2010 is ending with praise of President Obama’s first two years in office for producing more progressive reform than any chief executive since President Lyndon Johnson. Cited is his passage of sweeping health care reform, financial reform, a $787 billion first economic stimulus that saved or created 3 million jobs, placing two women on the U.S. Supreme Court including Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice, and many other accomplishments.
In the waning hours of the 111th Congress, the Senate ratified the START treaty 71-26 and repealed the Pentagon’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military.
Also approved was a bill strengthening food safety, a multi-billion-dollar settlement of discrimination lawsuits by Black farmers and Native American Indians, and a health care bill for 9/11 first responders long blocked by the heartless Republicans.
Over GOP opposition, the Democrats pushed through a 13-month extension of jobless benefits and tax cuts for middle-income taxpayers. As the price for winning Republican agreement to the $858 billion deal, Obama accepted a $139 billion income tax gift and estate tax cut for the rich which he long opposed, plus a 2 percent cut in Social Security withholding. Critics charge that Obama gave up too much. Yet without the deal real people’s lives were on the line, if unemployment benefits were allowed to run out or workers were left with a cut in their take-home pay.
The weaknesses in all the reforms reflect the balance of forces in the House and Senate and in the nation as a whole. The Republicans were determined to block or gut any progressive reform and the Democrats lacked the votes to break their obstructionist tactics. That obstructionist strategy paid handsome dividends in the Nov. 2 election. When the ballots were counted, the Republicans with much help from the tea party, Fox News, and the billionaire Koch brothers had captured majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives, picked up six Senate seats and won a majority of the gubernatorial races.
It offers a chilling harbinger of the class warfare the emboldened Republican right will wage against the people when the new Congress convenes in January. Their first priority is outright repeal of health care reform. The same for the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Kill it by denying funds to enforce the law.
The GOP leadership vows to slash $100 billion in health, education, environmental protection and other vital human needs funding. Their agenda includes repeal or privatization of Social Security, Medicare, our system of public education and higher education. They even call for elimination of the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency.
We have no choice but to stand and fight back against this vicious plan.
We must work to reinvigorate the majority coalition that elected Obama in the first place. The October 2 “One Nation Working Together” rally in Washington was a first step. A second big step could be nationwide celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 17. With one loud voice on that day we should demand jobs for the unemployed. No cuts in lifeline programs like food stamps and Medicaid. Stop the GOP drive to repeal health care reform! Defend our Social Security, Medicare, public education. End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; use the trillion in savings to fund human needs programs.
Above all, make 2011 a year to organize and unite, bigger and broader.
Corrected 1/6/11: An earlier version of this article incorrectly overstated the price of the tax cuts for the rich included in the unemployment insurance deal.