Tom Rinaldo's Journal
Republicans have been pounding their "job creators" alternate universe name for the rich into the ground for a couple of years now - people are tired of hearing it. I think the time is ripe to throw it back in Republican's faces. The super rich aren't "job creators", they are "job misers". They have aggressively been grabbing up more and more of the fruits of Americas economy and simply hoarding it. Workers are asked to keep working harder, to do the work of two or more, to do that work more efficiently than it was previously done by two or more workers, and to do it with lower pay and less benefits. The Job Misers then seize most of the profits, give themselves raises, bonuses, and stock equity, and then sit on top of their wealth. They are Scrooge constantly repeating "mine all mine" while gloating over their bars of gold. They don't want to give back a nickle to the American middle and working classes unless they absolutely are forced to.
Democrats message needs to be that the worst thing we can do for the American economy is allow the Job Misers to keep hoarding more of Americas wealth. They are doing their best to make sure that most of our money never sees the light of day being transferred to middle class wallets again. If the "Job Misers" are forced to spend any of the mountains of gold they sit upon on actually creating jobs - they would rather use their American profits to create cheaper jobs oversee.
We can't afford to let the Job Misers lock up even more of the life blood of Americas economy. The stingy bastards have shown that they intend to give back as little money to the American workforce as is possible without shutting down all their businesses here; that is until the day comes when the Indian and Chinese consumer markets grow to the point that Americas Job Misers Job Misers no longer care if anyone here can afford to buy their goods and "services".
New Framing: They say "Job Creators, we say "Job Misers."
We've begun our descent into turbulence. There is no smooth path forward and there are no accurate maps of the territory we now are entering. For the first time since the civil rights movement, since the race riots, since the anti-Vietnam War movement, we are back on the streets and staying there. It happened in the 30's also. Factories were occupied then. General strikes happened then.
In the 60's we were called "the new left". Our message was labeled "anti-American" by our opponents, because of our heated opposition to U.S. war efforts, and because it was fully our intention then to forcefully "rock the boat". In the name of patriotism, for the most part the "hard hats" fought against us in those days. This time will be different. It already is. This time we reach all the way back to the 30's.
We are not there yet, we aren't even close, but that doesn't matter - we've pushed off from the gate and there is no heading back. The civil rights movement didn't begin with massive nation wide protests. It grew from a committed small base and gathered steam. The anti-Vietnam War movement didn't pull hundreds of thousands to Washington immediately either. There were small hardly noticed "teach-ins" on some college campuses in the early stages.
This time it isn't the draft that is mobilizing students and the young into action; it is the prospect of "no future". It is the belief that tomorrow will be worse than today if something isn't done now to change that. In the 60's we all heard stories of farm foreclosure's in the 30's. Today the foreclosures are happening on our block. Today the economic safety net that we believed would catch us is we fell, is unraveling daily, with as many people being thrown off unemployment insurance weekly as are trying to get onto it. Few believe any more that we are in an economic slowdown. We are recognizing the new reality.
In the 30's the Democratic Party grabbed the banner of resistance and road it into power. In the 60's it was slower to do so and more tentative when it did. Between 2002 and 2008, most of the activist grassroots energy that is now feeding the 99% movement was channeled into the Democratic Party. A collective effort swept Democrats into control of first Congress and then the Presidency. But that movement was not encouraged to stay active, it was counted on to stay loyal instead. After a period of disappointment leading to disillusionment, much of that energy is headed to the streets. Both in the 1930's and the 1960's, movements didn't wait for the Democratic Party to lead them - it was up to the Party to win a position at the front. People aren't waiting anymore now either.
Big money owns a part of the Democratic Party today. I don't know if todays Democratic Party can get ahead of the movement this time. The steering wheel for it has slipped out of the Party's hands. I don't know what will happen next other than to say this; we are only in the early stages of significant "social unrest". It's been a while, most people can't really remember what that feels like.
In case you hadn't already noticed, no I am not very pleased with Obama as our President. I figure he is the modern day equivalent of a Bob Dole Democrat. Nowadays Dole would be run out of the Republican Party if he refused to toe the Tea Party line. I don't think he would. Instead I think Dole might have tried to reason with them, or with any Republicans a half hairs breadth to the left of Tea Party wackos, kind of like Obama does now. I didn't vote for Bob Dole in 1996 and I don't want to now either. But I will vote for Obama in 2012, and the reason is clear and simple. He will be running against someone far more dangerous to America than Bob Dole ever was. No matter who the Republicans finally nominate, it will be someone far more dangerous to America than a Bob Dole was or a Barack Obama is. And that as yet unpicked Republican will be bringing bus loads of crazy right wingers into his or her Administration also, even if s/he would rather not have to. Anyway, this is obviously not a new argument for supporting Obama in the Presidential election, it is the classic lesser of two evils gambit, we know it all to well.
