End Game 2: Obama, SocSec, and Corporate Taxation
Avedon Carol says as well and as succinctly as it can probably be said.
I really, really wish Obama would stop using language that suggests that he thinks the Republicons are right about Social Security. Social Security is paid for. Social Security is not the thing that is sucking the life out of our economy. It's the people who keep attacking "entitlements" who are doing that. There are a lot of big, systemic things that need to be addressed if we are really going to restore our economy to something most of us can live with. (And in the meantime, it sure wouldn't hurt to quit wasting money on crap like this.) We need people to be talking about why those big social programs are good for the economy, not reinforcing the Village-Republicon consensus. For dog's sake, people, Britain had just been through the Great Depression and had the hell bombed out of it by the Nazis and was not just broke but in debt and they still managed to create the NHS.
Yet nobody but nobody is talking about the kind of reform Davis Cay Johnston is suggesting. NOBODY. Not Obama, not his advisors, not the Village punditocracy, not even most left-wing blogs. This discussion hasn't even started yet and it's already over, according to them.
It's getting harder and harder to buy the pro-BO crowd's lengthy and convoluted, not to say Machiavellian, explanations about how this is all a brilliant political ploy by Obama, lulling the enemy into a false sense of security before he lowers the boom or something movie-ish like that, especially when he has surrounded himself with Wall Street advisors who could be expected to tell him to do exactly what he is doing.
Amid paeans to "new politics," we're watching old-school paybacks from a politician who raised more Wall Street dough than any other -- a president-to-be whose inauguration festivities are being underwritten by the very bankers who are benefiting from the bailout largesse. Safely distanced from electoral pressure, Obama has appointed conservative economists to top White House positions; floated a tax cut for banks; and is now trying to preserve corporate welfare that almost exclusively benefits the political donor class.
This isn't much-ballyhooed "change" -- it's money politics by a different name. How do we know? Because neither Obama nor anyone else is genuinely trying to justify the bailout on its merits -- and understandably so. Even the most basic queries prove such merits don't exist.
A review of investor presentations and conference calls by executives of some two dozen banks around the country found that few cited lending as a priority. An overwhelming majority saw the bailout program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future.
Speaking at the FBR Capital Markets conference in New York in December, Walter M. Pressey, president of Boston Private Wealth Management, a healthy bank with a mostly affluent clientele, said there were no immediate plans to do much with the $154 million it received from the Treasury.
“With that capital in hand, not only do we feel comfortable that we can ride out the recession,” he said, “but we also feel that we’ll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out.”
At the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton last November, John C. Hope III, the chairman of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, stood before a ballroom full of Wall Street analysts and explained how his bank intended to use its $300 million in federal bailout money.
“Make more loans?” Mr. Hope said. “We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.”
Translation: "Fuck you. We got the money and we're keeping it."
These are the people Obama is listening to as he goes after SocSec. They want a pound of flesh, in essence: "Maybe we'll start lending again but everybody has to pay equally. Give us the other half of the bail-out bread and fer gawd's sake get those damned entitlement programs under control! Then we'll think about lending again." Of course it is all couched in economic doublespeak laced with dire warnings about massive failures, the collapse of the global economy, and America in chaos, with entitlement programs (the ones the rich hate soooo much) set up as the fall guy.
We can't let Obama buy into this phony scenario. It's obvious that, as Digby notes, the pushers of this policy are all the usual suspects but she still doesn't get that Obama is One of Them.
Jamison Foser's column this week is must reading. I'd begus noticing the same thing --- that the coverage of the economic crisis, in particular the gravitation to "serious" people whose track record shows that they have always been wrong about everything, is shockingly like the run-up to the Iraq war. When I watched that horrifying Pete Peterson propaganda piece on CNN last week-end, I could hardly believe I was seeing it all unfold exactly the same way --- again.
There are differences, of course. Most importantly, President Obama is not a completele idiot. But the forces of the establishment are all coming together very quickly to restrict his range of movement and he appears to be at least somewhat inclined to appease them on some levels rather than using his popularity with the public to stop them before they get traction. It's possible that he can walk that tightrope, but it seems to me that if he's actually making it harder for himself by empowering them.
His advisors are the ones who created this problem and are - no surprise here since otherwise they'd have to admit they were wrong - advising more of the same. The only part of the program that's BO's is the part that came from FDR and it's under attack. He keeps backing off it and the amount he wants to deploy to job creation keeps getting smaller. Barney Frank is doing the same damn thing, presumably giving the new president what he wants.
This is a continuation of the End Game. They're pushing harder because the goal is in sight: returning the nation to the taxless oligarchy of the late 1800's. Their argument is bogus, their motivations strictly venal, and their guarantees aren't worth the breath it takes to say them out loud. Yet these guys are running the show.
Looks bad from here. Can we start yelling now?