Game Over

Game Over

We received an email over the weekend from a faithful listener who loves the program, but is starting to worry that Mike might be a “right wing plant” because of Mike’s analysis of the debt-ceiling crisis and President Obama’s handling of the situation (as well as Mike’s criticisms of Obama’s “liberal” policies in general).  As variations of this argument are floating around the Internet it seems appropriate to give some thought and analysis to the emailer’s position.  Here’s a portion of what he wrote, all emphasis his:

You don’t REALLY understand what’s going on here…Everyone is trashing Obama for putting the $4-trillion deal on the table, BUT HE KNEW THE REPUBLICANS WOULD REJECT IT!  HE HAD NO INTENTION OF EVER SIGNING THAT, EVEN IF IT PASSED, WHICH HE KNEW WAS IMPOSSIBLE!  THAT’S WHY HE SAID “NOTHING IS AGREED TO, UNTIL EVERYTHING IS AGREED TO.”  HE KNEW IT WOULD NOT FLY WITH THE MORONS WHO SIGNED THAT NO-TAX PLEDGE.  THERE IS NO WAY ANY BILL WITH TAX REVENUE INCREASES WOULD HAVE PASSED THIS CONGRESS, HE KNEW THAT, THAT’S WHAT HE WAS DEALING WITH.
So what did he do?  He championed a bill that cuts SOME spending, but NOT medicare, medicaid or social security from recipients!!!  You say he didn’t get any revenue increases?!!!  JESUS HIMSELF couldn’t get revenue increase out of this congress!!  So Obama sets up this “Super Committee” to “find” $1.5-trillion in reduction, but he KNOWS they will FAIL to agree on anything, and what will happen then?  A trigger, a.k.a. “a brilliant end-run around Congress” kicks in and $1.2-TRILLION will be shaved, $600-BILLION from Defense!!!  Nothing from ss, medicare, medicaid…  
Then what will happen in January, 2013?  C’mon, do you know?
 
Answer:  The Bush Tax Cuts sunset if Obama does NOTHING and $3.5-trillion flow into the US Treasury.
 
Obama’s chess game this past month has exposed not only the Tea Party but also the Republican Party as only representing the top 1% (why else would they say “no” to $3-trillion in spending cuts?  Because $1-trillion of tax revenue increases on the wealthy were in there).  
 
So in November, 2012, Democrats will win the House back, keep the Senate, Obama wins in a landslide, and then what happens… two conservative Supreme Court Justices retire, and . . .we will have won.
 
I know you’re smart enough that one day you’ll understand what a brilliant president you have.  So stop bashing him if you don’t understand what he’s doing.

So . . . this listener believes – as many still do – that the President is a masterful chess player who is forcing the Republicans to expose themselves for the uncaring, pro-corporate ditto-heads that they are and will therefore lose the next election and that the Congressional Super committee formed to reduce the deficit by 1.2 trillion will fail to pass a compromise proposal, forcing the Pentagon to cut $600 billion over the next ten years.  Let’s begin right there, as we all know that $600 billion is a drop in the bucket for the Defense Department; they spend that in ten years’ just on toilet paper.  And the number is $550 billion anyway.
 
What the emailer doesn’t mention is that if the new Super committee fails, not only will the Pentagon face cuts, so will state and local governments, and the unemployed:

States and local governments, meanwhile, are anticipating sharp drops in federal aid. Unemployed workers also face uncertainty: Emergency unemployment benefits expire at the end of the year, even though millions of Americans are still out of work. This fact has some liberal commentators asking why President Obama did not push for an extension of unemployment benefits as part of the bill.

Cuts to state and local governments mean less money for education programs like Head Start, for medical assistance for the uninsured, for infrastructure repair, for social programs that assist the needy.  And the other cuts the emailer deems as “minor” are anything but.  Social programs face dangerous “triggers” of their own, including – ironically – provisions in Obama’s own hard-fought semi-victory in the Health Care Reform Act.  Medicare payments to health-care providers are also at risk if the Committee fails, despite the emailer’s claims to the contrary.  With the loss of so many crucial “chess pieces,” it’s difficult to comprehend that all this loss is part of Obama’s” master plan.”

