I saw the flash on television last week that we finally have a debt deal on the table that both sides will agree to. But why do I have this sinking feeling in my stomach about it, and I have not even read the details in the newspaper?
I have this bad feeling because every time I want President Barack Obama and progressives to fight, they wind up caving in. It is like backing a boxer who you know will not win, but he will go the distance, lose the fight with a good excuse and want you to back him the next time. No thanks — I want to bet on a fighter who goes to the ring saying, “Dammit, I’m going to win this fight!”
Obama has continually disappointed progressives on the big things that matter. He spoke a good game when health care was up for reform. He made it clear that he was for a public option and insisted it be in the final bill. Result? He caved in and we do not have a public option. We got good reform, but not the best we could have gotten. We were in charge then and we could not get it done.
He promised that Medicare costs would be substantially lowered by allowing it to bargain with the drug companies to get lower drug prices. Result? Obama caved in to Pharma, the big drug alliance, and Medicare pays retail price for drugs … costing Medicare, you and I billions of dollars.
Obama the candidate said he would back unions and get out his walking shoes and march to support them if need be. Result? Obama basically ignored the union-bashing problem in Wisconsin, did not walk with them and watched the problem from afar with few comments.
He could have shown some real support by going there, marching with them and rallying progressives in other states having the same union-busting problems. Result? Wisconsin voters are recalling electeds in order to stop Gov. Scott Walker’s radical agenda. Other Republican states have also refused to increase revenue, slashed union contracts and laid off public employees.
Obama promised us real reform on Wall Street, but the final bill passed supposedly reforming Wall Street does not even deal with derivatives, those worthless, nasty little trading cards that essentially caused the market collapse three years ago. Obama and his party caved in to big money, passing a veneer of a reform bill that provides a check in a checkbox for accomplishments, but does not solve the problem. The Republicans are taking chips out of it every day to further nullify it.
He had a chance to stand up to the Republicans and the Tea Party and just evoke the 14th Amendment over the debt ceiling fight, but he did not. He did not even threaten to do it. The approval of the debt ceiling has nothing to do with how much money Congress will spend this year or in the future. It is just a simple statement saying that we, the United States, is good for it is debt. It has been done matter-of-factly every year before, but this year the Republicans connected it to the budget.
There is no debt crisis — that is a manufactured crisis from the Republicans and Tea Partiers — and they painted themselves crazy enough to sink the economy in order to get their way. Result? Obama fell for it and caved in. I will no doubt sadly read the details in the paper.
I did not think I would ever in my lifetime see a Democrat who would even consider cuts to Social Security. That is the essence of what we stand for. As far as I am concerned, we have already gotten cuts to Social Security because of no cost-of-living increases for the last two years, and prices on everything around me have gone up substantially.
But Social Security is somewhere on the table. Why doesn’t anybody talk about just raising the contribution levels from 6.2 percent to, let’s say, 7.2 percent? Certainly that would make it more sustainable until maybe 2045. Nobody even talks about that solution.
I read Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” before he was elected. I really thought, “Wow, he’s a solid progressive with a good community-activist, fighting-spirit background. He would be our country’s first black president. He could turn this country around from all the failed Bush policies over the last eight years. He could turn this country’s slide toward corporatism back to focus on what is right for America.”
It was a hopeful book. It rings true for Democratic ideals. I would be delighted if Obama went back and read his own book and then practiced what he wrote. I would certainly like to go to these political battles without that sinking feeling in my stomach.