Thursday, December 2, 2010

Whose Side Is The President On?


What the following article reluctantly yet quite accurately suggests--often even in spite of itself!--is that President Obama is essentially a shape-shifting political opportunist and careerist who consistently uses a solipsistic notion of "pragmatism" as a thinly veiled cover for avoiding a clear and concrete public commitment to any specific ideological or political position on any major issue. This schizophrenic and clearly obsessive tendency to try to rhetorically play up to and court both liberals and conservatives in both political parties while simultaneously asserting/pretending that he is personally "above the fray" of actual political and ideological combat is what has effectively ensured that Obama has become a largely inept, infuriating, and ironically polarizing figure. By both strategically and tactically avoiding or simply running away in fear or disdain from genuine political conflict (i.e. standing on principle for and/or against any given position at any given time), Obama has willfully and rather petulantly painted himself into a corner in which he comes off to many as what he most unfortunately really appears to be: a man either without the courage of his convictions or someone who lacks any true convictions at all--which is to say a passive-aggressive political hack cynically masquerading as a "transcendent" statesman.

In any event this dispiriting and anxiety inducing song-and-dance routine on his part is finally going to receive the fundamental challenge to his Presidency and his agenda that he truly deserves and that we must firmly DEMAND that he take complete and undeniable responsibility and accountability for. Finally between now and the presidential election of 2012 we will all find out conclusively who this President really is, whose side he is on, and what he truly stands for minus the insipid and cowardly BS platitudes about "bipartisanship consensus" and "mutual compromise" on the paramount and absolutely crucial issues of unemployment, poverty, Wall Street, the banks, financial and corporate institutions (i.e. Big Business), the debt crisis, domestic public policy, and global warfare, etc. The chickens have finally come home to roost for good in this administration and the President and the Democratic Party--as well as the general American left!--won't be able to simply sidestep or avoid this utterly transparent and compelling fact any longer. The traditional notion of "put up or shut up" or "lead, follow, or get out of the way" in our politics has never been clearer or more necessary than right now in this country and no one--not least the President of the United States-- will be able to escape either the truth or consequences of our collective responsibility...


Debt-Busting Issue May Force Obama Off Fence
November 30, 2010
New York Times


When President Obama’s fiscal commission offers its proposals on Wednesday, after the release by several liberal groups of their own debt-busting plans this week, the essential decision facing Mr. Obama in these last two years of his term will have been neatly framed. He can side either with centrist reformers in both parties, who would overhaul both cherished entitlements and the tax system, or with traditional liberals, who prefer new levies on the wealthy and substantial cuts in military spending.

In other words, the suddenly pressing issue of the debt will force Mr. Obama to choose, at last, between the dueling, ill-defined promises of his presidential campaign — between a “postpartisan” vision of government on one hand and a liberal renaissance on the other.

Partisans on either side in Washington, of course, would tell you that Mr. Obama has already made this decision — although they differ on which side he’s chosen.

Republicans depict the president as having governed just to the left of Hugo Chávez, nationalizing companies while centralizing power in the hands of the federal bureaucracy. Liberals complain that Mr. Obama has time and again abandoned his party’s principles in search of some centrist consensus that doesn’t exist, and they point to his creating a bipartisan fiscal commission as a case in point.

In truth, though, Mr. Obama has almost invariably sought to position himself halfway between traditionalism and reform, just as his vague notions of “hope” and “change” during the 2008 campaign were meant to appeal simultaneously to both disaffected independent voters and core progressives. And in virtually every case, he has satisfied pretty much no one.

Take the example of Mr. Obama’s first initiative, the roughly $800 billion stimulus bill, which independent and conservative voters revile as a huge government handout, while liberals deride it as too small and too timid. Or look at the health care law, which struck independents as liberal overreach and yet bitterly disappointed the left because it didn’t include a government-run plan. Just where Mr. Obama actually lives on the ideological continuum — that is, exactly what kind of Democrat he sees when he looks in the mirror to examine his busted lip — is the most vexing question of his presidency.

