RE-POST from 1-26-10, Correntewire:
This view from outside Obamaworld is that Obama is a corrupt community organizer. That is, he is a corrupt organizer of a corrupt and profoundly wounded national community. The lack of protection by and sense of responsibility, an "ability to respond", of an amoral "legacy" leadership, now Obama, is dooming what is left of our democracy and our collective and individual security.
The progressive messengers of this serious plight are clamoring for their leaders and fellow citizens to fight the seduction of corruption, denial, minimization and cronyism. These messengers are pursuing with their truth to power (and the rest of us) an intelligent, personable and eloquent president who seems to have no conscience over breaking passionate, large-scale promises for the common good that won him the election. They also are pushing against a collection of Congress people so deeply enmeshed in bribe-taking they seem to have ears only for their often out of state corporate donor "constituency" at the critical expense of their oath-taken geographical one, as well as a sustained fear of a corporate-owned, reckless and shallow media always willing to negatively spin all that is anti-corporate.
Before focusing on some compelling and timely messages from some of the best and the brightest of our progressive messengers, let me acknowledge a current message from a conservative messenger, David Brooks. Mr. Brooks seems bent on "killing the (liberal) messengers" or at least patronizing and minimizing their messages. Labeling these liberals as destabilizers of our present society.
Mr. Brooks writes:
The populists have an Us versus Them mentality. If they continue their random attacks on enterprise and capital, they will only increase the pervasive feeling of uncertainty, which is now the single biggest factor in holding back investment, job creation and growth. They will end up discrediting good policies (the Obama bank reforms are quite sensible) because they will persuade the country that the government is in the hands of reckless Huey Longs.
They will have traded dynamic optimism, which always wins, for combative divisiveness, which always loses.
Wow. Combative divisiveness? How has it been working for us so far, Mr. Brooks, sans combative divisiveness? Steamroller, economic raping of the working and middle class by corporate pirates I would call it, in my "crude, populist," hyperbolic way. Our values and perceptions have been and are being discounted so thoroughly by this administration, both legacy parties and the corporate media. We progressives and our ideas, permanently "off the table, banned from the room" in terms of Obama's think-tanking. And we populists are the ones Mr. Brooks accuses of Us vs. Them obstructionism? DeMint's savoring health care failure as Obama's Waterloo ... not so much, apparently. It is our divisive warning-rantings that are preventing a functional and harmonious national recovery?
James Thindwa, in In These Times speaks of the earnest quest to disenfranchise concerned liberals. He speaks of a frightening framing done by Obama himself, lauding his own "centrism" as a generalized indication of some kind of intellectual and unbiased balance while he is at the same time jettisoning basic liberal principles -- principles he more than implied he stood for during his campaign.
In recent weeks, some Democratic pundits have sought to silence the left. Instead of encouraging progressives to heed the example Obama himself once set as a community organizer, they countenance the sacrifice of core liberal principles such as reproductive rights, corporate accountability and inclusion of immigrants.
In other words, the President represents the “sensible center.” The left—those who demand a healthcare program that does not further enrich greedy insurance companies—are the extremists. The center is occupied by the likes of Sens Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who would hold hostage millions of uninsured in order to protect corporate profits. The center belongs to conservatives such as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), whose obsession with abortion trumps any concern for the 45,000 people who die every year for lack of health insurance.
By reducing left-right differences on healthcare to merely “unyielding ideological camps,” the president and his defenders ignore the deep moral divide between progressives and conservatives. The left’s push for universal healthcare is grounded in the long-held principle of social justice, the same one that produced the New Deal, gave us Medicare in 1965 and ushered in a new era in civil rights.
Chris Hedges addresses the "kill the liberal" agenda of the political elite and the deadly dangerousness of what he labels an "inverted totalitarianism" escalating in America:
Liberals, socialists, trade unionists, independent journalists and intellectuals, many of whom were once important voices in our society, have been silenced or targeted for elimination within corporate-controlled academia, the media and government. ...
