the Snowden Effect. Contrived political gridlock is the magical glue what keeps the rich rich and the rest of us in our places. When Michele Bachmann embraces Barack Obama, you know it's not GOP vs. Democrat, ignorant white racist bitch vs. beleaguered black politician. It's rich vs. poor. It's the powerful against the powerless. For one brief shining moment, they let their masks fall off. We always knew who the Republicans were, and now we know who the real populists are. You may find some of the results surprising. I did, despite my cynicism. For example, I always thought Jan Schakowsky was a decent sort. Then again, she's from Illinois, and knows better than to mess with the controlling purse strings of the toothsome mob boss.
Glenn Greenwald has more on the fakery. Be sure to give him a read.