Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Debt Ceiling Deal Trickery: A Catalyst for an Uprising?

By: Kevin Gosztola
Tuesday August 2, 2011 5:10 pm

The outcome of the debt ceiling talks is a foregone conclusion. An agreement has been established. The Obama Administration and GOP leaders came together and came up with a deal that would satisfy enough of Republican congressman beholden to the right wing economic libertarian “Tea Party.” Democratic leaders were stuck in the middle, trying to advance a plan that would be less destructive to the people of this country yet President Barack Obama gave very little support always indicating he was for a compromise with Speaker John Boehner, who was, as is typical, being driven by corporate interests and the faction of people Vice President Joe Biden would later accuse of “acting like terrorists.”

It was scripted political theater from the beginning to end and had a predictable outcome. One might recall the American people were given a preview of the debt ceiling talks back in December when Obama announced a tax cut deal that validated the GOP’s hostage taking strategy. Middle class tax cuts, jobless benefits and other items were held hostage until Obama committed to extending tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans.

Then, too, a bipartisan deal was achieved. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warned giving into “blackmailers” would ensure demands in the future. “As long as Republicans believe that Mr. Obama will do anything to avoid short-term pain, they’ll have every incentive to keep taking hostages. If the president will endanger America’s fiscal future to avoid a tax increase, what will he give to avoid a government shutdown?”

On the debt deal, Krugman argues Obama surrendered. He agreed to “big spending cuts, with no increase[s] in revenue.” Democrats and Obama decided Republicans might have an “incentive” to make cuts next time around. He further emboldened corporate and special interests that have a vice grip on the American government. Worse, Obama signed off on a clear subversion of democracy by advocating for the establishment of a 12-person “Super Congress,” a panel of members in Congress that will cut at least $1.2 trillion and decide what to cut.

This is not surrender though. This is what President Obama wants. This is making government “work.” This is making certain gridlock doesn’t get in the way of Obama’s commitment to demonstrating he has “changed” Washington by making it “work.” And, to better understand the outcome of this bipartisan deal, one should remember what comedian George Carlin said about the word “bipartisan” meaning a much larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.

Whose Delusionary and Uninformed?

Those arguing that Obama had no choice but to bow to pressure from the GOP or Tea Party are significantly misinformed or willfully ignorant. There was a legal remedy for all of this. He did not have to risk more economic injustice in this country and put social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on the chopping block. He had the opportunity to raise the debt ceiling in December but chose not to because he thought he would like to have a second chance to prove he can govern without being extorted.

Those suggesting the people of this country have to find something positive in this outcome are even shallower. Defense spending will not face deeper cuts than Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Or, if defense spending does face cuts, it will likely mean defense spending cuts come out of an extra $50 billion deal negotiated outside of the debt ceiling talks and the Defense Department will most likely end up with more funding and resources than before the debt ceiling “crisis” began to be manufactured by the political class in Washington.

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post seems to think that Obama’s strategy is “brilliant.” He has attached a double trigger that means defense contracting cuts and Bush tax cuts could go into effect if Republicans don’t “compromise.” What theater ensemble has Klein been watching move about on the political stage in Washington? As Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has written, the Democrats did not fight the GOP at all. They could not fight the GOP at all because they would have impeded the Obama Administration’s ability to cut a deal favorable to the GOP.

“[Democrats] made a show of a tussle for a good long time — as fixed fights go, you don’t see many that last into the 11th and 12th rounds, like this one did — but at the final hour, they let out a whimper and took a dive,” Taibbi concludes. “We probably need to start wondering why this keeps happening. Also, this: if the Democrats suck so bad at political combat, then how come they continue to be rewarded with such massive quantities of campaign contributions?” Adding, “Who spends hundreds of millions of dollars for what looks, on the outside, like rank incompetence?”

The answer is a few million liberals, who get involved in organizations like MoveOn and Organizing for America (the worst of the two) get involved in spending millions of dollars on what appears to be “rank incompetence.” The answer is unions with weak leaders like Richard Trumka of AFL-CIO, who pretend to be inching toward starting an independent political movement then turn coward and go back to business as usual.

What Looks Like “Rank Incompetence” is Intentional

What has been on display really isn’t “rank incompetence” at all. As many people who write and discuss politics are realizing, the Democrats’ role in the debt ceiling crisis was to not fight back against the GOP or the Obama Administration. It was to concede when necessary.

And, atrociously, the final moment of rolling over and playing dead for corporations and the wealthy in America came just when the Democratic Party seemingly used Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot in the head in Arizona by a sociopath in January. She was trotted out to vote for the deal. Standing on the House floor, Giffords’ condition was exploited to ensure that not enough Democrats would vote against the deal.

Is this really acceptable to people who support Obama? Is this really acceptable to people who are considering voting for Democrats in 2012 because they think that will remedy the continued onslaught on the poor, working, and middle class of America by the Tea Party, the shock troops for corporate and special interests in America?

It is no longer possible to tell someone with a straight face that Obama hasn’t continued the Bush “war on terror” policies that have a brought forth an assault on civil liberties. It should no longer be possible for someone to look another in the face and argue Obama is any better than Bush.

Not a single person has gone to jail for being criminally involved in the collapse of the economy in 2008. Jeff Cohen of FAIR points out Obama has consistently put “corporate deregulation and greed ahead of the needs of most Americans.”

