Debt deal: Time for diplomacy is over

The best thing that can be said about the distasteful debt ceiling deal is that it is behind us and hopefully the real challenges and issues facing the American people can now be frankly addressed.

The AFL-CIO leadership, which met with President Obama the day after the agreement was reached, correctly said the deal ignores and undermines the nation’s ability to confront the real problem – America’s job crisis. They blasted it as “a product of extortion by House Republicans,” one that is “even more right-wing than the average Republican.”

The labor leadership recognized that, given the balance of forces in Congress, Obama had no choice but to negotiate. Not to do so would have been politically disastrous, but doing so meant that Republican demands to slash essential programs and weaken Social Security and Medicare were on the table.

While threatening to eliminate nearly 2 million jobs in 2012 (according to the Economic Policy Institute), the deal spared the basic entitlements for the time being. But the battle over these, as well as Democratic demands to increase revenues through taxes on the wealthy and the corporations, will be shifted to November when the fight will resume in the deficit super-committee.

This gives a few months for the president and his allies to rally people and expose the Republican aims, which polls show are highly unpopular. During the negotiations, Obama had no choice but to be diplomatic. The Republicans took the hits for throwing tantrums and walking out while Obama gained in stature and respect.

But now that the unsavory deal is done, the time for diplomacy is over and the time has come to take off the gloves and tell the truth. The Republicans are no ordinary opposition party with whom the Democrats can have amicable and respectful differences. They are racist, anti-labor, anti-democratic extremists, beholden to fascist-minded billionaires. They are hell-bent on wrecking the economic security of working people and turning the government into an open tool for corporate plunder.

Last November, working people suffered a major setback. The right wing was able to play on mass anger and frustration over the slow recovery and blame the Democrats for the crisis caused and sustained by Republican policies. In Ohio, Wisconsin and other states the Democratic base, pounded by right-wing media, did not turn out in sufficient numbers to overcome the frenzied, corporate-funded Republican campaign of bigotry and Big Lies.

The result was a Republican takeover in these states as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives, and an immediate, unprecedented, far-flung attack on civil, democratic and trade union rights.

In Ohio, in just six months Gov. John Kasich outlawed collective bargaining for public employees, slashed funds for education, health care and local government services, enacted a voter suppression law, put key state assets up for sale, restricted reproductive freedom, expanded gun rights and opened state parks to reckless plunder by gas companies.

If the Republicans take over the White House in 2012, it will be Kasich on steroids for the entire country. As Vice President Joe Biden warned the AFL-CIO in March, every effort must be made to “keep the barbarians from the gate.”

It is urgent for President Obama, the Democrats, the labor movement and all progressive allies to rally the troops, expose the danger and prepare for war.

Photo: “Give Back Our Jobs”: Teachers and other public workers sit down in the streets of Chicago, June 14. People’s World photo



Rick Nagin
Rick Nagin

Rick Nagin has written for People's World and its predecessors since 1970. He has been active for many years in Cleveland politics and the labor movement.