We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred. — Franklin Roosevelt
It's true I give a good speech. What can I do? — Barack Obama
Words without actions are the assassins of idealism. — Herbert Hoover
We do not need clairvoyance to predict the general outcome from the protracted and ugly debt-ceiling negotiations between President Hoover and the House Republicans. This is because, contrary to the the mainstream media narrative, Washington is not composed of equal parts of hardcore conservatives, hardcore liberals and centrists, with the only trick being for them to get along and "stop acting like children."
In reality, one of the two major parties has become totally captured by extremist ideology that would make William F. Buckley turnabout his sailboat and head for France. The other party, the Democrats, are leaderless, captured by corporate interests and lacking any major liberal lions. Liberalism is essentially dead in America as far as governing is concerned, a development with far-reaching and unexamined consequences. Over all this, and interlocked with the right-wing machine, is unprecedented corporate control of the government, from the statehouses to Washington, D.C. More than $50 million has been spent this year alone in lobbying Congress to further weaken regulation of Wall Street and the big banks.
Finally, President Hoover is not willing to fight, much less for liberalism or for the American middle class. He seems desperate to grasp at virtually every "deal" that floats daily before his finely chiseled face. The latest, according to Talking Points Memo, is that good ole "grand bargain" that would involve massive spending cuts "set in stone," with maybe "revenues some time in the future." Whatever the final settlement, this is the trajectory. It's time to consider how this will play out.
We do not want for real crises: 1) Some 24 million unemployed or underemployed, with millions more having been decimated by the Great Recession; 2) Climate change; 3) A collapsing real economy while Wall Street loots the productive wealth it took a century to amass; 4) Failure to address the challenge of China's state capitalism; 5) State fiscal troubles; 6) Peak oil coming down 7) Did I say climate change? We are addressing none of these.
The "grand bargain" Mr. Obama seeks will have some predictable effects. It will further slow an already struggling economy as thousands of government workers lose their jobs and federal vendors lose contracts. That will also come because the government will engage in the last thing it should be doing during these times, "tightening its belt just like American families have done." Thus, investments in infrastructure, education, research and human capital will either be substantially reduced or zeroed-out entirely. So we're guaranteed, at best, a continuation of this brutal trip along the bottom. Will the private sector reward this government austerity by stepping up hiring? No — even the "Bush boom," octaned with tax cuts to the rich, Fed credit and the housing bubble only created 1.7 million net jobs, the worst performance since the real President Hoover. A double-dip recession? Probably. Another swindle-cooked financial meltdown that will make us even poorer? Bet on it.
The longer-term consequences are even more sobering. Mr. Obama seems eager to find some "centrist" way to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Despite his fine speech pledging to fight for the social compact, he is no fighter. So look for a future of greater poverty, especially among the old and the most vulnerable, and even greater inequality. Combined with the failure to make public investments, this promises a retrograde future of quite bleak proportions. The America I grew up in will be gone. An America prepared to meet the 21st century will never make it past XBoxes, tattoos and "business casual." But we will, as President Dad would trivialize and misrepresent the stakes, have "eat(en) our peas."
There will be, of course, winners. With historic income inequality, those at the top want the status quo put on steroids. They want more and will get it. The corporations will extend their control of our government for their profit. War, also profitable to a few, will continue to sap resources. And the "conservatives" will notch one more win, but despite Mr. Obama's hopes, their appetites will only be roused. As budget cuts and failure to invest in job-creating infrastructure make the economy even weaker, they will blame the profligate socialist in the White House. He has shown that he can be rolled — he rolls himself. With few real liberals to fight for the middle class and working poor, with the corporate media muzzling them and engaging in its falsehoods, false equivalencies and lazy reportage — they will continue to be enamored of the right-wing and its simple "makes sense, Lurline!" narrative.
Make no mistake: We are embarking on an experiment with no modern precedent, and no sound foundation — merely the superstitions and (disproved) theories of the extreme right.