Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Pain Consensus

Prosperity for the ruling class, austerity for the rest of you. So declared the two right wings of the Money Party yesterday as they rolled out a budget agreement that made a mockery of President Obama's recent vow to make alleviating the scourge of record wealth inequality the overriding issue of his second term.

A deal which passive-aggressively condemns more than a million chronically unemployed Americans to lives of destitution while it restores most of the Pentagon sequester cuts actually won praise from the fiscally conservative commander in chief --  by virtue of the fact that the pretend-enemy factions were able to come together to make a deal, any deal, ending the "gridlock" which nobody but the wealthy Beltway insiders pretend to care about.

The 113th Congress

The austerians won another round. The Big Money decreed it, the Big Money guaranteed it. And so, while military spending increases, younger veterans will be subject to chained CPI reductions on their future benefits. Federal workers will contribute more to their pension plans, on top of the effective wage reduction occasioned by the president's three-year pay freeze. Airline travelers already abused by stop and frisk tactics will now be charged an extra fee to defray the cost of the groping experience.

The wealthy will pay nothing. Their tax loopholes will enlarge into gaping chasms. If anything, they will get even richer.

And Congress isn't done yet. If you thought the Democrats would be clamoring for an expansion of the food stamp program at a time when an historic number of people are experiencing food insecurity, think again. The two right wings are currently negotiating over how much money to cut from benefits.  

Taking a cue from the double-talking Barack Obama and his crusade to end human misery by imposing more of it, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow proclaims herself a champion of the downtrodden by dividing the deserving hungry from the undeserving hungry. She is suggesting another $8 billion in SNAP cuts on top of the already $5 billion yanked from the program last month.  In Bipartisan Austerity World, there apparently exists out in the hinterland a secret cabal of lottery winners and other cheats  stuffing their faces with groceries on the public dime. And even worse, some of them are unfairly staying warm in what's looking to be a colder than normal winter. There's apparently a "loophole" that  qualifies people in some states for automatic low income heating assistance, and Stabenow wants to sew it up tight. Her theory must be that people will be shivering so much that they'll forget their stomachs are empty. Oh, and since the Obama budget already had cut LIHEAP by 30% anyway, just think of the added savings when poor families ratchet down the heat from 60 to 55. It'll tie in so nicely with Michelle's Let's Move campaign when the kids have to do jumping jacks just to keep warm.

 Joel Berg, director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, trenchantly observes:
As chair of the Agriculture Committee, she (Stabenow) has it well within her power to propose a farm bill with no additional SNAP cuts whatsoever. The House Republicans have no legal ability to pass additional cuts unless the Senate Democrats and President Obama consent to such cuts. The Democrats should join together in scrapping this horrible bill that slashes food for struggling families while boosting corporate welfare, and instead start from scratch with a brand new farm bill that aids small- to mid-sized family farmers, slashes hunger and boosts rural economic development.
The Democrats are no longer even pretending to represent ordinary people. The only question remaining is how much pain people are willing to endure before they finally SNAP.

Judging from the radio silence, despair reigns over the Feudal States of the Homeland this holiday season.

And here is the third part of the New York Times series on Dasani, the homeless urban child that Barack Obama, Debbie Stabenow and the bipartisan pain caucus want to put on another diet.


James F Tranor said...

When I was a kid we used to swim nekkid at Bare Ass Beach in the South Bronx. It was a narrow strip of cobble, pebble and damn little sand across a railroad marshaling yard from a side street. A kid was posted a slight ways upriver to keep an eye out for raw sewage discharge. When that occurred the warning "Shit tide! Shit Tide!" would go out and we would flee for the shore, until the all clear. Your our sentinel, Karen, but there's damn little 'all clear' and a whole lot of shit.

4Runner said...

I hope all you kids are occasionally checking in on the Pentagon's daily contract grants. Today's list includes $5 billion in procurements by the Defense Logistics Agency for aviation jet fuel. Recipients include Shell Oil (whose cut of the cash bash is $1,359,019,250), Exxon-Mobil, Phillips 66, Valero, etc. Their contracts are "fixed-cost", but with convenient "economic price adjustment" clauses. Yeah, baby, it's cost-plus prosperity, so shush with any of that austerity nonsense.

Jay - Ottawa said...

It strikes me, as we bury Nelson Mandela with honors, that we, the common people of America, find ourselves caught in the formation of a new apartheid. It’s there in the papers every day as we, the many, get pushed further and further down by the few. I speak of course of the split –– the widening chasm –– between we the people, who are now or are in the process of becoming poor and full of fear, and the elites with their hard-fisted enablers in government and industry. Such things don’t happen in a real democracy. The class war is an apartheid based on money, not color. And we find ourselves with no fight, no Mandela.

James F Traynor said...

No, Jay, Mandelas are rare critters, and, when detected by the powers that be, are compromised early on or taken out, one way or another. The cloak of royalty protected Mandela up to a point and, after that, they failed to take him out, though they tried. Killing him, like they did Steve Biko, would have been too dangerous. No, we're going to have to do this without a Mandela.

FredDrumlevitch said...

On the subject of Pentagon (and other) contracting:

1) Partial article at currently linked on the Sardonicky sidebar, full article at via this link:

2) And a different article, from last year:

(By the way, the current CAPTCHA here as I post this is "USAFnk" --- perhaps indicative of the national mood?)

James F Traynor said...

Capitalism has morphed into corporatism which was once a more generalized term including social, even ethnic interest groups. But the power of money, capital, and its particular interest has created a monster in modern corporatism which has much akin to fascism, defined by its founder, Mussolini, as corporate government. Soon it will, I think, replace nationalism in dominance of world affairs. It is the source of the new apartheid. Privatization is one of its mantras.

Jay - Ottawa said...

From the class war to the war on the environment....

Headline: “Federal Pipeline Safety Agency Approves Startup of Keystone XL Southern Half.”

TransCanada says it’s going to start pumping tar sands real soon from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas (485 miles).

Now the cliffhanger: Will President Obama approve construction and operation of the northern half from the Canadian border to Cushing?