Progressive Calendar 07.08.11
From: shove001 (
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 13:50:33 -0700 (PDT)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   07.08.11

1. Palestine vigil 7.08 4:15pm

                      O B A M A   -   W O R S E   T H A N   B U S H

2. Mike Lillis     - No cuts to Medicare, Social Security in deficit deal
3. Glenn Greenwald - Reports: Obama for cuts to Social Security, Medicare
4. Jon Walker      - Obama tries to tempt Cong Dems to political suicide
5. Andrew Levine   - Barack the Gipper/Reagan recycles back to life
6. Jane Hamsher - Breaking point: Obama & the death of the Democratic Party
7. Roger Bybee     - Where's the Revolt? Obamaâs dangerous "cure"

--------1 of x--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Palestine vigil 7.08 4:15pm

The weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the
intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul. The Friday demo
starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30. There are usually extra signs

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House Liberals Demand No Cuts to Medicare, Social Security in Deficit Deal
by Mike Lillis
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2011 by The Hill (Washington, DC)

A group of House liberals is pressing President Obama to take all cuts to
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security off the table as the White House
grapples with Republicans for a debt-limit deal.

Obama is reportedly eying significant entitlement reforms as a
deficit-reduction strategy â an effort to entice Republicans to accept
new revenue raisers as part of a package to hike the nation's $14.3
trillion debt ceiling.

But in a letter sent to Obama Thursday, the leaders of the House
Progressive Caucus warned that cutting the big three entitlements not only
threatens the vulnerable folks who depend on those programs, but also
ignores equally effective deficit-reduction strategies â like the
elimination of tax cuts to the wealthy.

With unemployment still above 9 percent, the liberals are trying to shift
the debate in Washington from deficit reduction back to job creation.

"We feel that the discussions have been skewed up to this point," Rep.
RaÃl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, told
reporters in the Capitol Thursday.

The letter the group sent to Obama leaves little to the imagination.

"First," the lawmakers wrote, "any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid should be taken off the table. The individuals depending on these
three programs deserve well-conceived improvements, not deep, ideologically
driven cuts with harmful consequences."

As a second condition, the lawmakers added, "revenue increases must be a
meaningful part of any agreement."

"Tax breaks benefiting the very richest Americans should be eliminated as
part of this deal," the lawmakers wrote. "The middle class has experienced
enough pain during the last three years, Republicans are willing to inflict
even more. We will not join them."

Grijalva said there's room for "restructuring" in Social Security, Medicare
and Medicaid. But if the final debt-ceiling package cuts benefits under
those programs, he warned, "then I couldn't support it."

AARP delivered a similar message on Thursday, issuing a statement warning
that the powerful lobbying group "will not accept any cuts to Social
Security as part of a deal to pay the nationâs bills."

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), another member of the Progressive
Caucus, slammed Republicans for their focus on cutting entitlements while
protecting tax breaks for even the most profitable corporations. She noted
that presidents from both parties have a long history of raising the debt
limit, and she warned GOP leaders that a package containing entitlement
cuts would lose the Democratic support it will likely need to pass the

"The first insult is to suggest that President Barack Obama cannot, in the
ordinary course of business, have the debt ceiling raised simply to pay
America's bills," Lee said. "Now we're hearing that the most vulnerable
will have to [bear] the brunt, potentially, of a deal.

"If the Republican leadership can find votes in their own caucus to pass
such a deal, let them do it," she said.

With a number of conservative Republicans opposed to any debt-ceiling
increase, GOP leaders are expected to need dozens of Democratic votes to
pass the legislation. Those strange dynamics haven't been lost on liberal
Democrats, who feel they're in a good position to influence the final

"We do have more leverage than people anticipate," Grijalva said. "Without
overwhelming support from our caucus I think it's going to be a hard deal
to pass."

 2011 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp.,.

--------3 of x--------

Reports: Obama Pushing for Cuts to Social Security, Medicare
by Glenn Greenwald
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2011 by

This is at once an extraordinary and completely unsurprising headline:

For months, the standard narrative among progressive commentators was that
Republicans were outrageously exploiting the debt ceiling deadline to
impose drastic entitlement cuts on a resisting and victimized Democratic
President (he's weak in negotiations!), but The Post article makes clear
that the driving force behind these cuts is the President himself, who is
pushing for even larger spending cuts than the GOP was ready to accept:

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a
far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major
changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support
for fresh tax revenue. . . . As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing
significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is
offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people
in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major
shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to
Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement
benefits from the assault on government spending.

