Friday, June 8, 2018

Austerity Addicts of the Democratic Party

Billionaire deficit hawk and Catfood Commission funder Pete Peterson may be dead, but that hasn't stopped House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from continuing to gorge herself like a zombie on his ideological corpus.

Pelosi, who once infamously urged her fellow Democrats to "embrace the suck" and abolish long-term federal unemployment benefits during the height of the Wall Street-manufactured recession, now vows to re-implement noxious "pay-go" rules if her party wins back the majority in November.

In light of the revelation just published by Politico, that the campaign arm of the House minority party has expressly forbidden candidates to utter the words "single payer" in midterm campaign ads, her twisted logic actually starts to make some grotesque sense. She could have and should have come right out and admitted that the wealthy corporations and plutocrats who run the party don't want true universal health care. "We" can't afford it actually means that "they" don't want to help pay for it. Never mind that the government is not like a family, and can never run out of money. After all, there's always plenty of money to maintain the trillion dollar-plus war machine.

The reanimation of Pay-Go deficit hawkery is a dog whistle to donors: although Pelosi's Democrats will "look at" Medicare For All, it will never make it out of committee on her continuing watch.

That the erstwhile "party of the people" is fully owned and operated by what Bernie Sanders castigates as "the billionaire class" is more glaringly obvious than ever. These party leaders, despite all their happy talk of a Blue Wave in November, really don't seem to care whether they win or lose. The rich, after all, already got their grotesque tax cuts under Trump, and there is no way they're going to break out of their mold and agree to part with even a small portion of their windfalls to ensure that their fellow citizens get health care, from the cradle to the grave.

No deficit spending in the public interest will be a top negative 2019 priority if her party wins, bragged Pelosi, whose own net worth ranges upwards of $29 million.

But, as The Hill reports,
The idea is already prompting howls from some liberals in the caucus, who want to pursue an ambitious legislative agenda next year — including costly, big-ticket items such as expanding health-care access, subsidizing education opportunities and boosting infrastructure projects — and fear pay-go might be too confining.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), said the Democrats would be foolish to adopt the fiscal restraints, especially in light of the Republicans’ newly adopted tax-reform law, which is estimated to add almost $2 trillion to the debt over the next decade. 
“The pay-go thing is an absurd idea now given the times and given what’s already been done to curry favor with corporate America,” Grijalva said.
Nevertheless, centrist Democrats like Pelosi are persisting, insisting that being the "party of fiscal responsibility" is a sure winner, guaranteed to drag at least the richest 10 percent of liberals and recovering Republicans away from MSNBC and RussiaGate and #TheResistance long enough to cast their ballots for moderate, heavily bankrolled Democrats.

So what if it was this same insane reasoning that propelled Donald Trump to victory in 2016? Remember - this is not about winning elections. This is about a certain segment of career politicians and consultants staying in business as "loyal opposition" apparatchiks, and increasingly, fellow travelers in neoconservatism and proponents of endless violent wars for democracy.
We all have responsibility for reducing the debt for our children,” Pelosi said last month at a forum hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which advocates for reducing the national debt. 
“Democrats believe that you must pay as you go. Whatever you want to invest in, you must offset.” 
The Democrats have a long history of supporting pay-go, which was first adopted as a platform item at their 1982 convention. In 2007, after Democrats took control of the House, they adopted a pay-go rule, which governed legislation moving through the lower chamber while Pelosi held the Speaker’s gavel. Two years later, with more Democrats in the Senate and President Obama in the White House, the Democrats went even further, enacting a statutory pay-go rule applying to both chambers.
Translation: if you want to invest in Pre-K, you must reduce college aid and ax loan forgiveness for adults. If you want to invest in infrastructure, you have to make cuts in food assistance programs. And if you don't like eating those shriveled peas, you can always watch Obama's upcoming inspirational Netflix series about people hoisting themselves up by their bootstraps. These inspirational people won't get rich, but the Obamas themselves will haul in an estimated $50 million to ensure that the lesser inspirationals at least get their 15 minutes of fame.