So why not go for what we want in the first place instead? Why not get behind some primary challenge against Obama from the left? For one thing this isn't 1968. I don't believe that Obama would stand down from running for reelection like LBJ did if some protest candidate like Eugene McCarthy gets a third of the Democratic votes in a New Hampshire primary. And I don't think there is anyone out there who can beat Barack Obama in enough Democratic primaries to unseat him.
It may be another inconvenient truth for frustrated progressives, but the fact remains that Barack Obama is our first minority American President. He is also a bright and personable man who looks pretty damn sane to many Democrats compared to just about anyone in national Republican politics. Yes there are progressive minority Democrats who are unhappy with choices Obama has made, lots of them. And some of them could support opposing Obama in the primaries. But there would be more raw nerves dangling within core Democratic constituencies after such a contest than there are live downed power lines after an F5 tornado. Open wounds lead to electoral defeats. I do not want a Republican president in 2013, I'll stick with Obama. He'll have my vote.
Given the conclusion I reached above, it is harder to simply explain then why I will not give any of my money and/or my time to help Obama win re-election. Conclusions don't have to be simple in order to be clear, and for me my choice is clear. Let's start with voting. For most Americans, and yes even good Democrats, the bar is set at making sure that you are registered and then actually turning out to vote on election day. Almost half of Americans fail to clear that basic bar during presidential elections, and roughly half of those folks don't vote for the Democrat when they do vote.
Just by showing up to vote Democratic in November 2012 I will be doing more than 3/4Th's of adult American citizens to help President Obama win reelection. Some might think that should make someone like me a Democratic good guy. But progressives are expected to show greater loyalty to the Democratic Party than just that. We are counted on to expend our sweat and blood for Democrats also, and if we don't and they fail to win the finger is pointed at us; never at moderate and centrist Democrats who less predictably vote Democratic if they even show up to vote, let alone donate their time to the cause. When moderates fail to sufficiently support the Democrats the conclusion is that the Democratic Party failed them. If progressives fail to sufficiently support the Democrats the conclusion is that progressives failed the Democratic Party
My vote shouldn't be taken for granted by the Democratic Party but I will grant it to them anyway in 2012. It only takes a couple of hours out of my day once a year for me to give that to them. Obama will want much more from me than that I know, but he will not get more from me. I am co-dependent no longer. I will not continue giving of myself to a candidate regardless of how I am treated by that candidate once in office. I will not be blackmailed into believing that no one else will treat me better, that there is nowhere else for me to go. I will not grin and bear it and give ever more of my time energy and money to anyone who believes that they own my loyalty. I do have somewhere else to go. The door is always open for me to leave the house of electoral politics.
I accomplished more to end U.S. involvement in Viet Nam as a organizing and attending protests with my time than I ever could have by volunteering for some candidate's election campaign. I realized that after RFK was killed. There was no one else out there in politics at the time with the potential to transform our society through his leadership in elected office after Bobby was assassinated. There were still good candidates for office but I realized my personal impact would be greater by working outside of the electoral system than it would be by working for any of them. I became a grass roots issues based activist instead.
It's not that I can not see how electing Obama over some Republican is better than having that Republican win. I can, and that is why I will vote for Obama. But Obama is planning to spend a billion dollars on his presidential campaign. The few hundred dollars that I have to spend supporting social change and justice can do more good directed to smaller scale projects than it would be thrown into Obama's campaign sink hole. That's an easy call for me now after seeing what my political donations to Obama helped buy us last time out.
Electoral politics by design are meant to soak up and channel the energies of people who have strong feelings about the way our nation should be heading. It is a way of containing that energy inside of the system, and there are good things to be said for that WHEN the system works as promised. I don't want to live in a country prone to social chaos, bloody often pointless revolutions and constantly revolving coups. In the United States there is a promise that there will always be room for opposition inside of our system, but that system sucks up massive amounts of energy and time from those who choose to be active within it.
