The Democratic Party desperately shoved through a debt deal that manages to be wildly unpopular with the American public, disastrous to economic growth and job creation and, not incidentally, opposed to every core principle of shared sacrifice that liberals supposedly hold dear. This will go down in history as the moment Democratic liberalism died. Finally brought down by the repeated blows from the far Right? No. The fatal wounds were entirely self-inflicted.
The vast majority of Americans favor raising taxes on the very rich and oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Let me repeat that. The vast majority of Americans favor raising taxes. That includes majorities of Independents and Republicans. Nonetheless, Obama refused to force-feed the Republicans heaping spoonfuls of tax increase peas with a glass of persuasive poling on the side to wash it down. Instead we got the proverbial shit sandwich, which given that no one is happy with the deal and partisanship is even greater now as a result, may have solved the economic crisis but enshrined a political one. Even with the prevailing winds of public opinion strongly at their back, Democrats caved to Republican threats and grandstanding.
Of course, the fact that raising the debt ceiling was coupled with deficit cuts was a Democratic capitulation from the start. The wise and independent Economic Policy Institute writes in its post-mortem:
This proposed debt ceiling deal tentatively concludes a needlessly manufactured crisis and will do great harm to our nation. The debt we are undertaking now and scheduled to undertake over the next ten years is solely the product of past decisions (primarily unfunded wars, an unfunded prescription drug benefit and two rounds of tax cuts under President George W. Bush) and the recession-related revenue losses caused by the financial crisis generated by financial deregulation and weak oversight…. There is no economic necessity to undertake spending cuts or deficit reduction plans at this point in the economic recovery, when high unemployment is expected to persist for several more years. Jobs should be the priority and jobs are the path to get our nation’s fiscal situation to a responsible place.
In other words, what’s needed to cure our economic stagnation is not spending cuts that will further cripple the middle class but more spending on infrastructure and jobs to kick start the future. Yet at precisely the moment that we should have been talking about spending more instead of cutting spending, Republicans pigeonholed the political conversation into slashing Social Security, food stamps and Medicare. Democrats agreed to play ball on Republican’s ideological home field. And then kicked the ball through the other side’s goal. It is, unfortunately, my liberal suckers thesis played out to the letter.
I voted for Barack Obama. I volunteered to help him win. And yes, I was swept up by the fantastical Camelot of hopes and dreams. But like many progressives, I’m reminded today that 2008 was about the mission, not the man. And if we cling to the hope that Barack Obama, as one of the few charismatic leaders on our side, might any minute now take up the mantle of progressive ideals that he has so clearly eschewed so far, that is a reflection less on his power over us than our own power of self-delusion and desperation.
Michael Tomasky brilliantly observes that while Republicans fear their base in the sense that they treat them with respect and kid gloves. Democrats fear being associated with their base and thus make “aggressive public moves to demonstrate that they aren’t really like their base.” Which is all the more absurd — or pathetic, really — given that the Republican base is in fact an extreme fringe while the Democratic base represents a very large, very mainstream segment of America. More voters stayed home in the 2010 mid-term elections than voted, and yet the Tea Party has managed to hold a powerful ideological sway not only over the Republican establishment but, clearly, President Obama and many Democrats. The Tea Party is an audacious fringe with mainstream influence. Meanwhile, progressives represent the moral mainstream yet have barely fringe influence.
I’m sick of being taken for granted, in general but especially when something like basic tax increases on the very rich are not only good for our economic future but something that the American people overwhelmingly support. If the President isn’t listening to us now, when will he? Obama didn’t just stab Democratic liberalism in the back — he may have cut himself off from his base permanently.
My take on the final showdown — by which I mean the default crisis, not Harry Potter… >> If you want to receive my adVantage Points every weekday morning in your inbox, email firstname.lastname@example.org
“Decision Time” Says Obama - story
If only we got a trillion dollars every time Republicans tried to pass the buck on the default crisis — we’d be out of the hole in no time! Republicans have already won just by the fact that we’re having this debate; and they’ve already exacted more cuts to vital spending than tax increases on the table. Republicans — putting the id in ideology.
Seriously, the 1-in-4 House Republicans who say they won’t vote to increase the debt ceiling no matter what are in blatant violation of the Constitution. Not to mention that running for government office with the intention of destroying government is treasonous.
Is Harry Potter A Better Fighter Than Obama? - story
This weekend, Harry Potter will finally destroy
My thoughts on Obama calling GOP bluff on debt, crumbling of Democratic liberalism, Immelt and Chamber of Commerce whining about “certainty” and Cisco firing people to grow profits >> If you want to receive my adVantage Points every weekday morning in your inbox, email email@example.com
Debt Talks Display Crumbling Of Democratic Liberalism
Raising the debt ceiling has absolutely nothing to do with future spending. In fact, in a sputtering economy where the private sector is sitting on record profits and capital reserves but not creating jobs, government spending that creates jobs rebuilding infrastructure and educating the next generation is the solution, not the problem. That Democrats are helping kill government investment, instead of defending it, is a nod to the long-term victory of conservative ideology over liberalism.
