In the Belly of the Beast: 6/29/11: What is the Matter with Obama?

What is the Matter with Obama?

I’ve gone through several stages in assessing Barak Obama.
My initial shallow view was that he would be a new FDR, and that progressives could pressure him from the Left. that he was a basic alternative to Bush, whose policies had failed, so we now got a reformist president who would implement Keynsian reforms to try and make US capitalism function better.
This obviously didn’t happen. My initial reaction was to attribute his policies to personal failings, that he was weak, conflicted, confused. However there has been a consistent pattern of his administration treating the progressive movement as the enemy, at the same time as it makes endless concessions to the Republicons. He had two years of a solid majority in the Congress, and he refused to use it in a progressive direction. He chose the worst available option for health care reform, ensuring that insurance companies would increase their power.
A year ago I read a shocking article (to me, at least) about how much Obama admired Reagan, as a “transformational president”. Shortly after that I read a blogger who characterized him as a “moderate Republican”, which I found convincing.
A few days ago a hunch popped into my mind: Obama intends to carry out a transformation of US politics by winning over the moderate base of the Republican party. He sees himself as a new “transformational president” who will build a new electoral base that will re-align US politics. I find this view very consistent with his behavior over the past two years: it makes his behavior very consistent and goal-directed. Obama has driven progressives crazy, leaving people puzzled and confused. But he hasn’t wavered: he has had the Republican base in view, and has consistently moved with that as his goal. He has not vacillated, being progressive some of the time, and retrogressing at other points. Basically he has never been on our side, and sees us as an obstacle, and his aides express these views publicly every so often. Contrast his anger towards the Left with his coddling of people like Lieberman. Obama is consistent, striving in a particular direction, and we need to understand that.
There are many ways in which Obama is a more extreme continuation of Bush’s  policies, particularly in deportations, war, and cracking down on whistle blowers. In these areas he has been strong and steady. It is in supporting progressive positions that he repeatedly gives way and retreats. And he appears to be surreptitiously leading an attack on what remains of our safety net, particularly Medicare and Social Security.
Finally, I have to comment on his remarks about the Israeli killings during the last Gaza flotilla: he described it in the context of Israel’s right to self-defense, and Clinton has recently repeated such remarks. So, in effect, he supports killing my comrades and people like me: think about what it means to describe a killing as an act of self-defense: legally and ethically self-defense is justified, at least in mainstream society (maybe not if you’re a pacifist). And most people would advocate that you defend yourself. Since I could envision myself being on that flotilla, given the right circumstances, I take that a bit personally. So in effect, in the 2012 election I get to decide whether to vote for someone who advocates killing people like me. Or at least condones it, or “understands” it…
So what is to be done? We need to discuss this view of Obama’s role. Perhaps I am over-simplifying. For example, some say “never attribute to conspiracy what you can explain by stupidity”. I don’t think “stupid” describes Obama (or Bush for that matter). Is Obama following a consistent policy, as I see it, or is it perhaps just a series of difficult situations (Republican obstruction etc), mistakes on his part, accidental events, etc. As a Marxist I tend to look for social forces behind events: perhaps I am seeing more consistency than is really there?
Assuming I am right, or reasonably close, we need to say it publicly. In particular, around things like social security and Medicare we need to treat any compromise the way we treated Bush’s efforts at privatization: attempts to weaken the safety net should be met with denunciation, protests, civil disobedience, etc. I also think we who are citizens should be responding more vigorously to Obama’s escalation of deportations, though this obviously will take more work because of the anti-immigrant racism in US society.

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)


“POLITICS”
RACISM, SEXISM, CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”
THE ECONOMY


      
THE ULTRA-RIGHT


      
ENVIRONMENT





NUCLEAR POWER


      

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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“POLITICS”

My Country Right or Wrong: Conscientious Objector Josh Stieber on Being Wrong About the Military

from The Wrong Stuff by Kathryn Schulz

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After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a 13-year-old kid named Josh Stieber vowed that as soon as he was old enough, he would join the military. His goal: to help protect his country and spread its values of freedom and democracy around the world. With the war still on when he graduated from high school, Stieber enlisted in 2006 and was deployed to Baghdad in 2007. A devout Christian and a staunch political conservative, Stieber became troubled by the gap between the values he was told the military embodied and those he experienced on the ground. Partway through his deployment, he realized that his perspective had changed so drastically that he would rather go to prison than remain in the military. Instead, he learned about, applied for, and obtained Conscientious Objector status. (For more on conscientious objectors, see my interview with J.E. McNeil , head of the Center on Conscience and War .)    

Top Democrats reject Lieberman/Coburn plan to slash Medicare. Post says proposal “echoes GOP demands”.

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

That’s good news.

Leading congressional Democrats immediately recoiled Tuesday from a new proposal to cut $600 billion in Medicare spending over the next decade — in part by raising the eligibility age.

Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) unveiled the proposal as part of a bipartisan effort to produce the kind of savings necessary to achieve the $2 trillion in debt reduction both parties say is needed to convince reticent lawmakers to vote to raise the debt ceiling. It would raise Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67 and assess higher premiums on wealthier seniors.