The body of Mr. Obama’s writing and experiences before he became a presidential candidate would suggest that he is instinctively pragmatic, typical of an emerging generation that sees all political dogma — be it ’60s liberalism or ’80s conservatism — as anachronistic. Privately, Mr. Obama has described himself, at times, as essentially a Blue Dog Democrat, referring to the shrinking caucus of fiscally conservative members of the party.

In a 2005 blog post that may be as valuable as either of his books in identifying the inner president, then-Senator Obama castigated his own party’s ideological activists for their attacks on Democratic senators who had voted to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice. “To the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, ‘true’ progressive vision for our country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward,” Mr. Obama, who voted against confirming Chief Justice Roberts, wrote then.

At the same time, Mr. Obama has been loath to publicly disown his base on any specific issue, even where he disagreed and where his political prospects might have benefited. And this probably says more about his personal philosophy than it does about his ideology.

You have to remember that Mr. Obama first entered politics in Illinois in the mid-1990s, when “triangulation,” as practiced by Bill Clinton, was becoming a vile curse word in liberal circles. Mr. Clinton had repeatedly solidified his own standing by putting a good bit of distance between himself and his own supporters on the left — a tactic liberals found both dispiriting and distasteful.

Part of the contrast Mr. Obama sought to draw with Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 campaign was that you would never catch him triangulating against his friends for political gain. It was a point of pride for Mr. Obama that he would have no so-called Sister Souljah moments, even when he vehemently disagreed with liberals.

The problem with this stance, two years into his presidency, is that it seems to have put Mr. Obama in something of a box. Since he isn’t willing to break publicly with liberals, independent and conservative voters tend to see him as a tool of the left. And since he generally won’t do exactly what the left wants him to do, he ends up with very little gratitude from his own party.

This political no-man’s land, however, is about to become uninhabitable. The national debt is near the top of any list of voter concerns at the moment, and when his commission votes Friday on its final recommendations, Mr. Obama will be handed concrete and contrasting options for addressing it.

Budget experts from both parties agree, for instance, with the commission’s co-chairmen, Erskine B. Bowles and Alan K. Simpson, that some reduction in Social Security benefits will be essential to the nation’s long-term fiscal stability. But liberal groups are adamant about preventing any change to the structure of the program, which they see as the last unassailable pillar of New Deal liberalism.

Should Mr. Obama embrace the commissioners’ argument on Social Security, the sense of betrayal on the left will be so intense that he could conceivably draw a primary challenge over it in 2012.

Another critical question is whether Mr. Obama will embrace some overhaul of the tax code that leads not just to broader payroll taxes but also to reductions in income tax rates in return for eliminating many tax breaks, as the commission’s chairmen suggested in their initial draft. Liberals propose raising taxes on wealthier Americans and businesses instead.

Mr. Obama’s opening move this week in the fast-forming budget debate was to propose a freeze in salaries for federal employees — a classic, Obama-like gambit that mildly annoyed the left and will do little to assuage public fears about spending. More consequential decisions are coming, however, and they will tell us much about the kind of president Mr. Obama still intends to be.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chris Hedges On The Paramount Necessity of Resistance in the Fight For Real Change


As usual the indefatigable and fearless Chris Hedges goes for the gusto--like it or not. It takes real intellectual and moral courage these daze to find a reason to stubbornly fight for what one knows is right and to relentlessly call the many responsible parties out for their betrayal even if the odds are overwhelmingly against you and so many people think you're a fool to seriously demand something better and actively stand on principle to try to bring it about. Thankfully, Hedges is such a human being in a society and culture that has passively and tragically largely given itself over to massive institutional and pseudophilosophical forces that clearly seek to manipulate, corrupt, and destroy the world in the name of power, greed, hatred, hubris, hypocrisy, lies, fear, ignorance, and arrogance. Yet Hedges continues to write, fight, and organize in the face of a contemptuous Leviathan we stupidly and insanely call and trumpet as "American Exceptionalism." Meanwhile, Hedges and a few brave souls like him absolutely refuses to kowtow to and play the infantile supplicant for the rancid nativist aristocracy who typically are butt naked Emperors genuflecting to their own delusional fantasies of grandeur. The good news in the wake of all the ugly noise and despair is that Hedges knows better and continues to ACT on that knowledge--and so do we...


