Friday, May 19, 2023

Biden on the Blankety-Blank Brink

 Besides the requisite fear-mongering about Debt Ceiling Armageddon, the most annoying part of all the mainstream media coverage of this manufactured crisis is the notion that President Biden simply doesn't have the guts or the smarts to withstand Republican demands to rob the poor and reward the rich.

Biden is, of course, neither "blinking" nor is he "caving" to blackmail, like the Democrats' liberal wing are insisting. He is being absolutely competent in taking this golden opportunity to do the right bipartisan thing at the last possible minute. At the end of the month, at the very stroke of midnight, his recalcitrant party will be the caver, just as they always are. They are reluctantly agreeing to snip more holes in the social safety net. In doing so, they will save the entire global economy from total destruction. It was such a hard-fought battle. Therefore, vote for them again and send them some of your money for all the future scripted battle narratives yet to come!

"We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good," they will preach to the SNAP (food stamp) recipients who, if the establishment gets its way, will have to score low-paying work or at least prove that they are constantly looking for low-paying or non-existent work in order to eat. Temporary cash aid to poor parents - mainly single moms - will be rendered even more temporary.  

This is despite government food stamp stipends recently being cut back to pre-pandemic emergency bare-bones levels. Since it will cost SNAP recipients and poor parents both time and money that they don't have to pay for work-seeking or job-training transportation, the underlying goal is obvious. Our rulers simply aim to cut people off their aid entirely, as punishment for their failure to jump through enough poor-shaming hoops.

Joe Biden boasted to the press only a few days ago that as a senator, he voted for similar cuts throughout his long career.  His feeble promise that he would never negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling never contained one iota of sincerity. He is not about to waste a golden opportunity to effect what the GOP could never do without Democratic complicity.

Of course, the far-right Marjorie Taylor Greene wing of the party could always spoil things, just as their Tea Party forebears did during the  administration of Barack Obama, whose own "grand bargain" of Social Security and Medicare cuts never came to pass. They simply were not deemed cruel enough. The latest crisis in debt ceiling theater is Biden's noble refusal to make sick Medicaid patients work or go without medical treatment. Lower life expectancy and morbidity stats in the US are already shocking.. And it wouldn't look good for the US hegemon's world standing to be too obvious about the official sadism..

 Oligarchs who run the place, wishing on and off for  a Biden presidency for the past half-century, have finally gotten their wish. After all, he was a founding member of the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council which was formed for the express purpose of joining the neoliberal Reagan Revolution.

Let me reprise and update a bit of what I wrote several years ago about the origins of this Clinton/Obama/Biden wing of the Democratic party:

Back in the 80s, the three most common "colorblind" euphemisms for the "N" word being utilized by Biden and both establishment political parties were Welfare, Drugs, and Crime.

Reagan himself not so subtly railed against welfare queens and "young bucks" on food stamps in such blatantly symbolic places as Mississippi. But the Democrats, who still needed the support of black and brown people in the South, had to be a tad more politically correct about their zest for race and class-based eugenics. 

Mere months after Reagan took office,  DLC architect Al From recalls in his memoir that Congress's then-named New Democratic Caucus was absolutely thrilled when on April 9, 1981, the New York Times published, verbatim, its entire "movement manifesto" of economic principles.

This  archaic document has become the Bible of every conservative Democratic ideologue since Clinton, seamlessly morphing into Obama acting as the other heel of the Bush Jr sandwich filling. Now, Joe Biden is the dessert cheese. He's been their adorable the goofy guy in-the-wings since 1972, when he was still only a 29-year-old senator (D-Capitol One) from Delaware, LLC/USA. Four years of President Biden are simply not enough for them. He is that rare crumbly aged cheese  The older he gets, the more pungent his flavor.  Carefully cultivated mold is pricey, sure, but so very, very good for them!