What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash.”
Hollywood, the news industry and television, all corporate controlled, have become instruments of inverted totalitarianism. They censor or ridicule those who critique or challenge corporate structures and assumptions. They saturate the airwaves with manufactured controversy, whether it is Tiger Woods or the dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. They manipulate images to make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge, which is how Barack Obama became president. And the draconian internal control employed by the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the police over any form of popular dissent, coupled with the corporate media’s censorship, does for inverted totalitarianism what thugs and bonfires of books do in classical totalitarian regimes.
“It seems a replay of historical experience that the bias displayed by today’s media should be aimed consistently at the shredded remains of liberalism,” Wolin writes. “Recall that an element common to most 20th century totalitarianism, whether Fascist or Stalinist, was hostility towards the left. In the United States, the left is assumed to consist solely of liberals, occasionally of ‘the left wing of the Democratic Party,’ never of democrats.”
The uniformity of opinion is reinforced by the skillfully orchestrated mass emotions of nationalism and patriotism, which paints all dissidents as “soft” or “unpatriotic.”
But the America we celebrate is an illusion. It does not exist. Our government and judiciary have no real sovereignty. Our press provides diversion, not information. Our organs of security and power keep us as domesticated and as fearful as most Iraqis. Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, when it emasculates government, becomes a revolutionary force. And this revolutionary force, best described as inverted totalitarianism, is plunging us into a state of neo-feudalism, perpetual war and severe repression. The Supreme Court decision is part of our transformation by the corporate state from citizens to prisoners.
Bob Herbert focuses on the dizzying discordance between Obama's words and actions. Anti-war, escalating the war; opponent of health insurance mandates, promoting mandates as the "centerpiece" of his plan; professing change but stocking his administration with Wall Street insiders and hastening to enrich the bank accounts of the corporations. Mr. Herbert ruefully observes that suddenly Obama is transitioning to ingratiate himself to the people who elected him. In Herbert's words, he "is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist."
Now with his poll numbers down and the Democrats’ filibuster-proof margin in the Senate about to vanish, Mr. Obama is trying again to position himself as a champion of the middle class. Suddenly, with the public appalled at the scandalous way the health care legislation was put together, and with Democrats facing a possible debacle in the fall, Mr. Obama is back in campaign mode. Every other utterance is about “fighting” for the middle class, “fighting” for jobs, “fighting” against the big bad banks.
The president who has been aloof and remote and a pushover for the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, who has been locked in the troubling embrace of the Geithners and Summers and Ben Bernankes of the world, all of a sudden is a man of the people. But even as he is promising to fight for jobs, a very expensive proposition, he’s proposing a spending freeze that can only hurt job-creating efforts.
Dan Froomkin, too, expresses concern over the consequences of a spending freeze and the deficit-road Obama is choosing:
But deficit hawkery right now is not just ludicrous, it's dangerous. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted recently, "the calls we're already hearing for an end to stimulus, for reversing the steps the government and the Federal Reserve took to prop up the economy, will grow even louder."
But if those calls are heeded, we'll be repeating the great mistake of 1937, when the Fed and the Roosevelt administration decided that the Great Depression was over, that it was time for the economy to throw away its crutches. Spending was cut back, monetary policy was tightened -- and the economy promptly plunged back into the depths.
One plausible growth model involves extensive government investment in infrastructure, public works and public goods; expansion of social programs; and a return to pre-Reagan era-style growth based on rising middle-class incomes, where wages grow with productivity.
Obama, however, captured as he is by the Wall Streeters and deficit hawks on his economics team, doesn't seem inclined in that direction -- nor, of course, does our utterly dysfunctional Congress. Obama and his advisers don't seem to feel the need for a new approach to growth, or to explain where they think it will come from. Their posture is simply to hang tough until it returns.
Froomkin also focuses on the imminent, recurring danger of the unregulated banks with their bogus accounting rules and lack of transparency.
