Category Archives: Austerity

How the Democrats Became The Party of Neoliberalism

by Arun Gupta Telesur October 31, 2014

There is a standard critique of the U.S. political system that seemingly explains why right-wing ideas drive the national agenda even when Democrats control the White House: the Democratic Party does not stand for anything and the Republicans are the party of ideologues.

The six years of Obama’s presidency are exhibit A in the case. During his winning campaign in 2008, Obama presented himself as a blank slate promising amorphous “hope and change.” His campaign encouraged voters to see Obama as a transformational candidate who would wind down bloody U.S. wars, revive the economy with a Green New Deal, open space for labor organizing, resolve the immigration crisis, and take bold steps to alleviate climate change.

Instead, Obama has bombed seven countries (more than Bush), deported record numbers of immigrants, killed immigration reform through neglect, undermined climate change accords in Copenhagen in 2009, attacked teachers unions, abandoned “card-check” legislation that would aid union drives, and offered little more than rhetoric on raising wages.

Obama, however, spared no effort to rescue the sinking yachts. In October 2009 the New York Times noted that the bailouts begun a year earlier were fueling a “new era of Wall Street wealth.”

That will shape his legacy: the real unemployment rate is still at 12 percent, and since 2008, 5.5 million more Americans live in poverty and the median household income has declined 4.6 percent. Corporate profits are at their highest level since record-keeping began in 1929, the effective corporate tax rate is lower than any point since Hoover was president, and workers are taking home the smallest share of national income in 65 years.

Obama and Democratic Party leaders have passed up few opportunities to kick their voting base in the face. They abandon supporters the instant an issue becomes contentious, such as capping carbon emissions, federal funding of reproductive healthcare, or anti-union legislation. In contrast, the Republicans stick to their guns in pursuing an ideological agenda of upward redistribution of wealth, increased police and military force, and reactionary social policies.

This is why Republicans are poised to secure a majority in the U.S. Senate in congressional elections next month. They stand for something and mobilize their base. Obama, however, has done little for working Americans after healthcare reform passed in early 2010.

But it’s time to rethink this notion that Democrats lack principles. They have a clear agenda and are actually more ideological than Republicans. Democrats like Obama are willing to lose power to carry out the neoliberal agenda. Since the Clinton era, Democrats have been the most effective architects of policies that increase the wealth and power of those on the top of the economic pyramid. Now, neoliberalism is often thought of as synonymous with privatization, deregulation, and trade and capital liberalization, but the state will discard these policies for corporate handouts the instant elites get into a self-inflicted mess, as with the Wall Street crash.

This has left the Democratic Party in a bind. It relies on votes from social groups like women, union members, Blacks, Latinos, and environmentalists who favor redistributive policies like gender equity in income, a higher minimum wage, lower healthcare costs, more environmental protection, and stronger immigrant rights. At the same time, Democrats need billions of dollars to run elections and their party machinery. They go hat in hand to corporations and promise more tax breaks and corporate welfare in return. But Democrats can never be as committed to the free-market ideology as Republicans. Democrats need to satisfy some needs of their social base while Republicans can move the goalposts further right and wait for the Democrats to play catch up.

To resolve the contradiction, Democrats like Obama and likely 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton say we will manage trickle-down economics more efficiently. This will increase taxes for modest market-based redistribution in the form of healthcare, housing and higher education subsidies, and tax breaks for the working poor. It’s the same role many traditional left parties play in other countries. Democrats offer a bit more funding, miniscule compared to military spending and corporate welfare, for food stamps, homelessness, and energy assistance. But the commitment to neoliberalism leaves the programs vulnerable. Obama readily cut tens of billions of dollars in social welfare to appease Republicans complaining about a $17.9 billion national debt. Obamacare is part of this framework. While it did extend coverage to uninsured millions, the goal was to reduce costs through intensified neoliberal restructuring, which is reducing overall quality of healthcare.

The Republicans opt for naked class warfare as with huge tax breaks to the wealthy under Reagan and Bush Jr. But the breed of hard-right Republicans that came into Congress in 1994 will play chicken with the economy if that serves their power interests, as they did by repeatedly shutting down the government and damaging the U.S. credit rating.