Even Rep. Barbara Lee, considered one of the most liberal members of Congress, is drinking the koolaid when she says Democrats can still "pursue a progressive agenda" without eating into the Trump-generated, oligarch-enriching deficit.
  “This government has the resources to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to move into the middle class,” Lee said. “It’s the priorities and who we believe should have access to the American dream is the question.”
(The neoliberal buzzwords are in my bold.)  Maybe you can't eat three meals or see the dentist today, but they'll fight to get you that opportunity someday, in the future. So stop complaining that you don't earn enough money or have even $200 in savings to pay for an emergency car repair. Go to sleep, and if you are really, really lucky and really, really optimistic, you might even get access to pleasant dreams as an antidote to your hunger, joblessness and despair.

As the late George Carlin said of that amorphous American Dream, "They call it that, because you have to be asleep to believe in it."

Speaking of despair, the American suicide rate has shot up in nearly every state. As revealed in a new report by the Centers for Disease Control, it has increased by a whopping 30 percent in the last 16 years. People began taking their own lives in these increasing numbers in 1999, just after the Clinton administration colluded with Republicans to slash welfare and deregulate finance capital.

And as a rejoinder to all those duopolistic politicians who murmur platitudes and call for "more mental health treatment" to prevent these suicides, the CDC points out that only about half of the people who took their own lives in 2015 were known to be suffering from mental illness. The other half were having relationship problems, job problems, money problems and unspecified "impending crises" in their lives.

In other words, half the people who died from suicide took the only logical step they thought was left open to them. They were not deranged.

Suicide is not just a mental health crisis. It's a public health crisis. It's indicative of the extreme wealth disparity that has been increasing in America for the past four decades.

But to hear Nancy Pelosi and her Republican co-conspirators tell it, if you can't pay, then you just might as well go.

And if you want to live, don't pin your hopes and dreams on either right wing of the Money Party - unless, of course, you're in the top 10 percent of earners or heirs, and have plenty of money to burn.

Since we're in the midst of a perpetual class war, and our two-party system keeps denying that there is even such a thing, what we obviously need is a new working class party in this country. 

Although Donald Trump may be the most irresistible -and oh so convenient - outrage magnet ever presented to us by the media-political complex, he really should be the least of our worries. As much as he loves to distract, he himself is the major distraction in a dying American empire.  

Here's to life.


Karl Kolchak said...

I just love the idea that Democrats are debating what their "legislative agenda" next year is going to be, apparently oblivious of the fact that their polling lead on the generic ballot is rapidly disappearing. Meanwhile, Trump is smartly schmoozing up to black voters with his pardons of Jack Johnson and Mohammad Ali, whom the unbelievably feckless Obama was too cowardly to pardon himself. If just 10% of black voters switch over to the Republicans this fall, that will be devastating to a Democratic Party that is once again doing everything it can to alienate its base and ensure it will stay home on election day.

So who is the "stupid" one, Trump or Pelosi?

Mark Thomason said...

This shows us what we would have gotten from Hillary. Worse, there would have been no path to anything better, they'd have been cemented in for the next decade and more, just like Hillary's last health care fiasco killed reform for a generation.

Bad as things are, they could have been a lot worse. This leaves us with path to success, but far from assurance of it; for that we have a lot of work to do.

voice-in-wilderness said...

I'm not sure which metaphor to use. An implosion? Circling the drain? But we are stuck: (1) we have the Democrats supporting neoliberalism, moving where Republicans once were; or (2) the Republicans no longer a political party interested in governing but a street gang in suits focused just on looting, throwing treats to the gun nuts and religious nuts.

Meanwhile Trump is succeeding as a cult leader, with the GOP bonded to him unlike any president in our lifetimes. Of course no president has given such an explicit shout-out to racism. Which reminds us of the famous Lyndon Johnson observation that was reported by Bill Moyers.

P.S. The reCAPTCHA system just did something I've never seen before. After I wrote the first sentence above it said that my verification expired and I must do it again!