This morning's New York Times article similarly makes clear that it is the
President who is demanding an even larger "deficit reduction" package than
has previously been discussed. Headlined "Obama to Push for Wider Deal With
G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts," the article reports that "President Obama has
raised his sights and wants to strike a far-reaching agreement on cutting
the federal deficit" and that he "wants to move well beyond the $2 trillion
in savings sought in earlier negotiations and seek perhaps twice as much
over the next decade." This is all in pursuit of "an agreement that ma[kes]
substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare
and Medicaid and Social Security -- programs that had been off the table."
The President, as part of the package, is reportedly seeking some
elimination of modest tax "loopholes" that benefit wealthy Americans to
claim, absurdly, that there is "balanced" sacrifice.

It's true that these articles rely upon anonymous sources, though multiple
such sources close to the negotiations -- from both parties -- are cited in
consensus about what is taking place, and there are numerous other reports
entirely consistent with these. It's been bleedingly obvious for some time
that the bipartisan D.C. political class and the economic factions that own
it have been intent on massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare -- see
George Carlin's 2007 video explanation below -- but the combination of
deficit hysteria (repeatedly bolstered by Obama) and the manufactured debt
ceiling deadline has, by design, created the perfect pretext to enable this
now. As one "Democratic official" told the Post: "These moments come along
at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us
by." Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine is not a GOP-exclusive dynamic.

How many people who voted for Obama in 2008 would have expected a headline
like this a short two-and-a-half years later? Many more than should have.
As Matt Taibbi explains in trumpeting Frank Rich's superb new New York
article detailing Obama's subservience to Wall Street:

Throughout 2008, it was hard to shake the feeling that this was a
politician whose legacy could still go either way. There were an awful lot
of troubling signs on the horizon in Obamaâs campaign, not the least of
which being the enthusiastic support he was receiving from Wall Street.

Obama in part ran a very slightly economically populist campaign, but the
tens of millions pouring into his campaign coffers from the very rich (and
specifically from hedge funds) told all of us that we probably shouldnât
expect those promises to come off. For a piece I wrote that summer, I asked
people in Washington why Wall Street would be throwing money at a guy who
was out there on the stump pledging to reach into their pockets:

"Sadly, the answer to that question increasingly appears to be that Obama
is, well, full of shit. . . . These populist pledges sound good, but many
business moguls appear to be betting that the tax policies, like Obama
himself, are only that: something that sounds good. 'I think we don't want
to make too much of his promises on taxes,' says Robert Pollin, professor
of economics at the University of Massachusetts. 'Not all of these things
will happen.' Noting the overwhelming amount of Wall Street money pouring
into Obama's campaign, even elitist fuckwad David Brooks was recently moved
to write, "Once the Republicans are vanquished, I wouldn't hold your breath
waiting for that capital-gains tax hike."

Disgustingly, Brooks turned out to be right, and the narrative of the Obama
presidency did end up turning sour, on that front anyway.

When I first began writing about politics in late 2005, the standard
liberal blogosphere critique -- one I naively believed back then -- was
that Democrats were capitulating so continuously to the Bush agenda because
they "lacked spine" and were inept political strategists: i.e., they found
those policies so very offensive but were simply unwilling or unable to
resist them. It became apparent to me that this was little more than a
self-soothing conceit: Democrats continuously voted for Bush policies
because they were either indifferent to their enactment or actively
supported them, and were owned and controlled by the same factions as the

Now, Democratic commentators -- mostly the President's most hardened
loyalists -- continue to invoke this "he's-weak-and-inept" excuse for
Obama, but the evidence is far too abundant to sustain it any longer. As
Paul Krugman -- long more clear-eyed than most progressives about Obama --
explained this week:

Since Obama keeps talking nonsense about economics, at what point do we
stop giving him credit for actually knowing better? Maybe at some point we
have to accept that he believes what heâs saying. . . . , hereâs an
unprofessional speculation: maybe it's personal. Maybe the president just
doesnât like the kind of people who tell him counterintuitive things, who
say that the government is not like a family, that itâs not right for the
government to tighten its belt when Americans are tightening theirs, that
unemployment is not caused by lack of the right skills. Certainly just
about all the people who might have tried to make that argument have left
the administration or are leaving soon.