Lacking a progressive vision, Democrats follow the GOP on economic policy, pushing the center rightward. Most media outlets have little interest in unpacking historical conditions that shape politics, preferring gossip about the personality, values, tastes and lineages of candidates. Yet it’s the historical contradiction Democrats are trapped in that explains how and why Bill Clinton and Obama pursued a neoliberal agenda that dashed the hopes of their supporters, resulting in the biggest midterm losses in Congress of any president in the modern era. It also explains why the Democrats will likely lose the U.S. Senate in November 2014.

Bill Clinton campaigned as a “New Democrat”: tough on crime, fiscally responsible, and stern with welfare recipients. Clinton effectively fulfilled the Reagan Revolution by gutting welfare, passing NAFTA, deregulating telecommunications and the finance sector, and ramping up government spying, policing, and immigrant detention. Clinton could grant the right-wing’s wish list because the Democratic base was conditioned to supporting any deal no matter how bad because the Republicans would supposedly be worse. Yet Clinton needed Republicans to pass NAFTA because the Democrats controlled Congress. He threw millions of poor women and children off welfare to shore up his right flank in advance of the 1996 election. But that cynical calculation was unnecessary Clinton trounced the feeble Republican nominee, Bob Dole in a race that was never in doubt. And deregulation happened in Clinton’s second term when he was freed from election concerns.

Obama has repeated the same pattern. He is more aggressive on foreign policy than Bush. In 2011, before the explosive revelations about NSA spying and Obama’s newest wars in Syria and Iraq, Glenn Greenwald noted, “Obama has continued Bush/Cheney terrorism policies—once viciously denounced by Democrats—of indefinite detention, renditions, secret prisons by proxy, and sweeping secrecy doctrines. He has gone further than his predecessor by waging an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, seizing the power to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process far from any battlefield, massively escalating drone attacks in multiple nations, and asserting the authority to unilaterally prosecute a war (in Libya) even in defiance of a Congressional vote against authorizing the war.”

Because Obama is facing a hostile GOP that comes across as mentally unhinged at times, most of the Democratic base is complacent. The rest are demoralized, leaving little opposition to his right-wing policies, just like the Clinton era. Remarkably, Obama has been less aggressive than Bush on prosecuting Wall Street crime. More significant, in January 2009, days before his inauguration, Obama told the Washington Post he would convene a “fiscal responsibility summit” to “reform” Social Security and Medicare. Rather than using his historic victory and Democratic majority in Congress to push for progressive redistribution, Obama was saying he wanted to decimate the two bedrock programs of retirement to pay for Wall Street’s epic corruption. If Obama succeeded, and the only reason he hasn’t so far is because the right has been so extreme, it would have destroyed what remains of social welfare and the Democratic Party’s base. (Clinton also tried to weaken retirement programs in the nineties.)

Additionally, numerous observers, including myself, pointed out in December 2008 that it was no secret the stimulus would fail. The $800 billion plan that passed amounted to barely 2 percent of GDP through 2011, while the gap due to the economic depression hit 7 percent at one point. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the stimulus produced 500,000 to 3.3 million full-time jobs, but more than 8 million full-time jobs were lost and overall more than 13 million workers lost jobs, dropped out of the labor force or downgraded to part-time work involuntarily.

The stimulus may have prevented a repeat of the Great Depression, but by applying bandages to gaping wounds Obama enabled the right to portray it as a failure and government as the problem. Passing New Deal-style programs would have been tough, but Obama capitulated before he began, losing the chance for stronger stimulus and redistribution.

With Obama entering the twilight of his powers and relevancy, the focus will shift by the New Year to the 2016 horse race. The Democrats will remain devoted to managing the state for the interests of wealthy and powerful. It’s why the Democrats are the true ideologues. Hillary may win office by talking left, but once in the White House she will readily sacrifice the Democrat power base to stay true to the neoliberal project.

The silver lining is this “extreme center,” as Tariq Ali describes it, has opened up space in countries like Spain, Iceland, and Greece that left parties have used for mass mobilization. There are flickers of hope in the United States with Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant beating Democrats in Seattle and Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins giving New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo headaches in the upcoming election. But it’s a long row to hoe.

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Filed under Austerity, Democratic Party, Economy, Neoliberalism, U.S. Foreign Policy

Arun Gupta on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Click the image below to watch the interview.

