Friday, February 21, 2014

Yank That Chain

I'm confused. How can President Obama claim that he is officially flushing his chained CPI method of starving old people but at the same time promise that, if the Republicans get hungry enough, he'll gladly snake his austerity plan right back out of the toilet? And that he'll place millions of already discarded, partially digested human carcasses right back on the dining table for the further delectation of the plutocrats?

 From AP:
Obama is scrapping his previous offer to trim cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs. That idea had been a central component of his long-term debt-reduction strategy, even though it was considered odious by many Democrats.
While (Deputy Press Sec. Josh) Earnest and other officials said that trims in benefit cost-of-living adjustments remain on the table should Republicans choose to bargain, Democrats cheered the decision to keep them out of the budget.
"I applaud President Obama for his important decision to protect Social Security," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who last week organized a letter signed by himself and 15 Senate Democrats calling on the president to refrain from benefit cuts in his budget. "With the middle class struggling and more people living in poverty than ever before, we cannot afford to make life even more difficult for seniors and some of the most vulnerable people in America."
Too bad the allegedly socialist Bernie didn't also demand that Social Security benefits  be increased so that older people and other vulnerables won't have to choose between heating and eating. Too bad he didn't demand that the contribution cap on FICA taxes be scrapped so that our great social insurance program will remain solvent into perpetuity. Maintaining the status quo of ordinary people clinging to life by the skin of their teeth is about the best we can hope for in the Feudal States of America.

Meanwhile, here's my comment to Paul Krugman's latest column, about the woefully tragic Stimulus of 2009:

 When our compromised leaders swallowed the poison pill of austerity, it acted upon them like an aphrodisiac. The fiscal solution of inflicting pain on the masses while enriching the financial miscreants beyond their wildest dreams is an addiction they just can't quit. Deficit reduction is now entrenched in their very DNA. And it's killing us.
The one antidote to their deficit disease is the bloated military budget. Because when it comes to funding the war machine and spying on us, the sky's the limit.
But every domestic policy plan even minimally benefiting ordinary people is treated as a terrorist threat. It either has to be deficit neutral, or the poor must be robbed to pay for the poor. For the first time ever, both parties agreed that the ill-fated extension of jobless benefits required a pay-for. Even then, it was DOA.
On the White House website there are five reasons why we should love the food-stamp cutting Farm Bill, Guess what Number One is? It contributes to long-term deficit reduction!
When 16 senators successfully demanded that the president spare Social Security from the budgetary axe, they also praised him for reducing the deficit, even though SS doesn't contribute to the almighty deficit.
The subtext -- that austerity is a virtue -- survives. A grand bargain offer of cuts still stands, if only the GOP's sugar daddies agree to relinquish maybe .00000000000001% of their own wealth in order to "share the sacrifice" with starving people with no jobs.


Fred Drumlevitch said...

I think that part of the problem can be traced to the redefinition of the term "austerity" that has been effected in recent decades by so-called conservatives and their often-allied neo-liberals — just as much deterioration has arisen from these groups' redefinition of the word "liberal". But unlike the tarring they have done to the word "liberal", in the case of "austerity" these two groups have managed to distort the term in a (falsely) positive manner, often making it seem more like "frugality" and "prudence", and thereby giving it an aura of unalloyed goodness and desirability for a large part of the populace.

The fact is that even an across-the-board 10% or 20% cut in federal spending wouldn't make the total federal "budget" "austere". From the Wiktionary definition of "austerity": "1. Severity of manners or life; extreme rigor or strictness; harsh discipline..."

No, in a country with as much total wealth as the U.S., the problem isn't lack of governmental "austerity" — and the solution isn't to seek it. I doubt that even hard-core tea-partiers would really want genuine "austerity", once they would themselves feel its real implications.

The real problems — issues that the populace have been diverted from thinking about — are 1) What are desirable values and goals for this society, 2) how can these be accomplished, and 3) how can spending towards them (whether directly and fully by government, entirely by private enterprise, or some combination) be done most effectively and efficiently.