There will always be another call that needs to be made, another door that needs to be knocked on, another roadside sign that needs to be planted, another letter to the editor to be submitted, house party to be organized, and check to be written for whoever one backs for elected office. That need is bottomless, it will take all that you have to give and leave no time energy or money to direct elsewhere once you commit fully to that system. Elections become a constant self perpetuating state of emergency that demand your constant attention. There is always another stone that needs turning on behalf of a political candidate.
At some point I have to ask myself is it really worth it under the circumstances? If what I keep getting in return for all of that effort is always the lesser of two evils, is that the wisest use of my time energy and money? If my commitment is taken for granted and my loyalty is so deeply presumed that the candidate I work for feels free to make deals to gain support from those who I am trying to oppose, how is my loyalty to him or her helping me?
I will vote for Barack Obama in 2012 but I will direct the rest of my resources elsewhere. Not out of some ridiculous cut off my nose to spite my face spasm of inflated ego, but for common sense reasons. I am not secretly hoping Obama will lose, but far too much is going wrong in this world and I don't believe reelecting Obama will do enough to make it right. When I think of how much difference all of my individual activist efforts can make within the context of a presidential reelection campaign compared to what I can be contributing to outside of it, my choice is clear.
Barack Obama is no RFK. I will donate my vote toward his reelection. If he needs more than that let him use some of that corporate money he is soliciting to hire himself another campaign worker. I would rather use my money to help hire another union organizer.
I'm not talking about good Democrats at Democratic Underground, I'm talking about Democrats period. Any Democrat now serving in the U.S. House of Representatives is in a pretty elite group of Democrats. No one can dismiss them as just bored leftist bloggers with nothing better to do than stir up trouble.
So when half of the Democrats in the House oppose this President on the debt ceiling deal, is it safe to say that they represent more than just "fringe leftists"? I understand that if the President really needed a few more more votes to pass the deal some of those no Democratic votes would have flipped to yes, politics work that way, but even so.
There is no consensus inside the Democratic Party, even at the highest levels, behind the agreements that President Obama has been willing, and in some cases interested in making with Republicans on how the burden should be shared for reigning in our growing deficit, or even how much of that reigning in is necessary over the next decade.
The last time I remember this high a degree of internal dissent among Democrats over crucial policies pursued by a Democratic President was in the mid 60's, when LBJ sat in the oval office, when the Viet Nam War was swallowing a generation of our young men alive.
...and we are all left to deal with whatever deals went down; ponder this. Pretend in some alternate Universe Hillary Clinton got elected President instead of Barack Obama. If her record of dealing with this Congress, including which issues ultimately dominated the agenda and how "President Hillary Clinton" framed those issues to fellow Democrats and the American people, exactly matched that of President Obama in this universe, how would the Democratic Underground there have reacted to her?
I'm not asking whether she would have done a better or worse job than Obama has under the circumstances. I assume some here would say better and some here would think worse - and yes there is no way of knowing for sure etc, etc. I'm instead asking if things somehow ended up playing out pretty much exactly the same with President Hillary Clinton instead of our real President Barack Obama - would dynamics on DU regarding the leadership provided by the Democratic President we elected be essentially the same were it Clinton rather than Obama providing that leadership?
I figure there would be some loudly arguing that President Clinton was doing a damn good job under the circumstances, and some others attacking her for not standing up strongly enough against Republicans and in favor of core Democratic priorities. But would those camps be more lopsided one way or another than they are here now?
Would Hillary Clinton's strongest former backers at DU during the primaries be more willing to accept the way things have worked out so far if Hillary were President owing to greater respect in her judgment about what is and is not possible to achieve today while America is under attack by Republican economic terrorists? Would Barack Obama's strongest backers now be attacking Hillary Clinton for caving into Republicans and selling out liberal ideals if the Presidential tables were turned.
Do we ultimately base our judgments here about a Democratic President's accomplishments on how satisfied we are with the results, or instead is our willingness to at least tolerate results we might not find pleasing determined by our own trust in that President's true intentions, and his or her ability to win as much as possible under the circumstances?
How many of us would be shifting the tone of our commentary if it was Hillary rather than Barack inside the oval office today?
It resulted in the huge Wall Street Bail outs passing loaded with trojan horses that showered Billions on the undeserving and cost average Americans a fortune. It was all so rushed, and the details were not available to be reviewed and debated because... there was a HUGE CRISIS! Legislation passed that shuffled Trillions of dollars into and out of pockets because... there was a HUGE CRISIS! The world as we know it was about to end if something wasn't done RIGHT NOW!
