On September 19, President Obama struck a new tone. He passionately called for taxes on the wealthy, cleverly named the “Buffet Principle” after the billionaire tycoon who asked to be taxed more. Obama said Social Security shouldn’t be cut by the congressional Super Committee that was given unprecedented power to slash social programs at the end of the debt deal debacle this summer. Obama’s speech, while it may lead to some debate, is merely a smokescreen for historic attacks and a plea to get the liberal left to cover for Obama as we enter into an election cycle.
Obama has disappointed his base many times over the last three years, and he will do so again. He entered office talking about jobs and the economy. He bailed out the banks with billions, yet ordinary people face high unemployment and record poverty rates. Still, this newfound fake populism will strike a chord with many worried about the future. According to Gallup, 70 percent of the public favors “increasing taxes on some corporations by eliminating certain tax deductions.”
Obama, entering an election year, might be willing to fight the Republicans over taxes on the rich harder than he was over health care. This is a favorable political battleground for the Democrats, but this debate is mostly theater. Both parties fundamentally serve the same corporate masters, and massive cuts are on the agenda.
Still, liberals have lined up to rejoice, from Michael Moore to Rachel Maddow. Not to be outdone, Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, stated “Today, President Obama said some things that very much needed to be said.” The celebration of liberals and labor leaders alike is premature. Late this fall and into this winter, we will see historic attacks on federal programs. Politicians will propose that Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, and environmental agencies (to name just a few) take heavy hits.
Joshua Holland from Alternet, while remaining overly optimistic about the prospect of Obama delivering, declared: “Yet the president didn't offer a lot of new proposals in the jobs package he presented last week, nor in the deficit reduction plan he offered on Monday. Rather, he struck a new tone.”
This new tone shouldn’t be mistaken for any ability to actually deliver better jobs or social programs. Capitalism is in a systemic crisis on a world scale, and this global crisis has the potential to deepen. Obama faces a rabid Republican opposition. Even if Obama has grown a backbone due to the election season, he won’t necessarily be able to deliver. Before you go feeling sorry for the Democrats over this, remember what they did with a super-majority in Obama’s first two years in office: absolutely nothing.
The Democrats didn’t deliver the labor movement’s legislation in the Employee Free Choice Act. The Democrats didn’t deliver the single-payer “everyone in, nobody out” health care system that Obama promised in his election campaign. The Democrats did deliver to their corporate masters, though, signed and sealed with a stamp of approval from Wall Street: bank bailouts, corporate health care, budget cuts, and more wars. Don’t get fooled again!
Still, many will be fooled. This is only the warning tremors for the tidal wave that the left will face in the coming year. Lesser-evilism is coming back in a massive way. We need to prepare the ground to resist this pressure with struggles against the cuts coming down from both parties.
There is an important window of time between now and when the Super Committee's proposals are due in late November to organize the broadest possible resistance against cuts to the New Deal programs and other attacks on working people. Mass protests and direct action should be organized around the following demands:
Socialist Alternative is working to make these much-needed protests a reality.
- Repeal all the cuts in the debt deal that fall on ordinary people. Hands off Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. No cuts at all to workers, retirees, the poor, and social services.
- End all the wars and slash military spending.
- Enact massive taxes on Wall Street, big business, and the super-rich.
- End attacks on public sector workers’ pensions, health benefits, and collective bargaining rights.
- Create a massive jobs program of public works to solve the unemployment crisis. Rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, schools, and community health centers. Develop green energy and mass transit.