It's the economy: but who's being stupid?
Blog entry July 22, 2011
Cenk Uygur on TV to explain MSNBC resignation July 21, 2011
So far this year I've written a lot about the "Arab Spring" -- the wave of revolts from the Sea to the Gulf, and in particular the situations in Egypt and Libya. They continue to develop. Egyptians are standing up for freedom and for a constitution in which the military is not allowed to dominate the national government. As for Libya it's increasingly obvious that the country is in a stare of civil war. Qaddafi remains difiant and still has thousands of supporters. Despite the international support for the rebels, armed intervention there is still wrong and dangerous. The realignments in the Middle East remain historic and exciting and ongoing.
But lately economics has become the compelling and urgent subject, both for the US and for Europe. This seems more and more like a shocking period in American political history and in the sense of the social contract. Shocking because of its quality of hijacking and betrayal in American government. The left may have despised George Bush but they knew who he was and what he would do. But reaction by conservative voters and the ideologues who exploit them to the election of a black, ostensibly liberal President led to a new wave of successful extreme right candidates in the midterms. In Congress these have become the tail that wags the republican party dog.
The powers that be, and, in America’s case, the Congress, with the cooperation of the President, is playiing ideological games with the economy -- to please a narrow constituency and satisfy the banks and corporations. As Ralph Nader quipped in a recent interview, the Constitution doesn’t begin “We the Corporations,” it begins “We the People,” but that has apparently been forgotten in Washington. What is so maddening is that we are again facing the worldwide economic disaster that was narrowly averted in 2008, only worse. And yet the means to save our future still exist. But they are being ignored. They are off the table.
Americans are concerned about jobs and housing. Only housing and jobs can bring security and restore the buying power that can revive the economy. But those have never seemed to be the concern of the conservatives who dominate Congress. Our lawmakers have altogether dropped the word “unemployment” from their discussions and replaced it with the word “deficit.” Liberal economists with a Keynesian bent like Paul Krugman have been urgently saying all along that the deficit (which Cheney declared unimportant, remember?) should not be the primary concern during a recession. Debt must be sustained to stimulate the economy and bring about growth.
But the Tea Party radicals who are wagging the republican dog nowadays have only one concern: to shrink and starve government. They would rather let the rich and the corporations be the government. Unemployment is never, it seems, a concern of the legislators in Washington (it’s not a problem of the rich, obviously).
The general population doesn’t even understand what the deficit means. The average Joe can barely conceive what a billion is, let alone a trillion. He was alarmed, or puzzled, by the sudden republican outcry against “raising the debt ceiling" -- as if this were an exceptionally profligate and rash gesture. He didn't know that the debt ceiling was routinely raised in the past -- seven times during the last Bush administration -- without anything being said. Obama was telling him that we need to tighten our belts and pay off our debts as a government just like a family. But that is false economics. The rules of a little family can't simply be transposed to a national or world economy -- particularly not when the economy is desperately in need of stimulus. At this point raising the debt ceiling is little more than a formality. It is a manufactured issue, used to scare the public into accepting more bank and corporate belt tightening, more deprivations for the average Joe, for families, the poor, the unemployed, and the elderly – created in order to push the agenda of shrinking and starving the government.
This is a blow falling upon a wound. It is making things worse when the government of this still very rich country has the ability to make things better. (The same thing is going on at an international level in the machinations of the IMF and World Bank and the western European governments.)
What has happened to our "democratic" President, Barack Obama? Obama seems determined to slash Social Security and Medicare in order to safeguard their future -- an impossibility. Is he stupid, or blind, or a mindless people-pleaser?
Or does it make more rational sense just to see him as a republican? Young Turks TV commentator Cenk Uygur, who recently quit MSNBC because he refused to tow a corporate media line, has just made this startling declaration in a Democracy Now! <A href="http://www.democracynow.org/2011/7/22/rejecting_lucrative_offer_cenk_uygur_leaves">inter view</a> with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez: “I think President Obama is clearly, you know, a Republican. I know, because in the 1990s I was a Republican, and he’s way to the right of me, and I’ve hardly changed any positions. The political spectrum has shifted massively to the right in this country, and nobody wants to talk about it.”
We need to talk about it, and think about it, and take to the streets about it. Obama is not only playing massively into the hands of the republicans -- insisting now on greater cuts even than the Tea Party radicals in Congress are currently calling for. He is offering advice and analyses of the economy that are blatantly wrong. It's not "the economy, stupid." It's he who is being stupid about the economy. And if you ask me, a "democrat" who is really a republican is worse than a republican who is just being what he always said he was.
Obama conductsTown Hall on U. of Maryland campus, July 22, 2011 [Martinez Monsivais/AP]