Despite not adding a single penny to the national debt and having a $2.6 trillion surplus, President Obama put Social Security Insurance on the table, moving so-called “Fiscal cliff” negotiations even deeper into Republican home turf.
Think about it: we’re debating just how many rich people will get to keep George W. Bush’s tax cuts. We’re debating just how many seniors, poor people, and disabled people will suffer when their Social Security Insurance is cut. We’re debating which social welfare programs will expire.
This is the sort of debate you’d expect to see between a center-right Republican and far-right Republican – not between a Democrat and a Republican. On these grounds, Republicans win every time and the working class loses every time.
Instead, President Obama should be putting progressive solutions on the table. Things like a financial transaction tax, which could reduce the debt by $1.8 trillion over the next decade.
Or, cutting off taxpayer subsidies to big oil, which total $40 billion over ten years.
Or, ending the massive “capital gains” loophole which sets income taxes on hedge fund managers and vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney at a maximum 15 percent, less than half of what working people can pay.
Or, common sense cuts to our bloated and wasteful Defense Budget.
Or, raising the minimum wage to stimulate the economy and, thus, over the long haul, reduce our debt.
Or, breaking up the big banks to prevent more costly, deficit-expanding bailouts in the future.
Or, creating a single-payer healthcare system to reduce deficit-inducing healthcare costs.
If all of these were on the table, then this would be a robust debate that reflects the political leanings of a center-left nation.
But, they’re not, which shows not just of the weakness of President Obama, but also the weakness of the progressive movement when compared with the hard-right movement funded by cranky billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson.
Labor unions, which have historically been the vanguard of the progressive movement, are crippled. And independent media, including print, radio, and television, which used to carry the voices of average working people across the nation, have been bankrupted and sold off to large corporate media outlets that spew lies and misinformation to promote the billionaire’s agenda.
Essentially, the progressive counter-balances in America, which for several generations kept in check corporatists who wanted to destroy FDR’s New Deal, and held in line the Democratic Party, have been removed.
When Ronald Reagan busted PATCO in 1981, he didn’t just kick off a three decade assault on labor unions, he also kicked off a three decade assault on a once-progressive Democratic Party. This assault is now reaching its peak, as Republicans and President Obama prepare to carve up the crown jewel of the New Deal, Social Security Insurance.
And until a new counterbalance is strong, then the creep toward the political Right, as reflected in our current “fiscal cliff” debate, will continue relentlessly.
President Obama has given in to Republicans over and over again during his first four years in office. We need to remind him that he’s the President, he’s armed with the bully pulpit, and he’s no longer facing a re-election. He’s free to be true to his progressive community organizing roots.
There’s still hope. FDR didn’t campaign on bringing revolutionary change to America in 1932. He was forced to do it by a nation suffering through a Great Depression and radicalized by the damage done to them by millionaires and banksters. The New Deal was in part a response to occupations, or “Hoovervilles,” and a genuine outrage across America about the looting of our nation by the very, very rich.
Today, the Occupy movement, organized labor, and the environmental movement have begun the difficult work to rebuild a progressive base that can counter the billionaire’s money. We’re apparently not strong enough yet to push Congress and the White House to pick up genuine progressive reforms, but if enough of us show up, over and over again, the day may come.
Let’s make it sooner, rather than later.