Arun Gupta appears on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC

Arun Gupta appears on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show to talk about pensions

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Filed under Austerity, Economy, Labor

How Education Reform Drives Gentrification

A Portland teachers’ contract negotiation debunks the myth of school choice, which leaves a swath of the city behind

Emma Christ, center, a Cleveland High School senior, at a rally organized by the Portland Student Union and the Portland Teachers Solidarity Campaign. The rally attracted students, parents and other unions in support of teachers during contract negotiations. Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian/Landov

Emma Christ, center, a Cleveland High School senior, at a rally organized by the Portland Student Union and the Portland Teachers Solidarity Campaign. The rally attracted students, parents and other unions in support of teachers during contract negotiations.
Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian/Landov

by Arun Gupta Al Jazeera America March 7, 2014

Public school teachers in Portland, Ore., and their students are doing a victory lap. Nearly a year after unveiling a contract proposal that would have put the squeeze on the 2,900-member Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), the Portland School Board on March 3 approved a contract that acceded to virtually every demand from the teachers’ union.

The board was acting as a stalking horse for corporate attacks on unions and public education nationwide. It initially wanted to saddle teachers with higher health care costs, fewer retirement benefits, more students and a greater workload in a city where 40 percent of teachers already work more than 50 hours a week (PDF). The board also demanded expansive management rights (PDF) and allegedly wished to link teacher evaluation more closely to standardized testing. The PAT opposed the board, arguing that low-income and minority students would pay the heaviest price as their classes grew larger, more time was devoted to testing and resources for curriculum preparation and teacher development got slashed.

Only after 98 percent of the PAT voted to strike starting Feb. 20 — and students vowed to join the picket line — did the board blink. Alexia Garcia, an organizer with the Portland Student Union who graduated last year, says students held walkouts and rallies at many of the city’s high schools in support of teachers’ demands because “teachers’ working conditions are our learning conditions.”

The deal is a big victory for the teachers’ union in a state where business interests, led by the Portland Business Alliance, call the shots on education policy. The school board had brought out the big guns, authorizing payments of up to $360,000 to a consultant for contract negotiations and $800,000 to a law firm, despite already having a full-time lawyer on its payroll. But, emulating Chicago teachers who prevailed in an eight-day strike in 2012, the PAT went beyond contract numbers, winning community support by focusing on student needs and rallying to stop school closures in underserved communities.

Most significant, the teachers helped expose the role of education reform in gentrifying the city, making it nearly impossible for every neighborhood to have a strong school. This is a process playing out nationwide, from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Milwaukee to Washington, D.C. But it is particularly striking in Portland, so noted for quirkiness and tolerance it has spawned a hit television show, “Portlandia,” During a public forum on the contract negotiations, one teacher observed that the show was a reflection of how “we march to our own beat in Portland.” This has held true for the teachers’ approach to education.

Test scores by ZIP code

The current fight over public schools began in January 2013 when teachers, parents and students successfully blocked the board from closing or merging half a dozen schools, mainly in the historically African-American neighborhood of Northeast Portland, which had already seen two schools shut down the previous year. This helped to mobilize community support behind a vision of public education that contrasted starkly with the Portland School Board’s ideas.

The tussle over teacher contracts has underscored how cozy the board is with corporate interests that promote school ratings, standardized testing and school choice, which allows students to freely transfer to other public schools. Touted as a way to use market forces to improve schools, school choice instead creates a two-tier system.

The racial effect of school choice is stark in Northeast Portland, where more than 40 percent of the black population has been pushed out since 2000, and which is 70 percent white today. City documents reveal that more white children in the area opt for charter, magnet and public schools in other parts of the city than attend their assigned neighborhood school. For African-American children, barely one-fourth access those choices.

Sekai Edwards is a sophomore at Jefferson High School in Northeast Portland, the only African-American-majority school in the city. It’s ranked in the bottom 15 percent of the state’s schools. Edwards says Jefferson is “portrayed as failing, as having a lot of violence and gang activity, so fewer kids want to come here.” Jefferson has about 500 students, a third of the size of some other high schools in the city. Since funding is tied to enrollment, Edwards says the only foreign language offered is Spanish, and her anatomy and physiology class has 43 students in it. She says, “I just want to focus on schooling,” but with constant fears of her school being shut down, she adds, “I don’t think I’ll get that at Jefferson.”

History of displacement

What’s happening in Portland is white flight in reverse. Middle-class families eye Northeast Portland for its undervalued homes but choose different schools because neighborhood ones are pegged as bad. Declining enrollment bleeds money from already underfunded schools, making them less attractive and creating a downward spiral in which the schools are rated as failing, subsequently closed and eventually replaced by charter schools that can cherry-pick students.

