By Stephen Lendman [print_link]
SPECIAL VIDEO: Keith Olbermann—
Did Obama Abandon his Left Political Base?
B E S I D E S misreporting on Obama capitulating to Republicans, major media op-eds and editorials expressed support for a deal only the devil and super-rich love.
On December 7, a New York Times editorial headlined, “Voting for an Odious Tax Deal,” saying:
No matter how disgraceful, “Democrats should vote for (it), because it is the only one they are going to get….Without this bargain, income taxes on the middle class would rise. Unemployment insurance for millions of Americans would expire. And many other important tax breaks for low-and middle-income workers (wouldn’t) be possible.”
False! Democrats control the White House and have large House and Senate majorities. At issue is why aren’t they using it for responsible legislation, helping middle and lower income Americans, not super-rich constituents with more already than they need.
The Times, however, worries that “If angry Democrats blow up the deal, they will be left groping for something better in a new Congress where they have far less influence than they have now. The middle class and the unemployed would be seriously hurt.”
False again! The 112th Congress convenes on January 3, 2011. Democrats have between now and then to enact whatever they wish, with or without Republican support.
The editorial then blames Republicans “for what’s wrong with the tax deal. (They) have little room to maneuver.” Not so, with Democrats firmly in charge if they’ll use their voter given mandate. Abstaining, in fact, shows where they stand, as supportive of wealth and power as Republicans.
Despite “much to dislike in the package….Mr. Obama was clearly not thrilled at the compromise he had to make, and neither are we. But at least he acted in what he believed are the best interests of the country.”
In fact, he acted the same as he’s done since taking office on January 20, 2008, favoring wealth and power, not social justice when more than ever it’s needed – the same position as Times editorial writers.
Their columnists also, including David Herszenhorn and Jackie Calmes in their December 8 article headlined, “Tax Deal Is Key to Avoid Recession, Obama Advisor Says,” stating:
Larry Summers, head of the White House National Economic Council (NEC), issued the warning, saying:
“Failure to pass this bill in the next couple of weeks would materially increase the risk that the economy would stall out and we would have a double-dip recession.”
False, according to economist David Rosenberg, calculating that it will add a meager four-tenth of one percent to GDP growth, a plus, but hardly one to extol or worry over if not enacted.
As for Summers, he shamed himself in the 1990s under Clinton. As Treasury Secretary, he was a major architect of today’s financial crisis by pushing repeal of Glass-Steagall and getting the Financial Services Modernization Act passed – cornerstones of speculative excess.
As Harvard University president, he had contentious relations with faculty members, as well as suggesting women have less science and math ability than men. In 2006, these and other indiscretions got him sacked. Whatever he supports should be denounced, not accepted as sound advice.
The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial and Op-Ed Opinions
Journal op-eds and editorials are just as bad, a publication proud of its pro-business credentials. On December 8, it was visible in an editorial headlined, “Obamanomics Takes a Holiday,” saying:
Obama’s deal “admitted that his economic policy has flopped. He is acknowledging that tax rates matter to growth….”
False! During hard times like now, direct government intervention counts most – New Deal-type stimulus, the kind anathema to Journal neanderthals.
Giving Obama’s deal mixed praise, the editorial said it’s not “optimal for economic growth….A two-year reprieve is far better than an immediate tax increase….but it also means that the policy uncertainty (carries) forward.”
“In the real world, businesses make investments based on the estimated return on capital over time, including the expected tax rate.” The implication, of course, is that Obama should cut taxes even more, for business and America’s wealthy. No matter that evidence shows tax cuts don’t stimulate growth. Fiscal stimulus does, especially during hard times.
The Journal also suggests that Republicans should have held out for more. Even so, “this deal is superior to anything we could have imagined six months ago.” At best, however, it’s “a transition from the failure of Obamanomics to what we hope is a better growth agenda” under future Republican leadership, of course – the failed/corrupted kind under Bush that caused today’s crisis. No comment by the Journal.
Its Thomas Cooley/Lee Ohanian op-ed continued the tax cut theme headlined, “The Bush Tax Cuts Never Went Far Enough,” saying:
“A permanent reduction in capital taxes (read corporate ones ideally to zero) would increase productivity and wages.”
False! Productivity increases by getting more production from current work forces, or comparable output from smaller ones. As for wages, they’re easily cut during hard times, but don’t rise proportionately during upturns.
Why so is clear. Private sector unionization is in disarray. Consider the facts. In 2009, membership fell another 10%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The percent of union members overall is 12.3%. The private sector level, however, fell to 7.2%, its lowest state since 1901, a testimony to corporate power, union weakness, and government disinterest in helping.
Given that, continued offshoring good jobs to cheap labor markets, Democrats as anti-union as Republicans, and union bosses collaborating with business against their own rank and file, fair pay increases face stiff headwinds, even during economic growth periods, and during hard times, workers are virtually stripped of all rights.
Ask UAW members about how their leadership sold them out, resulting in plant closings, offshoring, pay and benefit cuts, and mass layoffs, transforming the auto industry landscape into a wasteland, besides enormous damage done throughout US manufacturing since the 1980s, hollowed out from its former industrial strength. Tax cuts did nothing to stop it.