And now, the credit of the US has been downgraded as a result of his compromise with the Republicans and the markets are plunging like boulders rolling down a mountain..  How this deal helps the average American, or how this scores a “win” for the Democrats escapes me. 

The emailer further argues that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will stimulate the economy, as if realizing this is some kind of brilliant stroke of genius on the part of the President.  Fact is, repealing the Bush tax cuts a year ago was yet another of Obama’s unfulfilled campaign promises.  Finally allowing them to expire (and the chances of this actually happening borders on wishful thinking) is merely something Obama should’ve done  – and promised to do  – when he was first elected.  Obama bowed to GOP pressure to extend the tax cuts last year, so this reversal – if Obama doesn’t allow them another extension – is merely correcting the error  he made last year.  And it would put about $800 billion back into the system – IF it happens – not $3.5 trillion which the emailer claims.

And to assume that Teabaggers won’t vote for their chosen candidates again because they will suddenly have an epiphany that the Neocons in Congress only represent the wealthiest 1% in America strikes me as naive if not idiotic, primarily because the economy is not the Baggers central issue. Those voters care only about getting the Democrat/Black Guy out of office. Period.  Plus, there’s the fact that unemployment, recession, and corporate-friendly deregulations and tax cuts happened under Bush-the-Lessor’s watch and this brain-dead voting block returned him to office anyway. 

Beyond the financial crisis, there is the overwhelming evidence that President Obama gives away the farm when there’s no reason to do so.  He caved on the public option on his own health care plan when Congressional Democrats still had hopes for the program and wanted to debate the issue on the floor.  He rejected the advice of his own economic advisers on the stimulus package, which he weakened with tax cuts instead of enacting a big stimulus that rational economists advised would cause an economic rebound.  As a result, the so-called “recovery” never worked. It still isn’t.

Obama also failed to fulfill his promise to support organized labor and worker’s rights whenever they were in jeopardy.  Back on the campaign trail candidate Obama promised that “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself — I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America.”  Yet when Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin declared a Koch-brothers-backed war on public workers, Obama took no action.  Not only did he fail to don his walking shoes and join the protest, he didn’t even go to Wisconsin to support the school teachers and cops and fire-fighters and first-responders who were on the brink of losing their collective bargaining rights and were facing immediate termination.

There’s a pattern here, and it suggests a strategy closer to Neville Chamberlain than Bobby Fischer.

But perhaps the most compelling arguments against the concept that Obama is playing a crafty game and we’re just not getting it is found in the brilliant Sunday New York Times article by professor Drew Westen.  In his article What Happened to Obama?  Westen outlines where Obama went off course back on the day of his inauguration when he wasted to opportunity to tell the American people that the previous eight years under the Bush/Cheney regime had nearly bankrupted our country – morally and financially –  but that he had a plan for recovery.  That story was not told that day, and ever since Obama has failed to produce the promised Change We Can Believe In. Worse, he has failed to explain why we’re in the mess we’re in today.  Westen continues to explain Obama’s leadership problem:

Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements” (a weak way of describing popular taxes on the rich and big corporations that are evading them) with “entitlement cuts” (an equally poor choice of words that implies that people who’ve worked their whole lives are looking for handouts). But the law he just signed includes only the cuts. This pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence is another hallmark of this president’s storytelling. He announces in a speech on energy and climate change that we need to expand offshore oil drilling and coal production — two methods of obtaining fuels that contribute to the extreme weather Americans are now seeing. He supports a health care law that will use Medicaid to insure about 15 million more Americans and then endorses a budget plan that, through cuts to state budgets, will most likely decimate Medicaid and other essential programs for children, senior citizens and people who are vulnerable by virtue of disabilities or an economy that is getting weaker by the day.

