Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 20, 2010

The comeback kid and bipartisan attacks on working people

Filed under: aging,Obama,workers — louisproyect @ 7:49 pm

Almost immediately after Obama persuaded the Democrats to support an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the mainstream media began to trumpet his new-found effectiveness. Even before the deal was approved, the NY Times opined that a “political lift” for Obama was in store. The article reasoned that “In the Senate, Democrats were quicker to accept that Mr. Obama’s tradeoff could help reverse the party’s political misfortune, in which important swing voters, especially independents and women, turned toward the Republicans.”

And afterwards, the consensus began to mount that Obama was a “comeback kid” like President Clinton. USA Today put it this way:

Is Barack Obama the new Comeback Kid?

Six weeks after he acknowledged taking a “shellacking” at the polls, President Obama is on the verge of what may be a political rebound.

Late Thursday, he scored a big victory in Congress when the House followed the Senate in approving a deal he struck with Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years for all Americans, including top earners.

Despite his ultraright politics or perhaps because of them, Charles Krauthammer told his Washington Post readers that he agreed with USA Today:

If Barack Obama wins reelection in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010.

Obama had a bad November. Self-confessedly shellacked in the midterm election, he fled the scene to Asia and various unsuccessful meetings, only to return to a sad-sack lame-duck Congress with ghostly dozens of defeated Democrats wandering the halls.

Now, with his stunning tax deal, Obama is back. Holding no high cards, he nonetheless managed to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama.

Also basking in new-found glory is Senator Harry Reid, who, according to NY Times blogger John Harwood, a disgusting and ubiquitous presence on cable news shows, “boasted” that the tax-cut compromise was ”some of my greatest work”.

So, what will be act two as a follow-up to preserving a tax break for millionaires that Democrats railed against for so long? It will be an attack on deficits apparently, as Reid indicated in Harwood’s post: “His interpretation of the midterm election message: voters want both parties to cooperate on reducing the deficit.”

Obama and Harry Reid are united on the need to cut the deficit. If it is obviously not going to be solved by making millionaires pay taxes at the same rate as during the Eisenhower or even the Reagan presidency for that matter, how else do you expect the budget to be balanced except by taking out of the hides of working stiffs?

In a visit to Mr. Krauthammer’s employers on January 16 2009, Obama assured the Post’s editors that Social Security and Medicare were badly in need of “reform”:

President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare “bargain” with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs.

That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a “fiscal responsibility summit” before delivering his first budget to Congress. He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.

“What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further,” he said. “We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.”

While most of my readers are aware that Obama appointed former Republican Party Senator Alan Simpson and centrist Democrat Erskine Bowles to come up with some solutions that would victimize working people, the more important body to beware of has received less scrutiny. In my view, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) should be seen in the same light as the Project for the New American Century that had a major responsibility for crafting the war plans against Saddam Hussein. In one case, the Iraqi people were the enemies; now, in the latest phase of capitalism in decline, the American people are targeted. Such think-tanks, endowed with millions of dollars, are a crucial element of policy formulation. In the case of the Project for the New American Century, the fingerprints of the neoconservative movement were impossible to miss. In keeping with the agenda of the wretched Obama White House, the Bipartisan Policy Center falls all over itself to establish its “broad-based” credentials to the American people, who after all tend to vote for both parties on a habitual basis.

The BPC describes itself in the same terms as the idiotic No Label group that met recently in New York:

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a non-profit organization that was established in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell to develop and promote solutions that can attract public support and political momentum in order to achieve real progress. The BPC acts as an incubator for policy efforts that engage top political figures, advocates, academics and business leaders in the art of principled compromise.

Too often partisanship poisons our national dialogue. Unfortunately, respectful discourse across party lines has become the exception – not the norm.

Now Baker and Dole are key players from the Republican Party before the Tea Party began to leave its indelible stamp on the GOP. These are exactly the sort of people that Obama had hoped to build some kind of partnership with, not anticipating the venomous politicians who question whether he was born in the U.S. and who routinely brand him as a socialist. It is clear that Obama’s latest deal with the Republican Party will have an effect on isolating such elements:

The Tea Party dissent on tax cuts was clear in the House, where the movement’s supporters like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. — founder of the Tea Party caucus — voted against the bill. Sen.-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky said he would lean against voting for it if he were in office, while Tea Party darling Sarah Palin called it a “lousy deal.”

As for Tom Daschle, you are dealing with someone very much in keeping with the Obama White House’s basic governing philosophy. Considering the fact that Daschle was forced to step down from consideration as Secretary of Health and Human Services due to his failure to pay $120,000 in back taxes, it makes perfect sense why he got together with the Republicans over cutting entitlements. As a rich bastard seeking to avoid paying his fair share to the IRS and as someone who was a high-profile supporter of Obama’s pro-insurance company health plan, he has exactly the right background.

George Mitchell is best known for his foreign policy exploits, including a major role in convincing the British ruling class that Sinn Fein could be a willing partner in keeping Northern Ireland a semicolony. He might be a cynical bourgeois politician, but he certainly is shrewd enough to help craft a plan that will screw American workers out of a decent retirement.

The Board of Directors of the Bipartisan Policy Center is a rogue’s gallery of long-time operatives in the National Security State and Wall Street. Here’s some scum off the top of the fetid pond:

  • Larry Higby
    Chairman, New Majority California; Retired CEO, Apria Healthcare
  • Norman R. Augustine
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (ret.) Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • John W. Rowe
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation

Just the kind of people you’d expect to see advocating a retirement age of 75 or so.

The BPC has dozens of people working for it, all busily preparing white papers that NPR, PBS, the NY Times and the Washington Post can study in order to come up with high-minded arguments about why old folks might not be so bad off eating cat food.

The BPC is basically a retread of the Concord Coalition, another bipartisan effort to attack entitlements that was launched by Peter G. Peterson, the Wall Street billionaire who has been railing against Social Security for decades now. Like the BPC, the Concord Coalition’s top officers come from both capitalist parties.

It should be understood that this onslaught against the two pillars of Democratic Party liberalism, Social Security—a gain of the New Deal–and Medicare, a legacy of the Great Society–is not primarily motivated by hatred of workers or the poor. Ever since the recovery of Western Europe and Japan after WWII, the U.S. has been forced to adjust by cutting government spending. To remain competitive, it has to reduce expenditures on housing, hospitals, roads, schools and all the other accoutrements of the Welfare States just as much as Britain, Sweden, France and Germany are forced to do. This is a race to the bottom that will have no winners except the filthy bosses who expect nothing out of us except as a cheap supply of labor power.


  1. “not primarily motivated by hatred of workers or the poor”

    Maybe not undisguised, smirking contempt (of the kind that Reagan displayed towards blacks and Jews), but tacit dismissal of the lower orders of society as being unimportant (of the kind displayed by Bush I.) This happens when one works for and identifies with the values of the governing elite, in business or government.

    Comment by senecal — December 21, 2010 @ 2:58 am

  2. […] kay Louis Proyect, pinupuri ng midya ng US si Barack Obama matapos magpatupad ang huli ng mga patakarang […]

    Pingback by Malay ng Musmos « Kapirasong Kritika — December 24, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  3. Right wing ‘intellectuals’ are fairly clear about it – the U.S. in a period of rapidly declining competitiveness cannot both support an Empire and a social safety net.

    Comment by purple — December 25, 2010 @ 7:25 am

  4. I think you are ignoring the extent to which work is seen as a moral act by neoliberals.

    Comment by Watson Ladd — December 26, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

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