Obama Should Call Republicans’ Bluff – story
If Republicans refuse to raise taxes even modestly on the couple hundred Americans who are faring damn well in this economy, Obama should call their bluff and use his Constitutional power to honor our nation’s debts anyway — and impeaching the Republican leadership for violating their oath of office to uphold the Constitution.
Jobs vs. Profits: Cisco Considering Layoffs To Boost Earnings - story
These are the CEOs who need more tax breaks! Conservatives heralding the allegedly-free market as the fabled savior of both millionaires and working stiffs should take note that big business, left to its own devices, will very often chose profits over people. But hey, I’m sure that with real unemployment at 20%, those Cisco employees will have no problem finding new jobs — maybe making parts for corporate jets?
I am a Democrat. But more importantly, I am an American. And as President of the United States of America, I have put the economic needs of our entire nation ahead of the political agenda of my party. At times of great urgency, that is what great leaders do.
Your government has spent money, like it or not. And now, the bills are due. Our fundamental solvency and credibility depends on keeping our promises and paying those debts.
The private sector is, in fact, recovering. Corporate profits and CEO bonuses have once again reached record highs. And big businesses are sitting on billions, by some accounts, trillions of unspent capital. They’re piling up profits and not creating jobs. No one is blaming them for that. But at a time of anemic economic growth and opportunity for the rest of us, government must be the spender of last resort. This is, in fact, why our Founding Fathers gave government the power to levy taxes and borrow money — recognizing the important role of government, especially in trying economic times.
So at a time when government spending is needed more than ever, the fact that we’re even talking about spending cuts as a condition of raising the debt ceiling is a massive victory for the Republican ideology. When the economy is good, they want to cut spending and cut taxes. When the economy is bad, they also want to cut spending and cut taxes. And so far, they’ve gotten their way.
To avoid the disastrous calamity that both sides of the aisle agree would result from our nation defaulting on its debts, I have compromised. Angering many in my own party, stirring the ire of many who voted for me, I have been willing to negotiate over $2 trillion in cuts to government programs that I and many working Americans know are vital. But I have done this because Republicans have left our nation with no other options — they are holding our economic future hostage in order to advance their long-held anti-government, pro-big business agenda.
Fine. I came to the table. I was willing to compromise, to work out a deal. But I should have known there’s no negotiating with ideological terrorists. In addition to the historic cuts Republicans want to extract in exchange for their vote on the debt ceiling, they are refusing any tax increases on the richest of the richest of the rich. To be clear — no one is blaming big business or the rich for their success. But we all know that for too long the rules of the game have been rigged to favor the few over the many — and even now, 88% of the gains from our sputtering economic recovery have gone not to wages and benefits for average working people but into the pockets of Wall Street. Just as businesses in the past were successful because of government highways and electric grids, big businesses today are successful largely because of the extraordinary measures you the taxpayer took to rescue the private sector. Now, at a time when ordinary taxpayers are still struggling, it is noble and honorable to ask CEOs and big business to pay more.
The great conservative hero Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times during his presidency not because he wanted to but because he knew he had to. Today, over three-quarters of Americans agree that we should raise taxes on the richest of the rich — and oppose the kinds of drastic cuts to Medicare and Social Security that Republicans are proposing instead. But it appears Republicans are willing to blow up our entire economy and endanger our collective future rather than negotiate in good faith a set of incremental tax increases on millionaires and billionaires as part of a deal that mostly includes the sorts of spending cuts they favor.
They have left me with no choice. As Commander in Chief, I refuse to let our nation be threatened and terrorized — whether from abroad or from within. The Republicans have two options: Accept a deal that includes a set of fair tax increases on millionaires and billionaires, or willfully violate the Constitution and force the United States to default on its debt for the first time in history. The choice is theirs. Unfortunately, the consequences will be borne by all of us.
My thoughts on debt ceiling negotiations and Republican “ideological terrorism”; and a coda on June jobs report >> If you want to receive my adVantage Points every weekday morning in your inbox, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Republican “Ideological Terrorism” on Debt Talks - story
What once seemed like hyperbole is now an understatement: The Republicans are “ideological terrorists” willing to blow up our entire economy for the sake of petty ideology. The fact that we’re even talking about spending cuts at a time when we need government stimulus more than ever is a nod to their ideological victory to date. But that’s not enough. In addition to billions in cuts that will cripple the middle class, Republicans stubbornly refuse to consider any tax increases on the richest of the rich who are paying historically low taxes and still not creating jobs. Enough is enough. President Obama needs to call their bluff and let Republicans take the blame for default. The United States does not negotiate with ideological terrorists.