And what's left, Iâm afraid, are the Very Serious People. It looks as if
those are the people the president feels comfortable with. And that, of
course, is a tragedy.

I think Krugman's "personal" explanation -- that Obama is far more
comfortable with "neo-liberal centrists" (i.e., corporatists) than with
actual liberals -- is basically true (Frank Rich put it this way: "For all
the lurid fantasies of the birthers, the dirty secret of Obamaâs
background is that the values of Harvard, not of Kenya or Indonesia or Bill
Ayers, have most colored his governing style. He falls hard for the best
and the brightest white guys"). But it's also about ideology, conviction,
and self-interest: Obama both believes in the corporatist agenda he
embraces and assesses it to be in his political interest to be associated
with it. If it means "painful" entitlement cuts for ordinary Americans at a
time of massive unemployment, economic anxiety and exploding wealth
inequality, so be it.

Krugman understandably describes this dynamic in the context of the debt
battle because that's the area on which he focuses most, but this is the
same exact dynamic that drives the Obama presidency in almost every realm.
In the context of foreign policy and civil liberties, the public-private
National Security State (the "Fourth Branch" of Government) is his Wall
Street; military and intelligence officials and defense contractors are his
Geithner/Summers/Dimon; and endless embrace of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism
template of militarism and civil liberties assaults is his cutting of
Social Security and Medicare. This is who Barack Obama is; it's what drives
his presidency in every realm, not just in economic policy.

What's particularly revealing in the Social Security/Medicare assault is
the political calculation. The President obviously believes that being able
to run by having made his own party angry -- I cut entitlement programs
long cherished by liberals -- will increase his appeal to independents and
restore his image of trans-partisan conciliator that he so covets. But how
could it possibly be politically advantageous for a Democratic President to
lead the way in slashing programs that have long been the crown jewels of
his party, defense of which is the central litmus test for whether someone
is even a Democrat? The answer lies in how lacking in credibility is this
statement, from The New York Times:

"Depending on what they decide to recommend, they may not have Democrats,"
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said in an interview.
"I think it is a risky thing for the White House to basically take the bet
that we can be presented with something at the last minute and we will go
for it."

There's nothing "risky" about that. Of course enough Democrats will get in
line behind Obama's proposal to pass it once they're told they must.
Similarly, those progressive commentators who are first and foremost
Democratic loyalists -- who rose up in angry and effective unison to
prevent George Bush from privatizing Social Security in 2005 -- will mount
no meaningful opposition out of fear of weakening the President's political
prospects. White House aides will just utter Michele Bachmann enough times
like some magical spell and snap more than enough people into fear-induced
compliance. The last thing the White House is worried about -- the last
thing -- is its "base."

This was the primary lesson from the health care fight. Obama loyalists who
maligned anyone who resisted that bill always misunderstood the point. It
was never about the substantive belief in what became the very weak "public
option" provision: at least not primarily. Instead, it was about political

Congressional Democrats began the health care debate by categorically
vowing -- in writing, by the dozens -- never to support any health care
bill that did not contain a public option (on the ground that it would be
little more than a boon to -- an entrenchment of -- the private health
insurance industry). But once they all abandoned that pledge when told that
doing so was necessary to be good, loyal Democrats, it was clear from that
point froward that they could be ignored. They had no willingness to
exercise political power; their partisan loyalty trumped any alleged
convictions; and they could always be counted on to snap dutifully into
line at the end no matter how much their values were stomped on (and that
debate followed the same template as the deficit battle: the White House
publicly pretending to advocate for a public option while leading the way
in private to ensure it never happened).

Obama knows full well that he can slash Medicare, Medicaid and even Social
Security -- just like he could sign an extension of Bush tax cuts, escalate
multiple wars, and embrace the Bush/Cheney Terrorism template recently
known in Democratic circles as "shredding the Constitution" -- and have
most Democrats and progressives continue to support him anyway.
Unconditional support ensures political impotence, and rightly so. He's
attending to the constituencies that matter: mostly, Wall Street tycoons
who funded his 2008 campaign and whom he hopes will fund his re-election
bid, and independent whose support is in question. And he's doing that both
because it's in his perceived interest and because, to the extent he
believes in anything, those are the constituencies with which he feels most

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights
litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling
book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's
use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic
Legacy", examines the Bush legacy. His next book is titled "With Liberty
and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect
the Powerful."