You know, at least that time there was a crisis, brought on by many of the same people who got richer from the Federal response to that crisis, but a crisis nonetheless. This time it is a completely manufactured crisis, the debt ceiling needing to be raised for the double umpteenth time.
So maybe a deal had to be made of some sort to get by this one. Maybe a trillion dollars in spending cuts could not be avoided, or maybe they could, we'll never know really. Because why stop at one Trillion when we can shoot for 4 Trillion instead? Why not revamp Social Security Medicare and Medicaid too while we're at it? And, you know, our tax codes are kind of messy, so why not also negotiate new tax codes behind closed doors that lower the top bracket and encourage outsourcing of American jobs? And why not leave many details blank, so they can't be debated by Congress or the American People, until the very last second before a vote, or better yet - to be determined later?
Because, you know, there's a HUGE CRISIS! Something must be done RIGHT NOW!
Does anyone have a spare cocktail napkin handy? I just got an idea for completely revamping the U.S. Criminal Justice code that I want to jot down and have included in the budget deal. Among other things it will reduce the deficit by letting white collar criminals out of jail - they can be trusted to monitor themselves on parole, on the honor system. There's a lot of other stuff in there too, but it should be passed now with the details announced later, because WE HAVE TO ACT NOW!
OK, this is just my attempt to capture the paradox I experience trying to be a fairly loyal activist Democrat today, as we approach an important election year. That's all it is and it is two dimensional, meaning I'm not trying here to explain the possible motivations of the good guys and bad guys in this tale. Let us assume though that the bad guys have an escape plan involving the use of Black Op helicopters:
So, we find ourselves at sea in a large wooden boat, and it seems that we are in trouble. There are bad guys on it with us, Republicans, and they are busy drilling holes into the bottom of the hull. Water is pouring into our boat from all of the holes that they have already drilled. Fortunately for us, there are good guys in the boat with us also, Democrats, and they are busy too. A few of them are using some sort of wood putty to try to fill in the holes, but most of they have buckets and they are bailing water out of the boat as fast as they possibly can.
It doesn't take long for you to realize that the Republicans can drill new holes a lot faster than the Democrats can repair the old ones, and the only reason the boat is still afloat is because of the Democrats bailing water with their buckets. One of them calls out to you; "We need help to keep from sinking, grab a bucket and start bailing."
The danger of sinking is real, so you grab a bucket and start bailing furiously. After a while you notice that the water is slowly rising in the boat even though you and the Democrats are bailing as fast as you can. So you go running to the guy who recruited your help, to alert him of the threat. "Yes we know, but we have a back up plan" he assures you. "Whenever the water rises too high, we throw a few sacks of food over board to lighten the load in the boat."
Again, in parables figures are two dimensional. Real Republicans and Real Democrats are a lot more complex in real life. Democrats aren't dumb like the good guys on that boat of course, and Republicans not quite so transparent. Clearly in this parable the Democrats are trying to offset the damage that the Republicans are doing; they are not the bad guys, the Republicans are. Democrats are the good guys.
It makes a lot of sense to aid them in their efforts to keep the boat afloat. As you gaze upon the scene those effort are the only thing that has prevented everyone from already drowning, and if they stopped we all would quickly sink.
And yet you just can't hide from the stark conclusion you have now reluctantly reached. If this struggle continues to be fought in the same way that it has, the day is coming when you and everyone else traveling on that boat will face starvation, that is if you don't drown first.
He simply calls himself a Democrat. He does not identify himself with a progressive critique of American society, though he upholds the desirability of most progressive goals for the American people. He will never rally most Americans to oppose the interests of the super wealthy in our ongoing Class War, he does not embrace that type framing of the issues.
Our President advocates empathy and support for Americans who must struggle to survive. He rarely offers condemnation of the greedy elites who are causing so many Americans to have to struggle. Our President is not focused on growing and/or mobilizing the left in America. He is more interested in winning the middle from the right. He does not want to rock the boat, he wants us to paddle together.
Pretty much that is who Barack Obama seems to me to bebe. I don't see much point now in progressives attacking him over that. The flip side of the President not openly embracing progressives is that we don't have to openly embrace him either. We can more or less coexist with different but sometimes overlapping agendas, clearly closer to Obama in views than to the Republican opposition. Likewise I think it counterproductive for strong believers in this President to castigate progressives who voice some obvious disagreements with him. There is ample room to differ and still unite in practical ways when needed.