But the big banks, with their enormous political clout, appear to be managing to duck the re-regulation that seemed inevitable a year ago -- and they are now in fact more powerful than ever. The ultimate litmus test is that the banks that are "too big to fail," rather than being broken up, are now making huge profits -- and paying astronomical bonuses -- based on the implicit guarantee that the government will pay their debts if they ever face bankruptcy. Indeed, that government backstop gives them every reason to place riskier bets than ever. Even Obama's latest, much more assertive and populist proposal to limit bank activities does not break up those banks -- and faces an uncertain future in our nearly paralyzed legislative branch.
Paul Craig Roberts sums up the horrifying dangers of so-called corporate capture of our government and its leadership:
In other words, tax money is being diverted to the pockets of private businesses. This is par for the course in “capitalist” America.
In today’s America, Karl Marx’s criticisms of capitalism are understated. Wherever one looks, the scene is one of the government using taxpayers’ money to enrich private interests. Taxes are collected from people who can barely make it, and the revenues are transferred to multi-millionaires and billionaires. The federal government piles debt on the backs of heavily-burdened and dispossessed Americans in order that investment banksters can pay annual bonuses that exceed the lifetime earnings of most Americans.
Every aspect of the US military has been mined for private profit. Supply and other functions for the military, such as those provided by Halliburton and Blackwater, services once provided by the military itself at low cost, have been privatized. These services now cost many multiples of the cost to taxpayers of in-house military provision.
The “war on terror” enriches the armaments/security industry and enables Israeli territorial expansion. The Israel Lobby and the munitions industry are major sources of funding for U.S. political campaigns.
Prisons have been privatized in order to create profits for private corporations. The prisons require high incarceration rates in order to be profitable. Consequently, “freedom and democracy” America not only has the highest incarceration rate and the highest absolute number of prisoners in the world, but also a prison population comparable in size to the prison population of Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago.
Congress allows private companies run by hardline Republicans to count electronically without paper trails the votes in elections. It has been proved over and over that the electronic voting machines, with proprietary undisclosed codes, can rig any election, especially if there are no exit polls or the captured media can find a way to discredit the exit polls.
Wall Street is concerned with annual bonuses. It will do anything to get them.
Let me repeat that important notion, "IT WILL DO ANYTHING TO GET THEM."
Roberts mentions reports of people with treatable forms of cancer not being told by their corporate health care providers in order for the providers to avoid the cost of their treatments. Profits over everything, even human lives. The granny and non-granny killing apparently is going on now by the sociopathic, bottom-line driven mega-corporations, and is not just a projected twinkle in the eyes of us socialist liberal reformers. Roberts writes, “These reports are in compliance with capitalist America's emphasis on profits uber alles, to hell with people, the environment, honor and integrity."
“Free market” Wall Street (someone said on the radio last week we should say “concentrated market” NOT “free market”), Roberts says, is romanticized by libertarians and, of course, those many free market economists. A nice cronyism pass is too often given to those generous, campaign donating guys just honoring their bottom lines, doing their "free market" thing. After all. Isn't that what makes America great? What's a little homicide here and there, as long as it doesn't involve facing down your victim, or ever having to face accountability. The safe corporate remoteness from the victims. Group sociopathology. Group-think denial. The rich must be right. They are smart enough to be rich, aren't they? Money power not morality seems to assert and rule. Escapes accountability.
I quoted Clare Booth Luce recently. "No good deed goes unpunished." We progressive messengers need to hang tough and keep up the messaging despite the near-traumatizing, or at the very least crazymaking, levels of disinterest, denial, patronization and castigation in response to our efforts.
Remember at the end of the movie All The President's Men when Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee gives Redford's Woodward and Hoffman's Bernstein 15 minutes to go home, have a shower, and then get back to work? He then reminds them that it's not like anything really important is riding on their efforts -- only the future of the free world!