it depends on where home is. It’s not where I am. I’m to
the left of Obama. Quite a bit. When Obama refers to “my
friends on the left” he’s telling us two things: he has
some and that’s not where he’s at. I knew it all along and
that still didn’t stop me from welling up when he made that
first speech to his party’s convention. I was reminded of
the source of that emotion the other night watching the
PBS documentary on the Freedom Riders when Robert Kennedy
said someday there would be a black president. None of us
thought it would happen so soon. When it did most of us
were pleased and proud of the brother, in a way that I think
a lot of white people have trouble relating to.
The place we should be talking about, I think, is the place
he himself described in the campaign, the place he said
he wanted to take the country when he asked for our votes
and our money. He promised “change” and we crossed our fingers.
He said he would end the foreign wars and we pulled the
lever by his name. He said he would attack poverty and bring
relief from some of the burdens working people increasingly
have to bear and we thought: we’ll hold you to it.
I’m not saying he hasn’t accomplished anything. Some positive
things have happened since he moved into the White House.
And I do think he is trying to find a way out of Afghanistan.
And, yes he’s been stymied at every turn by members of the
opposition party that shape their policies around making
him fail, and some members of his own party that lend them
a helping hand. And they are egged on by the legions of
the reactionary and racist right. And these people are a
we are very disappointed.
others have said, most of us aren’t about to add to the
undermining of the Obama presidency and most likely we are
going to pull that same lever again. But I think there is
something at work here that is very fundamental and it relates
to the Administration’s response to our everyday lives and
the future of the country.
June 3, 2004, over two years before the economic crisis
erupted and two years before Obama was elected, Bill Moyers
had this to say:
no question about it: The corporate conservatives and
their allies in the political and religious right are
achieving a vast transformation of American life that
only they understand because they are its advocates, its
architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest
economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled
our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with
structural deficits that will last until our children's
children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically
stripping government of all its functions except rewarding
the rich and waging war.
he went on:
face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if
distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense
of the poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately
to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance
their budgets on the backs of the poor; if squeezing the
wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation
of serfs - if this isn't class war, what is?
attack on public worker unions, the drive to eviscerate
or destroy Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the attack
on teachers and the defunding of public education, the slashing
of social welfare programs, the home foreclosure crisis,
are not merely interconnected, they are part of one project.
now the lives of millions of people are being rendered increasingly
precarious. All working people are feeling it and African
Americans are being hit extra hard. On top of historic racism
- and largely because of it - we have to put up to with
rate of joblessness, especially for our young people, and
a disproportionate share of home foreclosures. The schools
that are crumbling the fastest and facing unacceptable teacher
layoffs are in our neighborhoods.
never expected the President to choose liberal and progressive
economists to try and rescue the economy when the crisis
hit full force. He chose some of the movers and shakers
of the finance industry and their academic fellow travelers
(some of the same people that helped get us into this mess).
It wasn’t just because the hedge fund people contributed
so much to his campaign; they are competent and besides
they know where the bodies are buried.
problem is that the President is now ignoring the wise counsel
of those who are saying clearly and forcefully that this
“deficit reduction” business is a shuck. This is the “Shock
Doctrine” that Naomi Klein spelled out in her book. The
aim of the austerity drive in this country and in most of
the advanced capitalist world - think of Greece, Ireland,
Portugal - is to emerge from the present economic crisis
with the system intact and the assets of the rich and powerful
secure. Right now these shape the policies of both of the
two major political parties, the bulk of the major mass
media and business groups.
reported that President Obama got no applause the other
night when he told the audience at a Washington’s Capital
Hilton Hotel fundraiser: “Let me tell you, we as Democrats,
we as progressives, need to be just as concerned about the
debt as anybody else. Because that’s how we will be able
to move our vision forward - investing in education, investing
in infrastructure, investing in clean energy, if we’ve got
a government that lives within its means. So we’ve got to
be concerned about that.”
the reports are still murky, it seems the President said
pretty much the same thing when he met with members of the
Congressional Black Caucus earlier this month and he scarcely
got any amens there either.
days when I hear anyone in official Washington say something
about investing in education, infrastructure or clean energy,
I reach for my computer. They aren’t talking about investing
in anything. They’re too busy arguing about how much less
to spend, how much to sock it to working people and poor
while the banks are raking it in and paying out obscene
bonuses big time. The tragedy here is that the Obama administration
has effectively ruled out any more overt economic stimulus.
What talk there is about spending on infrastructure offers
no specific targets or budget allocations. The result is
that there is no long-term employment program or meaningful
steps to deal with the plight of the jobless today.
whatever happened to green jobs?
job creation is the key to deficit reduction over the medium
term,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said recently. “We
must commit to the sizeable and sustained level of public
investment needed to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges
and schools and prepare our country for the next generation.
From technology to education, investments today will make
responsible fiscal balance achievable and - most important
- create good jobs for America’s workers and help us win
the future.” Obama used to talk that way but no more; now
the cart has been moved to front of the horse.
budget debate is being framed as if the President's proposal
is the ‘left’ and the Republican proposal is the ‘right,’
Richard Eskow, a senior fellow with The Campaign for America's
Future wrote the other day. “Actually, the President's offering
a center-right plan and the GOP's offering a radical-right
plan. The budget plan that most closely reflects public
opinion is the one offered by the House Progressive Caucus,
and that's being dismissed as coming from the 'loony left'
- even though polls show it represents the real 'center'
of public opinion.”
should progressives do now? Seems to me we have little choice
but to draw a line in the sand of our own. The budget proposals
of the Black Congressional Caucus and the Progressive Congressional
Caucus’s "People's Budget” should become our rallying
point. We should resist with all the creative energy we
can muster, and quite independently, any attempts to undermine
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, insist on an end
the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and for a turn
away from the “deficit reduction” mania toward real action
to create jobs and aid the unemployed.
I agree with what Congressmember Barbara Lee said last November:
“We're going to have to develop our own ways of communicating
the truth to the America people that means grassroots organizing,
town halls, and using social media networks. We're going
to have to be 21st Century communicators to turn it around
and to hit each and every front simultaneously. Because
the fact is that money now rules in campaigns and those
with money can distort the facts, tell lies, and it's hard
to get a consistent platform to refute them.”
of the lessons of the Freedom Rider story is that administrations
can change (not in the “make me do it” sense. Obama’s no
FDR.). The Kennedys were not happy about the activity of
the young riders; they tried to get the project called off.
But in the end the dedication and tenacity of the protestors
won out. Segregation in interstate travel was banned. If,
like them, we refuse to roll over or be quiet, if we insist
that the needs and aspirations of Main Street, the ghetto
and the barrio get through to the corridors of power, maybe,
just maybe, the President will come back home. That is to
the place he said he was when change was promised and the
Click here to read any commentary in this BC series.
Click here to send a comment to all the participants in this BC series.
Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco,
a member of the National Coordinating Committee of
the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and
formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here to
contact Mr. Bloice.