Last week, soon after President Obama made his stunning tax deal with Republican leaders, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey told the Marin Independent Journal: “I think when you hold unemployment and the needs of the poorest and most desperate people hostage, that it is blackmail, and I don’t think we should give in to blackmail, ever.”
In the same article, I made a comment that’s often heard among progressives: “This is not what we worked for.”
A New York Times story quoted a somber assessment from me: “By giving away the store on such a momentous tax issue, he has now done huge damage to a large portion of the progressive base that helped to make him president.”
For progressives, already reeling from the grim midterm elections, the last couple of weeks have been disheartening -- all the more so because the huge giveaway deal for the rich came just after the president went to Afghanistan to reaffirm the escalation of war.
But activists can put up a fight!
Just this month, progressive Democrats and allies raised enough of an outcry on Capitol Hill and elsewhere to rebuff the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission and its long-awaited recommendations that would seriously undermine Social Security and Medicare. The struggle will rage on.
Last Friday [Dec. 3], in a column about economic policy, Paul Krugman focused on "moral collapse" at the White House -- "a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction." Meanwhile, President Obama flew to Afghanistan, where he put on a leather bomber jacket and told U.S. troops: "You're achieving your objectives. You will succeed in your mission."
For the Obama presidency, moral collapse has taken on the appearance of craven clockwork, establishing a concentric pattern -- doing immense damage to economic security at home while ratcheting up warfare overseas.
By the end of the weekend, a deal was just about wrapped up between the president and Republican congressional leaders to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
On the spin-cycle agenda this month is yet more reframing of the president's foggy doubletalk about Afghanistan. Strip away the carefully crafted verbiage and the picture is stark -- with plans for a huge U.S. war effort in that country for many years to come.
At the end of a year with massive U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan, parallels with the Johnson administration's unhinged Vietnam War are hard to miss. Conjectures about an inside-the-Democratic-Party challenge to Obama's re-nomination are now moving from shadowy whispers to open discourse.
Some critics of the Vietnam War hesitated to confront it because of President Johnson's laudable domestic record, which included the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the founding of Medicare and the launching of other Great Society programs. In sharp contrast, what most distinguishes President Obama's domestic record is its series of major cave-ins to corporate power and income inequality.
Ostensibly battling for economic fairness, the president is flying a white flag high over the White House.
Two months ago we wrote to you and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noting that “in your district, and nationwide, the progressive base will be watching with intense concern and vigilance as you respond to the growing threat to bedrocks of the social compact in our country.”
On behalf of PDA, our letter said: “We expect you to completely follow through with pledges to defend Social Security and Medicare.” And the letter added: “While we will be working to hold the line on these profoundly successful and essential social programs, we will work just as hard to demand the end of the occupation of Afghanistan and the return of war dollars home.”
Since then, the twin crises of economic austerity and war have become more acute. The Bowles-Simpson commission is continuing to advance a pernicious agenda. And the White House has backed away from its nebulous timeframe of July 2011 for halting the momentum of U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan.
Never has principled and unwavering leadership been more needed on Capitol Hill.
We’re heartened by recent statements from CPC leaders expressing unequivocal opposition to any cuts or diminishment of Social Security. At the same time, prior experience tells us that such statements cannot be taken as the last word; they must be continually supported and reinforced.