School choice is layered atop a racialized terrain, allowing middle-class families to profit from lower home prices while avoiding the cost of bad schools.

As public schools in Northeast Portland shutter, black households are displaced as redevelopment pushes rents upward. Karen Gibson, a professor of urban studies at Portland State University, analyzes how government policies, banks and developers ghettoized Portland’s blacks. The history of black Portland is one of high unemployment and incarceration rates, toxic land and shoddy housing, institutionalized segregation and redlining practices, poor schools, minimal social services and overpolicing. Gibson wrote that for 40 years blacks were subjected to “predatory and exploitative lending practices by speculators, slumlords, bankers and real estate agents,” being denied routine mortgage and rehab loans or the ability to move to other neighborhoods. When Northeast Portland was slated for rehabilitation in the ’90s, government assistance, bank mortgages and business opportunities flowed to whites, while black homeowners, often not realizing how much their homes had appreciated, took below-market cash offers from speculators. For the two-thirds of black households who don’t own homes (as opposed to the 57 percent of white households who do), rising rents hit harder, as their per capita income is barely $16,000, half that of whites.

Despite decades of promises to address such displacement, the city has pushed ahead with policies that intensify racial disparities. Most recently it offered a $2.6 million parcel of land for a mere $500,000 to the billionaire-owned Majestic Realty to develop a Trader Joe’s outlet. The deal would have increased displacement without any guarantees for community hiring or affordable housing. After an outcry from the African-American community, Trader Joe’s withdrew from the deal.

Ironically, the same cultural wave that has brought “Portlandia” to young audiences has also encouraged more gentrification. The show trades on residents’ obsessive tendencies about food, facial hair, bicycling, dumpster diving — any activity untainted by mass consumer culture. But the quirky authenticity attracts new residents to the city, driving up rents and spreading the hipster culture that has colonized much of New York City, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area and other places. In its wake it leaves its own form of homogenization: new residents who are largely white and wealthy.

Beyond cold numbers

School choice is layered atop this racialized terrain, allowing middle-class families to profit from lower home prices while avoiding the cost of bad schools. It’s the existing residents who foot the bill. Elizabeth Thiel, an educator who has taught in five Portland public schools over the past 11 years, lives in Northeast Portland. She says the white middle-class families moving into black neighborhoods are genuinely concerned about “trying to find the best education for their kid.” But according to Thiel, the education-reform movement, with its focus on standardized testing, has legitimized the naming of schools as failures. Families thus feel justified in saying, “Well, I live in that neighborhood, but I would never send my kid to that school.” Thiel says, “People stop thinking about what a school really is. It’s a community, and community is defined by the people who participate in it.”

In fact, standardized test scores mainly measure income and race. Students from wealthier and whiter neighborhoods score higher on the tests than students in low-income black areas. Portland schools use parent-led foundations to fundraise. In wealthier neighborhoods those efforts can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to pay for support staff, technology, arts classes and electives lacking at schools like Jefferson.

Looking ahead

By the time the two sides struck a deal on Feb. 18, the school board had conceded (PDF) nearly every demand of the PAT, agreeing to hire more than 150 teachers to reduce class size, minimize changes to health care and bump pay by a modest 2.3 percent per year. Many of the concessions directly affect the learning process: The board backtracked on demands to lift the cap on how many students a teacher can have at one time and decrease the amount of time for lesson planning in elementary schools, and it agreed to allow teachers more leeway in tailoring instruction methods to the needs of students.

The success of Portland teachers in fighting off misguided educational policies could help counter the swelling inequality that is pulverizing the city’s neighborhoods. More important, by advocating for high-quality public education for all children as the building block of stable communities, the teachers have shown how to fight corporate-driven gentrification and education reform at the same time, regardless of the city.

Arun Gupta is a regular contributor to The Progressive, In These Times and The Guardian. He is writing a book on the social construction of taste. Follow him on Twitter: @arunindy.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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Filed under Austerity, Education, Inequality, Labor, Race

Don’t Let Obama Cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security

The Progressive
November 15, 2012
by Arun Gupta

If you voted this election, whether for Barack Obama, Jill Stein or even Mitt Romney, you did not vote for austerity. But that’s of little consequence to Obama and the Republicans. The two parties are currently drafting measures that will undermine Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare as the economy approaches the “fiscal cliff” at the end of this year when more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will kick in absent a new budget deal.

