Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We Have Met the Tea Party and It Is Us.

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
"People call me a socialist sometimes, but you’ve got to meet real socialists, and you’ll have a sense of what a socialist is. I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rates. My healthcare reform is based on the private marketplace. Stock market is looking pretty good last time I checked... My simple point is this. If we can get beyond the tactical advantages that parties perceive in painting folks as extreme and trying to keep an eye always on the next election, and for a while at least just focus on governing then there is probably seventy percent overlap on a whole range of issues." - Barack Obama, November 19, 2013
 
     Yesterday, at the annual Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting, Barack Obama showed just what a master of deception he's been since he was a Senator by coming clean with the well-heeled. In his 46 minute-long speech, he essentially, as Jason Easley points out, "shreds Republicans" for calling him a Socialist. But, while I've admired my colleague Mr. Easley for years, as with virtually all liberals on "the professional left", he completely misses the point. And he begins doing this by failing to note that Obama has done far, far more for the 1% than he has for the bottom 99%.
     Basically, what Obama had said was, "Hey, guys, I'm one of you! Look at all I've done for you and this is how you pay me back?" No doubt, the upholstered cellulite in attendance walked away at the end of the President's 46 minute-long speech still clinging to their beliefs that Mr. Obama is still redder than Karl Marx's asshole.
     But Easley falls into the same trap as even more misinformed people who are cheering this man on as if he was the greatest thing to come out of Hawaii since Don Ho. Spend just five minutes on Twitter or Facebook and you'll be inundated with all sorts of clever little memes such as this one:

     Yes, very clever, OccupyDemocrats.com. Give yourselves a cookie or a high energy bar if you can still buy one with your EBT card.
     Because Obama could've stretched his 46 minute-long speech into an hour and a half detailing what else he's done for Wall Street, like packing the Treasury and Commerce Departments with many of the Goldman Sachs and other bankster and lobbyist scumbags that made the 2008 bailout "necessary" according to Wall Street and its lobbyists, jittery economists and panicked Democrats whose re-election chances depended heavily on keeping the money spigots flowing. Section 6 of the TARP bailout stipulates that a future Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to another $700,000,000,000 in corporate debt should the need arise again.
     And, knowing those charmingly incorrigible Wall Street types that Obama addressed yesterday afternoon, the need will arise again.
     The president then could've stretched his speech further by detailing all the things he has not done for Main Street. While the TARP bailout's Section 6 essentially immunizes Wall Street banks and other white shoe firms from comeuppance for their misdeeds, this past November 1st, both the executive and legislative branches allowed the 2009 ARRA (or Recovery Act) expire with nary a word from either branch. This triggered $5,000,000,000 in cuts to the food stamp, or SNAP, program. 
     While this was screamed about by a few liberals, what was completely lost on the professional left was the other losses that were automatically triggered when ARRA died a quiet, ignominious death. ARRA also subsidized up to two thirds of COBRA payments that newly-unemployed people would have had to ordinarily pay with no income. And anyone who's ever been forced into a COBRA plan on losing their job knows just how outrageous the rates are. They might as well be handed a real cobra by HR directors during their exit interviews that would at least get the farce over with. This is an irony that's consistently and invariably missed, that this so-called oversight is coming from a man being lauded to the heavens for a vastly imperfect health care bill that, as he reminds us, is based on the free market and not human need and economy.
     Obama could've continued by reminding the well-heeled and gentry that always seems to land on the necks of the poor and middle class that his so-called jobs czar, Jeffrey Immelt, is also the CEO of GE, a company that has outsourced so many American jobs overseas and to "right to work" states it would make Mitt Romney's Bain capital dollar-green with envy. Or that, Jamie Dimon, the Chairman of the criminal syndicate JP Morgan that launders drug money and steals homes, an organized crime entity guilty of such outrageous crimes that even a wet-legged milksop like Eric Holder had to go after them and fine them $13 billion, regularly sits in on Cabinet meetings with President Marx. Or that these same corporations have benefited not from Obama's lowered corporate tax rate but have paid no taxes at all since anyone can remember.
     Yes, he's done wonders for Wall Street, sure. And, yes, it's the height of absurdity to try to claim that the black Gordon Gecko is a Socialist and incredibly ignorant that the Tea Party holds up signs that say, "Get your gubmint hands off our Medicare!" Absolutely, Mr, Easley, no doubt about it. And, sure it's sheer chutzpah for the GOP that wanted to impeach him for a Dow Jones Average that was under 8000 on inauguration day still wants to impeach him even though the Dow has literally doubled under his administration.
     Too many people are harping on these facts while ignoring that unemployment is still way too high for a nation whose financial nerve center is still so prosperous. Too many people are cheering on the president and the unprecedented fortunes of the rich and not enough are listening to my senior senator Elizabeth Warren when she reminds us that the "Too Big to Fail" banks on Wall Street are now 30% bigger than they were before TARP or how a greater percentage of the nation's wealth is concentrated in the hands of these banks. Not too many liberals want to be reminded by Warren that if the minimum wage kept pace with production over the last three decades, it would be $22 per hour. Bernie Sanders' jeremiads against the 1% are little more than political entertainment for most people and Alan Grayson's snide comments in the well of the House a financial wonk's standup routine.
     Instead, the president is busting a nut to make sure that not only do these banks not get prosecuted for inspiring the global financial meltdown of five years ago, they continue going unpunished. And Obama is timidly proposing raising the minimum wage to a mere $9 an hour (which made even Forbes, Forbes, for fuck's sake, the happy, shiny twin of the Wall Street Journal, ask aloud, "Why is President Obama So Stingy?"), which is still below the poverty line even at 40 hours a week, which no one gets a chance to work, anymore.
     Liberals are also blithely unaware or stubbornly insensible to the fact that unemployment still remains deceptively high (when one factors in the long-term unemployed who have stopped looking for work and the underemployed, that stubborn 7.3% unemployment figure (.pdf file) jumps to 17% or more). It also ought to be noted by liberals who pride themselves on their financial wonkiness that, according to the BLS, "(t)he civilian labor force was down by 720,000 in October."
     That's largely thanks to the captains of industry that Obama addressed yesterday who are keeping a keen eye on third world countries whose inhabitants would love to have those US jobs and would, and do, toil at them for pennies on the dollar. Yet, all Obama has done is cluck his tongue from time to time during this outsourcing orgy that make the national work force hemorrhage jobs by the millions each year while still collecting massive tax breaks while shipping our job overseas by the millions (something else Obama clucks his tongue about but not as often).
     And I'm only talking about the economy. I haven't mentioned drone strikes or the NSA basically spying on the entire planet earth without its permission and costing us our credibility. I also haven't mentioned the Transpacific "Partnership" that Obama's been working on almost from Day One which would essentially hand over our human rights to the grasping hands of corporations and would be more ruinous than a dozen NAFTAs or CAFTAs.
     Bottom line: We have become the Tea Party. We have been duped into cheering on the continued and record-setting fortunes of Wall Street just as we cheered on two years ago the long-dead Occupy movement that had ineffectively protested corporate greed that's being enabled more effectively by Obama than Bush ever had. The difference is the ignoramuses of the Tea Party can claim they were blinded by Koch Brothers money and propaganda. We cannot.
     So, when will it be time for liberals to wake up and begin wondering why over 11,000,000 of their fellow Americans are still unemployed, why we're still losing over 700,000 private sector jobs a month for months running, why people on SNAP have to make do with five billion dollars less, why people on COBRA are now forced to drop their obscenely expensive health coverage before Obamacare kicks in on New Year's Day, why he still thinks raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 after all these years is a wonderful compromise despite it not coming close to keeping pace with the consumer price index since the minimum wage was last raised in 2007, why he froze pay for federal workers for two years solid, why he was the one who actually proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare for absolutely no reason and why student loans doubled to nearly 7%. It's not as if any of these facts are ill-informed opinions. Obama came right out and said it yesterday: "I'm on your side and your side will win before theirs, any day."
     These are questions few on the professional left ask and that fewer can honestly and unflinchingly answer.

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