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Obama Administration Tries to Tempt Congressional Democrats into Political
by Jon Walker
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2011 by FireDogLake

Apparently the White House is back handing out extremely bad political
advice to Congressional Democrats to get their support for a big partisan
austerity package that includes Medicare and Social Security benefits cuts.
From New York Times:

White House officials acknowledge the unrest among Democrats. But they
argue that Democrats will be in stronger shape politically heading into
November 2012 if they help enact a credible deficit reduction deal,
allowing them to mount the argument that they protected Medicare from a
much more drastic overhaul by Republicans.

With official unemployment around 9 percent and the economy stagnant what
people donât care about is deficits they care about jobs. Recent polling
showed that seven times as many Americans rank jobs/economy as the top
issue over the deficit.

Poll after poll after poll has also repeatedly shown that Americans
overwhelmingly donât want Social Security or Medicare benefits cut to
reduce the deficit.

It is mind boggling that the White House is actually trying to convince
Congressional Democrats the voting in direct opposition to the will of the
electorate to address an issue that voters donât even think is the top
problem facing the country right now, would be a political winner. If
Congressional Democrats are stupid enough to actually buy this nonsense
they deserve to lose.

All I simply recommend is that Congressional Democrats remember the last
political advice the Obama administration gave before a big vote, when they
promised the popularity of corporatist health care reform law would soar
after it was passed.

How well exactly did that advice work out for Democratsâ

Jon Walker is political writer and blogger for FireDogLake. He is an
expert on health care policy and the politics of health care reform.

--------5 of --------

Barack the Gipper
Reagan Recycles Back to Life
July 8 - 10, 2011

Unlike Generalissimo Franco, who at least had the decency to stay dead,
Ronald Reagan is rising again -- in the form of Barack Obama.

I am of course using âReaganâ to stand for âReaganism,â a parochial
designation that is apt in the United States and perhaps also in Canada. In
the UK and Australia, âThatcherismâ would do as well, and outside the
English-speaking world there are other names. Whatever we call it, the idea
is to designate an historically peculiar form of aggressive (ruling) class
warfare â that targets political constraints on capitalistsâ abilities
to exploit and plunder, and that seeks to replace collective forms of
provision, welfare state institutions, and other non- or extra-capitalist
ways of organizing social and economic life with market âsolutions.â

Until the 1970s, Reaganism was a dream in the minds of fringe economists,
philosophers, and social theorists. A few of them were clever in the way
that theorists can sometimes be when their views have no practical
consequences; most of them were just mean-spirited and dull. Their guiding
idea was to resurrect long discredited âclassical liberalâ
(libertarian) doctrines and then to apply them, as best they could, to
modern conditions. Their faith in markets and private property was as
fervent as any true believerâs faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and

And like their otherworldly counterparts, they attracted converts to their
theology at the same time that they breathed new life into the old time
(capitalist) religion. Ronald Reagan was a convert, and with a convertâs
fervor he took to heart what free market theologians had contrived. Being a
movie actor and an advertising flack, and a man of reactionary
inclinations, he was a suitable vehicle for warriors on the wrong side of
the class struggle. But being lazy and poorly informed, he was not of much
use on his own. No problem there: with practically limitless resources
provided by capitalists bent on taking the offensive, there were plenty of
willing and able helpers to pick up the slack.

In its first two years, the Reagan administration did score some successes
in turning back organized labor; breaking the Air Traffic Controllersâ
strike was especially pivotal. However, neither Reagan nor Bush the father
were able to do much more to implement the Reagan agenda. That task fell to
Bill Clinton. No one was more effective than he at promoting globalization
and deregulation and also, not coincidentally, at putting the âVietnam
syndromeâ to rest. Clinton was the father of the mother of all
imperialist subterfuges: humanitarian intervention.