Real Hope Is About Doing Something
Monday 29 November 2010
by: Chris Hedges | Truthdig | Op-Ed

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: afagen, Brett Sayer)

On Dec. 16 I will join Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern and several military veteran activists outside the White House to protest the futile and endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of us will, after our rally in Lafayette Park, attempt to chain ourselves to the fence outside the White House. It is a pretty good bet we will all spend a night in jail. Hope, from now on, will look like this.

Hope is not trusting in the ultimate goodness of Barack Obama, who, like Herod of old, sold out his people. It is not having a positive attitude or pretending that happy thoughts and false optimism will make the world better. Hope is not about chanting packaged campaign slogans or trusting in the better nature of the Democratic Party. Hope does not mean that our protests will suddenly awaken the dead consciences, the atrophied souls, of the plutocrats running Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil or the government.

Hope does not mean we will halt the firing in Afghanistan of the next Hellfire missile, whose explosive blast sucks the oxygen out of the air and leaves the dead, including children, scattered like limp rag dolls on the ground. Hope does not mean we will reform Wall Street swindlers and speculators, or halt the pillaging of our economy as we print $600 billion in new money with the desperation of all collapsing states. Hope does not mean that the nation’s ministers and rabbis, who know the words of the great Hebrew prophets, will leave their houses of worship to practice the religious beliefs they preach. Most clerics like fine, abstract words about justice and full collection plates, but know little of real hope.

Hope knows that unless we physically defy government control we are complicit in the violence of the state. All who resist keep hope alive. All who succumb to fear, despair and apathy become enemies of hope. They become, in their passivity, agents of injustice. If the enemies of hope are finally victorious, the poison of violence will become not only the language of power but the language of opposition. And those who resist with nonviolence are in times like these the thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration.

Hope has a cost. Hope is not comfortable or easy. Hope requires personal risk. Hope does not come with the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is an action. Hope is doing something. The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the vaster and the more potent hope becomes. Hope never makes sense. Hope is weak, unorganized and absurd. Hope, which is always nonviolent, exposes in its powerlessness the lies, fraud and coercion employed by the state. Hope does not believe in force. Hope knows that an injustice visited on our neighbor is an injustice visited on us all. Hope posits that people are drawn to the good by the good. This is the secret of hope’s power and it is why it can never finally be defeated. Hope demands for others what we demand for ourselves. Hope does not separate us from them. Hope sees in our enemy our own face.

Hope is not for the practical and the sophisticated, the cynics and the complacent, the defeated and the fearful. Hope is what the corporate state, which saturates our airwaves with lies, seeks to obliterate. Hope is what our corporate overlords are determined to crush. Be afraid, they tell us. Surrender your liberties to us so we can make the world safe from terror. Don’t resist. Embrace the alienation of our cheerful conformity. Buy our products. Without them you are worthless. Become our brands. Do not look up from your electronic hallucinations to think. No. Above all do not think. Obey.

W.H. Auden wrote:

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The powerful do not understand hope. Hope is not part of their vocabulary. They speak in the cold, dead words of national security, global markets, electoral strategy, staying on message, image and money. The powerful protect their own. They divide the world into the damned and the blessed, the patriots and the enemy, the rich and the poor. They insist that extinguishing lives in foreign wars or in our prison complexes is a form of human progress. They cannot see that the suffering of a child in Gaza or a child in the blighted pockets of Washington, D.C., diminishes and impoverishes us all. They are deaf, dumb and blind to hope. Those addicted to power, blinded by self-exaltation, cannot decipher the words of hope any more than most of us can decipher hieroglyphics. Hope to Wall Street bankers and politicians, to the masters of war and commerce, is not practical. It is gibberish. It means nothing.

I cannot promise you fine weather or an easy time. I cannot assure you that thousands will converge on Lafayette Park in solidarity. I cannot pretend that being handcuffed is pleasant. I cannot say that anyone in Congress or the White House, anyone in the boardrooms of the corporations that cannibalize our nation, will be moved by pity to act for the common good. I cannot tell you these wars will end or the hungry will be fed. I cannot say that justice will roll down like a mighty wave and restore our nation to sanity. But I can say this: If we resist and carry out acts, no matter how small, of open defiance, hope will not be extinguished. If all we accomplish is to assure a grieving mother in Baghdad or Afghanistan, a young man or woman crippled physically and emotionally by the hammer blows of war, that he or she is not alone, our resistance will be successful. Hope cannot be sustained if it cannot be seen.

