— Media critic Norman Solomon
It’s awfully difficult to go lower than a scurvy politician but President Obama has done it easily. He made a deal with Republicans to extend Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
Selling out on one of his key campaign promises reveals his moral bankruptcy. Obama is a Blue Dog Democrat, conservative in a party with all too few liberals. He should switch to the Republican Party.
Columnist William Greider puts it well about Obama: “First he was rolled by the bankers, then he was rolled by the generals.” Today Greider would add: then he was rolled by the wealthy and the GOP.
Obama is as rollable as President Clinton whose triangulation abetted Republicans and hurt Democrats.
Obama weeps for the ultrawealthy, the people who can buy $6,000 shower curtains, $15,000 umbrella stands and $2 million birthday parties. He would extend the tax cuts to people “who don’t need it, don’t deserve it and won’t help the economy,” in the words of columnist Robert Reich.
More Reich: the deal with the devil will cost the Treasury $900 billion, “most of it going to the superrich. Families with incomes of more than $1 million will reap an average of $70,000.”
William Henry Harrison, U.S. president for 31 days in 1841, made it clear that “all the measures of the government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.”
It’s still true. Congress today has 535 members, 261 of them millionaires. We have a plutocracy.
Moreover, this country has long had a class war although the politicians of neither party will admit it. The class war was made obvious by tax cuts for the rich under Presidents Reagan and G.W. Bush.
Still another giveaway to the rich in the abominable pact with the GOP: raising estate tax exemption, extending capital gains cuts and giving a handout to America’s few thousand wealthy families.
Yet Obama grandstands to impress Republicans, imposing an unjust pay freeze on federal workers for two years. His executive order will save $5 billion, pocket change in a $1.3 trillion budget shortfall.
Obama needs to stop playing to the gallery and start slashing the $700 billion Pentagon budget. The Pentagon ogre supports a worldwide military empire and futile, endless wars. The war in Afghanistan alone costs $7 billion a month.
Yet there was Obama recently in Afghanistan wearing a flight jacket, like Bush in Iraq, proclaiming in effect: “Mission soon accomplished.” His words belie this fact: the 2011 deadline for withdrawal had already been extended to 2014.
Nevertheless, all the nation’s woes cannot be pinned on Obama. Congress is at such an impasse that it can only pass regulations for tainted food.
Because of the filibuster rule, the woefully undemocratic Senate needs a super majority of 60 to pass legislation. Don’t ask-don’t tell repeal dies so does the Equal Pay Act for women. So does a bill to provide medical aid to twin-towers rescuers.
Obstructionist Republicans in the House defeats a bill to extend jobless benefits. It will ax the DREAM bill, a measure granting legal status to hundreds of thousands of innocent immigrant kids if they go to college or join the military.
The debt commission, headed by the reactionary Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Clinton conservative Erskine Bowles, would raise the retirement age for Social Security from 67 to 69.
Yes, people are living longer. But the retirement age should never be raised. Many people work 30 years at physically demanding and exhausting jobs.
In a Tom Tomorrow cartoon about raising the Social Security retirement age a character asks: “What kind of monsters ARE we?”
The answer is an anecdote told by my wife. Having mailed a package at UPS, she stopped at a nearby grocery store in a poor neighborhood to pick up a few items.
There she saw an elderly man carefully putting a single apple on a scale. He asked his companion: “Shall we get one apple or two?”
The question brought tears to my eyes. Here in this Land of Plenty a man wonders if he and his pal can afford two apples. It’s an unimaginable question for rich people.
Once a month presidents should go incognito into such groceries and be reminded of how much poverty exists in America. They will see a pathetic side that fat cats ensconced in fine homes in Arlington Heights, Va., never see.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.