President Obama has been rumored for weeks to be considering appeasements to the budget deficit critics. So he proposes to freeze discretionary spending everywhere but defense and so-called entitlement spending.
Never mind that mass unemployment has not receded, that lending is not expanding, that signs in the fall of upticks in growth have already been revised downward. Never mind that without health care reform, without a serious draw-down in unemployment, or without cuts in military spending, real deficit reduction is a joke. Never mind that all evidence demonstrates that concessions to Republicans yield zero benefits, politically. Paul Krugman quotes Jonathan Zasloff, who wrote that “Obama seems to have decided to fire Tim Geithner and replace him with the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon.” (Mellon was Herbert Hoover’s Treasury secretary, who according to Hoover told him to “liquidate the workers, liquidate the farmers, purge the rottenness.”)
It’s hard to imagine a more serious error in addressing economic recovery challenges arising out of the Great Recession. It’s hard to imagine a worse conclusion to draw from the recent Massachusetts election. And it’s hard to imagine a more telling lesson in crisis politics for working people: we are our own protection!!
Nothing, not even a sympathetic president, can replace the role of the multitudes in motion when the government has been demonstrably captured by corporate interests. And capture is the right word. If the recent Supreme Court decision wiping out all restrictions on corporate control of election campaigns were not enough, this political collapse by the president on the most burning question – government intervention to spur job creation – should be clear warning: the salvation of American democracy rests on the ability and willingness of the people to take to the streets.
Both the court decision on elections and Obama’s retreat, if not reversed, will not be the end. In fact, such a blatant, undisguised assertion of corporate power has not happened since before the last great crisis in 1929 when closet Nazi-sympathizers like Andrew Mellon were spewing their venom openly.
I doubt this step was taken lightly. This kind of capture of state cannot be sustained without further aggressive suppressions of popular access to democratic institutions and processes.
Some may say it’s a matter of presidential character – perhaps Roosevelt was a stronger president. I reject that. Any strength Roosevelt, in retrospect, displayed over Obama was only possible because the strength of the people’s mobilizations overcame corporate arrogance. The same will be true now.
So far, on practically every initiative the president has taken (except Afghanistan) I have found myself joining his campaigns, phone banks, etc.
This time – I will be calling and organizing to defeat the freeze, and turn up the fire.