|Progressive Calendar 07.08.11||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: shove001 (shove001umn.edu)|
|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] riseup.net> 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 available. --------2 of x-------- 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 House. "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 package. "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." Â 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 Salon.com 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 GOP. 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 power. 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 comfortable. Â 2011 Salon.com 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." --------4 of x-------- Obama Administration Tries to Tempt Congressional Democrats into Political Suicide 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 Â 2011 FireDogLake.com 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 By ANDREW LEVINE CounterPunch 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 Jacob. 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 hikes. 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 this: 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 more. Â 2011 FireDogLake.com Jane Hamsher is the founder of firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on The Daily Beat, Common Dreams, AlterNet, The Nation and The American Prospect. --------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 âcompromise.â POTENT ISSUE FOR DEMS DEFUSED 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 distortionary. 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. WHERE'S THE REVOLT? 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 vulnerable. "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. Â 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. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Shove rhymes with clove
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