I think it's the task of the left now to make the progressive case to America directly. To do so will of necessity sometimes require expressing where we differ in views and/or actions from out Democratic President. Honestly I think that Obama can accept and understand that, at least more often than not. It doesn't have to be bitter or even overly personal. Our President has shown the ability to work with Republicans whose overt views on most issues are more in conflict with his own than the views of American Progressives. He can handle it.
Though there will no doubt be times when progressive Democrats in Congress must fall behind the President in some votes that will make them grit their teeth to do so, that happens sometimes in politics where nothing can be accomplished without being in a broader coalition with those who are not fully with you. However pragmatic politics are no excuse for progressives to withhold their honest view of where America is going wrong, whether or not that dovetails with the views our President is expressing. The Progressive perspective needs to be heard now, and we can't count on this President to voice it. It might even make it easier for the President to move the center a bit closer to the left.
The same basic array of opposing forces and conflicting interests that periodically erupt into revolutions, counter revolutions, coups and civil wars in other societies around the world are present in democracies also. But in democracies they are diverted into generally non lethal channels with pressure valve releases points built in at crucial junctures to stop inherent tensions from reaching a full rolling boil.
I strongly approve of the concept. Though we all naturally care deeply about our self interests being defended, almost all of us want violence minimized in our personal lives also. Democracies like the one we live in are a way for us to pursue both of these ends in a world in which many have to choose one over the other.
But people everywhere are still essentially the same. Greed, lying, cheating, and the lust for power, that all is present in America just like it is in Russia, Mexico, Cuba, and Iran. Power in America is just as seductive as it is anywhere else, and the riches available to be gathered here exist on a scale few other nations can match. I think about all that sometimes when Congress is in session or when there's a Presidential campaign going on.
Our democracy is a human construct designed to mediate and accommodate powerful conflicting forces. It does not magically change human nature or make our opposing agendas disappear. Humans are social animals and we tend to seek others who have similar interests to our own. That's why we're here at the Democratic Underground, and that's what most of us hope to find in the Democratic Party. But of course there's another side too.
Our system of laws and judicial rulings is the game field we all play on. Rules for the most part stay fixed, but on rare occasions they can change. At a tipping point in American history women as a whole could no longer tolerate letting men be the only voters. Changing that took a whole lot more than just pointing out an injustice and hoping it would automatically be rectified. Women had to make the status quo untenable to continue.
Change is not a river that only runs in one direction. Game changers are sought after by both sides. Both sides will press a potential advantage as far as they can until there is an adequate counter force to stop them. Capital is on the march now in America. Rules that had seem fixed for decades have been changed to accommodate their side. An obvious example is the Supreme Court decision equating money with free speech.
The "rules of the game" at any given time are not all codified in the U.S. Constitution. Some times they exist as societal expectations and/or assumptions. That could be a prevailing attitude about the value of immigration, or the virtue of conservation, or on the role government should play in our society. A change in those "rules" can be game changers also.
Since LBJ's Great Society we have lived with assumed rules that acknowledge the importance of the economic safety net for America. There was never unanimity on that - there never is - but that was the prevailing rule. For decades we were moving also toward thinking of the availability of essential life preserving services as basic rights all Americans should be able to count on. That may never have reached the level of an expectation "rule" but the trend in that direction was clear. Not any more. Capital is on the march.
Now essential services that preserve life with dignity for Americans who for example "work hard and play be the rules" as Bill Clinton once put it, are no longer a firm societal commitment to uphold. Now they are judged by accountants to determine if our government can afford to provide them, and if so at what level, givencurrent projected incomes. And if they are seen as economically wanting the discussion turns next to how they should be trimmed.
That is a sea change. There is nothing to prevent us as a society from building a budget up from the foundation of that core commitment to seniors and others in dire need, calculating from that point what else our democracy can afford to spend money on and how revenues can be increased if needed to pay for other essential commitments as well. The wealth exists in this nation to do that without anyone having to suffer life threatening pain. It is only the determination to do so that is lacking. It is lacking because the American game board has been shifted to the advantage of concentrated Capital.
