Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 1 (1 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats   4 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

Obama's Misdirected 'Courage'

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 2   Supported 1   Valuable 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H4 8/12/11

Become a Fan
  (5 fans)

The tipping point in progressive illusions that President Obama is "one of us" may finally have been reached with the new bipartisan deal on the debt ceiling.

To avert financial default, Obama and his Congressional allies have basically negotiated their way into endorsing almost everything the Republicans want. The 10-year plan to slash at least $2.1 trillion from the federal budget is expected to exact a heavy toll on domestic social programs. Expect no tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations, however. Nor, despite some talk to the contrary, much in the way of military spending cuts.

As the austerity program unfolds, reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be on the table.

"If the bill passes the President can now claim the mantle of fiscal conservatism, a surefire defense to ubiquitous Republican accusations of socialism and big government," declares Time Magazine (Aug. 1). This is a big "win" for the president, Time said .

Actually, this is a win the way Charlie Sheen is "winning." New York Times columnist Paul Krugman rightly calls the legislation a "disaster," one sure to further depress an already depressed economy. "Those demanding spending cuts now are like medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker," says Krugman.

In the days leading up to the deal, University of Texas economist James K. Galbraith told the Real News Network on July 21 that "there is nothing specific in this plan that takes anything out of the pockets of the wealthy at all on a net basis." In fact, some $1.5 trillion in net tax relief will be achieved primarily by reducing marginal tax rates for those at the top income scale. Americans can now look forward to years of "a cumulative and increasing reduction' in benefits," cautions Galbraith.

Even former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, appearing last week on the Ed Schultz radio show and hardly a wild-eyed leftist, decries Obama's economic policy as "strict Herbert Hooverism."

The Nostrum of "Shared Sacrifice"
Obviously, money just doesn't talk in this country; it pressures and threatens, and then it meets behind closed doors until it gets its way. It also elects "fresh, new" candidates with popular credibility who employ vacuous slogans to make the people think things are really going to change. Then, like magic, the "hope we can believe in" turns in a few short years into the dispiriting question of will Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid survive in any credible form?



Apparently, the President has been open to the idea of cuts to these programs since his first days in office, as columnist David Brooks told NPR in early 2009, following a private meeting Obama held with conservative reporters. Understandably, that vision wasn't exactly one he was eager to bring up at that jubilant election night rally three years ago in Chicago's Grant Park.

Instead, what we hear a lot about these days is the idea of "shared sacrifice," the particularly toxic notion of affluent liberals that everyone must give up something to speed economic recovery. Unfortunately, the poor and the vulnerable, as well as millions of ordinary, hard-working people, cannot afford further sacrifice.

Of course, this notion of "shared sacrifice" remains only a theory, because amidst all the deal making, no one has yet figured out in reality how the rich are actually going to sacrifice anything at all. It's all reminiscent of Anatole France's observation that democracy in America denies both rich and poor the right to sleep under the bridge at night.

Since taking office, a growing refrain among liberals and progressives has been whether the President would eventually discover the courage to fight for the progressive vision that supposedly defines the "real" Obama. From liberal talk media hosts to the MoveOn milieu and beyond, Obama has been the recipient of a steady stream of unsolicited--and largely unheeded--advice on how to forge a progressive path to peace, jobs and justice.

The other side of this notion is that Obama just needs the progressive base to "make him" take on the rich, waging the good fight for working-class America, buoyed by the irresistible force of mass grassroots pressure for progressive change. But wasn't this already the point of the 2008 election? Still, if the "make-him" argument were true, the White House could at least have dispatched an emissary to Madison, Wisc. in February or March to stand shoulder to shoulder with the tens of thousands then in the streets for collective bargaining rights.

That did not happen, of course, and for reasons that are hardly a mystery. First, the Obama administration doesn't actually disagree with Republican attacks on public sector wages and benefits. A year ago, the President announced his own proposal for a two-year wage freeze on federal employees -- a move designed to save $60 billion over ten years. At the same time, he struck a deal with right-wing Republicans to "temporarily" renege on a campaign promise to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire -- a move that would have saved $70 billion in just one year.

Democracy: Just Another Management Concept
The President has a reputation for being an articulate, eloquent communicator. Yet somehow he couldn't find the words to expose Republican fakery in linking the issue of raising the debt, which has happened 90 times since 1940, with taxes and social programs. Somehow he couldn't find the words to tell the American people, as University of Massachusetts economist Richard Wolff and others have been telling us, that simply taxing corporations and individuals earning over $1,000,000 a year at 1960s tax rates could in one fell swoop cut the deficit and related interest costs in half. Where as well is any edifying instruction on the impact of $1 trillion in military operations costs in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Tellingly, at the height of the mass protests in Madison, Obama offered only tepid remarks about how public sector workers are our friends and neighbors, people we respect and care about who have rights. What he was saying politically was that far-right ideologues like Wisconsin's Governor Walker are political blunderers. A bipartisan austerity program is best implemented a step at a time, as any reasonable, sophisticated corporate liberal knows. No need to go too far too fast. After all, why take away collective bargaining rights when union leaders are more or less willing to go along with concessions? Why risk arousing an otherwise dormant union movement into calling the ranks out.

Of course, if the President or his representative had come to Madison, the results might have been electrifying. But the last thing the political elite wants is a charged-up, politically-mobilized public that thinks it can actually defend its living standards. As political scientist Sheldon Wolin describes in his book, "Democracy Incorporated" (Princeton University Press, 2008), democracy in the United States has basically become just another management concept. The public is "shepherded, not sovereign," while the political and economic elites really run the show.

President Obama is clearly not in the business of rabble-rousing. Consequently, the "rabble" are getting fleeced, with no end in sight. But it's becoming more difficult for Obama and the Democrats to blame everything on Republican obstructionism. Obviously, the "real" Obama is not some left-wing Clark Kent, the mild-mannered crusader waiting for his Superman costume (the one where the "S" stands for socialism) to come back from the dry cleaners.

Next Page  1  |  2

 

http:www.Mark-T-Harris.com

Mark T. Harris is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is a featured contributor to "The Flexible Writer," fourth edition, by Susanna Rich (Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2003). He edits the blog, www.PlanetOccupy.org.

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

NATO in Chicago: Protests Are Here to Stay, and the Warmakers are Afraid

Where Are the Slander Merchants Taking Us?

Sinead O'Connor: Music's 'Uncooperative' Celebrity

SiCKO and the Health Insurance Rip-Off

Mitt, Mormons, and Money

The Progressive Sensibilities of James Garner

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
4 people are discussing this page, with 4 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

There are many people who feel as though President... by Roberta Seldon on Friday, Aug 12, 2011 at 4:27:37 PM
Not only is this entire article on point, but the ... by Joanne Boyer on Saturday, Aug 13, 2011 at 7:46:46 AM
to be a "progressive."  This is a "label" tha... by Doc McCoy on Sunday, Aug 14, 2011 at 3:38:42 AM
with this and I never was an Obama fan.... by Laura Roberts on Sunday, Aug 14, 2011 at 4:02:13 AM