They hope to strike a “grand bargain,” but are bickering over how much to increase taxes and cut spending. The spotlight has been on the Bush tax cuts, which Obama campaigned on repealing for the rich, but this issue is a sleight of hand that distracts the public from the bipartisan plotting against your retirement income and healthcare.

Surely, you say, Obama will thwart the Republicans’ scheme to dismantle social welfare. After all, it’s well known that retirement programs are healthy. Social Security is solvent through 2033 and Medicare is solvent through 2024. Both can be strengthened for decades to come with relative tweaking.

Trusting a Democratic president with protecting the general welfare is ill-advised when the last one gave us NAFTA, welfare “reform” and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Not only has Obama been gunning for retirement programs since 2008 (I’ll explain), he’s so hell-bent on reducing deficits that he’s willing to damage the economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimates if the economy plunges over the cliff, recession will hit in 2013. Interestingly, the CBO calculates that if all the tax cuts are left in place and no spending cuts are enacted the economy will grow by 4.4 percent next year and add 2.3 million full-time equivalent jobs. This would be the highest rate of growth since the late 1990s.

Now, it’s a stone-cold fact that the Democrats are willing to gut social welfare. Listen to New York Times chief political correspondent Matt Bai: “Mr. Obama, during his ‘grand bargain’ negotiations with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, in the summer of 2011, had already signed off on painful cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.” Bai says there was “near unanimity” among Obama’s advisers and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi said “they would get behind it.” Paul Krugman’s assessment is harsher, saying Obama was “willing to sign on to … draconian cuts in key social programs.”

During the summer of 2011 the Obama White House and the Republican House played chicken over raising the federal debt ceiling. Bai says the two sides were haggling over the amount of cuts, not the question of bleeding retirement programs. Obama was willing to sacrifice $1 trillion in Medicare cuts over two decades, $110 billion in short-term Medicaid cuts, and acquiesced to “changing the Social Security formula so that benefits would grow at a slower rate.”

Mind you, the Budget Control Act Obama and Boehner eventually inked not only put the fiscal cliff in place, it cut spending for a second time in 2011. Over the next decade this will chop $900 billion in non-defense discretionary spending.” This is wonk-speak for social programs, which will shrink to pre-1962 levels by 2021. Simply put, Washington already plans to roll back the Great Society – even before the fiscal cliff is reached.

But wasn’t Obama at the mercy of a Tea Party Congress threatening default unless he forked over $2 trillion in spending cuts? That’s what Bai argued last April: “Not only was [Obama] bent on avoiding a catastrophic debt default, but he needed to get out from under the debt issue, to demonstrate that he cared about reducing deficits before public concerns about government spending, stoked by rhetoric on the right, overwhelmed his presidency.”

There are more things wrong about this than a penguin in the desert. Allowing Republicans to use economic blackmail only emboldens them. The fiscal cliff is the third time the right is using mafia tactics – “Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it” – as Krugman describes it. The only way to call the right’s bluff is to allow the economy to go wobbly so Wall Street, the GOP’s masters, will bring their attack dogs to heel.

Also, notice that Bai thinks allowing a default is unthinkable, but pilfering food, medicine and money from more than 100 million Americans is perfectly fine. As for Bai’s contention that “public concerns about government spending” stoked by the right would overwhelm Obama’s presidency, it’s utter bullshit.

Take a look at this site, which covers 25 polls on public priorities going back to June 2010. When pollsters list options, which skew responses, the economy and jobs poll close to 50 percent as the top priority, trouncing the deficit, which averages in the low twenties. The latter figure, incidentally, is similar to the percentage of voters in the 2010 mid-term elections who said they supported the Tea Party. In six polls, the response was open-ended, which better reflects what the public thinks. Economy and jobs still notched 49 percent on average. The deficit and national debt was barely a blip, averaging 4 percent.

No matter how the data is sliced then, the deficit is an inside-the-Beltway obsession that at most inflames right-wing firebrands who are never going to support the Democrats.

Nate Silver crunched the numbers on the debt deal in July 2011 – if there’s only one lesson from this election, it’s that Silver’s number-crunching is unparalleled – and found House Republicans to be “extremely conservative on fiscal matters and … significantly out of step with the public as a whole.” As for the mix of spending cuts and tax increases Obama put on the table, it was “quite close to, or perhaps even a little to the right of, what the average Republican voter wants, let alone the average American.”