The first principle of the DLC (later renamed the "New Democrats" in the age of Obama) - once they get the requisite gushing over the New Deal out of the way - is  deficit reduction, even when times are bad. They spread the lie that austerity is a guard against inflation. Inflation is making a very convenient comeback, thanks to the greed of corporations. Unlike Nixon, Biden would never dream of ordering price controls to reduce inflation, to make the cost of groceries more affordable for those that he and the GOP want to starve into submission. Their cure for inflation is to make hungry poor people go on another diet.

When Republicans cycle into power, deficits don't matter when it comes to giving tax breaks to the rich. And now that it's another Democrat's  turn, all programs benefiting regular people suddenly must be "paid for" by cutting other programs benefiting regular people. Both parties always exempt the permanent war machine from any of their inflation fear-mongering. Meanwhile, Biden is also "open" to clawing back unspent pandemic funding - rather than, say,  re-allocating it to health care, especially for Long Covid patients.

A related founding principle (a/k/a shameless propaganda) of the original DLC is that since "people" (the rich) demand austerity and spending cuts, the New Democrats must always try to placate the rich (and Republicans) as a show of their good faith and liberal tolerance within The Club.  But to prove that they really also care about the working and poor people who actually vote them into office, they're always quick to add that the wealthy should (it's just a suggestion) equally share the burden of sacrifice.

Here's the clunky concluding chunk of the first Official DLC Manifesto, reprinted verbatim for your reading pleasure. I have bolded all the neoliberal keywords, which have survived for nearly half a century, to poison our minds and our spirits and our lives to this very day. These principles remain at the rotten core of the Joe Biden agenda. They were baked into his political psyche from the very beginning of his career... which, by the way, more or less coincided with the beginning of Donald Trump's own career:

In controlling Federal spending, we intend to abide by the following guidelines:
-We will seek out and eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse. We will provide the resources to prosecute those taking advantage of government benefits to which they are not entitled, whether wealthy tax evaders, illegal monopolies or participants in welfare fraud.
- We will promote the work ethic by encouraging recipients of government assistance to work and resisting cuts that would throw people out of work and onto welfare. 
- We will help those who cannot work, particularly the disabled, the sick and the elderly. A society cannot remain health and self-respecting while ignoring those who are poor and helpless through no fault of their own.
 - We will strengthen our defense force, in cooperation with our allies, to ensure world peace. We will increase military capability and readiness, eliminate Pentagon waste and renew the search for mutual arms control agreements.
- We will promote cooperation rather than conflict among the levels of government. We must recognize local strengths, local initiative and regional differences in the country as we decide the structure and number of Federal programs. We will not purposely add unnecessary tax and regulatory burdens to state and local governments.
 We will examine indirect spending through the tax code with the same critical eye we focus on direct spending. Wasteful and unfair tax loopholes will be closed.
- We will upgrade our efforts in the area of law enforcement to intercept the flow of illegal drugs across our borders, stem the tide of illegal immigration, introduce efficiencies into our criminal justice system, and work in partnership with state and local governments to combat crime. 
 - In short, we pledge to develop a lean Federal budget, which puts us on the path of balancing the budget and provides for the human needs of our people.

Translating the above into normal person-speak:

-- A poor single mother on food stamps is the other side of the Donald 
Trump villain-coin. We will demonize and even jail the poor mother while comparing her to Donald Trump, who still roams free and who the Democratic establishment mightily hopes will run again.  Not only that, we'll once again promote him to our friends as our Pied Piper GOP nominee, to make Biden smell as sweet and look as appealing as that other founding DLC member Hillary Clinton did back in 2016.  The hackneyed definition of insanity -  repeating the same things and expecting a different result - is just so much malarkey.

--The DLC, under Bill Clinton, soon got its dream fulfilled when millions of poor mothers got thrown off welfare in the 90s, only to be thrown into low-wage or non-existent jobs without the promised child care aid. At the same time, Donald Trump kept "losing" billions of dollars on paper, which allowed him to pay zero income taxes for more than a decade, as he importuned crooked banks to fraudulently bankroll his real estate empire, which ultimately landed this self-made grifter his own hit TV show on NBC. So as you can see, the DLC's work ethic sermon of a manifesto worked exactly as intended. The New Dems helped to inspire Trump (then a registered Democrat) to keep struggling against all the odds. Even better, his ladder of opportunity turned out to be an elevator of opportunity!

