Her sister-in-law called her the
other day, she said. “Did you hear Obama yesterday?” was
the first thing out of her mouth, she said. We were at the
end of the table at a senior activist luncheon last week.
he sounded like he should have been sounding all along,”
she said she told her husband’s sibling. I was tempted to
respond that one swallow a summer does not make, but held
off when another sister across the table chimed in, “He
seemed to have got some fire, like he’s had it up to here
(two fingers under the chin) but then again it could be
just that the election’s coming up.” I almost said, “whichever”,
but held my tongue. We went on to discuss the final episode
of Criminal Intent. Still, the conversation has remained
with me. That the three of us had found pleasure in the
fact that the President might seem to be standing up to
those “darn Republicans” was something.
“I am prepared to bring our deficit
down by trillions of dollars. That’s with a T, trillions.
But I will not reduce our deficit by sacrificing our kids’
education… by eliminating medical research being done by
our scientists,” Obama said last week. “I won’t sacrifice
rebuilding our roads, and our bridges, and our railways
and our airports.”
At another point Obama declared,
“If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires
and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate
jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and
natural gas companies that are making hundreds of billions
of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off
from getting a college scholarship, that means we’ve got
to stop funding certain grants for medical research, that
means that food safety may be compromised, that means that
Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.”
Watch that euphoria. Just because
a crocus has sprouted in the snow doesn’t mean it’s ever
going to bloom. That was brought home to me a few days later
when a report circulated that the Obama Administration is
considering putting on the table a proposal to change the
way the Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated,
one that would mean a few thousand dollars a year less for
a lot of seniors and play havoc on older women who would
find their benefits no longer based on their highest work
life earning but rather on the average.
lays the rub. We are still faced with the prospect that
there is some kind of “deal” in the works to get by the
current budget and debt ceiling deadline that will represent
anything but the “shared sacrifice” some pundits keep prattling
According to Richard (RJ) Eskow,
the latest “bipartisan” scheme making its wage to the wagering
table is something called “chained CPI.” (No, your local
daily probably hasn’t mentioned it). On the Campaign for
Future (CAF)’s website, he calls it “Washington’s
latest gimmick for tricking voters and cutting their hard-earned
benefits to protect the wealthy.”
“That may sound like inflammatory
rhetoric, but the numbers don’t allow for any other conclusion.
People retiring today could lose more than $18,000 in benefits
over their lifetimes - and people who are already retired
will feel the pain too,” wrote Eskow.”
Eskow says it is “an underhanded
way to cut Social Security benefits (its true intent)… unnecessary…unfair
to women, the poor, minorities, and the very elderly” and
is reflective of an “un-American political culture of pessimism
and lost faith in the future.”
“We now have sorry news of the foul
deal that the White House is pushing in the debt ceiling
talks,” CAF’s Robert Borosage wrote July 1. “ About $1.5
trillion in spending cuts - including $200-300 billion from
Medicare and Medicaid - in exchange for $130 billion in
loophole closings - corporate jets, race horses and the
“Forget about one-to-one spending
cuts to top end tax hikes. This is worse than 10 to 1. Programs
vital to Americans get cut - Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants,
education, public health. Tax breaks not needed for the
wealthy get extended.”
The other night, the German News
Agency television broadcast said the austerity measures
being enacted by the Greek parliament we affecting all segments
of the society. Hearing it immediately recalled to mind
New York Times columnist David Brook’s recent lame
appeal for the U.S. Congress to enact “deficit reduction”
measures that would “make everybody hurt” when enacting
budget cuts. But then there was that San
Francisco daily headline last week that said students and
the poor would be hit hardest by the looming California spending reductions.
The people on the hotel-sixe yachts
in the Aegean aren’t going to be hurting when the bit cuts
in employment and services come to Greece.
It’s the working people and the small business people who
are going to feel the pain. The winners will be the pawnshops
and big European banks. Likewise, the position of the mortgage
speculators and hedge funds that made out like bandits before
and during the capitalism’s current economic crisis can
expect to remain secure when the wheelers and dealers in
done their magic.
According to the Associated Press,
the President “says he is proposing a balanced approach
that spreads the pain among people who rely on government
services and those most able to finance them.” I
guess that’s what passes under the rubric of “shared sacrifice”
in these times. But don’t hold your breath waiting for even
that to happen.
It hardly needs repeating. What the
country needs right now are strong measures to create jobs
for the 12 million unemployed and the young people entering
the workforce every day. The wise economists tell us repeatedly
that is the only way to get the economy moving again. And
along the way we might pay attention to the lingering mortgage
crisis that still threatens any hope of economic recovery.
It’s not as if the President is not
talking about jobs; he did so at a June 29 press conference.
The problem is he’s not saying too much, at least not in
any way that relates to what is happening on Capitol Hill.
He talks about streamlining government regulations to make
it easier for new business ventures to start quicker. We’re
all down with that. As long as it doesn’t threaten our health,
speed up global warming or make us less safe on the job.
(matters which seem to bother Republicans not too much).
He talks about accelerating foreign trade deals. We’re down
with that too, in general. Trade pacts can, however, destroy
jobs as well as create them.
Obama asks Congress to “send me a
bill that puts construction workers back on the job rebuilding
roads and bridges - not by having government fund and pick
every project, but by providing loans to private companies
and states and local governments on the basis of merit and
not politics.” We’re down with that too. But who’s going
to do the funding and who will provide the loans? Is there
any proposal before Congress to make this happen?
“Forget shared sacrifice. The most
vulnerable Americans will be forced to pay for the mess
created by Wall Street’s excesses and Bush’s follies,” says
these guys were negotiating for the purchase of your next
car, your first born might be at risk.
“Through this, Democrats have been
“The deal probably can’t pass the
House without Democratic votes but Nancy Pelosi has been
excluded from the negotiations. The deal can’t pass the
Senate without the Democratic majority, but other than Senator
Sanders, Democrats have said nothing, allowing Republicans
to drive the debate.
“And like any extortionists, Republicans
have raised the stakes, walked out of the talks, calling
ANY tax revenues unacceptable. This, despite the fact that
the American people overwhelmingly - and even a majority
of Republican voters - support tax hikes as part of deficit
“Republicans are in an utterly untenable
position - but they are confident that the president will
cave. And given the history of the tax negotiations last
December and these negotiations to date, it isn’t hard to
imagine where they got that confidence.
“It is time for Democrats to assert
That is assuming they have any left.
The country really does need a deal
right now; that’s as in ‘New Deal.” There are a lot of people,
groups and new movements out there proposing that we come
up with one. There’s the Congressional Black Caucus budget
plan and the People’s Budget of the Congressional Progressive
Caucus of the Progressive Caucus. There’s the Van Jones
– Roots “Rebuild the American Dream” movement. There is
also the campaign for New Priorities that effectively links
the economic crisis to wasteful military spending. And,
the Social Security Works & Strengthen Social Security
Campaign and the dynamic Main Street Contract for the American
People campaign of National Nurses United. They all deserve
support. They are taking the case to the nation’s people.
“The President said I will not tell you what you want to
hear, I will tell you what you need to hear’ and I think
he needs to take that bully pulpit and move around the country
doing whatever he has to do to try to make sure that the
American people understand how urgent the situation is,”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md) said last week about the budget
and debt talks.
Sometime I think it would be really
good if we had a parliamentary system in our country. The
next Presidential election over a year from now would still
loom large in the Washington tussle but there would be the option
of a vote of confidence and all the parties would have the
ever-present threat of a new election – right now.
I think President Obama would win
it but as nearly everyone knows, the chance could be slipping
BlackCommentator.com Editorial 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.