Any act of rebellion, any physical defiance of those who make war, of those who perpetuate corporate greed and are responsible for state crimes, anything that seeks to draw the good to the good, nourishes our souls and holds out the possibility that we can touch and transform the souls of others. Hope affirms that which we must affirm. And every act that imparts hope is a victory in itself.

Also from Auden:

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.” More information on the Dec. 16 protest can be found at

Monday, November 29, 2010

American Politics 2010: Playing Infantile Games With Our Future Instead of Addressing Social and Economic Reality


This is still more bullshit political gamesmanship and time diverting antics by President Obama masquerading as a honest and forthright attempt to address the red herring issue of "deficit spending" (which is now nothing more than a demagogic code phrase used by the wildly profligate and irresponsible Republican hypocrites in Congress who under the super corporate regime of Bushwhacker 2 was responsible for the largest increase in the federal deficit in the entire history of the United States!). The reason that the issue of the deficit is fundamentally a red herring and thus largely a manufactured political crisis at this point is not that there isn't a major problem with the federal budget being seriously out of whack economically as a direct result of a decade of massive tax cuts for the rich, virtually no legal or governmental regulation at all of Wall Street and the general financial sector of the economy, and a stubbornly insistent and steadfast refusal on the part of the Bush rightwing federal government and the private corporate sector to properly invest in education, health care reform, labor protection, social and economic infrastructure, a sound and progressive energy policy, real climate control, and a genuinely strong and effective environmental protection policy. Clearly all these things and more have thus contributed to the huge growth of a clearly untenable and absolutely unsustainable budgetary mess that MUST be addressed in a serious and responsible manner by the government at some point...

So NO the reason that the issue of "deficit spending" is a political red herring is NOT that major reform and real "change" is not needed to bring the government's and the larger economy's house in order. No. The reason is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want to do what is really necessary to fundamentally improve and transform the economy and the general society in the progressive direction of a far more just, fair, democratic, and equitable system than what currently exists. That would require that the wealthy elites and elected political representatives of every branch of government be held directly accountable and responsible on a political, ethical, economic and ideological scale that was unprecedented in American history. You know--actual social and economic Democracy instead of the criminally corrupt Plutocracy that currently dominates and controls our political and economic system...

Meanwhile President Obama and the two major political parties keep playing an irresponsible, time wasting, very dangerous, and ultimately lethal cat-and-mouse game of brinksmanship to see who blinks first in public from the self serving standpoint of the 2012 electoral sweepstakes. What all this grandstanding (and especially among the Republicans and their demented "Tea Party" cohorts) petty vindictive tactics really means is that NOTHING important, substantive, real, necessary, or useful will emerge from either major political party to solve or seriously address any of the many major problems and crises facing the American people in general and especially the poor, working, and lower middle class who constitute the overwhelming majority of those citizens being ravaged and destroyed by the current economy and civil society...


Obama to Freeze Pay for Most Federal Workers
November 29, 2010
New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to announce a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers on Monday in his latest move intended to demonstrate concern over sky-high deficit spending.

The president’s proposal will effectively wipe out plans for a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise in 2011 for 2.1 million civilian federal government employees, including those working at the Defense Department, but the freeze would not affect the nation’s uniformed military personnel. The president has frozen the salaries of his own top White House staff members since taking office 22 months ago.

“Clearly this is a difficult decision,” said Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer. “Federal workers are hard-working and dedicated.” But given the deficit, Mr. Zients added, “we believe this is the first of many difficult steps ahead.”

The pay freeze will save $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends in September 2011, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, officials said. That represents just a tiny dent in a $1.3 trillion annual deficit, but it offers a symbolic gesture toward public anger over unemployment, the anemic economic recovery and rising national debt.

Mr. Zients said the president planned to announce the plan on Monday because of an approaching legal deadline for submitting a pay plan to Congress. But by doing it now, the president also effectively gets ahead of Republicans who have been talking about making such a move once they take over the House, and assume more seats in the Senate, in January. Some Republicans have gone further, proposing to slash federal worker salaries.