American welfare state institutions were always feeble in comparison with
those of other developed liberal democracies; but, even so, even Clinton
was powerless to weaken them further â except of course, under the banner
of âending welfare as we know it,â canceling programs crucial for the
relief of extreme poverty, like Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
Still, thanks in large part to the Lewinsky affair, he was balked in going
after Social Security or other legacies of the New Deal and Great Society.

George W. Bush did go after Social Security â in 2004, after finally
winning an election -- but Democrats resisted and his efforts foundered.
But that was then. Now we have the âyes, we canâ champion of
âchangeâ determined to put Clinton and Bush, not to mention Reagan and
Bush the father, to shame.

Supposedly, no deal has yet been struck, but it now seems that, with
Republicans threatening to let the United States default on its debt
obligations, Obama has agreed to spending cuts beyond the imagination of
any of his predecessors â taking aim even on Medicaid, Medicare and, the
third rail of American politics, Social Security. He will do this in
âexchangeâ for Republicans not blocking efforts to close some
especially egregious tax loopholes â though, it goes without saying, that
the Republicans can always move the goal posts again, and that the
âdeal,â if there is one, will then fall through. Whether it does or
not, Obama is already positioned to leave his Democratic predecessor behind
in the sand, and to assume for all time the undisputed title of Defender of
the (Reaganite) Faith.

Democrats could stop him, of course; but they wonât lift a finger â
even though his opponent in the next election is likely to be either
Michele Bachmann, a certifiable wing-nut, or Mitt Romney, a smarmy
flip-flopping practitioner of a faith whose brand of snake oil is repugnant
even to the snake oil salesmen of the rest of the religious right. Were the
Democrats not a wholly lost cause, they would by now have a flourishing
Dump Obama movement under way. Instead, not one Democrat has so far
indicated even the slightest willingness to run against Obama, much less to
stand up against his increasingly reckless capitulations.

* * *
In his dealing with Republicans, Obamaâs hand is weaker now than it was
in his first two years in office, but he still holds most of the cards. Why
then is he such an enthusiastic capitulator? One reason, of course, is that
his âliberalâ supporters, implausibly fearful of another
âshellacking,â encourage him. Another, much commented upon, is that it
is not in his character to fight back. Another is that, no matter how high
he has risen, military and economic high-flyers intimidate him; and that he
is therefore incapable of viewing them with the contempt they deserve. All
of this is true, but itâs not the whole story.

The Obama imperative â to capitulate, capitulate, and capitulate again
â is built into his negotiating strategy. His idea, in the main, is to
concede a great deal at the outset and then to compromise away most of the
rest. Itâs a little different, when dealing with the military brass â
in part because they probably do believe, just a little, in that
Commander-in-Chief thing, but mainly because, terrified of seeming âweak
on defense,â Obama begins by conceding not just a great deal but almost
everything. That enables him then to hold (comparatively) fast on the rest.
After all, as a Nobel laureate, he has a reputation to protect.

With the debt ceiling negotiations, Obama is again acting true to form, but
the Republicans have ratcheted up their modus operandi. They always
understood that dumb obduracy would get them (nearly) everything. Lately,
they seem to have come to the conclusion that total obduracy will get them
(literally) all they want. My guess is that they reached this understanding
by observing the dynamic between Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. But however
they got the idea, theyâre now intent on playing chicken up to the bitter
end (and perhaps beyond it) â and while they may not be good for much
else, theyâre superb at that.

It will soon become clear how big a loser in the chicken game Obama will
be. At best, heâll insist on saving face enough not to push his most
diehard supporters â âprogressivesâ who would rather do anything than
fight back -- over the edge. You can fool some of the people all of the
time, but probably not enough of them to win a second term -- at least not
if, in the end, Obama doesnât run effectively unopposed.

But however that may be, none of the explanations sketched above fully
account for Obamaâs spectacular unwillingness to do anything to advance
the interests of the people who put him in office. Having a character
unsuited for the tasks he faces canât be the whole story. In his heart of
hearts, he must actually want to capitulate â not because he has to, but
because he can.

Itâs a scary thought -- that Obama is a stealth Reaganite for whom
government is the problem, not the solution. It underscores just how
susceptible all of the people can be to being fooled some of the time. But
there is no more plausible explanation.

