I know, I know, I promised in my blog’s “About” page to restrict this blog to my life outside my politically-attuned life in the DC think tank world, but the recent election was such a big deal and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it all means, so I decided to put those thoughts down on paper (virtual, but still). So, to anyone who stumbles across this blog looking for my Paris/France/travel/foodie/music musings, please skip this post. Because I am going to vent just a bit on politics – well, not really politics per se, but the policies behind the politics. It could get wonky so read at your own peril! But if you decide to continue on, some things may even surprise some of you, my people.
For one, I didn’t vote for Obama. After lots of thoughtful consideration I decided to vote for the Green party (which admittedly didn’t matter since I live in the 100% predicted vote for Obama state of Maryland). But, even though I didn’t vote for him, I am at the same time VERY glad that he won. I relate to Obama kind of in the same way I survived working for the Baltimore City Public School System: I complained non-stop about the dysfunction to my friends and some colleagues, but defended my system from the slings and arrows that came from unfairly critical outside sources.
That’s how I feel about Obama. I can’t believe that anyone would ever call him a Socialist (it’s laughable, really), so I am more than happy to defend him from attacks from the far right, especially racist attacks because I am still amazed and proud that my country voted in an African-American for PRESIDENT. But, when viewed though my lefty progressive lens, he has mightily disappointed on several fronts, including:
Drones and kill lists
Continuation of Bush restrictions on civil liberties
No consequences for Bush era torture, etc etc – basically a continuation of Bush foreign policy
Tim Geithner and Larry Summers and the rest of the centrist economic team
Not standing loudly and strongly for my deep-held principles. I am especially concerned about Social Security and Medicare, which any real Democrat would vow to protect to the end
Not holding Wall Street/Too Big to Fail Banks accountable for wrecking the economy (no matter how much they cry about him being hostile, he’s not).
His going-in position on health care reform that included, no embraced, the insurance companies. Public option/single payer was never on the table. Or Medicare for all!
Basically, not taking advantage of his huge opportunity to make real and lasting change in this country. He had lots of political capital, especially in the beginning, and he failed to use it when he could – and where he couldn’t, I would have loved to see him fight to the bitter end for the principles (he said) we share. I would have loved to see his administration work behind the scenes to enact legislation that would help the poor and the working classes, not just write lofty speeches for him to give to fool everyone into thinking that they were actually doing the things he said. He’s a good speaker, but actions speak louder than words, and his administration was mightily disappointing on more issues than not, especially the first two years.
Beneath it all, I think that Obama is a cenrist technocrat who might have even felt at home in the Republican party of 30 years ago, when it was ok for a Republican to be pro-choice and moderate. But the extreme right wing in this country, enabled by the elites and corporate interests, have totally won the PR War. They have joined forces to successfully move the dial way far to the right – so far that to a large part of the uninformed and uneducated masses, any remotely progressive policy or concept or idea is “communist”, and therefore really really bad. They’ve successfully convinced the Tea Party branch of the uniformed masses that ALL government” is “BAD”, so the TPers rail against “Big Government” while screaming “Keep your hands off my Medicare”. This pleases the corporations and the elites, who pretend to bow down to the altar of the “Free Market” while taking advantage of all kinds of government subsidies that serve to keep them rich and the rest of the unwashed as poor as possible. (See my boss Dean Baker’s books www.deanbaker.net: You can also read about his cute dogs).
Throw in the billions of $$ spent on the recent election, the gazillion dollars spent on corporate lobbying and Citizen’s United and the future looks rather bleak. And how sad is it that it would have been much bleaker had Romeny won? Particularly for us women. Shudder. So I am glad that Obama won, even without my (useless) vote.
I could go on and on and on but most people have probably stopped reading by now, so I’ll just say that I was happy to see gay marriage pass in MD, along with a version of the Dream Act. Surprisingly good news, as was the legalization of marijuana in CO and WA (just look to see what Obama’s Justice Department does; however, for some reason they aren’t getting the message that prohibition only serves to waste money and lives by throwing people, mainly minorities, in jail for buying/smoking a joint). I am also happy happy happy to see that picture of Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and the other newly-elected women Senators – I hope they don’t get corrupted by the rotten system. Oh, I forgot, I was being happy! Yes, gay marriage, that made me happy, I think that the wave will continue and we’ve turned the corner. Yay. And our bodies had a way of shutting all those crazy anti-abortion women-hating right wing men down. Yep, all those rape-denying men lost their elections. Hallelujah! And Alan Grayson is back in the House. Oooh Goodie, I hope he shakes things up real good.
I just hope that we, my awesome CEPR colleagues and other progressives in this country, can push back on the corporate-funded PR “Fiscal Cliff” scare story so that Social Security will be saved. It scares me that a day or two after the election, the drumbeat is loud and furious about how Obama just has to cut a “grand bargain” with the House to address the “out of control spiraling deficit”. NOW. Or ELSE. The cliff! Wow, it didn’t take long for the true powers that be to get back to their real, non-partisan business: the business of continuing the upward redistribution of income. They see an opportunity to cut Social Security (dressed up in the friendly term “entitlement reform”). And the sad thing is that our newly-elected President seems willing to go along with it, despite his campaign promises and populist posturing. And despite the overwhelming economic evidence that it’s just not necessary (see CEPR http://www.cepr.net/index.php/op-eds-&-columns/op-eds-&-columns/saving-the-planet-or-fixing-the-debt or EPI http://www.epi.org/publication/ib338-fiscal-cliff-obstacle-course/ the data is there).
This all makes me so crazy, because I truly believe that if you strip out the political jargon and present people with economic data and facts and real policy options, a large majority (of the 99%) would actually choose policies that would stop the rising inequality and tame corporate greed. Take out the Republican and Democrat labels and educate people with no spin, and I bet you’d find a real groundswell of populist agreement on many things, across the spectrum. Doesn’t just about every middle class American think that firefighters and teachers deserve a living wage, and a decent pension? (which means that they really don’t hate union workers, do they?)
I just hope that the newly elected hope-fulls, including the President, listen to the voices of the people who put them there, and abide by them, and not their corporate masters. I hope that my man Bernie Sanders can make his voice heard in the Senate. He speaks for me – if I weren’t moving to France, I might just consider Vermont. http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=99882A7E-86B2-4627-87C6-B500550B5CDE Too bad it’s so cold there
Thanks for reading those of you who made it this far. End of rant. Hello Project Runway All Stars. And soon, back to Paris, I promise.