The number of federal workers making more than $150,000 a year has grown 10-fold in the last five years and doubled since Mr. Obama took office, according to a USA Today study this month. Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3 percent annually above inflation, compared with 0.8 percent for private sector workers, according to data cited by the newspaper.

This is not the first time Mr. Obama has addressed government pay to make a political point. In addition to freezing the salaries of top White House staff members when he took office, he later extended that freeze to political appointees throughout the government and canceled their bonuses.

The chairmen of a fiscal commission appointed by Mr. Obama have proposed a three-year freeze for federal employees in a draft report. The commission is supposed to issue a final report by Wednesday.

Frank Rich On The Tyranny of Big Money in American Politics


The best damn political journalist writing for a major newspaper today--the always highly informative and razor sharp analyst Frank Rich--once again lays out in very precise terms exactly what has gone wrong and why, and what we need to do to fix it...



Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy
November 27, 2010
New York Times

SO America’s latest crisis — until it wasn’t — was airport screeners touching our junk. As this long year lurches toward its end, we all agree that something has gone wrong in America, and we’re desperately casting about for a coherent explanation for our discontent, if not a scapegoat. Alas, the national consensus that the T.S.A. and full-body scans might be the source of all evil fizzled in less than a week. Most everyone got to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving without genital distress.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Frank Rich

The previous transient scapegoat was the Democrats. They were punished in yet another “wave” election — our third in a row — where voters threw Washington’s bums out. But most of the public remains bummed out nonetheless. In late October, the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that only 31 percent of respondents believed that America was on the right track. When the survey asked the same question after the shellacking, the percent of optimists jumped to ... 32. Regardless of party or politics, there’s a sense a broken country can’t be fixed. Few have faith that even “wave” elections are game-changers anymore.

The larger explanations for this dysfunction are well-worn by now, from the impotence of the filibuster-bound United States Senate to the intractable polarization of an electorate divided more or less 50-50 since Bush v. Gore. Such is the bipartisanship of the funk that Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck each succeeded in bringing off well attended rallies in Washington to commiserate over the country’s political and governmental stagnation — with each rally offering its competing diagnosis.

For Stewart, the hyperpartisanship of the modern news media remains the nation’s curse. “The country’s 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems,” he told the throngs at his rally to “restore sanity,” but it “makes solving them that much harder.” At Beck’s rally to “restore honor,” the message seemed to be that America’s principal failing is a refusal to recognize that God “is our king.” If Stewart’s antidote was more civility, Beck’s was more prayer.

Stewart’s point is indisputable as far as it goes. Beck’s, not so much: If prayer hasn’t cured this highly prayerful nation by now, it may be because our body politic has long since developed an immunity to it. But both rallies, for all the commotion they generated, have already faded to the status of quirky historical footnotes. The reason is that neither addressed the elephant in the room — or the donkey. That would be big money — the big money that dominates our political system, regardless of who’s in power. Two years after the economic meltdown, most Americans now recognize that that money has inexorably institutionalized a caste system where everyone remains (at best) mired in economic stasis except the very wealthiest sliver.

The Great Depression ended the last comparable Gilded Age, of the 1920s, and brought about major reforms in American government and business. Not so the Great Recession. Last week, as the Fed’s new growth projections downsized hope for significant decline in the unemployment rate, the Commerce Department reported that corporate profits hit a record high. Those profits aren’t trickling down into new jobs or into higher salaries for those not in the executive suites. And the prospect of serious regulation of those at the top of the top — the financial sector — is even more of a fantasy in the new Congress than it was in its predecessor.

Wall Street is already celebrating the approach of bonus season by partying like it’s 2007. In The Times’s account of this return to conspicuous consumption, we learned of a Morgan Stanley trader, since fired for unspecified reasons, who went to costly ends to try to hire a dwarf for a Miami bachelor party prank that would require the dwarf to be handcuffed to the bachelor. If this were a metaphor — if only! — Wall Street would be the bachelor, and America the dwarf, involuntarily chained to its master’s hedonistic revels and fiscal recklessness with no prospect for escape.