So why didn’t Obama tune out the chattering classes and stare down the Tea Party? It would have strengthened his standing with the public going into the 2012 election. From this evidence, it’s impossible to claim Obama is hostage to the right. The truth that remains, even if it seems improbable, is that Obama is a right-wing politician who has had the welfare state in his sights from day one.

Don’t take my word for it. Obama said it on January 15, 2009, in a “wide-ranging” interview with the Washington Post five days before his inauguration. The article was headlined: “Obama Pledges Entitlement Reform; President-Elect Says He’ll Reshape Social Security, Medicare Programs.” Obama said this was part of his legacy, declaring that he was “willing to spend some political capital” so that the “the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.”

This was not idle chatter. Here is a sampling of what Obama said and did the next two years.

In February 2009 Obama held a “Fiscal Responsibility Summit” at the White House, in which he issued dire warnings of future generations being “saddled with our debts.”

In his 2010 State of the Union Address he proclaimed, “Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t,” and called for a three-year spending freeze that fell heavily on social programs.

On February 18, 2010, Obama signed an executive order creating the “Simpson-Bowles Commission” tasked with making “recommendations that put the budget in primary balance.” In November 2010, right before the midterm elections, it proposed reducing corporate tax rates by 20 percent and on the wealthy by 30 percent while raising rates on middle incomes and the retirement age to 69. Remember, this was in the name of cutting the deficit.

This is before the Tea Party swept into Congress, so there was no pressure on Obama to appease the right. By adopting Tea Party talking points on spending and comparing government to a family – what family do you know that has 8,100 tons of gold reserves, a space program and embassies in some 200 countries? – Obama legitimized debt as a major concern going into the 2010 election.

A little more history. Obama ran in 2008 on repealing the Bush tax cuts. But he reneged on his promise just one month into his presidency even though he was gushing with political capital, the right was in disarray and the Democratic-controlled Congress was ready to pass it. (After campaigning in 2012 on abolishing tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000, Obama indicated he was willing to renege once more days after being re-elected.)

For his first term Obama followed the script penned by Larry Summers, his chief economic adviser in 2008 and the Clinton-era architect of the financial bubble that exploded four years ago. Writing on September 28, 2008 in the Financial Times, Summers outlined the Rosetta Stone for Obama’s presidency.

Summers’ article was published right after Lehman Brothers’ collapse, the financial Pearl Harbor that threatened the global economy. It was a classic case of The Shock Doctrine: using the meltdown to go after social welfare. He argued for a stimulus, while taking pains to mention, “We still must address issues of entitlements and fiscal sustainability.” He also said no “new entitlement programs or exploding tax measures,” which included “healthcare restructuring,” but not single-payer healthcare. Summers’ silences were notable: nothing about regulating finance, strengthening labor organizing or addressing the home foreclosure crisis.

Fiscal sustainability is simply a euphemism for cutting social spending to pay for deficit reduction. Economists like Dean Baker and Paul Krugman have demolished every rationale for deficit reduction under present circumstances: with interest rates below the rate of inflation, bondholders are paying the U.S. government to hold their money; reducing the deficit would strangle growth; the best way to reduce the deficit is through growth and inflation; and the plan to hack away $4 trillion in a decade will not reduce the national debt meaningfully.

Even if the deficit does need to be reduced, then the reasonable course is to have the Pentagon and wealthy pay for the two unfunded wars, Bush tax cuts and Wall Street crash that blew up the national debt. Which is why Obama’s song and dance about “shared sacrifice” is so grating – and probably music to granny-starver Paul Ryan’s ears. Obama and Boehner are wrangling over whether or not the Gulfstream set has to part ways with a 4.6 percent nudge in income tax, but they agree that grandma must skimp on food, heat and her meds. “Hey, we’re all in this together.”

Whatever your politics, you’ve probably been savoring the humiliation of “the biggest loser” Karl Rove, cackling over Bill O’Reilly’s lament that “the white establishment is now the minority” and sharing “White People Mourning Romney.” 

Well it’s time to wipe the gloating off our faces and get to work stopping Obama from stealing our healthcare and retirement income, otherwise it will be Wall Street’s turn to gloat. Yet again.

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