THE OBAMA ERA — A WIN-WIN FOR THE RIGHT
Before I continue with this, the penultimate installation of this long slog of a series, I would like to commend the President for his recent endorsement of marriage rights for all Americans: THANK YOU, PRESIDENT OBAMA, FOR TAKING THIS BARRIER-BREAKING STAND IN DEFENSE OF CIVIL RIGHTS. After your recent decision to permit federal contractors (those extravagant wastrels) to discriminate against LGBT employees, this genuine step forward is most welcome.
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Now, regrettably — having previously acknowledged the President’s many admirable qualities and the myriad ways that he does represent an improvement over his dreadful predecessor — the time has come to broach THE DIFFICULT (paradoxical and painful) TRUTH ABOUT THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY: PRESIDENT OBAMA IS ON COURSE TO BECOME ONE OF THE GREATEST HEROES THAT MOVEMENT CONSERVATISM HAS EVER HAD, The One capable of FINALLY putting ENTITLEMENTS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK (even though his justifications for doing so are grounded only in ideology, not necessity) and applying THE “SHOCK DOCTRINE” to the United States of America: massive privatization and the dismantling of the social safety net and public sector; extreme wealth inequality; the permanent contraction of the middle class; and the rise of an entrenched police/surveillance-state oligarchy where once stood a democratic, constitutional republic.
Were many of these trends well-established when Barack Obama first came to the White House? Certainly. They follow an arc that goes back to the early 1980s, at least — but President Obama came into office at THE critical moment for the conservative project of which these trends are part and parcel, with the neocons’ wars reviled and adrift and the oligarchs’ financialized economy imploding. This make-or-break moment for Milton Friedman’s bleak, authoritarian economics afforded President Obama enormous power and discretion to either scuttle the establishment’s loathsome agenda or rescue it, papering over its glaring defects, preserving its power structure, and consummating its fruition.
Obama clearly chose the latter course.
Why, you ask? Because his basic disposition is pro-corporate and conservative (the furthest thing from socialist, as he keeps telling us)… because he has been far too inclined to defer and cater to the corrupt old establishment (staffing his administration with Wall Street insiders and the worst of the Clinton and Bush old guard before he was even inaugurated: Summers, Geithner, Gens. Petraeus and McChrystal, John Brennan, etc.)…
And, most importantly, because President Obama basically believes what the right believes: that entitlements and the public sector positively must face serious cuts and regressive restructuring; that the “Too Big To Fail” financial institutions must survive at all costs, even if their unreformed practices threaten a second global meltdown; that a boundless, neoconservative approach to counterterrorism, based on Donald Rumsfeld’s privatized, unaccountable model, is somehow ideal; and that, even though the richest Americans and corporations are taxed at historically low rates — and even though simply allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would add $4 TRILLION to the Treasury over the next decade — the public sector and entitlements should bear the brunt of this economic contraction…
Let me emphasize that last point: ALL PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS TO DO TO PUT FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS BACK IN THE U.S. TREASURY — AND ELIMINATE THE CASE FOR DRASTIC CUTS TO ENTITLEMENTS – IS TO SIMPLY LET THE BUSH TAX CUTS EXPIRE.
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But the President is light years from making the perfectly reasonable case for letting the Bush tax cuts expire and preserving vitally needed government programs. He’s clearly taken to his role as the politician who is going to convince Americans that we (needlessly) need to CUT TRILLIONS to essential programs and services that we built, programs like the deliberately sabotaged U.S. Postal Service, Medicare and Social Security — neither failing nor insolvent, despite the many attempts to portray them as such — while we continue to underwrite the largely fraudulent global finance system (again, to the tune of TRILLIONS) and perpetuating the TRILLION-DOLLAR wars that fuel terrorism globally… all the while, neglecting our crumbling infrastructure, privatizing our school system, and curtailing civil liberties.
Folks, this is pure SHOCK DOCTRINE economics; Neoliberal plunder (jackbooted capitalism).
It’s also about the most outrageous case of bait and switch imaginable: “Heavens to Betsy, if Wall Street doesn’t get trillions of dollars, immediately and with no strings attached, the sky will fall!” Then, after we’ve transferred some $16 TRILLION to the miscreants (without actually restoring them to solvency), they go right back to business as usual and turn the conversation to AUSTERITY. They propagate an irrational brand of deficit hysteria that’s as oblivious to recent history (austerity’s dismal track record in Europe) as it is to everything America did to emerge from our last Depression, when we spent our way out of a deeper hole than the one we’re in today and built the foundation for an extraordinarily prosperous half-century (with infrastructure investment, shared benefits, a social safety net, expanded civil rights, and an intelligently regulated banking system — all anathema to today’s political leadership).
Another way of illustrating the nasty little trick that the 1%’s pulled off here (successfully, thanks to the active agency of this White House), has been expressed in the following JOKE: A banker, a union worker, and a right-winger sit down at a table with a plate full of a dozen cookies. Before the other two can react, the banker snatches ELEVEN of the twelve cookies and stuffs them into the pockets of his suit. He then turns to the right-winger and gestures to the plate, saying “Watch out, I think that union guy wants your cookie!”
That’s the moment we’re in. That’s the real conversation America is having, right now (with the President standing right behind the “savvy” banker, echoing his prudent-sounding concerns about the need to privatize our cookie dough and chocolate chips…).
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I KNOW THIS ARGUMENT IS COUNTERINTUITIVE… but I don’t think it’s wrong. Many center-left Americans will be understandably confused at the suggestion that President Obama has (personally, assiduously, and with obvious intentionality) delivered such momentous victories for the right, but the conclusion is inescapable, especially when I remind myself that a) actions speak louder than words; and b) “following the money” usually tells me everything I need to know about a politician.
Unfortunately, President Obama is no exception to this rule.
NEXT: Part V – Identity Politics is for Suckers!