The Voters' Uprising: President Obama What Are You Thinking?
As each day's events unfold, increasing numbers of people are getting angrier and angrier, demanding a government that represents their interests. Why? As Bill Greider so eloquently describes, the reasons are pretty clear and straightforward:
"During the past nine months, gigantic financial bailouts amid collapsing economic life made visible the crippling divide between governing elites and citizens at large. People everywhere learned a blunt lesson about power, who has it and who doesn't. They watched Washington rush to rescue the very financial interests that caused the catastrophe. They learned that government has plenty of money to spend when the right people want it. 'Where's my bailout,' became the rueful punch line at lunch counters and construction sites nationwide. Then to deepen the insult, people watched as establishment forces relaunched their campaign for "entitlement reform" -- a euphemism for whacking Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid."
The much younger and more surly Matt Taibbi, who uses language more salty and immediate than Greider, but who is no less a brilliant observer of history and popular anger, also thinks that a coup is under way -- that Wall Street Insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution. That the global economic crisis isn't about money -- it's about power.
Writes Taibbi in Rolling Stone:
“It's over -- we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline -- a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British empire."
Just about everything is riding on how we navigate this unprecedented, and frightening, moment in history. And and our new president appears to be on the verge of squandering the enormous goodwill that swept him into office. He has a decision to make, and thus far he seems to be siding with the banks and not with his voters. If that is what he continues to do, it could be a very quick demise to a very promising career, as his unpopularity will quickly build.
Frank Rich, in another compelling essay from Sunday calls it, Obama's "Katrina moment":
"A charming visit with Jay Leno won't fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers' bonuses won't fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won't fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans' anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by the [New York] Times last week: 'President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.' "
Rich writes: "Six weeks ago, I wrote ... that the country's surge of populist rage could devour the president's best-laid plans, including the essential Act II of the bank rescue, if he didn't get in front of it ..."
But according to Rich, the Obama administration is stumbling: "Otherwise it never would have used Lawrence Summers, the chief economic adviser, as a messenger just as the AIG rage was reaching a full boil last weekend. Summers is so tone-deaf that he makes Geithner seem like Bobby Kennedy. Bob Schieffer of CBS asked Summers the simple question that has haunted the American public since the bailouts began last fall: "Do you know, Dr. Summers, what the banks have done with all of this money that has been funneled to them through these bailouts?" What followed was a monologue of evasion that, translated into English, amounted to: Not really, but you little folk needn't worry about it. "
There is much outrage across the land and increasing agitation. Many want to know what they can do to channel their frustration and anger in useful and productive ways. Over the next days and weeks AlterNet will be capturing the best of the ideas and organizing, the best writing, opinions via interviews, and novel and compelling experiments designed to face a future that none of us expected, and frankly are not quite prepared for. One interesting idea -- Common Security Clubs -- part study circle, part mutual-aid association and part social-action group, are popping up in communities where people are looking for ways to support each other and take action.
Chuck Collins writes:
"The common security club model was born out of work done in the last few years by people struggling with overwhelming indebtedness. Participants spend some time discussing the root causes of the economic crisis, drawing on readings and materials provided by the network. But they mostly focus on what they can do together to increase their economic security and press for policy changes."
Read a full description of the clubs' goals and activities here.
AlterNet is presenting these four powerful and informative articles and blogs in full text, as a public service.
Each of them originated in other media outlets. Here are the links for each of them, if you wish to read them in their original sites:
Obama Told Us to Speak Out, but Is He Listening?
William Greider, Washington Post
Has a 'Katrina Moment' Arrived?
Frank Rich, New York Times
The Big Takeover
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
We're in This Together
Chuck Collins, On the Commons