Will the Democrats Continue Their Rightward Turn or Start Working for the 99%?
Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren speaks to the audience in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the second day of the Democratic National Convention on September 5, 2012. In the year's costliest US Senate race, Warren -- a Harvard professor -- is battling
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The Democrats could not have won so handily without the Citizens United ruling. That is what enabled the Koch Brothers to spend their billions to support right-wing candidates that barked and growled like sheep dogs to give voters little civilized option but to vote for “the lesser evil.” This will be President Obama’s epitaph for future historians. Orchestrating the election like a World Wrestling Federation melodrama, the Tea Party’s sponsors threw billions of dollars into the campaign to cast the President’s party in the role of “good cop” against stereotyped opponents attacking women’s rights, Hispanics and nearly every other hyphenated-American interest group.
In Connecticut, Senate candidate Linda McMahon spent a reported $97 million (including her earlier ego trip) to make her Democratic challenger look good. It was that way throughout the country. Republicans are pretending to wring their hands at their defeat, leaving the Democrats to beat up their constituency and take the blame four years from now.
Obama’s two presidential victories represent an object lesson about how the 1% managed to avoid rescuing the economy – and especially his own constituency – from today’s rush of wealth to the top. Future political annalists will see this delivery of his voters to his Wall Street campaign contributors control as his historical role. In the face of overwhelming voter opposition to the Bush-Cheney policies, the President has averted popular demands to save the economy from the 1%. Instead of sponsoring the hope and change he promised by confronting Wall Street, the pharmaceutical and health care monopolies, the military-industrial complex and big oil and gas, he has appeased them as if There is No Alternative.
If the Republican accusations are correct in accusing President Obama of steering America along the “European” course, it is not really socialism. It is neoliberal financial austerity, Greek style. His task over the next two months is to avoid using deficit spending to revive the economy.
The neoliberals whom he appointed as a majority on the Simpson-Bowles Commission already have inflated their trial balloon claiming that the government must balance the budget by slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not by restoring progressive taxation. My UMKC colleague Bill Black calls this the Great Betrayal. “Only a Democrat can make it politically safe for Republicans who hate the safety net to unravel it” he notes.
Having appointed the Bowles-Simpson commission members who seek to shift the tax burden off business onto consumers, the President will pave the way for Bush-type privatization. In his first debate with Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama assured his audience that they were in agreement on the need to balance the budget (his euphemism for scaling back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). By christening this “the Great Bargain,” President Obama has refined Orwellian doublethink. It is as if George Orwell went to work on Madison Avenue.
Four years ago the economy stood at a potential turning point in the war of finance against labor and industry, President Obama could have taken the lead in mobilizing public support for politicians willing to rescue hopes for prosperity. He could have appointed a Treasury Secretary and Federal Reserve chairman who would have used the government’s majority control of Citibank, Bank of America and other “troubled asset” holders to take these into the government sector to provide a public option. He could have written down debts to payable levels at only a fraction of the cost that was spent on rescuing Wall Street. Obama’s political genius was to avoid doing this and nonetheless keep his “street cred” as paladin defending the 99% rather than the 1%.