Read the entire article. (Mike will read it on the program tonight.) It provides a clear, detailed, rational explanation for the reason some of us feel misled, disappointed, and abandoned by the man we once supported. 

And Westen is not alone. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote a scathing column titled “The President Surrenders” after Obama signed the bill last week.  Krugman  predicted the dramatic market drop we’re seeing today and argued that Obama should’ve used a legal maneuvering to side step the debt-ceiling hostage-taking by the Republicans in Congress:

At the very least, Mr. Obama could have used the possibility of a legal end run to strengthen his bargaining position. Instead, however, he ruled all such options out from the beginning.

But wouldn’t taking a tough stance have worried markets? Probably not. In fact, if I were an investor I would be reassured, not dismayed, by a demonstration that the president is willing and able to stand up to blackmail on the part of right-wing extremists. Instead, he has chosen to demonstrate the opposite.

Make no mistake about it, what we’re witnessing here is a catastrophe on multiple levels.

A catastrophe is exactly what this feels like.  The president gave yet another economic pep talk to the people today in an attempt to calm the markets, and they instead dropped another 150 points.  We need FDR-style leadership and programs, not FDR-style fireside chats that use lofty words to say nothing. A masterful chess game?  Seems more like “Jenga.”  Pull out one more piece, one more failed policy and our entire system will crash to pieces.

–KBM

This article has 6 comments

  1. Freddie

    You tell ‘em Kathy. I was optimistic when Obama was elected. I don’t have any optimism left. Even if control of the House swings back to Democrats, and the Senate stays under Democratic control, they will find some way to screw this up. The president and the Democrats had their chance and they frittered it away. As you stated, the e-mailer is incredibly naive botdering on idiocy.

  2. stu

    Hopes for Obama, or any other Democratic politician, to become a 2nd FDR are in vain.

    This not 1933 when the US, although in the midst of deep economic crisis, was #1 in productivity and industrial might.

    The US is a declining world power and the only solution global capitalism has to its latest crisis is imperial and internecine war and the breaking of the international working class by putting all the burden of its failures upon the shoulders of the workers.

    This is why the ruling class elevated Obama in the first place, to carry forth this strategy in the US under orders from his corporate masters.

    The trouble with Westen’s analysis is that it starts from a presumption of intent on Obama’s part to fulfill his campaign pledges, which were cynically launched from the outset by smart marketing and advertising professionals in order to sell their faux product, “Hope you Can Believe In”(tm).

    Kudos to Mike Malloy for being the only talk show host out there willing to call capitalism for what it is: global plunder built upon the decimation of the working class and the life giving forces of the planet itself.

  3. Paul K.

    In fifty years or so, if our civilization is still here, scholars may be better able to assess whether Obama was being politically brilliant. Here in the present it looks more to me like the Republicans are playing a brilliant game of “schmuck”!!

