The President’s opening volley in the budget deficit battle is a surrender to the right-wing.

After President Obama’s capitulation to the right-wing in the budget deficit plan he presented yesterday, I thought it might be in order to review what progressives got when we hoped Barack Obama would make a more effective president than his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton. 

  • We’re in three wars now, instead of two.
  • The prison-cum-torture-chamber at Guantanamo is still open and the accused terrorists are getting military trials.
  • We just witnessed a $39 billion dollar transfer of wealth from the middle class and poor, who are losing government benefits because of budget cuts, up the ladder to the wealthy, who saw their temporary Bush II tax break extended another two years and counting.
  • And those among us who are concerned by the impact that humans are having on the environment, consider this: one of the biggest losers in the budget deal announced over the past weekend was high-speed inter-city rail transit.

And now we get President Obama’s idea of a fair way to close the deficit, which is large only because the wealthy have enjoyed 30 years of the lowest income tax rates in the history of the industrialized West: Obama echoes his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in proposing that for every one dollar that taxes are raised we cut three dollars from the federal budget. 

That’s less money for mass transit.  Less money to repair roads, bridges and tunnels. Less money to research ways to clean up the environment and make industrial processes less polluting. Less money for research into alternative fuels and power generation. Less money for community health centers and nutritional programs for disadvantaged children.  Less money to help poor people get the education they need to improve their lives. 

I’d like to write “less money for wars and weaponry,” but that’s not guaranteed.  The brokers of the budget deal found $10 billion extra for the military, and we know that our Iraqi and Afghanistan wars are considered “off budget,” which means they don’t even count in budget computations.

There is, however, one large unspoken “more” in the president’s proposal: more of our nation’s wealth in the hands of those who already have too much.  The President’s plan means that the wealthiest will continue to enjoy a low-tax regime which has enabled them to hoard more and more of the nation’s wealth over the past three decades.

The only good thing about the President’s proposal is that it’s less unfair than the Republican’s plan, which includes draconian cuts to Medicare/Medicaid.  But that’s damning with almost no praise.  It’s like saying that the 1962 Mets, a long-time icon of futility, looked good next to the last place team of a Municipal D softball league

Some are saying that what the President laid out is his negotiating position.  But it sounds to me as if he has already given away the store and the only term to negotiate is who will pay to ship everything to the new owners. . The New York Times says Obama’s plan retains “core Democratic values,” but to me it looks like a full surrender to the right wing.

If President Obama were politically vertebrate, he would have called for the deficit to be eliminated over time by a series of gradual tax increases falling primarily on those who have enjoyed such low taxes for so long.  He might have even proposed the French custom of assessing an annual tax on wealth for those with more than a certain amount, say $5 million. 

Unfortunately, Obama is the Democratic president that we have and we’re stuck with him, and the Republican alternatives are so frightening, we hope to be stuck with him through 2016.  But I can’t stop asking myself: what mass hysteria persuaded progressives that an Illinois unknown would be a more effective Democratic president than the accomplished, articulate and steely Hillary Clinton?



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