My thoughts on unemployment rate, debt negotiations, 14th Amendment option, space shuttle launch and Texas execution of a Mexican citizen >> By the way, if you want to receive my adVantage Points every weekday morning in your inbox, email email@example.com
Unemployment Rate Edges Up to 9.2% - story
Wall Street profits and CEO bonuses are at record highs this year. But unemployment continues to plague middle class Americans. Oooooh, I know — let’s give the rich people more tax breaks! ’Cuz that already worked well so far…
I confess, I’ve been guilty of it too — of expecting or at least just wishing and hoping that President Obama would voluntarily embrace a bold progressive vision for America. There was nothing about his character or resume to suggest he was anything but a pragmatic centrist. Most of the ideas he put out during his candidacy were tepidly liberal at best. And since taking office, from ramping up war engagement to withdrawing the public option in health care reform and more, Obama has tended toward such caution and compromise. But… still… maybe because he was an organizer and self-consciously co-opted the “si, se puede” language of social movements, or maybe just because, frankly, there wasn’t much real leadership or energy on the left to feel hopeful about — I, and many others, followed Obama at precisely the moment when we should have been leading him ourselves.
This struck me while reading a great article by NYU Professor of Sociology Jeff Manza (h/t John Jost for pointing it out to me). The piece, “Liberalism’s Inevitability?” which appeared in the Society journal last year, unpacks the comforting and commonly held assumption that, despite setbacks of conservative backlashes, our nation is marching consistently toward liberal ideals. In fact, Manza argues, the past successes of liberalism may impede on future success rather than facilitate it. Specifically, Manza notes that conservatives have effectively co-opted much of the framing of the left — using, for instance, concepts like “freedom” and “choice” to try and unravel Civil Rights legislation and undermine public schools. In addition, Manza raises very real concerns that liberal programs to alleviate poverty and injustice may not have been as successful as we like to imagine — that the failure of the New Deal and public assistance programs to fix our nation’s deep problems let alone achieve utopia casts a cloud of skepticism on liberal proscriptions in general.
But what I most took away from Manza was the observation that the crisis of liberalism in America may have most to do with the lack of a vibrant, vocal left flank — thus rendering liberalism as the “vital center” of American politics, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once put it. Historically, Manza writes:
In the moments of grand reform, such as the 1930s/40s and again in the 1960s, liberalism could plausibly stand between the forces of conservative traditionalism and the demands of social movements from below (or resurgent left-wing thought from the intelligentsia). In the New Deal era from the 1930s to the late 1940s, the presence of strong unions, a visible Communist and other left organizational presence, and open public debate over the relative virtues of left-wing ideas in the face of a sea of trouble, gave liberalism a powerful source of centrist purpose. Similarly, in the 1960s, the civil rights movement brought pressure from below that emboldened liberals positioned in the center. To be sure, the growing tensions between older liberals and an increasingly militant student left in the late 1960s would eventually tear the Democratic Party apart, but not before some of the most sweeping and important expansions of the public sector took place, spearheaded by liberals.
But now? We can see Manza’s point in the way the Tea Party has exerted profound gravitational force not only on the Republican Party but, arguably, on the President and the Democratic mainstream — as the Tea Party can be given the credit for the fact that we’re debating the federal deficit and spending cuts at all in this moment, rather than spending more money to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
As activist and thinker Amy Dean notes in writing about the need for a labor movement functionally and ideologically independent from the Democratic Party, union activists — like progressive activists in general — that we are “charmed by access”.
We are invited to sit on White House roundtables, or we are impressed that top officials will answer our calls. But what has this gotten us?
Instead, Dean argues, we have to “give up our current illusion of influence” and re-imagine not only the labor movement but the left in general as a strong, independent and, yes, left-wing force for change in America.
For starters, that means some on the left not attacking others on the left when they seem “unreasonable” or “out-there” or “overly anti-corporate” or whatever barb you want to hurl. The Tea Party wasn’t concerned with seeming reasonable or legitimate. It was concerned with building real power and influence. We on the left need to stop expecting so much from the President and instead appreciate the need for a broad progressive ecosystem that includes radical voices, ideas and actions that create the political space to increasingly liberalize the mainstream establishment.
Yeah, I’ve certainly joined the chorus in critiquing President Obama and trying to hold his feet to the fire. But the larger reality is, if radical activist forces and grassroots social movements were ten times larger and more visible, then that fire would be all the larger as well — and Obama’s feet couldn’t avoid it.
My thoughts on DSK, Obama TwitterHall, Romney the flip flop, GOP losing debt fight, Jews still loving Obama >>
Dominque Strauss-Kahn Released, Housekeeper “Credibility” Questioned - story
What about DSK’s credibility — repeatedly accused of sexual assault by multiple women? Now we’re supposed to believe that the sexual encounter between the powerful head of the IMF and a maid in his hotel room was fully consensual? I know it’s hard to believe an African immigrant hotel maid (demeaned along side the “Lyin’ African in the White House”), but it’s still highly possible she’s telling the truth.
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