Holding Americans hostage

The fallout from the 2010 elections reverberates in the budget hostage-taking now going on in Washington. Who are the hostages? Working class America. The problem is not so much a “gang of six” now making deals, but the gang that took over the House of Representatives and statehouses and governorships across the country last fall. We’re now seeing in full bloom the deadly consequences of that shift in the political balance of power.

The issue is not really the national debt. This gang sees its opportunity to do what it’s been trying to do since Newt Gingrich and friends set out to “drown government in a bathtub” in the 1990s. These folks are the direct descendants of that section of corporate America who never accepted the New Deal and its principle that government exists to advance “the general welfare” – social and economic justice.

In 1937, in his second inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said the New Deal was addressing “a deeper need – the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization.”

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics,” Roosevelt said.

“Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world,” FDR said.

“We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.”

And Roosevelt declared, “We have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public’s government. The legend that they were invincible above and beyond the processes of a democracy – has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten.”

Well, they were beaten for a while, but they’re back. With a vengeance.

And their immediate targets are some of the hallmarks of the New Deal. We’ve seen the assault on the Wagner Act and collective bargaining in statehouses around the country. Now, the assault on Social Security has taken center stage in Washington.

The urgency now is real. Social Security expert Nancy Altman has called the Republican maneuvers in Washington a “game of chicken,” with Social Security used as a bargaining chip.

For this gang, it matters not that Social Security has NOTHING to do with the deficit. The deficit is an excuse to do what they’ve been wanting to do all along – get rid of this and other “elementary decencies of life.”

Two urgent actions we all need to take:

* Call or email your senators and representatives and the White House today: Hands off Social Security. Tax the rich.

* Get involved now in organizing to boot the Republican gang out of office ASAP, out of your statehouse and out of Congress.

Image: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com CC 2.0 via Flickr