13 Jan The “fiscal cliff” resolution — an establishment liberal gets it right!
[In the next few days I expect to post the second installment of my mini-blog series kicking off the New Year with a call to recognize the Orwellian moment we’re in and SEIZE THE DAY (while we still can). But first, I thought it appropriate to correct an oversight and share my reaction to the resolution of the “fiscal cliff” (manufactured) crisis that dominated the national discussion — and the pages of this blog — at the end of 2012. I apologize for the belated nature of this post, but a minor health crisis and some extended family matters have made for a tumultuous couple of months for me and mine. Thank you for understanding.]
In a recent blog post, I asserted that in order to truly get a handle on politics and policy, one must go beyond the cadre of establishment liberals enjoying prominence today and seek the voices of strong, principled progressives like William K. Black, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald, etc.
Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and other establishment liberal fixtures — as brilliant and incisive as they often are — very consistently err on the side of shielding the deeply corrupt power structure that employs them (Viacom, NBC/General Electric, etc.), especially when it comes to criticizing the Democratic Party whose interests they are obliged to promote. As a result, many radically conservative policies — adopted and advocated by today’s unprecedentedly-corporatist Democrats — receive little or no criticism from such liberals. This failure on their part leaves us dangerously vulnerable to the plundering predations of the corporatocracy that in 21st-century America simply dictates policy to the U.S. government.
It also explains why a solid liberal like The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart consistently finds himself shilling for: the neoconservative agenda; big coal (5min,35sec into Stewart’s interview with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar); Wal-Mart’s “green-washing” public relations campaign (with Wal-Mart booster, former President Bill Clinton); and the folks bent on dismantling the New Deal, generally — with the very funny and perspicacious Mr. Stewart frequently advancing the MSM-standard (falsely-equivalent) notion that “both sides” of the “reform”/privatize entitlements argument (the radical-corporatist “liberals” and the radical-corporatist “conservatives”) need to give some ground and “compromise.” The unspoken implications of this MSM-mantra remain unspoken for an excellent reason: any such compromise would represent a betrayal of the American people. Any such compromise can only exist somewhere between unnecessarily slashing entitlements — the president’s position — and ending or privatizing them outright — the Republican position (contravening the will and interests of the American people in either case).
Since I feel like I’m unfairly singling out Jon Stewart, whom I genuinely admire, I’ll also note that Rachel Maddow has, in refusing to criticize the current administration, become a surprising cheerleader for militarism and war. And Bob Reich acts as if only Republicans are to blame for the calamitous policies that have been advanced in recent years. As in the case of Stewart, I admire both Ms. Maddow and Prof. Reich, but there’s no denying that their partisanship has impeded their progressivism. (I’ll spare Prof. Krugman from any such criticism today, as I am mostly delighted with his superb explanations of the “fiscal cliff,” his compelling arguments against austerity, and his grudging willingness to fault the president for his disastrous performance in this arena.)
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And now the time has come to share my reaction to the resolution of the whole “fiscal cliff” mess — admitting in the process that Prof. Krugman isn’t the only establishment liberal to put a ding in my theory, of late (although I’ve never argued that such folks are useless; merely inadequate… most of the time — in any event, here comes another exception to the rule).
The second establishment voice that I’d like to praise today is that of Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University professor who, after the end of the Cold War, helped advance the brutal neoliberal/corporate agenda in Russia and the former Eastern bloc of the U.S.S.R. While I’ve never been particularly favorably impressed by Prof. Sachs, I must say that I am BLOWN AWAY by his assessment of the cliff-hanging “deal” that was recently struck in the nation’s capitol… an assessment that I share completely.
Here’s how Sachs begins:
“The White House and Senate have agreed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent for 99 percent of households, starving the federal government of funds. Even Mitt Romney could never have accomplished for the Republicans what Obama has just done for them.”
I couldn’t have put it any better. Sachs continues, sketching out the real, long-term implications of this dismal deal:
“We have been subjected to a White House negotiating process that violates every standard of rationality and transparency… The public has not been told that yesterday’s agreement threatens the financing of crucial programs for education, job training, infrastructure, environment, energy, science and technology, health care, nutrition, and the poor for years to come.”
Again, Sachs is spot on. The expiration of the Bush tax cuts provided Obama and the Democrats with their last realistic chance to pass legislation with any prospect whatsoever of improving the economy and creating jobs. Sachs continues:
“Democrats will be shocked at what the White House and Senate have given away. Whatever the precise numbers, the White House unilaterally and permanently gave away more than 2 percent of GDP in net revenues, all in the name of symbolically ‘taxing the rich’ and ‘protecting the middle class.’”
He concludes his excellent analysis with the following observation:
“Obama is now a lame duck even before being sworn in for his second term, and he will have brought the Democrats down with him. The White House should have put forward its own tax plan with adequate overall revenues. It could have told Congress to adopt the alternative plan or simply accept the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. That was the time for negotiating leverage. Instead, the White House gave up the revenues permanently and without a fight.”
And as bad as the ramifications of this moronic deal are for the president and his party, they’re much worse for the country as a whole. Here, Prof. Sachs’ analysis should be considered ESSENTIAL READING for the American people:
“The Federal Government is being dangerously weakened in its capacity to help America address the economic, environmental, and social challenges of the 21st century.”
Of course it is, Professor. For “AUSTERITY” is just another word for ECONOMIC WARFARE, and the United States of America has finally found itself in the sights of the fascist corporatocracy that our policies helped elevate in the first place. Obama and the GOP are simply applying the finishing touches to a decades-long project to break the social contract, unions, and the middle class while preventing the reemergence of anything like free-market capitalism or the rule of law.
Barack Obama has been re-elected and the GOP still controls the House of Representatives. The .01%’s economy of endless war, fraud, theft, and usury is poised to dominate the future for generations to come — a bleak, authoritarian future that the politicians have just taken a BIG step toward securing.
In short, America, this is no time to relax.