Obama’s Phony “Pivot” on the Budget: The Trickster is At It, Again
President Obama remains as eager as ever to slash away at Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other social program despised by his corporate backers – his new tone of voice and body language notwithstanding. There has been no substantive “pivot” in his debt reduction policies, only a cynical, cosmetic change of posture.
Obama’s own words betray him, if only people would actually listen. A straightforward reading of his remarks on Tuesday shows the president has not altered one iota his intention to sacrifice the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society on the alter of deficit reduction. He simply asks that the Republicans make him look good doing it, by allowing some undetermined – and almost certainly token – taxes on the rich.
This supposedly “new Obama” –which he hopes resembles the much older Obama of his supporters’ imaginations – claims he will resist future reductions in Medicaid and Medicare – that is, unless the Republicans allow additional taxes on corporations and the wealthy. But he is perfectly willing to chop away if the Republicans budge from their position. Knowing Obama as we do after two and a half years, he will accept anything that can remotely be construed as a tax hike on some wealthy people as sufficient cause to return to his previous passion for savaging Medicaid and Medicare. All the president now insists upon is that the cuts not be one-sided.
Obama claims he is removing Social Security from the chopping block, if only temporarily. But he is the one who put Social Security there in the first place before he was even sworn into office, and has kept it in jeopardy ever since. Administration officials are telling reporters that Obama is not ruling out resurrecting the draconian cuts he proposed back in July – if only the Republicans would put a little grease on the wheels on the corporate tax side.
So, let us be clear about what has happened. The Republicans have consistently balked at any tax increases for the wealthy. Obama, who caved to Republicans on the Bush tax cuts for the rich late last year, and who had been perfectly willing to give away the whole social programs store this summer, now primps and postures as if he is defending those same social programs. But he’s not. All he wants is Republican cover to carry out his own deficit reduction massacre.
The whole conversation is out of whack. Progressives should not tolerate the bargaining away of programs that are vital to the health and welfare of the people, in return for taxes on the rich that will only go to reducing the deficit. Higher taxes on Exxon or Wal-Mart, even if they can be extracted from the Republicans, cannot make up for Social Security benefits or health care programs for those in need. The rich can spare some of their money. Medicaid beneficiaries cannot spare life-sustaining services. Obama is making this into an argument about notions of tax fairness, when the real struggle at hand is to maintain the meager social services that the United States still provides to its citizens.
The truth is, Obama is presenting the people with a losing proposition. If he somehow wins tax increases on the rich, then he will reciprocate, eagerly, with massive cuts to people’s programs, and then call it victory. Under those circumstances, the best we can hope for is gridlock. Any Obama deal, is a bad deal.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
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