Last Spring, with workers in motion in Wisconsin and other states where
Republican governors and legislatures decided that they couldnât wait for
Democrats to complete Reaganâs work, it looked for a while like the
Reagan Revolution had overreached and that, no thanks to Obama, we really
were on the threshold of âchange we can believe in.â This could still
be true, but it has become much harder of late to sustain optimism; not
with Obama giving it all away, again and again, as the party he leads stays
entirely in tow.

In the end, it comes down to whether our Presidentâs capitulations amount
just to bumps in the road or whether, by taking up where Bill Clinton left
off, he will do more lasting damage than any of his Reaganite predecessors.
Much like the question of what will come from the contemporaneous Arab
spring, what will come from the spring revolts in Wisconsin and other
states is ultimately a matter for civil society to decide.

It is hard to see, though, in either case, how anything good can come in
the absence of a genuine and capable political alternative. So, for now, it
remains an open question, in both cases, whether we are talking about
temporary setbacks or historical defeats. The one thing that is certain is
that, pace Reagan, it is not government per se, but Reaganite government --
Obama government -- that is the problem, not the solution.

Andrew Levine is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the
author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY
WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political
philosophy. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University
of Maryland-College Park.

--------6 of x--------

Breaking Point: Obama and the Death of the Democratic Party
by Jane Hamsher
Published on Friday, July 8, 2011 by FireDogLake

According to both the Washington Post and the New York Times, Obama is
proposing cuts to Social Security in exchange for GOP support for tax

Lori Montgomery in the Post:
At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning,
Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and
scope of the nationâs budget problems and that policymakers should seize
the moment to take dramatic action. As part of his pitch, Obama is
proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first
time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to
people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal.

And Jay Carneyâs carefully chosen weasel-words today do not contradict

âThere is no news here â the President has always said that while
social security is not a major driver of the deficit, we do need to
strengthen the program and the President said in the State of the Union
Address that he wanted to work with both parties to do so in a balanced way
that preserves the promise of the program and doesnât slash benefits.â

Nobody ever says they want to âcutâ Social Security or Medicare. They
want to âsaveâ it. Just ask Pete Peterson, he wants to âsaveâ it.
Likewise AARP. They donât want reduced benefits for senior citizens, they
want to âpreserveâ it for future generations. If they have an enormous
customer base they can market private âadd-onâ accounts and other
retirement products to when Social Security goes bye-bye, I guess thatâs
just a happy coincidence.

Now if you think that this is something the President is doing because
itâs the only way to get Republican cooperation you can stop reading
here, because weâre going to disagree. From the moment he took the White
House, the President has wanted to cut Social Security benefits. David
Brooks reported that three administration officials called him to say Obama
âis extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically
feasible ways to reduce Social Security as well as health spendingâ in
March of 2009. You can only live in denial for so long and still lay claim
to being tethered to reality.

And if you think itâs only the President, and the progressives in
Congress will oppose him, weâll have to disagree about that too. Nancy
Pelosi can always come up with the votes she needs to pass whatever the
White House wants, and sheâll do it again this time. Itâs her only
chance to ever be Speaker again. If the Democrats somehow manage to retake
control of the House, she needs Obamaâs support. Sheâll shake her fist
and say things like any health care bill âwithout a strong public option
will not pass the Houseâ â and then turn around and force her caucus to
walk the plank.

Progressive Democratic âleadersâ like Raul Grijalva will fold once
again like a house of cards if need be â and they know it. Today, the
Huffington Post reports:

Progressives Wonât Criticize Obama For Proposed Social Security Cuts
Grijalva and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), a vice chair of the caucus,
defended the president for signaling he would be willing to take a look at
changes to the programs, arguing there are ways to restructure entitlement
spending to save money without hurting beneficiaries.

Translation: Theyâll wait for the whip count to see if their votes are
needed, and if not, they can let somebody else be the ârotating
villainâ this time. But just in case, theyâre leaving the back door
open for themselves.

What weâre watching is the death of the Democratic Party. Or, at least
the Democratic Party as most of us have known it. The one that has taken
its identity in the modern era from FDR and the New Deal, from Keynesianism
and the social safety net. Despite any of its other shortcomings (and they
are myriad), the Democratic Party has stood as a symbol for commitment to
these principles. As recently as 2006, Democrats retook the House in a
surprise wave election because the public feared that George Bush would
destroy Social Security, and they trusted the Democrats over Republicans to
secure it. Just like George Bush, Obama now wants to âsaveâ Social
Securityâ.by giving those who want to burn it to the ground the the very
thing theyâve wanted for decades.