--There are the deserving poor. and then there are the undeserving poor. The different groups of Poors must be divided, and taught to resent one another so that they will be less apt to resent the rich racketeers of the ruling class, including Donald Trump.  Ex-GOP Speaker Paul Ryan is unfairly often blamed by Democrats for coming up with this poor vs. poor crap all on his own. But, as self-avowed New Democrat Obama used to gently chide his Old GOP bro Mitt Romney: "You didn't succeed all on your own, Governor. You didn't build this all by yourself!"

- Calling Mr. Orwell. We will arm ourselves to the gills to promote world peace, love and understanding. We will impose sanctions on Iraq and Iran and Russia and Venezuela, and the deaths of millions of innocent people will, to paraphrase the late Madeline Albright, 
have been "worth it." 

--Regulations on capital and greed are bad. As a result, Bill Clinton and his bipartisan Congress (including Biden) repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and other anti-graft legislation from the New Deal era. As a result of that repeal, the financial system crashed in 2008, just in time for Obama to win the White House and the Democrats to win the whole Congress and stuff the new ruling administration with the same deregulation-happy culprits, like Jeffrey Epstein pal Larry Summers, who caused the whole mess in the first place. And the regular people struggled on for eight more years until 2016, just in time for Trump and the Republicans to complete the inevitable cycle.

--Mexicans were bringing drugs across the border decades and decades ago! Blacks and Browns were committing all the crimes! Stop them, police them, jail them, and begin a new Jim Crow era and conduct a virtual slow genocide -  but be sure to call your institutional bigoted practices "efficiencies." Then slap a slick "War on Drugs" label on it so you don't sound racist. Decades later, act all shocked and appalled when Donald Trump unleashes his racist rhetoric and tragically rips the whole happy-face mask right off your long-standing official DLC manifesto.

As Al From wrote in 2013's "The New Democrats and the Return to Power," the original 1981 manifesto was 
the absolute catalyst for "vibrant economic growth in the private sector of the economy.... "

It was the right first battle for us to take on. It left a good impression and gave us running room for later reform efforts.... It allowed us to establish our new themes without fear of being crushed by the old bulls.... That the New York Times chose to print it in full was icing on the cake."

This manifesto set the Democrats on their relentless, nearly half a century-long trajectory
 to the right, moving the GOP even further to the right as a result.

Al From adds in his memoir that as disappointed as DLC conservatives were when, in 1984, Biden refused to run for president, Joe "had the good sense to put a stop to our nonsense" of trying to oust Reagan challenger Walter Mondale. They remained confident that Joe's zealous reactionary contributions to their right-wing platform would ultimately prevail. "Developing a winning message" was their ultimate goal then, and it's their ever more feeble ultimate goal now.

Their 1986 midterm message was "Defending America," which according to From, sent the Reaganites into conniption fits of jealousy for out-flanking them from the right.

From also brags that it was the core DLC membership who, in 1981, came up with the anti-democratic superdelegate system to ensure that the right-wing faction of the party would always prevail against any potential lefty upstarts.

From credits #Russiagate maven Hillary Clinton with spreading the New Democrat ideology far and wide throughout the world during her stint as Obama's secretary of state. He doesn't mention the subsequent rise of right-wing authoritarianism in the same countries that Hillary so ingeniously inspired.

And in his own introduction to From's book, written just three years before Donald Trump was elected, Bill Clinton gushes that despite all the pain and destruction and death that he wrought, he is still a true believer in the DLC message of mass austerity, endless war, the continuous growth of capitalism, the expansion of globalism, "reform" of welfare and the fight against "crime". Bill added nary a word about the climate catastrophe.