Cutting Medicare and Social Security is a top priority for the GOP. Democrats should not only NOT be talking about cutting those programs, period, but it certainly shouldn’t even be discussed at all while the GOP continues to say “no tax increases.” This budget negotiation has been on their terms from day one. It needs to stop. This is a good first step. My favorite part of the Post story:

The proposal echoes Republican demands that entitlement reform — especially deep cuts in Medicare spending — be a part of any agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Let’s all cut Medicare since it’s like our only winning issue against the GOP

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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From HuffPost Hill:

Because the good lord knows Democrats don’t want a winning campaign issue, the party is desperately trying to hand back its Medicare advantage to Republicans. Joe Lieberman today teamed with Tom Coburn to push legislation that would cut Medicare by $640 billion over the next ten years by reducing benefits and making old people pay more for their care. That’s called courage in Washington. President Obama, meanwhile, is floating heavy Medicare cuts in his talks with Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, meaning that Lieberman and Coburn’s proposal could become the basis for some type of bipartisan knifing of grandma any day now.

That would be the Joe Lieberman who helped kill the public option, thus ensuring that when seniors get their Medicare benefits cut they won’t be able to afford this country’s exorbitantly expensive, and ever-growing, medical costs.

But hey, I was getting tired of Democratic control of the congress and the White House anyway. [/snark]

The hidden Greek bailout — a €50 billion privatization of state-owned assets

A quick follow-up to this report from Chris in Paris on the ongoing attempt by Greece to substitute austerity for default (and the parallel attempt by the governments of creditor banks to loan Greece enough money to indirectly bail out its bankers — remember, those loans will end up in bankers’ pockets).

My first post at AMERICAblog was this one: The Greek economic crisis: Cui bono? in which I wrote this:

So what do we have, if this analyst is right? Not melodrama, with large cartoonish national groups, but that old familiar combo — predators and prey:

■ Cash-rich big business eager to buy up public goods for pennies
■ Cash-starved governments in crisis
■ Easily corrupted pols

Shades of Naomi Klein. And why are those governments cash-starved? The long-term reason, of course, is their own bad behavior, plus that pesky Euro problem that ties Greek hands.

But the near-term reason may be this — that the German big-business types whispering into Chancellor Angela Merkel’s shell-like ear (and through her ear to Brussels) will make out like bandits if Greece has to sell itself off to survive.

“Welcome to the Athens-Peiraios Causeway, brought to you by Deutsche Telekom. €4.00 please.”

Well, thanks to David Dayen, we find this on the current state of the Greek “radical privatization plan,” part of its debt reduction program (my emphasis):

Prime Minister George Papandreou announced an immediate sale of state assets on Monday evening, including its shares in the telecom operator OTE and the ports of Piraeus andThessaloniki.

Following a cabinet meeting, Papandreou announced 1.6 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in savings along with the privatization measures. … “Now we take the necessary decisions to avoid the danger once and for all, and to change the country,” read his statement.

The Greek state has a 16-percent stake left in OTE, the largest shareholder being German telecommunications firm Deutsche Telekom.

Other assets up for sale include Hellenic Postbank – one of Greece’s major lenders – theThessalonki water company, gas company DEPA and the train operator Trainose. The exact contents of the list for privatization have yet to be finalized with the Greek Finance Ministry. … Greece has been urged to press ahead with a 50-billion-euro program of privatization as part of the conditions to smooth the way for a loan instal[l]ment of 12 billion euros.

The article also mentions selling off “interests in airports, weapons contractor OPAP, as well as regional ports and highways.”

As always, the real prize: All your assets are belong to us. The Billionaires Coup abroad.

Obama seeking “partners” for 2012 campaign – only big money need apply

Again, Wall Street showered him with campaign contributions in 2008 and he’s been having private fund raising dinners with the CEOs of Wall Street this year. His campaign and staff can say what they like about that, but you would have to be a fool to miss the connection between the meek financial reform that the White House promoted and his campaign contributions. Also, let’s think for a moment about the extension of tax breaks for the wealthy. If you are not part of the deep pocket crowd, you’re really not very important to this administration, but I’d like to be proven wrong. Bloomberg:

Donors who pledge $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund will be named “Presidential Partners” and will be invited to quarterly campaign briefings that are sometimes attended by the president, said a Democratic official who wasn’t authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The program secures two years’ worth of a supporter’s allowable donations. Presidential Partners contribute $5,000 to the Obama campaign, $61,600 to the Democratic committee and an additional $9,200 to a committee that the campaign and the national committee use in statewide races.

The big-money fundraising program is the latest weapon in a campaign-financing arms race. It was reported by the Los Angeles Times. The 2012 election may dwarf previous races with the campaigns, party committees and independent political groups projected to raise and spend a combined $2 billion before Election Day.

RACISM, SEXISM, 
 CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

THE ECONOMY

THE ULTRA-RIGHT


     
ENVIRONMENT



    
NUCLEAR POWER
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