- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
If you want to help the working poor, then for God's sake gouge the rich
If you haven't seen it, have a look at this quote from President Obama's press conference on the deal he cut with the Republicans.
So this notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care. This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.
Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.
It's a nice piece of rhetoric (Talking Points Memo has the transcript of the whole press conference), but it nails down precisely my problem with the President's approach. My problem with Health Care Reform aligns with my problem with the auto industry bailout, financial reform and the latest tax deal. In every instance, the President has hidden behind some vulnerable community in order to excuse himself from sticking it to the rich and the very rich, as he should.
Let's bust some trusts. We live in a world where the rich are so rich that their richness is fat and lazy and self-perpertuating it has left us with an ever more boring, decadent, uninventive world, a world where the captains of industry work harder to keep things easy than create new markets by coming up with new products or services that folks could really use. That's where we are as a people. Drug companies spend more money on advertising than research. Banks screw their depositors six ways from Sunday and call it "financial innovation" and the Scions of Microsoft sit in Seattle and look only for good ideas to steal rather than coming up with good ideas of their own. We live in a world where rich people only get richer at the expense of other people, and you can sure as hell bet that those other people aren't other rich people.
OK, that's going to be my only purely rhetorical paragraph: let's get to the point. Obama isn't willing to play the serious brinksmanship it's going to take for the very rich to finally lose a fight. The screed goes on. Hit the link below and hang with me past the break.
The problem with health care reform is that the President failed to really go after cost (that is, rich people) -- forget the public option. That's not what this Liberal hated about his compromise. He refused to hit the doctors where they lived and make them take responsibility for medical mistakes and he refused to hit the insurance companies where they lived and force them to put their books up to real scrutiny. Until cost is dealt with, until he takes the inefficiencies out of the system that serve nothing but to line some bureaucratic and executive pockets, the system is still broken.
Sure, Obama can hide behind the fact that millions more are going to be in the system, but there is an excellent chance that those millions more are just going to exacerbate the inherent problems in the system because he didn't force doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to straighten out their byzantine system, cut out the 30% (or more) of health care expenses that's pure waste anyway and make it work for people again.
So some cushy lifestyles are protected.
But, in the immediate term, more people will have care. Good, but the system isn't really changed, though the insurance companies do have more customers.
Similarly, with Big Auto. It's true, if Ford and GM would have folded, a lot of folks would have been out of work. Of course, not everyone, because the factories that were good would have been gobbled up by Toyota and Co, but lots of people would have been out of work. True, but it would have also forced Big Auto to reckon with the fact that they rested on their laurels for far too long. It also would have driven up the cost of cars, in general, which, in the long term, might not have been such a bad thing. Cars are the reason this country is a sprawling mess. Where in a historical moment when more people are opting to move to places where cars are more optional, and with the rise of the car share program it's easier now than it has ever been.
That wouldn't have been a bad trend to accelerate. But Obama didn't. He bailed out Big Auto, allowing them to smog it up a bit longer and absolve themselves of their 80s laziness and their 90s excess.
Now, we come to tax reform, and Obama's hiding behind the unemployed. Look, I know that's a cold way to look at it, but if the economy manages to pull itself back together most of those folks will find work. When everyone who's on unemployment now comes off of it, we are left with a system that's fundamentally unchanged.
(((By the way, I'm probably raising a lot of hackles here at the notion that it's okay to sacrifice some people's quality of life now in order to build a more progressive future, but it's precisely because the Right knows the Left will never take it to the brink that we lose these negotiations -- maybe I'll write more about this someday)))
If, on the other hand, Obama had said, "Fine, you won't let me kill the Bush Era tax cuts for the rich? I'll let them expire for everyone," then we would have had a structurally different economy. Structurally different, as far as legislation can be, permanently. How: the Government would have had much, much more money to work with.
Remember this: unemployment benefits are not redistributive as long as they are financed with debt. It only redistributes resources between people without work now and people who are working some time in the future. Benefits would be redistributive if we financed them with taxes on people who are working now (especially if we financed them with taxes on people who are earning a lot now), but if they are financed with debt they aren't weapons in the class war at all.
They are just band aids preventing the Class War (go ahead... call me a Leninist - no one will get the reference anyway).
If Obama had let the Unemployment Benefits expire the unemployed could have organized to really stick it to the Republicans and still gotten the extension. Who knows? They might have, but now they have no motivation to do anything but take the checks and hope for work and then go back to a world that is exactly as it was under Bush. Same tax structure overwhelmingly favoring rich people, making it easier and easier for those folks to stay rich and harder and harder for working folks to be anything but vulnerable to the capricious gambling of the very rich.
It's true: the next few months will be easier for the working poor, but when they do get back to work then nothing will have changed. The President said this in the quote above: "Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done."
Mr. President, what did you get done?
We are not helping low income people by going into deeper and deeper debt to pay to get them through the bad times. We will only help low income people when we start breaking up oligopolies in business, seriously stick it to the very wealthy in the tax code, stick it to the mega-rich corporations in corporate taxes, get rid of exemption after exemption after exemption until accountants have almost nothing to do in April and funnel that money into proven economy driving investments: higher education, mass transit, energy, basic scientific research and water projects. Then people will really be working. Then people will start seeing possibilities.
You think giving people a check every month and telling them to cross their fingers is "hope," Mr. President? That's not hope. That's just a little more time to pray. Show them they can believe the impossible: that the rich guy, the big guy, the guy that fired them, that that guy can finally get the raw end of a deal for once and that will show him how to have the "hope" you're so all fired up about.
We're two years in and for my money this is still a world much as it was, and until you're finally willing to make the hard choices and stick it to the Martha's Vineyard set, don't come talking to me with your self-righteous talk of "pragmatic compromise." Until the very rich quite getting lots, lots richer all the time, I'm not impressed.
To that, the President has this:
And I understand the desire for a fight. I'm sympathetic to that. I'm as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I've been for years. In the long run, we simply can't afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them, just as I suspect the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I've championed and that they've opposed.
If you're not going to fight now, Mr. President, then when? Two years from now, when the cuts are up to expire again? In your reelection year? No doubt, no doubt, we'll all be waiting for you to get your battle axe out... then.
Ok, unbridled rhetoric again ("battle axe"? seriously). I guess I didn't stick to my guns either. Maybe I should let one of the President's interlocutors from the press conference wrap this up:
Chuck Todd: If I may follow, aren't you telegraphing, though, a negotiating strategy of how the Republicans can beat you in negotiations all the way through the next year because they can just stick to their guns, stay united, be unwilling to budge -- to use your words -- and force you to capitulate?