If greater political parity is not restored more Americans will keep falling into poverty and the Middle Class will further erode. People will start dying preventable deaths in numbers that will keep increasing until finally our democracy will be tested as to whether it can still keep inherent tensions below the threshold of a full rolling boil. It was tested for that before during the Great Depression, and our democracy passed the test that time. Whether it can do so again is uncertain.
I do. I believe Obama is telling the truth about wanting to use these debt ceiling negotiations as an opportunity to reach agreement with Republicans on ambitious plans to trim our deficit and keep entitlement programs solvent further into the future. Frankly, I don't think that he's bluffing. He will accept yes for an answer.
It is a no lose proposition for Obama now. If Republicans continue to refuse the big deal Obama wins political points and hopefully Independent votes by outflanking Republicans on debt reduction. If Republicans come around to accepting, he believes the deal is ultimately in the best interests of our nation. I take him at his word on that
I simply don't believe Obama would have placed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid back onto the table if he wasn't ready and willing to honor the deal he proposed. I can't see him using those programs as mere props for a game of political showmanship. I believe he is dead serious about the offer.
Obama may have always thought it highly unlikely Republicans would accept his terms for a 4 Trillion dollar deficit cutting deal, but no one could ever say that with absolute certainty. The terms Obama has offered are better than anything the Republicans could have expected. Obama has to stand ready to honor them now until the negotiations end. I have no doubt he'll try to do so if that deal is made, regardless of how unlikely that deal may now seem to be
To me that's far more plausible than calling all this five dimensional chess, or a bluff that Obama was positive that he would never be called on..
I start out with the word "Musing" because that is all this is. This is speculative, not factual, and it's completely subjective.
I was in a (large) room with Obama once, it was in 2008 at what was then called Yearly KOS. He impressed me and I liked him intuitively, but I wasn't ready to back him for President over some other Democratic possibilities. Three years have passed now and not that much has changed about those first feelings about Obama. He still impresses me, and I still intuitively like him. I'll support Obama over a Republican for the Presidency in 2012, but with less conviction and greater reservations than I had in 2008 when the decision had narrowed to him or John McCain. He'll have nome of my money next time, and very little of my time.
The Democratic Party accepts Obama as its leader. I accept that Obama is a Democrat. I'm not trying to be coy in saying that. There are some elected Democrats who are Democrats in name only by my standards, but I don't say that about Barack Obama. I accept him as a genuine Democrat who would like to have our nation achieve much of the long time Democratic agenda.
Some people who like myself are troubled by some choices Obama makes, increasingly are calling him essentially a corporate tool, or a front man for ruling class interests. That's far too simplistic in my opinion. I don't believe that Barack Obama is any more a tool or front man than the overwhelming majority of the relatively tiny group of Americans who had any chance of running for President and actually winning during the last 40 or so years.
A lot of you probably don't relate to the title I gave this OP. Enigma is a term that feels right to me while exploring my perceptions of our President. Others I realize are much more emphatic in their assessment of Obama. But I think what I label an enigma is sharply evident in starkly divided feelings about Obama that have surfaced on this forum for years now.
Barack Obama is an inspirational leader to many Democrats who trust in his vision of our nation and the sincerity of his efforts to fulfill it: Democrats who appreciate the difficulty Obama faces seeking solutions for America in the face of a rabidly obstructionist opposition. They watch Obama confront a determined Right wing willing to seize every opportunity to not only thwart him, but to turn Americans against him personally through vile and vicious slander, and they see him rise above that with the dignity of his office preserved, the adult among raucous children.
Our President often is a model of grace under fire, using reason deftly wielded to rebut rhetoric madly flung. There is something deeply likable about someone who can do that. There is a lot that is deeply likable about Barack Obama. I trust that Obama is genuine; that he believes whatever course he takes is what is best for America as a whole under the circumstances he is facing at that time.
I believe that Barack Obama is a man who thinks creatively inside of the box. I think he is willing to turn over every stone necessary to find the best solution possible within the usually unspoken boundaries of what is deemed possible to achieve. Unlike most politicians, I think Obama has been fairly forthright about that. He has always defined his political philosophy as more pragmatic than ideological, and has never been guarded in saying that. In 2004 Obama proclaimed that there wasn't a Red America and a Blue America, but just one America, and a Democratic National Convention gave his a standing ovation. Though his working political agenda has sometimes morphed significantly from earlier campaign promises he made, Obama tended to clear about the approach that he would use in governing, and for the most part he has done so. Pragmatism leaves the door open for virtually any adjustment deemed necessary in pursuit of a larger goal.
