Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Are we bored yet?

How long can we bear these elaborate set pieces over minor details and pretend that they equal a political debate? When will it be fair to wonder if the issue of who ends up in charge of our affairs matters? The latest round of posturing by the intransigent Republicans and the pathologically masochistic Obama White House boils down to how much austerity should be shoveled into the latest package of temporary relief for the masses of unemployed and bruised middle classes. But their debate is not over fundamentals: they only dissent over how much wealth should be pushed into the upper income brackets while the social democratic legacy of FDR is slowly dismantled.

Obama’s tying of a tax break to the Social Security Fund is an appalling scandal that, I anticipate, will ring the death knell for the most successful social insurance program in our history, one that even Bush II could not touch. Once the lowered payroll deductions are well established, it will be impossible to return them to previous levels, and the long-standing falsehood about the Fund’s insolvency will molt into fact. There was no need to boost demand in this way as Dean Baker notes in The Guardian:

‘The only reason to tie the tax cut to Social Security is if the intention is to raise issues about the Social Security tax at some future point.The response of the Obama people to this complaint is that this is the only tax cut that the Republican Congress will approve and that we badly need the stimulus. . . . But if that is the case, it only speaks to the incredible failure of this administration to define the agenda and speak honestly about the economy. It's not surprising that they don't have the political support for more effective stimulus when they abandoned the effort to make the case almost two years ago’.

Yves Smith writing in Naked Capitalism a few weeks ago was more emphatic in agreement that Obama’s early error on the economy trapped him in a downward spiral:

‘The widespread, vocal opposition to the TARP [bank bailout] was evidence that a once complacent populace had been roused. Reform, if proposed with energy and confidence, wasn’t a risk; not only was it badly needed, it was just what voters wanted.

‘But incoming president Obama failed to act. Whether he failed to see the opportunity, didn’t understand it, or was simply not interested is moot. Rather than bring vested banking interests to heel, the Obama Administration instead chose to reconstitute, as much as possible, the very same industry whose reckless pursuit of profit had thrown the world economy off the cliff. . . . Obama’s repudiation of his campaign promise of change, by turning his back on meaningful reform of the financial services industry, in turn locked his Administration into a course of action. The new administration would have no choice other than working fist-in-glove with the banksters, supporting and amplifying their own, well established, propaganda efforts.’

I agree with these assessments with one exception: that Obama somehow goofed. I give the man credit for his famous smarts and therefore conclude that he is doing exactly what he wanted to do all along, which is save the threatened behinds of the financier class and consolidate their rule. If Obama is using the Republican wacko brigades to enable him to impose a viciously conservative program of wealth redistribution upward while pretending to be the last-populist-standing, his actions make perfect sense as discussed in indignant detail here by Glen Ford.

There is every indication that the coming election season will confirm that the strategy is working brilliantly and that attention will be diverted to the bad, nasty Tea Party brigades while the 99% are well and finely skewered by the Republi-crat duopoly.

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