Obama ("Obedient Placeholder" to Rich Donors) Brings Wiffle Balls to This Long Game of Hardball Against Justice & Humanity
Lots of sports images bandied about about political behaviors lately. Let me add, above, my limited, angry, clumsy, admittedly tasteless one.
We have no serious leadership as citizens. This President, clueless or craven, is using wiffle balls in a game of hardball when our survival and well being as citizens are at stake.
Could Obama turn the ship of state around? Maybe, maybe not. Could he seriously try? Yes.
Can he even fathom trying? No, and I contend it is because he is beholding to the oligarchs for his very existence as President. Obama’s (their) New World Order does not seriously include us, the citizens.
All those lying promises to the American people, a means to an end for Obama's ambition and ego. Pragmatic our Prez claims he is being? You betcha, but not for our sakes. For his. What a laugh he is attacking his disenfranchised base's “purity position”. Easy to say from a place of cravenness. He is opportunistically promoting his role, the role he has chosen to take whether we can fathom its colossal amorality or not. As BAR's Glen Ford once pointed out Obama is the inside man for the oligarchs.
Obama asserts he just HAS TO compromise because we poor citizens are threatened hostages by the nasty old Republicans (okay, re their nastiness, no argument here). Obama slickly asserts he and those poor other "look how hard we are trying" Dems are hostages with us. More mendacity and rationalization for selling us out. We as citizens are the true hostages to the oligarchs AND Obama AND the OTHER oligarchical puppets in our political class from both sides of the aisle. The vast majority of both sides of the aisle.
Skimming for cyber explorations on this latest "sacrifice of $700 billion as no millionaire/billionaire is left behind" fresh hell, let me share some revelatory findings:
In Alternet, Andy Kroll:
This is what nowadays passes for the heart and soul of American democracy. It used to be that citizens in large numbers, mobilized by labor unions or political parties or a single uniting cause, determined the course of American politics. After World War II, a swelling middle class was the most powerful voting bloc, while, in those same decades, the working and middle classes enjoyed comparatively greater economic prosperity than their wealthy counterparts. Kiss all that goodbye. We're now a country run by rich people.
Not surprisingly, political power has a way of following wealth. ...
Let's call those select few in the penthouse the New Oligarchy, an awesomely rich sliver of Americans raking in an outsized share of the nation's wealth. They're oil magnates and media tycoons, corporate executives and hedge-fund traders, philanthropists and entertainers. Depending on where you want to draw the line, they're the top 1%, or the top 0.1%, or even the top 0.01% of the population. And when the Supreme Court handed down its controversial Citizens United decision in January, it broke the floodgates so that a torrent of anonymous donations from this oligarchic class could flood back down from the heights and inundate the political lands below.
Those cuts [temporary tax cuts for the rich] will be around a lot longer if the GOP has its way. Take Republican Congressman Dave Camp's word for it. On November 16th, Camp, a Republican from Michigan, said the only acceptable solution when it came to the Bush-era tax cuts was not just upholding them for all earners, rich and poor, but passing more such cuts. Anything in between, any form of compromise, including President Obama's proposal to extend the Bush cuts for the working and middle classes but not the wealthy, was "a terrible idea and a total non-starter."
Why should you care what Dave Camp says? Here’s the answer: in January, he's set to inherit the chairman's gavel on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the body tasked with writing the nation's tax laws. And though most Americans wouldn't even recognize his name, Camp's message surely left America's wealthy elites breathing a long sigh of relief. You could sum it up like this: Fear not, wealthy Americans, your money is safe. The policies that made you rich aren't going anywhere.
Tear Down This Law
Where rewriting the tax code proved too politically difficult, demolishing regulations worked almost as well. This has been especially true in the world of finance. There, a legacy of deregulation transformed banking from a relatively staid industry into a casino culture, ushering in an era of eye-popping profits, lavish bonuses, and the "financialization" of the American economy.
Of course, it's not just what politicians did that helped create today's oligarchy, but what they failed to do. A classic example: in the 1990s, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a private American accounting regulator, set its sights on a loophole big enough to drive a financial Mack truck through. Until then, stock options included in executives' skyrocketing pay packages -- potentially worth tens of millions of dollars when exercised -- were valued at zero when issued. That's right: zero, zilch, nada. When FASB and the SEC tried to close the loophole, however, big business leapt to its defense. An avalanche of money went into the pockets of an army of K Street lobbyists and leviathan business trade associations. In the end, nothing happened. Or rather, everything continued happening. The loophole remained.
Citizen United's Brave New World
Hacker and Pierson ably guide us through 30 years of "winner-take-all" policymaking, politicking, and -- from the point of view of the wealthy -- judicious inaction. They offer an eye-opening journey across the landscape that helped foster the New Oligarchs, but one crucial vista appeared too late for the authors to include.