I think Obamas larger goal is to make America work again as well as it possibly can: Under the existing circumstance. Preexisting circumstances are part of the box I believe that Obama thinks inside of. It factors in assessments of what is and is not possible, which then rank higher as guiding principles than what theoretically could be better. You can find that for example in Obamas seemingly conflicting comments about single payer health care. As an abstraction he agreed that it is the model that makes the most sense, but in practice, here in America, he deemed it unfeasible to pursue. Sometimes I can visualize him as a super skilled mechanic who knows where all the wires are and the exact limitations of the engine. He is not off in some lab, trying to invent a better car, he is trying to get the one in front of him working as well as it can.
Obama promised us change, and in a real way he has delivered it. After an ideologically driven Presidency under Bush, he is giving us an honestly pragmatic one. The bigger change Obama promised us which I feel he is determined to keep his word on is his willingness to grapple with some of the stickiest big issues in America, ones that previous Presidents showed a preference to kick further down the road for the next guy to worry about. And so he tackled health care insurance, and so too he takes seriously the long term viability of core safety net programs in America if nothing is done to alter the predicted curves of rising costs and falling or stagnant income.
I believe our President's motivations are sincere, well intentioned, and fully consistent with basic values of the Democratic Party. Many of us intuitively realize that about Obama but just can't understand then why he is making some of the choices that he is.
In musing about all this the best that I can come up with is this. We elected a man who is nimble while thinking inside of the box. We elected a hard working President who is focused on ways to keep America as we know now, viable for all Americans at a time when America as we know it is becoming impossible for most of us to prosper or even survive in.
We are at one of those defining times in American history where the box that was constructed with walls of conventional wisdom will soon be suffocating millions of us if that box is not broken out of. We have entered a radical, some would say approaching revolutionary time of a sort last seen here in this country during the Great Depression. There are no solutions left inside the box for the majority of Americans. The box has become the problem.
The Domestic Edition.
Near the start of Obama's administration some of us said: "He's bending over too far to accommodate Republicans". Others said "No, he is trying to heal America and setting them up to look bad for being such spoil sports if they don't cooperate."
When the battle really began over Obama's health insurance reform program some of us said: "He's not making a strong case for the Public Option, he isn't really fighting for it and he won't even point proudly to Medicare as a model for what the government is capable of." Others said "He knows exactly what he's doing - he has a strategy, he promised not to sign legislation without it."
When the budget deal was reached with Republicans at the end of the 2010 lame duck Congress some of us said: "Extending the Bush tax cuts as part of that deal was a huge mistake with predictable devastating consequences, Republicans will now begin insisting on huge budget cuts to government spending to shrink the ballooning deficit that the Bush tax cuts continue to be a prime reason for them growing. They learned holding the economy ransom works." Others of us said "Obama had no real choice, the Republicans were holding the economy ransom, plus he got some important legislation passed in the deal as well. All the tax cut stimulus that will result from this deal will now help drop unemployment before the 2012 elections and likely assure a Democratic victory then with clearer sailing for the Democratic agenda to follow."
When the danger of a U.S. government default if the deficit ceiling isn't raised started looming, and details about Administration negotiations with Congressional Republicans started emerging, some of us said "This isn't looking good, Obama is calling the safety net "entitlement programs" and appears willing to put them on the table for cuts in exchange for Republicans agreeing to some revenue increases in a deal". Others of us said "He didn't use those words, there is no proof of him actually thinking that. Obama will never allow real benefit cuts in these negotiations, just minor reforms in how those programs work that would only effect upper income brackets and/or actually increase benefits for most Americans who depend on them through some as yet unnamed improvements. Obama is masterfully calling the Republicans bluff and this will be a Democratic victory."
OK that's one person's view of some key decision points in Obama's Administration that have divided many DUers over how they went down and the real or likely consequences of them. What are yours? How does your informal score board look?
Not for everyone true, but many jobs provided them. Now employers structure work to avoid providing any benefits, let alone provide pensions (think independent contractors and capping paid hours just below those needed to qualify as a full time worker). Meanwhile bankruptcy courts keep erasing prior negotiated pension contracts with the simple stroke of a pen.