Any member of any party who participates in this effort does not deserve,
and should not get, the support of anyone who values Social Security and
cares about its preservation. The amount of damage that the Democrats under
Obama have been able to do has been immeasurable, by virtue of the fact
that they are less awful that George Bush. But where George Bush failed,
Obama will probably succeed.

Which means weâre watching another casualty here: Democracy. Or at least,
the illusion that we live in a democratic society. The public, regardless
of party, overwhelmingly opposes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. But
elected officials of both parties are hell-bent on conspiring to bring the
programs to an end. They seem to have come to grips with a fact that the
public has not: their tenure in office depends on carrying out the wishes
of oligarchical elites.

There is only one thing you can reasonably conclude as you watch the
political theater that is transpiring: what the voting public thinks really
isnât all that important. And to the extent that it does matter, it can
easily be channeled by those with sufficient money to pay the tab. Samuel
Johnson said that patriotism was the last refuge of scoundrels, but in our
modern era, that honor goes to tribalism. The list of horrors that people
found intolerable when George Bush was in office, but are now blithely
accepting because âSarah Palin would be worse,â grows longer every day.

Weâll fight this, because itâs the right thing to do. We will probably
lose. But we will make it as painful as possible for any politician from
any party to participate in this wholesale looting of the public sphere,
this âshock doctrineâ for America. And maybe along the way weâll get
a vision of what comes next. Because what we believe in as Americans, and
what we stand for, is not something the Democratic party represents any

Jane Hamsher is the founder of Her work has also appeared
on The Daily Beat, Common Dreams, AlterNet, The Nation and The American

--------7 of x--------

Where's the Revolt? Obamaâs Dangerous Cure for the Federal Deficit
by Roger Bybee
Published on Friday, July 8, 2011 by In These Times

As of this moment, it appears that President Obama's debt-ceiling
proposalâraising it in excange for budget cuts that are six times as
large as new revenue raisedâwill effectively define his presidency as
being less concerned with the jobs crisis than the budget deficit.

If accepted by the Republicans and Obamaâs own party, the deal put forth
by Obama in a meeting on Thursday will likely mean a "double-dip"
recession. In short, the debt-ceiling deal would result in the layoffs of
many thousands more government workers, setting off ripple effects that
will drown thousands of small businesses (e.g., restaurants, car-repair
garages, hardware stores).

With the official unemployment rate at 9.1 percent and the more accurate
U-6 rate (which includes part-timers looking for full-time jobs and those
who've given up looking for work) at 16 percent, Obama is almost certainly
killing off the very shaky recovery he has been touting.

While Obama can claim to be making a strong stand against deficits, this
unfortunately will not deeply impress the jobless and their families.
Moreover, Republicans will work mightily to hang rising economic misery
around his neck in 2012.

Given the strong hand that Obama has been dealt, this cure for deficits is
a very strange choice. First, polling in swing states by Public Policy
Polling on a proposal to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires shows
very overwhelming public support: â78% of voters in Ohio backed the
measure, 76% in Missouri, 77% in Montana, and 79% in Minnesota.â

As MSNBCâs Ed Schultz noted on Wednesday, Obama also has 70% to 80% of
the American people favoring protection of Social Security without bogus
and unnecessary âreformsâ like raising the retirement age, and
protecting Medicare from Republican experiments.

Second, much as CEOs, hedge-fund traders, and big investors appreciate
everything the Republicans have so slavishly delivered in the way of tax
breaks, subsidies, and government contracts, they are not eager to see the
leading financial standing of the U.S. undermined by the government running
out of money to pay its bills.

The Masters of the Universe certainly do not want higher interest rates and
the possibility of world-wide economic convulsions if the U.S. government
defaults and shakes up their huge and happy universe.

As Joan Walsh points out, Obama could have used his Wall Street ties to
elicit pressure on the Republicans to drive home these realities:

He issued no public call to constituencies like the financial industry to
bring pressure to bear on the issue. He did not warn that he would manage
any crisis in ways that Republicans would not like. ("If the Republicans in
Congress deny me the authority to pay everybody, then I'm going to have to
choose some priorities. I don't think it's likely that Texas-based defense
contractors will find themselves at the top of my list.")