As John Cassidy underscored in a definitive article titled “Who Needs Wall Street?” in The New Yorker last week, the financial sector has paid little for bringing the world to near-collapse or for receiving the taxpayers’ bailout that was denied to most small-enough-to-fail Americans. The sector still rakes in more than a fourth of American business profits, up from a seventh 25 years ago. And what is its contribution to America in exchange for this quarter-century of ever-more over-the-top rewards? “During a period in which American companies have created iPhones, Home Depot and Lipitor,” Cassidy writes, the industry reaping the highest profits and compensation is one that “doesn’t design, build or sell a tangible thing.”

It’s an industry that can buy politicians as easily as it does dwarfs, which is why government has tilted the playing field ever more in its direction for three decades. Now corporations of all kinds can buy more of Washington than before, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and to the rise of outside “nonprofit groups” that can legally front for those who prefer to donate anonymously. The money laundering at the base of Tom DeLay’s conviction by a Texas jury last week — his circumventing of the state’s post-Gilded Age law forbidding corporate campaign contributions directly to candidates — is now easily and legally doable at the national level.

There are plenty of Americans who don’t endorse Stewart’s indictment of cable news; there’s even a reasonably large group that doesn’t buy Beck’s perceived shortfall in American religiosity. But seemingly everyone is aggrieved about the hijacking of the political system by anonymous special interests. The most recent Times-CBS News poll found that an extraordinary 92 percent of Americans want full disclosure of campaign contributors — far many more than, say, believe in evolution. But they will not get their wish anytime soon. “I don’t think we can put the genie back in the bottle,” said David Axelrod as the Democrats prepared to play catch-up to the G.O.P.’s 2010 mastery of outside groups and clandestine corporate corporations.

The story of recent corporate political donations — which we may never learn in its entirety — is just beginning to be told. Bloomberg News reported after Election Day that the United States Chamber of Commerce’s anti-Democratic war chest included a mind-boggling $86 million contribution from the insurance lobby to fight the health care bill. The Times has identified other big chamber donors as Prudential Financial, Goldman Sachs and Chevron. These are hardly the small businesses that the chamber’s G.O.P. allies claim to be championing.

Since the election, the Obama White House has sent signals that it will make nice to these interests. While the president returns to photo ops at factories, Timothy Geithner has already met with the chamber’s board out of camera range. In a reportorial coup before Election Day, the investigative news organization ProPublica wrote of the similarly behind-closed-doors activities of the New Democrat Coalition — “a group of 69 lawmakers whose close relationship with several hundred Washington lobbyists” makes them “one of the most successful political money machines” since DeLay’s K Street Project collapsed in 2007. During the Congressional battle over financial-services reform last May, coalition members repaired to a retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to frolic with lobbyists dedicated to weakening the legislation.

Such is the ethos in his own party that Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, complained this month that he “couldn’t even get a vote” for his proposal for a one-time windfall profits tax on Wall Street bonuses. Republicans “obviously weren’t going to vote for it,” he told Real Clear Politics, but Democrats also demurred, “saying that any vote like that was going to screw up fund-raising.”

Roughly two-thirds of the New Democrat Coalition’s House contingent won re-election on Nov. 2. Now they’ll have more Republican allies in both houses of Congress. Tea Party populists — already being betrayed by one Senate leader, Jon Kyl, on the supposed pledge against earmarks — may soon be as disillusioned as those Democrats who had hoped Barack Obama’s economic team wouldn’t look like Wall Street.

For all the McConnell-Boehner rhetorical pandering to Tea Partiers, the health care law will not be repealed by Congress — and certainly not any provisions that benefit the G.O.P. establishment’s friends in the health care industry. Over at FreedomWorks, Dick Armey’s Tea-Party-organizing group, there’s much belligerent talk of retribution against corporations seen as too friendly to Obama policies — most notably General Electric. It’s all hot air: G.E.’s political action committees gave a total of $1.6 million to politicians in both parties in 2010, and one of its former high-powered lobbyists, Dan Coats, is the newly elected Republican senator from Indiana and a probable member of the Senate Finance Committee.