Without Unions and the seniority rights protection that unions once had the power to insist on, Corporations trim costs today by axing their older higher paid workers. Senior layoffs are the new worker loyalty rewards, replacing yesterday's gold watches. As the age for qualifying for Social Security is creeping upward, the age for involuntary "retirement" drops lower. And while higher paid workers are getting pink slips, good paying jobs are shipped overseas, replaced by lower pay service sector jobs here if they are replaced at all.
Yes some of us were fortunate of foresightful enough to set aside some money in I.R.A.'s and the like, but who can afford to sit on those if you are unemployed at 57 and only Duncan Donuts wants You? Real worker wages are dropping in this country. Efforts at frugality may help to stretch a dollar but for millions of Americans it is getting near impossible to meaningfully save up for retirement. Our home equity values have fallen, the value of our currency has fallen, and inflationary pressures are building.
All of these trends are clearly established and it isn't hard to see where they are leading us. The religious right professes their faith in the Bible, so they all are well acquainted with this verse:
"I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me."
There is not one person in Congress who will claim that we do not live in a wealthy nation. There is not one person in Congress who will claim that people get old because they are lazy. Taking $5,000 from a rich man will never threaten his life. Taking $50 from a poor man in a time of urgent need can do exactly that.
We are constantly defining ourselves as a nation. How will we define ourselves this week?
For many decades both parties treated proposals to make even a substantative tweak to the core economic safety net Americans depend on as a really big deal, regardless of their ideological leanings. It was that enshrined. Now, in a time of great economic need changes to that same safety net gets dumped into deficit reduction talks as a potential trading chip on a virtual par in value to closing a couple of obvious tax loopholes and restoring previous tax rates for the wealthiest after a temporary tax cut legally expires.
Apoologies to those who already came across this OP embedded as a reply in other threads, but rather than keep pasting it into more threads it makes more sense to create an OP and focus discussion regarding it here:
There is more than one way to look at the reports coming out of the default talks taking place in Washington DC this weekend. The Hill reports that the White House says it was willing to pursue entitlement cuts as part of a grand bargain but Republican balked at including any new revenue sources in a final deal. Some say the Republicans blinked, and maybe they did. Some say the White House called their bluff, and maybe they did.
I think the White House called the wrong Republican bluff. Democrats had offered trillions of dollars in spending cuts and showed willingness to settle on closing a couple of outrageous tax loopholes that even Bohener couldn't defend with real conviction. The spending cuts Democrats were poised to sign off on cut 4 or 5 times much from the deficit than the loophole closings would have contributed.
That was when to call their bluff. Republicans got to slash trillions from government spending in return for sacrificing stuff like tax write offs on private jets and ending tax subsidies for Big Oil, the most profitable corporations in America who get more from the government than they give to it. Try to sell refusing that deal and forcing an economic crisis instead to the American public, and you can see how weak a hand Bohener was holding.
By not simply calling that bluff instead of offering a grand bargain instead here is what the Democrats lost.
Number one, as unlikely as you say it may have been that Republicans would ever have taken that deal, stranger things have happened before in politics. Yes it was a long shot, but would you feel comfortable playing Russian Roulette with one bullet in a hundred chamber gun instead of in a standard six shooter. It is reckless to unnecesarily bet your politcal soul no matter how good the odds are in your favor
Number two, Democratrs just blunted the best political argument in their favor heading into the 2012 elections by putting Medicare Medicaid and Social Security on the potential chopping block. The clearest most winning contrast to Republicans that Democrats had was a reputation of being time tested true guardians of those programs who will defend them to their political death. Now that no longer is so clear cut. Now it looks like Democrats could sell them out if the price is right.
Number three. An offer once made never simply vanishes without a trace. It permanently establishes that Democrats were open to making that type of deal with Republicans. You might hsave noticed that the need to raise the debt ceiling has a tendency to come along again every so often. What if Republicans insist that cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits be placed on the table for the next round of talks, and what if Republicans prove slightly more flexible next time? It is much harder to refuse to do something that you have shown a willingness to do before. Think of it as gathering dust somewhere, sitting on a table.
I'm pretty certain what the next Republican move is going to be now. They will propose taking the notes from those never completed negotiations with Biden and pulling out of them all of the spending cuts that Democrats showed a willingness to consider. They will say, "This isn't enough, we need more, but for the sake of the nation we propose moving forward now and craft a solution that implements those cuts and doesn't raise taxes. It's a compromise we all need to make for our country even though no one is getting exactly what they want." What will Democrats do then?
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