Instead, he appealed again and again to Republicans' spirit of
responsibility. Good luck with that.

Progressive economist Robert Kuttner is similarly distressed with Obamaâs
strategic calculations:

President Obama has backed himself into a corner on the budget
negotiations, where heâs allowed deficit hawks from both parties to
define âprogressâ as a ten-year deal to cut the projected deficit by a
huge amount. In fact, his own Bowles-Simpson Commission led the way.

Obama has also lost the framing battle over whether itâs acceptable to
hold an increase in the debt ceiling hostage in order to achieve a deal as
Republican congressional leaders have done. This is now taken for granted.

Based on preliminary reports, President Obama will be laying out a âgrand
bargainâ to Democratic House and Senate members that is designed to show
that the Democrats are more deeply committed to reducing the deficit than
the Republicans. The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery reports:

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a
far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major
changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support
for fresh tax revenue.

At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning,
Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and
scope of the nationâs budget problems and that policymakers should seize
the moment to take dramatic action.

This translates into critical concessions on treasured, historic Democratic
achievements to protect senior citizens, on top of the trillions in cuts
that Obama has already surrendered in a stunningly unbalanced


But many Democrats may be outraged, both on principle and practical
politics, as David Dyen argues: "By taking the most potent issue off the
table for Congressional Democrats â Medicare â [Obama] will leave them
with literally nothing to run on."

In addition to budget cuts that are six times as large as the revenue
raised by closing some of the most outrageous loopholes exploited by the
American investor class, Obama is sweetening the deal for the Republicans
by tinkering dangerously with safety-net programs that voters have counted
upon the Democrats to defend.

White House economic advisor Gene Sperling, grilled by Chris Hayes of the
Nation on MSNBC, tried very unconvincingly to make the case that the deal
would produce more revenues to stimulate the economy. But if cuts in
domestic programs are six times larger than the additional revenue, why
wonât the much larger losses in jobs and total consumer spending power
send the economy spiraling further downward?

Sperling even hauled out a favorite argument of the Right, that jobs were
not being created because of a lack of âbusiness confidenceâ induced by
the deficits. Sperling, a major advocate of corporate globalization, lamely
asserted that enhanced "business confidence" would leader corporations to
locate more jobs in the United States.

What makes the Obama over-reach on this deal truly bizarre is that two of
the nationâs most prominent conservative pundits had already suggested
that the Republicans were crazy to pass up what Obama had already
negotiated away âbefore the latest concessions.

Blasting the Republicans for foolishly passing on an earlier version
favoring Republican goals, handed on a golden platter by Obama, David
Brooks of the New York Times declared,

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of
this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions
of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars
of revenue increases.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that
might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being
asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

David Frum, the former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote of Obamaâs
amazing capitulations to the Republicansâ as if incredulously describing:

[Obama's earlier proposal was] weighted overwhelmingly in favor of the GOP.
The president opened negotiations by offering $3 of spending cuts for every
$1 of tax increases. His current offer tilts even further to the GOP: $6 of
spending cuts to $1 of tax increases.

Better still (from a Republican point of view), the spending cuts come from
programs Republicans dislike, like Medicaid, rather than programs they
like, like the farm budget. The tax increases meanwhile are designed to be
as acceptable as possible to the GOP: no increases in tax rates, but
instead trimming some of the less defensible deductions in the tax code.

Once again, Obama has refused to recognize the Republicansâ intransigence
and treated them as perfectly acceptable bargaining partners. Once again,
Obama chose not to mobilize the massive public support on his side.


Once again âas with healthcare reform, the auto bailout, and numerous
other instances â Obama has been willing to reserve the biggest benefits
for those at the top while imposing the harshests costs on the most

"Why aren't the Democrats rebelling?" asks a befuddled David Frum. This
morning's meeting might produce that revolt among some very displeased
congressional Democrats.

But if a revolt doesn't break out today, expect it soon from the Democrats'
base of working people.

 2011 In These Times
Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive
publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national
publications and websites, including Z magazine, Common Dreams, Dollars &
Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect
and Foreign Policy in Focus.


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