Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Defense of Obama fails to withstand scrunity

Liberals’ defense of Obama fails to withstand scrunity
Bill Crane
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let me begin with a thought exercise. In 2008, you face a choice between two candidates to vote for. You happen to have a crystal ball that tells you that, if one of the candidates is elected, he will escalate one ongoing war in the Middle East, begin another, step up deportations and extraordinary renditions, attack our social safety net and vastly step up the war on the racial undercaste laughingly referred to as “the War on Drugs.” An unsavory choice, but you can’t vote for the other candidate, because he is a Republican.

It is with this in mind that I read last week’s opinion column in The Misc by Mr. Jack Mullan, who claimed my reasoning was as “artificial as it is absurd” in my column on the subject of the 2012 presidential election published two weeks ago.

It seems that anytime someone on the left has the temerity to point out how disastrous the Obama presidency has been to the vast majority of Americans, a response takes one of the following forms: (1) The Republicans, evil and powerful, stopped Obama from doing everything he really wanted very badly to do, (2) He actually has accomplished very much (insert reference to healthcare/Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or some other supposed accomplishment as needed), or (3) The Republicans are so evil that you can’t possibly think of not supporting Obama, perhaps followed by (4), if you only vote for him one more time, Charlie Brown, it will really change things!

Our Mr. Mullan, sadly, follows these stages to a T—but that is perhaps not his fault, as Obama is so hard to defend at this point that his remaining champions are more or less forced to fall back on rote formulas. These defenses are similar to what I remember thinking as an altar boy when I would say the Nicene Creed—it was full of contradictions and just plain nonsense, but comforting in its vagueness and fluffy language.

Mr. Mullan’s first point, in an interesting variation on the theme, deals with the bank bailouts pilloried in the famed chant at so many Occupy events (Banks got bailed out!/We got sold out!). Normally this is something an Obama supporter would do well to forget ever happened, but Mr. Mullan makes a valiant effort to find something positive: “President Obama did enact a bailout, but did so in order to rescue the auto industry and preserve thousands of manufacturing jobs for the middle class.”

An interesting prospect! Obama helped to save the jobs of the middle class. Surely everyone could get behind that?

Everyone, that is, except the “middle class” autoworkers whose jobs were supposedly “saved” by the bailouts. Perhaps they have not been sufficiently grateful to Obama because, well, they are too busy getting screwed by the companies he stepped in to save. GM, for instance, has instituted wages for new hires that are less than half those of current employees, and is bent on shredding the pensions of retirees.

By the way, in case you are wondering where banks fit into the bank bailouts (which is what I actually addressed in my last article), it is because Mr. Mullan would seemingly prefer to not remember that $700 billion of taxpayers’ money was handed over to the banks that caused the financial crisis, gratis. Even where this money made the federal government primary shareholder, as in the case of AIG and others, Obama stepped in to make sure their management (as we must again remember, the ones who caused the crisis through insane speculation) would not be replaced.

Acts like this, combined with other matters such as the escalated war on Afghanistan and futile War on Drugs, the execution of foreign and a few American citizens by flying death robots, the record deportations of “illegal” immigrants, and the alarmingly severe restrictions on civil liberties including the continuation of the PATRIOT Act (matters so small they have escaped the notice of Mr. Mullan except for a small nod toward the end of his piece) should be enough to convince most of us that Obama is Bush’s spiritual successor on practically all the issues we care about. In which case, his supporters turn to the following helpful phrase: Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Mullan’s description of this magical piece of legislation is pretty typical. The ACA “represents a landmark reform that expands access to healthcare to millions of citizens while tackling the rising costs of insurance premiums.” The fact that it does not include a public option is unfortunate, but according to Mr. Mullan, “the votes for a public option simply did not exist in Congress at the time.”

I have to say I am a bit confused that Mr. Mullan chooses to write so much about a public option in a healthcare bill that, in accordance with the president’s wishes before Democrats lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, was actually written by the insurance corporations. The option of creating a sane healthcare system by putting them out of business was never even suggested by Obama, who caved on the weak “public option” as soon as it was suggested that he might face Republican opposition on it.

As for the ACA “expanding healthcare to millions of citizens,” well, I and many other citizens are less than thrilled about what it has to offer. Obamacare solved the problem of millions of uninsured by promising to enroll them in state-funded Medicare in a few years, the very same program that—wait for it—states are currently taking the hatchet to. What remains is a by the corporations, for the corporations law that forces most of us to purchase awful healthcare plans with the slight consolation that our premiums may not go through the roof—that is, unless our state governments find that such increases are “reasonable.”

Mr. Mullan finally has no other option than (3)—look at how evil the Republicans are! He writes, “The proposal coming from Romney and the Republicans is to cut, cut, cut: regulations, taxes, and vital social welfare programs would be severely slashed.” Excuse me? This from a supporter of the man who has kept the NLRB and OSHA on a starvation diet, and who stopped the sunset of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy? Pot, meet kettle.

What are the prospects for Obama’s next term? Following his proposed budget for the next year, Mr. Mullan writes, “The president maintains strong support for the social safety net, invests in education, energy and infrastructure, and introduces new taxes not only on the wealthiest earners, but also on big banks…that would raise $60 billion over the next decade.”

Sounds good, right? Until you remember that Obama has promised big things along these lines before, namely, last time he was trying to get elected. But we’re still waiting for the Employee Free Choice Act, intended to help workers unionize easier, or the closing of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay.

As for Mr. Mullan’s other objections, they are so insincere that I hesitate to even address them. “It would be remiss to abandon a such a central civil right as voting because of dissatisfaction with one’s options,” he writes. Well, if it is a choice between sacrificing every principle I have as a socialist and exercising this “central civil right,” my rights will have to take one for the team this time around. Similarly, I do not pose a dichotomy between activism and voting. Some of my best friends vote. What I do argue is that voting in this presidential election is ineffective, and ultimately a scam.

If you have been paying attention to anything that has been going on in Washington rather than sticking your head in the sand ostrich-style, it should be perfectly clear that in all likelihood, four more years of Obama means another four years of broken promises as he drifts increasingly rightward.

Whoever wins the election will be the bought and paid for candidate of the one percent. Obama raised the most money from Wall Street of any candidate, ever, last time around, and he may yet have a chance to beat his own record. If you desire real change in this country rather than words, you belong outside the voting booths in November.


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