Joe Biden himself is not putting the climate catastrophe anywhere near the top of his DLC-inspired agenda. Forget the U.N. report revealing that millions of plant and animal species will go extinct because of the crisis. Not content to be a do-nothing vice president, in 2011, after the GOP congressional "shellacking" of the Obama White House,   he breathlessly proclaimed that he was "the new sheriff in town" who would ruthlessly cut all the "waste, fraud and abuse" displayed by living beings protected by the big, bad guvmint. 

As president, Biden has not only rubber-stamped major oil drilling projects in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, he has used the manufactured debt ceiling crisis to snub a climate summit in Australia... which, now that Biden is not attending it, has been canceled altogether.  Heads he wins, tails we all lose. 

Joe Biden certainly has come a long way from his perches in the senate and as vice presidential deficit hawk. 

Here's what he bragged about as his first order of VP business in the Obama White House:  

Did you know that the government spends millions to maintain buildings that have sat vacant for years? Or that your tax dollars pay to needlessly ship copies of the Federal Register to thousands of government offices across the country even though the same information is available online?

 And I bet you didn't know that your tax dollars pay for a website dedicated to the Desert Tortoise. I'm sure it's a wonderful species, but we can't afford to have a standalone site devoted to every member of the animal kingdom. It's just one of hundreds of government websites that should be consolidated or eliminated.  

This kind of waste is just unacceptable. Particularly at a time when we’re facing tough decisions about reducing our deficit, it's a no-brainer to stop spending taxpayer dollars on things that benefit nobody.
That’s why President Obama asked me to head up the Campaign to Cut Waste—a new effort to root out wasteful spending at every agency and department in The Federal Government.

 All this gruesome history makes AOC's performative demand that Biden reject everything he's ever stood for that he invoke the 14th Amendment and simply order the debt ceiling raised, sound all the more quaint and disingenuous. For as long as elected progressives like her keep pretending to "fight for us," what more can we expect?

After all, when you look around and all you see is a decaying gerontocracy, there has got to be a smidgen of hope and a revived supplementary definition for the word "revolting". Nobody lives forever - not even them. Despite all the gold-encrusted health care in the world, even they fall apart. Eventually. Which is not nearly soon enough.


Anonymous said...

"This manifesto set the Democrats on their relentless, nearly half a century-long trajectory to the right, moving the GOP even further to the right as a result."

Here is the foundation of our current political crisis. We hear so much talk of the Republican Party being taken over by far right wingnuts (and it has been for sure) but it was the takeover of the Democratic Party by the right-center wingnuts that spurred them on. How else can they differentiate their party when the Democrats keep encroaching on their base by stealing their marketing concepts. Clearly the elite in both parties share the same core principles.

Erik Roth said...

The core principles of the duopoly are not community or society, but every man (never mind women) for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.

"Individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but in the long run it attacks and destroys all others and is at length absorbed in selfishness."
~ Alexis de Tocqueville

"All through the day
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine
All through the night
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine"
~ George Harrison

“The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others.”
~ Iain M. Banks, Complicity

voice-in-wilderness said...

It's been dismaying to realize how war-liking many Democrats are. At first I thought Obama was a warmongering exception, but Biden promotes and embraces our proxy war with Russia and is preparing for war with China.

At my local scale, a friend whom I think of as lefty-liberal on most issues, is bloodthirsty when it comes to killing Russians. And no reasoning with him. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our DNA ..."

VLT said...

I expect the reason why Biden doesn't fight the debt ceiling fiasco, head on, is that he believes in all these cuts. Look at his history and the way he voted as a senator. He is hardly a man of the people. When I listen to RFK Jr. (vaccine issues aside), his idea to close all the military bases overseas and cut the opaque Pentagon budget and all the peripheral secret organisations latching on to that budget, I wonder what all that money would buy in terms of meeting the needs for the people struggling financially at home. Let's face it, neither party gives a hoot about the working class and poor - or even the middle class - only their wealthy, well-connected donors.