No understanding of the rise of our New Oligarchs could be complete without exploring the effects of the Supreme Court's January Citizens United decision, which set their power in cement more effectively than any tax cut ever could. Before Citizens United, the rich used their wealth to subtly shape policy, woo politicians, and influence elections. Now, with so much money flowing into their hands and the contribution faucets wide open, they can simply buy American politics so long as the price is right.
Alfred McCoy from TomDispatch:
Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d'Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy's prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China's economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.
Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65% of Americans believed the country was now “in a state of decline.” Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America's closest economic partners are backing away from Washington's opposition to China's rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama's Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”
Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington's wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council's own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.
Until lawmakers cap the amount of money in politics, while forcing donors to reveal their identities and not hide in the shadows, the New Oligarchy will only grow in stature and influence. Left unchecked, this ultimate elite will continue to root out the few members of Congress not beholden to them and their “contributions” (see: Wisconsin's Russ Feingold) and will replace them with lawmakers eager to do their bidding, a Congress full of obedient placeholders ready to give their donors what they want.
Never before has the United States looked so much like a country of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.
Sen. Bernie Sanders acting sincerely on behalf of the people:
In my view, it is a moral outrage that at a time when this country has a $13.8 trillion national debt, a collapsing middle class and a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else that the Republicans would deny extended unemployment benefits to 2 million workers who are desperately struggling to pay their bills and maintain their dignity. It is also beyond comprehension that the Republicans would hold hostage the entire middle class of this country so that millionaires and billionaires would receive huge tax breaks. In my view, that is not what this country is about and it is not what the American people want to see. Our job is to save the disappearing middle class, not lower taxes for people who are already extraordinarily wealthy and increase the national debt that our children and grandchildren would have to pay.
The immediate political task in front of us is to rally the American people so that in the next several weeks we can find at least a few Republicans who will join us in saying no to increasing the deficit by giving tax breaks to the wealthy and no to holding the unemployed and the middle class hostage. I believe that we have the American people on our side on this issue. My office, and I come from a small state, has received more than 600 calls today, 99 percent of them in opposition to this so-called compromise that the president negotiated with the Republicans.
Paul Krugman on this latest:
Oh, and he’s overpromising again:
“It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery,” Mr. Obama said. “It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.”
Millions of new jobs? Millions? Not by my arithmetic.
Michael Lind, Salon:
The national parties have long since ceased to be healthy mass membership federations. The national and state parties have been reduced to shells. Most Democratic and Republican politicians are independent entrepreneurs, raising as much money as they can on their own. Like the bank robber Willie Sutton, they go to where the money is. It is more efficient to get a few big checks from billionaires and industry lobbies than lots of little donations.
The parties don’t even bother to recruit non-plutocratic members anymore. I have been contacted by the Democratic Party precisely once in my life. Twenty years ago I received an invitation to buy a seat at a fundraiser for $1,500. Clearly the invitation was a mistake, and I have never received any direct mail or phone calls from the Democratic Party again. I have never received any solicitations from the Republican Party, either. Clearly I don’t make enough money to be of interest to the two parties.
The unions, like the parties, were once mass membership organizations that transmitted the demands of ordinary Americans upward to national elites. No longer. Government and business working together since Reagan have crushed organized labor in the U.S. Fewer than 10 percent of private-sector workers belong to unions. Most union members are public-sector employees, who make easy targets for the faux populists of the right.
If you keep elections but get rid of mass membership organizations, then democracy breaks down, as it has in the U.S. Contemporary American politicians interact with ordinary Americans only at the polls. The politicians do not need the money of ordinary people, as it is easier to raise large sums from rich people and lobbies. And between elections, the advocacy groups of the left and right that meet with politicians and their staffs are usually funded by the rich and large foundations, rather than dues-paying members.
In this new institutional environment, it is only natural that more and more elected officials should pay attention to the rich few who pay for their campaigns and for the advocacy groups that present them with proposals and platforms. Campaigning for office becomes an exercise in telling ordinary voters of the left, right or center what they want to hear and then ignoring them until the next campaign.
Obama puffs up and declares he is above playing politics. Obama has never done anything else. He is a gamesman, and a lame one from our perspective but a successful one if that's what it can be called for a puppet to deliver massive paralysis against progress for off stage puppeteers.
We need a statesperson. We need to start demanding leadership of conscience, but the topic of morality is rarely allowed into the national conversation. It's all about who's winning and losing politically at the moment, the ruling class the players with an irrelevant and hapless citizenry in the cheap seats. That's the language of and for egos, not of and for hearts or sane minds.