Wrecking the American Dream
For nearly two years, Obama continued the Bush agenda, supporting wealth and power, wrecking the economy, and abstaining from real help for working Americans. The latest way: his December 6 deal with the devil – capitulating to Republicans, the rich and super-rich at the expense of millions in need, getting temporary crumbs, not meaningful permanent relief they deserve.
According to Roberton Williams, Senior Fellow with the Tax Policy Center, his deal “come(s) to a few dollars a week,” while lavishing billions on America’s elites who deserve higher, not lower, taxes. According to one estimate, members of the top income bracket (those earning over $373, 651 a year) are getting an average $70,000 windfall, the super-rich far more. By comparison, working Americans are offered crumbs, temporary ones that future Republican (and perhaps Democrat) leadership will end whatever economic conditions prevail.
As for business and America’s wealthy, they never had it so good, at the expense of middle and lower income households. They’re struggling to survive during hard times, burdened by a government-business cabal under both parties, lavishing handouts to Wall Street and other corporate favorites while proposing austerity for working Americans, a topic several earlier articles addressed:
A Hopeful Sign
On December 9, CNN reported that “House Democrats voted Thursday not to bring up (Obama’s tax proposal) in its current form,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D. MD) saying:
“This message today is very simple: That in the form that it was negotiated, it is not acceptable to the House Democratic caucus. It’s as simple as that. We will continue to try and work with the White House and our Republican colleagues to try and make sure we do something right for the economy and right for jobs, and a balanced package as we go forward.”
The vote came a day after Vice President Biden said any changes would unravel the deal. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D. OR) said: “They said take it or leave it. We left it.” He explained that technically the caucus resolution is non-binding, but he believes Speaker Pelosi “will follow the wishes of her caucus.”
It remains to be seen if this kills or alters the deal in the face of determined White House and likely party leadership to prevent it. Nearly always in the end they prevail. Rhetoric aside, expect America’s aristocracy to get all the benefits of Obama’s “compromise” and much more. They run Washington and won’t settle for less.
A Final Comment
Obama’s deal does nothing to stimulate job or sustained economic growth or stop destructive offshoring of high-paid/good benefits manufacturing and other jobs. Nor does it address the enormous budget and trade deficits, vital infrastructure development needs, high-speed rail, environmental remediation, reckless out-of-control military spending and imperial adventurism, America’s greatest ever wealth disparity, and many other urgent issues responsible leadership would confront.
America’s political left surrendered decades ago to big monied interests, especially Wall Street banksters who’ve looted trillions from the Treasury and continue doing it without restraint. So-called financial reform leaves them unregulated, unaccountable and unchecked to do what they please. They’re taking full advantage.
On December 8, one corporate media host noticed, a man this writer (and this site) criticized several times for shamelessly turning his MSNBC program into a commercial for Democrats, Keith Olbermann. In a special comment, he said “Obama turned his back on his base,” adding:
“In exchange for selling out a principle campaign pledge, and the people to whom and for whom it was made, in exchange for betraying the truth that the idle and corporate rich….have gotten unprecedented and wholly indefensible tax cuts for a decade (besides earlier ones under Reagan unmentioned), in exchange for giving the idle and corporate rich….two more years to accumulate still more and more vast piles of personal wealth with which they can buy and sell everybody else.”
“In exchange for extending what he spent the weeks before the midterms calling tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires” money they’ll keep, not spend. In exchange for injecting new vigor into the infantile, moronic, disproved-for-a-decade three-card Monte game of an economic theory (what Michael Hudson calls junk economics) purveyed by these treacherous and ultimately traitorous Republicans, that tax cuts for the rich will somehow lead to job creation,” a shameless lie.
“In exchange for giving tax cuts for the rich which the nation cannot afford,” and they don’t deserve. “In exchange for this searing and transcendent capitulation, the President got just 13 months of extended benefits for those unemployed less than 100 weeks. And he got nothing, absolutely nothing for” the millions unemployed longer, “the 99ers.”
Yet Obama is “celebrating….Mr. President, for these meager crumbs, you have given up costly, insulting, divisive tax cuts for the rich, and you have given in to Republican blackmail, which will be followed by more Republican blackmail….This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip of a bitter cup (without) a supreme recovery of moral health and political vigor (to) rise….and take our stand for what is right.”
Olbermann rarely does it. He’s staunchly backed Obama and congressional Democrats, supporting policies like business-as-usual Obamacare, bogus financial reform, agribusiness-friendly food safety modernization just passed by the House, and cap and trade that if passed won’t curb emissions or pollution, but will raise energy prices and create a new bubble through carbon trading derivatives speculation.
He’s righteously bashed Republicans, yet flacks for Democrats, clueless that they’re no different on fundamental core issues like war and peace, banker bailouts, lavish corporate subsidies, America’s prison gulag, the hundreds of political prisoners in it, deepening homeland repression, and much more.
His December 8 commentary was refreshing, a rare moment of truth, never heard on Fox, CNN, in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal or other broadcast or print corporate media.
For that, he deserves credit. Hopefully he’ll deliver more at a time voices for right over wrong thrive only in alternative media spaces, not reaching audience sizes television does daily. For sure, not having the same impact when doing so is vital to derail America’s decent toward police state intolerance, the current condition that keeps worsening under both parties unless somehow ways are found to stop it before it’s too late. What better topic for another Olbermann commentary. Is he listening?
Senior TGP Editor STEPHEN LENDMAN lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.