You have to hand it to Obama. Against all odds, his approval rating has clawed its way back to the 50 yard line. Fully half the thirsty sponges that pass for the minds of the American consumer-spectators in the stands apparently believe the hype. He deserves a Super Bowl ring for being one of the most valuable players ever employed by the International League of the Oligarchs.
He exemplifies the power that propaganda has over desperate people during desperate times.
The Republicans have their racial dog whistle to divide and conquer the colonies of sponges. Obama has his fascist dog whistle to Wall Street, thrumming just below the surface of the populist song he croons to unite and daze and conquer the colonies of sponges.
His latest weekly address to the nation is a textbook example of the technique perfected by Joseph Goebbels. The title alone should give you an immediate heads-up: "A Path Towards a Thriving Middle Class."
It's only a path, mind you -- not an actual destination. The fun of travel is not the being there, but the journey itself, and the anticipation of being there. And since you will be flying on standby, you can get bumped at any time. You can especially get bumped if Obama gets fast track authority from Congress to ram through an epic job-killing trade deal. So fasten your seat belts and enjoy the scenery while it lasts. This is your Captain speaking:
Hi, everybody. At a moment when our economy is growing, our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again, we have to make some choices about the kind of country we want to be.
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?Pssst. Yo, Jamie and Lloyd and all you Too Big to Fails and billionaire donors. You are growing at warp speed, guys! You are creating crappy precarious low-wage jobs at the fastest hyper-capitalistic pace in decades. Your own wages are rising, at upwards of 300 times that of your average worker. That is the most extreme in the entire world. Obama might claim that wages for the proles are starting to inch up, but the reversal of fortunes of the working stiff is in negative territory. The grim reality is that paychecks are going down, down, down. David Cay Johnson has the lowdown and the charts over at Al-Jazeera. No worries, though, the Times and the cable channels aren't covering this inconvenient truth. They're all on board with the president's new-found populism, treating his words as if they meant something. In the New Abnormal Economy, more tax breaks for child care expenses are considered "bold."
Now that he's set the stage for the rosy recovery, Obama immediately pivots to that telltale diversionary question-begging. He even pretends to channel socialist Senator Bernie Sanders by stealing the phrase that "only a few at the top are doing spectacularly well." (Despite his gift for mimicry, Obama doesn't dare try to imitate the spluttering enraged Brooklynese "spectaculuh-ly well") The dog-whistled answer to the plutocrats to his first question -- will only a few do well? -- is a very definite "Yes We Can!"
The second rhetorical question tacitly adheres to Mitt Romney's criticism of the takers and the moochers, declaring through omission that the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the marginalized, the chronically unemployed will not have the same chance as the hard workers to "get ahead."
We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are. We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student. And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets.So many Orwellian obfuscations in just that one tiny paragraph.
First and foremost, Obama's populist initiatives have absolutely no chance of passing. They are not only too late, they are too little. One lousy week of paid family leave and free community college for "responsible" non-moochers are pathetic compared to the more generous safety nets and subsidies in other civilized nations. European countries commonly grant workers months or even years of at least partially paid time off to care for children or other family members. Many, including Germany, offer free four-year university education to all. So why then, since even crumbs for the struggling have no chance, didn't the president go really big?
Because even hopeless ideas always have an outside chance of sticking, and offer the merest possibility of being implemented in some future, more lefty administration. Obama is not about to take even a rhetorical chance.
He further dog-whistles to Wall Street by giving credence to the much-debunked "skills gap" excuse used by the right wingers and the ultra wealthy, tax-averse job creators for not hiring people at liveable wages. There is no skills gap -- there is only an empathy gap. But Obama buys into this blame-the-victim theme because it enables using public money to train workers for private profit. The community college funding idea is very much of a piece with the fascist policies now euphemised as "public-private partnerships." It's the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk and cost.
Obama really pulls a fast one by coupling "expanded access to faster internet and new markets." Everybody wants faster internet service, so why not tack on "new markets" as code for the job-killing, planet-polluting corporate coup of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Be very vague while presenting it as good thing for regular people. It is such a grotesquely bad thing that even the glib Obama can't bring himself to say its name right out loud. It's such a bad thing that he refuses to divulge what's actually in it.
Of course, he couldn't afford to be so circumspect with Congressional Democrats this past week. He warned them to "keep their powder dry" on the TPP and not to read the Huffington Post. He apparently didn't realize that one of his propaganda hacks had just signed Obama's name to a Huffington Post editorial published only the day before. Hilarity ensued. Even Obama warns us not to believe Obama.
We can afford to make these investments. Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds – the fastest sustained deficit reduction since just after the end of World War II. We just have to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does. It proposes getting rid of special interest loopholes in our tax code, and using those savings to cut taxes for middle-class families and reward businesses that invest in America. It refuses to play politics with our homeland security, and funds our national security priorities at home and abroad. And it undoes the arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts known as “the sequester” for our domestic priorities, and matches those investments dollar-for-dollar in resources our troops need to get the job done.Obama still pretends that austerity worked. He still brags about cutting programs and prolonging suffering. But now he is willing to ease the suffering somewhat, because he's got world wars to fund and defense contractors to enrich and citizens to spy upon. He's in his last quarter.He needs to get the job done. And that job is total weaponized domination of the globe and permanent feudalism here at home.
Now, I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach. And like I said in my State of the Union Address, if they have ideas that will help middle-class families feel some economic security, I’m all in to work with them. But I will keep doing everything I can to help more working families make ends meet and get ahead. Not just because we want everyone to share in America’s success – but because we want everyone to contribute to America’s success.This is the part in virtually every Obama speech where he poses as The Adult in the Room. This is the part where he appeals to the tribalistic instincts of the sponge colonies and pretends that the bad GOP won't let him get stuff done. The truth is that Republicans very much agree with his approach. They're anxious to give him unitary executive fast track authorization to complete the trade deals for the oligarchs served so well by both political parties. They agree with his bloodthirsty foreign policy of total world domination, the only minor quibbles being with the timing and locations of the various invasions and bombings and plunder-fests. They have willingly relinquished their own advise and consent duties, letting Obama as well as Bush bomb at will. They agree with his shielding of Wall Street criminals and CIA torturers. They think it's fine that he has the power to drone people to death. They are totally down with his administration's record deportations and prosecutions of whistleblowers and his war on journalism.
And they definitely agree with the penultimate graf in his weekly address: they sincerely want everyone to contribute to America's success -- be it by their minimum wage precarious labor, the use of their bodies as cannon fodder, their forced contributions to the predatory medical insurance industry, their occasional votes to pick among pre-approved corporate shills to pose as their representatives.
That’s the way the middle class thrived in the last century – and that’s how it will thrive again.The middle class thrived in the last century with a strong labor movement and a 90-plus percent tax rate on obscene wealth under the Eisenhower administration. The middle class thrived because a president named Franklin Delano Roosevelt welcomed the hatred of the same breed of sociopath that Obama now fawns over.
From FDR's April 1938 Message to Congress:
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.Both lessons hit home.Are we tolerant immobile sponge-colonies? Or do we become activist citizens?
Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.
Our very survival depends on our answers to those questions.