Finally, the Republicans will not be beat back by finding Democratic candidates for primaries. The system is too broken for that to remedy much of anything. The debates should not center around which personalities will lead us the way forward. The focus should be on people like you—the people who are tuned into the political moment, who nod in agreement with the words of this post and other much more insightful posts here in other sectors of the blogosphere.

“The Outrage Must Come from You”

Keith Olbermann had it right on “Countdown” last night as he outlined what he called the “four great hypocrisies” of this debt ceiling deal:

Where is the outrage over these great hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media for whom access is of greater importance then criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don’t buy newspapers or can’t leap website pay walls or could not afford cable TV? Do you expect it to come from a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance but only perceive how to get elected or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves who will merely calculate whether or not it’s right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions? Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, social media, sports and media?

Where is the outrage to come from? From you!

Olbermann proceeded to declare that the people must become organized, unified and hell bent like the corporations which are organized, unified and hell bent on crushing the people of this country. He called on Americans to “find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960s and early 1970s and we must protest this deal and all the goddamn deals to come, in the streets.” And, he got specific urging general strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation, takeovers, etc.

To the cynical who are saying strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation, takeovers, etc can never happen, that Americans never engage in resistance and will not engage in resistance to save this country from permanent ruin, there are groups who have already been mounting efforts. This moment will only act as a catalyst for ensuring the number of people, who participate in the action, increase tremendously.

Occupy Wall Street is building up for September 17, calling for a “Tahrir moment,” which would involve citizens flooding into lower Manhattan to set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades, etc to occupy Wall Street. Using the means of communication that exists today, which radicals of the 1960s did not have, they intend to harness the power of a plurality of voices and demand “democracy not corporatocracy” right from the belly of the beast.

US Day of Rage (USDOR), which has endorsed Occupy Wall Street, is also working to fuel principled nonviolent protest on September 17th. A USDOR organizer explains the initiative is focused on challenging the illegitimate US government, which does not currently express the will of the people through free and fair elections. The initiative calls for nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience and aims to build toward a federal protest at the US capitol.

Seize DC is calling for an action on September 10 to reclaim civil liberties and rights that citizens have lost in this country. The organizers condemn “the seeking of permits, the placing in quarantined zones, the appropriation of ‘free speech’ and the pro forma ‘right to dissent,’ treated as a purely formal and meaningless expression” that has come to curb the ability of any social movement to have an impact in this country. Those behind the action find they do not need permission for free speech or the right to assembly and will not submit to having their protest cordoned off by a “murderous and tyrannical oligarchy.” They intend to “seize” DC—capture the “attention of the city and the nation so that its policies of seize and destroy may end.”

October 2011 is calling on people to “stop the machine” and “create a new world.” On October 6, they will begin an occupation in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, and will not leave until the people there are comfortable leaving. October 2011 organizer Kevin Zeese says they will decide what demands to make, what first steps the government must show they intend to take, before they ultimately leave. They intend to push the government to take notice of the people in Freedom Plaza and following the initial action there will be follow-up actions to continue to democratize the country.

There are many initiatives going on in the country. Protests are happening every day and the people are coming out to show their leaders they are angry and outraged. Zeese concludes, “People are all reaching the same conclusion together. There is a group consciousness that is developing that the dysfunctional government that’s corrupted by corporate dollars is not acceptable anymore.”

A laundry list of civil liberties have been lost. Constitutional rights have been systematically violated. (The Dissenter, in its first weeks of operation, has brought forth this reality in multiple posts.)

Resistance efforts aim to turn back the assault. Zeese rightfully suggests that the way you gain constitutional rights and civil liberties back is that you use them. Like exercising a muscle, he says, the more you use civil liberties, the stronger they get in society.

Be Cynical—It Will Only Please the Powerful in This Country

Nobody can say people aren’t mounting a struggle to prevent this country from becoming a permanent oligarchy. No person can suggest that there is no effort to end the self-perpetuation of the project, which far too many hypocritically engage in while at the same time complaining about the way they are consistently shafted.

The Tunisia revolution, the first and second uprisings in Egypt, and the growing protests in Europe didn’t begin as strong as they are today. The challenging of austerity and autocracy in government didn’t begin with millions and millions of people instantly shaking the foundations of government. It took a few people finally deciding enough was enough. It took citizens entering a public square and deciding they had reached their breaking point with the power structure of society and weren’t going to take it anymore.

Blacks and white abolitionists didn’t wait for the country to reach their level of consciousness when they took action for emancipation from slavery. They took the lead. Women didn’t wait for the country to reach their level of consciousness when they took action for equal rights. They took the lead. Black people didn’t wait for the country to reach their level of consciousness when they took action against Jim Crow laws and beat back inequality and injustice. They took the lead.

Those who don’t get it won’t get it and cannot be expected to get it. They may get it once they see people in the streets. But, the people who understand the objective situation the country is in have an obligation and duty to take action. The resistance is called for and justified. No act of rebellion will be wasted. All outlets for enacting influence on power have been closed down and stopped up by the congressional-media-military-security complex. If the state of society to you is abhorrent, the answer is to get out in the streets and help reinforce the groups that are engaged in efforts for radically changing society.

No comments: