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Archive for April, 2011

How Deep Is Our Disgust with Obama and PussyDems

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Obama and Democrats Must Defend Social Security, Medicare—and the Middle Class—Before They’re Gone

In “Our Cowardly Congress,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof points out that last week’s Shutdown standoff happened only because the cowardly Democrats—the PussyDems, we now call them—opted not to vote on a full year’s budget last fall when they had a majority in both houses of Congress:

. . . this mess is a consequence of the Democrats’ own failure to ensure a full year’s funding last year when they controlled both houses of Congress. That’s when the budget should have been passed, before the fiscal year began on Oct. 1. But the Democrats were terror-stricken at the thought of approving spending bills that Republicans would criticize. So in gross dereliction of duty, the Democrats punted.

Right, we remember now: Facing a tidal wave in the mid-term elections, and seeking to deny Republicans any more openings for attack (as if that would stop them), Democrats opted not to cast a vote for more spending. They chose not to speak up for social spending or investments in infrastructure during a depression; feared to speak up for their own money-saving health care reform bill, and so on. And why? Because they knew the President would not back them up. Had Obama been more forceful—or the least bit audacious—in defending domestic spending in a nation with at least 10% unemployment, with some 24 million unemployed or under-employed, the Democrats would have had more courage. The president shows little interest in being the leader of what we thought was his own party.

Last fall and summer, before the midterm elections, was also when the Democrats, again lacking protection by the putative head of their party, shrank from voting against extension of the Bush tax cuts. This made room for the Tea Party–drunken Republicans to come roaring in in their domineering way and force an extension of the tax cuts for billionaires while Obama sang “Kumbaya.”

Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the Democrats’ ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told Rachel Maddow last week that when House Majority Leader John Boehner demanded $32 billion in cuts, Obama came back and offered $33 billion. As the G.O.P.’s threats and demands escalated through the week, they ended up with $38.5 billion in cuts—in a struggling economy that needs all the spending it can get. Firm negotiating, there, Mr. President. You really held the line. Paul Krugman observes that it looks as though “the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions” (“The President Is Missing”). Did we mention this was the same week Obama officially announced he’s running for re-election?

Why Re-Elect a President Who Won’t Lead His Party?

We contributed money and volunteered for his campaign in 2008, but we really don’t see why Obama deserves reelection, or what he would do with a second term other than cave in to Republicans week after week. To us he is more of a Republican than our idea of a Democrat. Can we have a real stand-up, fighting Democrat instead, or at least some protector of the middle class and the social safety net? Anthony Weiner for president, anyone? At the rate we’re going, Obama and the Democrats will stand aside while Medicare and Social Security are shredded, and Obama will praise the Republicans for their willingness to compromise.

“Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya . . . Someone’s sleeping, Lord, kumbaya . . .”




Mad Tea Party with Chainsaws and Clowns

Friday, April 8th, 2011

 

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”Denis Diderot (1713–1784)

“I love gridlock. I think we’re better off when we’re gridlocked because we’re not passing things.”Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Feb. 2010

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Amid all the talk and worry of a Shutdown Showdown, is anyone else noticing that this crisis is happening as the United States is embarking on yet a third or fourth simultaneous, costly war? We and other prophets could see this thing coming even before last November’s mid-term election when the Republicans were already warning that a Shutdown might be necessary to curb Washington’s “out of control spending,” though of course they hoped it wouldn’t have to come to that. And if it did happen, it wouldn’t be their fault. (Remember 1995?) A budget crisis complete with the grinding of chainsaws and the flashes of bloody meat cleavers was foreseeable last December when the Republicans were forcing an extension of the Bush (now Obama) Tax Cuts for Million- and Billionaires. Yes, the party demanding billions in spending cuts is the same that fought furiously for a high-end tax cut that will add $700 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The same one that sold us the $3 trillion Iraq war.

The Obama administration, which has gotten itself backed up against a wall yet again by “seeking common ground” and waiting again till the 4th quarter to speak up, warns that a government shutdown could furlough over 800,000 federal workers, interrupt military pay, and slow tax refunds.

We blame the Tea Party-infused Republicans for this mess, but we also hold the timid, mute Democrats responsible. (Democrats have already agreed to $33 billion in cuts and still the Mad Tea Party demands more blood.) And We the People are also responsible for this because we have not demanded forcefully enough that Congress and the White House stand up against this madness. Some of Us even voted for these extremists.

It’s Not About the Budget Deficit

“Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.”