  4. Steve

    This listener is clearly informed about this issue, giving us a reasonably accurate timeline for the best case scenario. The problem is that the listener is also grossly naive and that his scenario depends on a long list of unwarranted assumptions. The most troubling of these, of course, is the assumption that Obama and D.C. Dems _want_ to pursue the Liberal agenda that the listener thinks they do, and that they are just biding their time to spring into action. There is far more compelling evidence that Democrats’ true aim is to dismantle the middle class in exchange for corporate favors than there is evidence that they are playing _any_ sort of ju jitsu long game, or that their campaign promises to protect the middle class are not just outright lies as part of a “good cop, bad cop” con with Republicans. I would suggest that if Obama and Reid had R’s next to their name but the exact same policies, this listener would fight against them every single day.
    Given that this assumption is so catastrophically wrong, all of the other assumptions are thus wrong also. It is inconceivable that at least one Dem won’t forge an agreement with the Republicans in the Super-Congress. Dems’ role is to pretend to bow to pressure anyway, and Max Baucus is essentially a Republican and doesn’t even need to change his position in order to cave. This is as obvious a done deal as any you can ever predict in politics. Furthermore, the assumption that Dems will take back the House and keep the White House and Senate is based upon essentially nothing–Obama has a totally demoralized base and utterly nothing to run on other than “I’m maybe slightly better than a Republican, maybe not”, and this Democratic Senate continues to be a thoroughly ineffectual national laughingstock. Given this reality, one cannot assume that the Bush tax cuts will expire, even presuming that Obama wants them to (which is not clear). And even if one assumes that Obama will be re-elected (maybe a 55% chance) and will regain full control of the Congress (30% chance) and two Conservative SCOTUS judges will die or retire (10% chance), the next assumptions are that Obama _wants_ to put real Liberals on the Court, and that regardless of what he wants, they are confirmable (both of these are basically 0%). And assuming that the country is going to see that the Republicans are “only for protecting the rich,” if they haven’t seen it already, might be the craziest assumption of all of these. The entire media is applauding Republicans and treating them like their spending cuts are necessary and mainstream. The DEMOCRATS are applauding the Republicans for working with them in the spirit of bi-partisan compromise. The only person who will be blamed by anyone is Obama (and he deserves it), but the Tea Party will skate completely free as always. The tiny handful of true Liberals in Washington and in the media are the ones that are being painted as the extremists. And the Dems are providing constant, permanent cover to anyone who dares think of the Republicans as the “Entitlement cutting party” by themselves making the same cuts. This debt-ceiling fight is the absolute worst case scenario for the Left and for the country, and for your listener to spin it as a sly move in a massive imminent victory is truly head-shaking.

  5. Jesse Hemingway

    FEMA played a critical role in John F Kennedy’s (JFK) murder

    Did you know that FEMA played a critical role in John F Kennedy’s (JFK) murder? On April 16, 1973 President Richard Nixon transferred 4.1 billion dollars of critical material from the National stockpile and Critical stockpile into FEMA in a monstrous omnibus bill. Eleven years prior to Richard Nixon jettison of the Presidency of the United States of America. On January 31, 1962 JFK ordered a Senate investigation into both the National stockpile and Critical stockpile demanding to know why those two stockpiles exceed their intended values by billions of dollars. Members of the Warren Commission were also directly involved in those excesses in the stockpiles along with Lyndon B. Johnson.

    When I contacted FEMA concerning the materials from the National stockpile and Critical stockpile that were transferred into its control, it was the first they heard of it. No records at all of the material or the value of the material in FEMA records.

    From the book “Friendly Fire on Holy Grounds: The Stockpile Conspiracy”

    First I would like to say that the thousands of hours of research and the cost of the book it is a great deal. Below is a You Tube Video of JFK talking about the investigation, this investigation did occur it was initiated by JFK yet not a word about it in the Warren Commission!!! About the out come.

    Here is the You Tube title and the link below: “President John F. Kennedy’s 22nd News Conference, January 31, 1962”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8mZYoTipJ4

    “Friendly Fire on Holy Grounds: The Stockpile Conspiracy” chronicles the leads left by John F Kennedy (JFK) the murder victim not the pseudo Warren Commission. Nearly all JFK murder research and researchers emanates from the Warren Commission (WC) out. “Friendly Fire on Holy Grounds: The Stockpile Conspiracy” exposes the criminals with in the WC with potent leads left by JFK and the Senate investigation he ordered on the above video. By using hundreds of New York Times articles from Senator Symington Stockpile investigation as the foundation leaving JFK intentions historical correct. The story methodically compromises the members of the WC, Lyndon B Johnson, and J Edgar Hoover as criminals. Leaving the murdered president alone without his constitutional protections “due process and equal protection” by an unconstitutional WC; JFK murder was the bloody end of the two political party systems in the United States of America.

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