America needs a rally — or, better still, a leader or two or three — to restore not just honor or sanity to its citizens but governance that’s not auctioned off to the highest bidder. When it was reported just days before our election that Iran was protecting its political interests in Afghanistan’s presidential palace by giving bags of money to Hamid Karzai’s closest aide, Americans could hardly bring themselves to be outraged. At least with Karzai’s government, unlike our own, we could know for certain whose cash was in the bag.

The Reality of Class Warfare in American Politics Today


As Bob Herbert eloquently points out the stark reality of the social and economic tyranny of corporate capitalism in the U.S. today is by far the most important issue facing the American people, and the one both major political parties and their brazenly wealthy elites are most interested in using against us in the name of profit, exploitation, and social control...



Winning the Class War
November 26, 2010
New York Times

The class war that no one wants to talk about continues unabated.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Bob Herbert

Even as millions of out-of-work and otherwise struggling Americans are tightening their belts for the holidays, the nation’s elite are lacing up their dancing shoes and partying like royalty as the millions and billions keep rolling in.

Recessions are for the little people, not for the corporate chiefs and the titans of Wall Street who are at the heart of the American aristocracy. They have waged economic warfare against everybody else and are winning big time.

The ranks of the poor may be swelling and families forced out of their foreclosed homes may be enduring a nightmarish holiday season, but American companies have just experienced their most profitable quarter ever. As The Times reported this week, U.S. firms earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter — the highest total since the government began keeping track more than six decades ago.

The corporate fat cats are becoming alarmingly rotund. Their profits have surged over the past seven quarters at a pace that is among the fastest ever seen, and they can barely contain their glee. On the same day that The Times ran its article about the third-quarter surge in profits, it ran a piece on the front page that carried the headline: “With a Swagger, Wallets Out, Wall Street Dares to Celebrate.”

Anyone who thinks there is something beneficial in this vast disconnect between the fortunes of the American elite and those of the struggling masses is just silly. It’s not even good for the elite.

There is no way to bring America’s consumer economy back to robust health if unemployment is chronically high, wages remain stagnant and the jobs that are created are poor ones. Without ordinary Americans spending their earnings from good jobs, any hope of a meaningful, long-term recovery is doomed.

Beyond that, extreme economic inequality is a recipe for social instability. Families on the wrong side of the divide find themselves under increasing pressure to just hold things together: to find the money to pay rent or the mortgage, to fend off bill collectors, to cope with illness and emergencies, and deal with the daily doses of extreme anxiety.

Societal conflicts metastasize as resentments fester and scapegoats are sought. Demagogues inevitably emerge to feast on the poisonous stew of such an environment. The rich may think that the public won’t ever turn against them. But to hold that belief, you have to ignore the turbulent history of the 1930s.

A stark example of the potential for real conflict is being played out in New York City, where the multibillionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has selected a glittering example of the American aristocracy to be the city’s schools chancellor. Cathleen Black, chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has a reputation as a crackerjack corporate executive but absolutely no background in education.

Ms. Black travels in the rarefied environs of the very rich. Her own children went to private boarding schools. She owns a penthouse on Park Avenue and a $4 million home in Southampton. She was able to loan a $47,600 Bulgari bracelet to a museum for an exhibit showing off the baubles of the city’s most successful women.

Ms. Black will be peering across an almost unbridgeable gap between her and the largely poor and working-class parents and students she will be expected to serve. Worse, Mr. Bloomberg, heralding Ms. Black as a “superstar manager,” has made it clear that because of budget shortfalls she will be focused on managing cutbacks to the school system.

So here we have the billionaire and the millionaire telling the poor and the struggling — the little people — that they will just have to make do with less. You can almost feel the bitterness rising.

Extreme inequality is already contributing mightily to political and other forms of polarization in the U.S. And it is a major force undermining the idea that as citizens we should try to face the nation’s problems, economic and otherwise, in a reasonably united fashion. When so many people are tumbling toward the bottom, the tendency is to fight among each other for increasingly scarce resources.

What’s really needed is for working Americans to form alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work out equitable solutions to the myriad problems facing so many ordinary individuals and families. Strong leaders are needed to develop such alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy and have left working Americans in the lurch.

Aristocrats were supposed to be anathema to Americans. Now, while much of the rest of the nation is suffering, they are the only ones who can afford to smile.