Friday, April 15, 2011

Obama the Disappointer

Obama has declared his candidacy for the 2012 elections... and it’s only 18 months before the poll takes place. America’s excruciatingly long and drawn out election season is one of the tell-tale signs of American political ossification. The process is hopeless; I can’t see anything good or reasonable or logical coming out of the congress or the president today. To do it right there needs to be regional primaries so candidates can focus on one area instead of wasting time and energy jetting back and forth across the country. One per month for four months starting in May of election year would allow campaigning to start at the beginning of 2012 instead of spring of 2011. Makes too much sense so can’t happen.

Mr O has three things going for him. For one, he’s a great ambassador to the world. He’s a very calm, steady and likeable guy and, as a representative of a long exploited and repressed minority, a great testament to the potential of American democracy. Compared to Bush in this regard, he’s a minor deity.

He’ll appoint decent people to the judiciary. If a Repug gets elected, it’ll mean another generation or two of feed the rich, starve the poor decisions from the bench.

Finally, most of his competition ranges from the laughable to the risible. The ones that are halfway reasonable and/or competent will have a difficult time getting through the tea-party electoral gauntlet. If a thoughtful, charismatic, moderate Repug showed up he or she’s likely to be toast.

At this point, I can’t see many thinking progressive people voting for Obama; rather, as true of every election for decades, they’ll be voting against the fearsome and/or cartoony right-wing opposition. I can’t think of a single major political initiative or stance that Obama’s taken that meets my standard of forward looking or compassionate. After compromising and kowtowing to the opposition while slamming and slandering his base, the people who worked for and voted for him, the so-called enthusiasm gap is wider than ever. Once again, Democrats, progressives, people who care will have a choice between crap and disaster.

The epitome of Obama’s disconnect from the reality of the common folk, the people who elected him was his choice of Jeffery Imelt, CEO of General Electric, to head his commission on jobs and competitiveness. GE is good at creating jobs, only most are in other countries, not in the US. The one area they have been hiring in is accountants who jobs it is to find legal loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. And at that they’ve been doing a great job. GE enjoyed profits of over $14 billion last year – five million earned in the US - but not only isn’t pay any taxes but getting a $3 billion refund.

There are all kinds of reasons why the US government thinks it needs to subsidize one of the largest, most profitable corporations in the world, but none of them are good. All of them are based on the wholesale purchase of government by the wealthy and powerful. They have their cockamamie supply-side theories and arguments for feeding the rich – they’ll create more jobs – but that has repeatedly shown to be ridiculously off the mark. Right now the country’s wealthiest citizens are sitting on $19 trillion of assets, while the corporations have nearly $2 trillion of cash reserves. How shoveling more money at them is suddenly going to create jobs is a conundrum only a wingnut teabagger could grasp.

GE also got billions from the bailout money since at one point they were making half their profits from financial services. So, funding for food stamps, Medicaid for the poor, Pell grants to enable more people to attend college, relief for people suckered into taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford to pay back, aid to the states who are in dire financial straits? Nope, we just don’t have the cash. Welfare for the world’s richest corporations and tax breaks for the already fantastically wealthy when the government is running a deficit equal to 12% of GDP; no problem, they obviously deserve it.

If deficit reduction is one’s goal, there is no way any amount of cutbacks on programs for the people at large can make up for the wealthy and corporations not paying their fare share of the cost of government. Neither can any amount of economic growth make up the difference without raising taxes on those who can afford to pay. Moreover, it’s living in Fantasyland to think the US can continue to run huge budget and trade deficits while printing oceans of money without the bill someday coming due.

Since I began writing this post Obama has gotten populist. Just after he declares his candidacy he says we’re going to tax the rich. (Where’s he been since his election in 2008?) We’re going to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years, he says. Why stretch it out over 12 years, you ask, why not just say $340 billion a year? Well, I guess, because $340 billion doesn’t sound like much against a $1.6 trillion deficit, not even 25%, in fact.

Obama’s not leveling with the people – he obviously thinks it’s not politically tenable to tell the truth, assuming he does understand the situation – but that’s not anywhere near enough to tackle the deficit. Concurrently, deficits are also good for politicians since they make it seem the economy is doing a lot better than it really is. I mean, if I could borrow ten thousand dollars to gild my lifestyle, I’d be feeling great... until the bill came due. At this point the bill will not only be a crushing debt burden but a wholesale crash of the economy.

The catalyst for the coming financial implosion will come from rising commodity prices. As the value of the dollar slides, the price of commodities, since they are priced in dollars, will rise and increase inflation in America. As the price of oil, the largest component of America’s trade deficit, also moves up because of instability in producing regions combined with resource depletion, those rises will be intensified and the US will run hard up against an intractable, unsustainable situation. Rising inflation, according to current economic thinking, will require rising interest rates which will then increase the burden of servicing America’s huge debt.

Obama’s now only tinkering with the problem when the situation is just dire, which only makes it worse in the long run. When the situation becomes catastrophic, because it wasn’t dealt with when only dire, nothing less than great sacrifice on everyone’s part will make a difference. For every dollar of ease gained from borrowing, there’ll be equivalent pain in paying it back.

There only alternative to repaying loans is printing money and thus cheapening its value, which then brings an inflation death spiral. 2012 will be a tough year economically and an albatross around Obama’s electoral neck, but the Repugs will only have their failed policies of the past to cling to and thus look even worse than Obama.

The one thing the Repugs are good at is stealing elections and since no prominent Dumbocrat has ever had the courage or commonsense to call them to account for their thievery, not even those who’ve had elections stolen right out from under them, you can bet if the election is close the Repug will win.

I’m not optimistic. My cynicallity quotient is in the stratosphere. I’d hardly vote for Obama because he’s a likable guy and will appoint a few judges. Better to give the whole government to the Repugs and hope for a revolutionary backlash. If the people of Yemen can rise up, why not Americans?

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