We at Tikkun have been saying for the past 3 years what former Sec. of Labor and economist Robert Reich says below and what Paul Krugman has been saying for the past 2 years: there is no serious budget crisis.
Instead, we have an employment and housing crisis.
It is true, as Robert Reich says below, that the Republicans have been running with this lie for the past several years in order to prevent the Democrats, when they had the majority in both houses of Congress, and the presidency, 2009-2010, from doing what the country needed: a massive Work Progress Administration (WPA) employment program coupled with a freeze on mortgage foreclosures and a law requiring the banks to renegotiate mortgage interests to what it was when the mortgage was first offered to the buyers.
But Reich plays down the huge culpability of Obama and his economic advisors (who could have been Reich and Krugman, and no Republican forced Obama to go with the pro-corporate advisors he actually chose form the start).
Obama accepted the framing of the problems that the right-wing had developed, and has for 3 years been mis-educating people about the nature of the problem we face. No wonder, then, that he boxed himself in to the current situation in which he may now have few options left. Had he spent the past years educating people to the true situation, he would have had much greater flexibility to stand up to the Republicans in Congress.
Even now, he continues to waffle. He has offered, and pushed Senate Democrats to offer, a "deal" that is 3/4 of what the Republicans want and zero what working people and poor people need, just so he could get a lifting of the national debt ceiling, something he has the power to do in other ways (the 14th amendment provides such a route, though it has never been used before).
Instead of being such a wimp, Obama could even now simply announce the following plan for what will happen if the debt limit isn't reached: he will pay the social security, medicare and other benefits to those Congressional districts whose representatives voted to raise the debt limit and not to those which did not. And similarly all other federal services. Military installations in the Congressional districts whose representatives did not vote for the raising of the limit will be immediately shut, and all military personnel outside the U.S., starting with Iraq and Afghanistan, will be ordered to return to the U.S. They play hardball, so could a progressive Democrat, if we happened to have one in office, which we don't. If the Supreme Court ordered him to not follow this path, he could tell them to enforce it on their own, because he has the Constitutional responsibility to defend the U.S., and this is the best way to do so.
So lets understand, that all of this comes down to Obama's capitulations to the Right, on almost every level (except for glbt rights, important and to be commended, but not enough to build a presidency on).
RabbiLerner (at) Tikkun.org
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and national chair of the Tikkun Community/ Network of Spiritual Progressives.
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