Any reasonable, humanistic set of values and goals would include serious cuts to military and surveillance spending, police militarization, the prison-industrial complex, and countless other neo-fascistic sinkholes — both because the current outlandish expenditures in these areas endanger rather than advance our liberties, and because this country needs reallocation of those funds towards insuring that all people get adequate food, shelter, health care, education, and that our truly-necessary infrastructure be restored to an adequate level.

But with slogans such as "austerity" being bandied about, the population doesn't much think about the important issues, which suits the wealthy and their political lackeys just fine. And the people are indeed being flushed down the toilet.

Cirze said...

You are a wonder, Karen.

The "true gen" (in Hemingway's words).

It's so great to see your clarifying prose in the NYT.

Would that everyone could read (and understand) your reporting.

It's been a pleasure and an honor to read your words.


Jay - Ottawa said...

..."part of the problem can be traced to the redefinition"...

Yes, so many redefinitions in the new Newspeak.
What’s On the Table is Off the Table. Surveillance is Companionship. Blue Collars make the Ones. But Banks make the Zeroes. Joblessness is a Long Vacation. Homelessness is Mortgage Freedom. Austerity, a Civic Virtue. Drones save Lives. Death is Cost Effective. Dying is Patriotic. Aging is Foot Dragging. Social Security is Sponging. Medicaid is Malingering. Transparency is Treason. But War, the Endless Accomplishment.

James F Traynor said...

Vocabulary has replaced the flag as the last refuge of the scoundrel. Goebbels was the great initiator with considerable help from Madison Ave and all the other word whores.

v said...

Very good point, Fred. We are all off balance by the constant bombardment of meaningless terms or terms that have been hijacked to mean something else. I also think we, who have fought with energy against the wrong direction our government is headed, are battle weary and are suffering from psycho-emotional fatigue.

I remember Denis Neville sharing a great quote about how we shouldn't expect or wait for our government to lead - because most who are elected are wimps and will follow which ever way the wind blows. I think of that quote when I hear Obama talking out of both sides of his mouth. He is willing to cut Social Security but if it effects his popularity, he is also willing to back down. It is clear to me that we have an apathetic (and to some extent beaten) population in America. They won't kick up a fuss because that takes energy and effort - effort to become and remain informed and effort to actually take part in our democracy by speaking up.

As tired as we are, as hopeless as we feel - we cannot afford to NOT to fight.

Pearl said...


Jay - Ottawa said...

Excellent link, Pearl. Thanks.

We don’t need Nobel economists like Paul Krugman to explain and soft pedal the meaning of economic disparity, the current euphemism for class war. The answer is not a puzzle solved only when you reach the ninth decimal point of the equation, thanks to the assistance of think-tank PhDs. Economic disparity is pretty clear to millions of everyday Americans whose money and property continues to be turned over to the few with the blessing of government.

I once read somewhere that child psychologists discovered that young children grasp the core principles of justice a year or two before they reach the age of reason. Cut a cake in grossly unequal pieces at the next birthday party and brace for the wails of discontent. And as Thomas Frank makes clear in his article (with those quotes from the 1890s and 1930s), the work of the many being enjoyed by the few is nothing new. What is new and remarkable in America is the passivity with which the age-old swindle is accepted in our own time.

James F Traynor said...

Yes, I find that public passivity very interesting. Strange isn't it, when you contrast it with Ukraine and Egypt for instance. Might it be that the response to OWS was taken as a warning that was, perhaps unconsciously, heeded? Or is it something inherent in our culture? We certainly have had, as a society, provocation enough. Both the Tea Party and OWS were signs of public unrest - from different parts of the spectrum, of course, the latter making more sense.

James F Traynor said...

Yes, I find that public passivity very interesting. Strange isn't it, when you contrast it with Ukraine and Egypt for instance. Might it be that the response to OWS was taken as a warning that was, perhaps unconsciously, heeded? Or is it something inherent in our culture? We certainly have had, as a society, provocation enough. Both the Tea Party and OWS were signs of public unrest - from different parts of the spectrum, of course, the latter making more sense.