—Alan Wolfe, “Why Conservatives Can’t Govern

Those driving the G.O.P. do not care about creating jobs or providing relief for the 24 million un- or underemployed—nor it seems do those trying to appease them. The ideologues are forcing this fight not so much to reduce the deficit as to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood or any abortion or family-planning services; to cut funding for NPR, health care reform, and the new consumer protection bureau; and to prevent regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency. (In 1995, too, G.O.P. insistence on unrelated policy objectives forced a shutdown.) Some of the basic, public-protecting functions of government are being gutted while the president seeks “common ground” (and reelection). Where are the forceful voices of the pro-government faction of the Democratic party? Why do they not boast of the many good accomplishments of the last two years? Why didn’t they before the mid-term elections? (See “A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern” and “Yes We Can Pass Good Legislation.”) Do the networks still allow Democrats to appear before a camera? Are progressive Dems allowed inside the Meet the Press studio?

Who knows what will happen? No one knows how this plays out. It cannot end well, though, with an overly conciliatory, “post-partisan” president who wants to find common ground with extremist ideologues intent on shutting down the government. All we know is that it’s time for Democrats and moderates and any sane, responsible Republicans still breathing (Dick Lugar is one) to stand up and begin, at last, to make the case for why government is good and necessary and must be not only preserved but reinforced with tax revenues from corporations and the very well-to-do—many of whom (like the Koch-funded “Americans for Prosperity” and “FreedomWorks”) have fueled this fire. It is pathetic that the one nation on earth with the most stable, long-lasting democratic, representative  government with a built-in balance of powers, so carefully constructed by wise and prudent men, is now apparently at the mercy of zealots driven by corporate money and 24-hour anti-government propaganda. Verily, the rich are killing us all.

They will over-reach, they will have to retreat some, but will the moderate general public ever rise up and say “Enough!”? We have little hope in our elected officials. The determined and courageous pro-labor citizens of Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Midwest give us some hope, but how bad does it have to get?

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See also:

Is Barack Obama a Manchurian Republican?

Sanctimonious Purists Unite: An Open Letter to Obama and Biden

No “Kumbaya” for Billionaires

A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern

In Defense of Liberalism and Good Government



Going to War Is Easy

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

“A continual state of war”: No need to consult Congress or those who must pay the cost.

Ned Resnikoff at Salon.com’s War Room writes a fine piece on “The Real Reason We Rushed into (Another) War.” Fine and troubling. But don’t let that stop you: Mr. Resnikoff’s piece is worth reading in full, but here are some key excerpts, with a strong passage from economist Joseph Stiglitz. Dr. Stiglitz has often been quoted here for his prediction that the Iraq war—remember, the one we were driven into almost a decade ago by leaders of the fiscally conservative Republican party? (our words, not his)—will end up costing $3 trillion. But we digress . . . Here’s Ned Resnikoff:

With our military already overextended and our economy still far from healed, how is it that we committed to such a large gamble with so little hesitation or public debate?

Maybe it’s because those in charge are gambling with other people’s money. In the past month, both Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum have written solid pieces noting that the policy preferences of the poor and middle class have ceased to matter at all to either major American party. . . . Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted that [the outsize political influence of the rich] also distorts how we go to war. In a recent piece for Vanity Fair, he wrote:

Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain.

“The interests of the rich are effectively the only interests now being represented in government.”

In other words: The more powerful the rich have become, the more they’ve shifted the cost of war downward. And because the interests of the rich are effectively the only interests now being represented in government, politicians have no incentive to avoid policies that exert pressure on the middle and lower classes. For the people in charge, war has gotten cheaper than ever.

. . . Even if [the White House] were to deploy a significant ground force to Libya, the reaction from Congress would be feeble at best—perhaps some symbolic outrage and an impotent, inconclusive Senate hearing.

. . . Congress has spent the past few decades gradually ceding its capacity to conduct meaningful oversight on matters of war. After all, if it doesn’t affect their constituency, why should it affect them?

“Even supporters of intervention in Libya should be alarmed by the manner in which the United States now goes to war.”

. . . No matter how the conflict in Libya ends, the rich will still be the only meaningful political constituency in this country. War costs them little. And until that changes, we can look forward to a continual state of war at the expense of everyone else.

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Ned Resnikoff is a freelance writer and researcher for Media Matters for America.

•  See also Steve Clemons’s Washington Note post titled “Obama Moved at Warp Speed on Libya,” in which the foreign policy blogger asserts that “there is simply no truth to the notion that Obama dragged his heels in orchestrating action [in Libya].”

•  And “Unequal Sacrifice” by Andrew J. Bacevich, a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, and author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.

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Photograph by Platon, from a portfolio on American soldiers and their families published in the Sept. 28, 2008, issue of The New Yorker.