Friday, January 20, 2012

Redemption and The Obama Problem

A big part of the initial enthusiasm for the candidacy of Barack Obama was due to the potential for Redemption that he represented. After 8 years of the monstrousness of Bush and Cheney and all their minions and lackeys in the White House and 8 years before that of sunny but compromised... erm... "vulgarity" of the Clinton White House (blow jobs on the job being so vulgar, dontchaknow), the need for the Redemption of the American government, indeed, the Redemption of America, was clear to anyone with eyes to see and brain to think.

And here was such a nice, well-spoken black man standing for the Presidency who wasn't out there blaming everybody and casting aspersions for his suffering and all. He merely pointed out that there was a Better Way Forward, that the Nation could heal and come together after a period of great difficulty. And he was the one to make it so.

There could hardly BE a more redemptive character given our history. And look at that smile and those big, floppy ears. Who could resist? Certainly, he was better and in better mental health than that crabby old grandpa and his harpie-like pseudo-sidekick. Boy howdy.

Besides, the economy had just gone into a tailspin, and the Busheviks in office, and the R side of the aisle in general, seemed indifferent to anything but the well-being of the top of the economic pyramid.

And so Obama was elected with enormous enthusiasm and Hope. Finally, our (real) long national nightmare would be over. Hurrah!

Well. It didn't work out so well.

The Redemption took place, to be sure, but it had nothing at all to do with America or the People; it had and has to do with the Highest of the Mighty who are doing better now than ever, and who are now more insulated and protected against the roaring of the mob than they have ever been. In Obama, whose election they funded with massive donations, they got someone who could not only do their bidding with bells on, they got someone who was almost magically able to manage the masses to go along with it. Though we were all told at the time his was a people-funded campaign, small-fry donations from the millions upon millions, it turns out that the banks and Wall Street were actually Obama's major donors, and soon enough, the People realized their small-fry contributions didn't mean a thing...

As I've pointed out many times, Candidate Obama was being auditioned for the role over a period of two years or more, his primary task being keeping the Rabble in line, and he passed with flying colors, something Gramps and Herself never came close to doing; they couldn't have pacified a mob if they tried. Obama did it with ease and a certain sort of grace that is still astonishing. He can spout perfect nonsense and the People will still respond as if they had been spoken to by God.

Throughout his tenancy in the White House, Mr. Obama has primarily served the interests of finance, the banks, and the rich. If the social service programs put forth in the (FD) Roosevelt and Johnson administrations had not existed, he would not have proposed them. From the outset, the Obama economic policy has been as close to Hooverism as it is possible for an American President to get at this time. Hoover's Redemption isn't complete, but it is getting closer thanks to Obama's adoption of his economic policies.

To this day, no matter how bad the unemployment situation is, Obama has not proposed a real jobs program for Americans; he won't even consider it. Nixon was on top of that problem when it came up during his administration. Not Obama. Nope. All he can come up with is the ditch metaphor, that it took a long time to get into this ditch and it will take a long time to get out of it.

Regardless of the falseness of the metaphor -- the crash was pretty damn fast to those who suffered, and the rich were rescued right away -- the fact is, the Rs have been making headway with the electorate by "talking about" jobs and job programs (of course they have no more intention of doing anything about it than Obama does). The fact that the Obama Administration has been stunningly indifferent to the plight of the unemployed should be the most serious mark against it, far and away more important to most people than the esoterica of "civil liberties," and even warmongering, but the Rs have proposed absolutely nothing of their own to do anything about it, so it's a wash.

In other words, nobody running for office intends to do a damn thing about the absence of employment for a large swath of the population. Not a damned thing.

The Rs will merely talk about it and do nothing; the Ds and Obama will wring their hands and do nothing.

Poverty is being imposed on millions upon millions more Americans year over year, and the Powers That Be like it like that. So that's the way it will be.

As of early this year, half of Americans were impoverished or officially "low income." This is why the R charge that "half of Americans don't pay income taxes!!" is so absurd. Yes? And? They're too fucking poor to pay income taxes, and they are getting poorer. "Lucky-duckies" indeed.

The impoverishment of the American People is not a matter of accidental Fate, it is a matter of policy from Washington. That policy is carried out by Obama with slightly less denunciation and demonization of those impoverished than it would be under an R administration. Optics!

The wars are winding down under the Obama reign, but they would have under Gramps as well. We can't "afford" them, you see, and there is no longer any value for the money spent, so... liquidate them.

Initially, the wars were a means of transferring boatloads of cash to favored friends of the Bush Regime, and for exterminating varied foe in dramatic fashion. The wars were spectacle for the masses, Big Money for friends. But then they got ugly.

And titanically expensive all around financed by borrowing from China, oops. Well, China's leaders are nobody's fools, and keeping the Americans Occupied as it were, occupying foreign lands, was a convenience for the Chinese and others who were able under the circumstances to foster their own societies and economic growth without the interference of Americans and their high-handed ways. They were busy elsewhere. The cost of keeping them at bay was worth it. But China is now balking at further payments along these lines.

As the funding for wars dries up, the wars themselves must be jettisoned, but many of the trappings of the wars have now been codified and institutionalized, trappings like the murder squads ("special forces"), the mercenaries, the drones, the camps for terror suspects, the torture policies, the ever greater limitations on civil liberties, the ever-expanding national security state and so on.

All of these trappings and more are now, it seems, permanent features of American law, lore, and practice. They were largely institutionalized under Obama.

Oh, well, Ron Paul has been talking about how bad they are, so that's good.

The fact is, there is no movement to upend most of what has been put in place as a consequence of the wars. Think back: much the same situation obtained after WWI and WWII as well. Many of the policies put in place as a consequence of those wars have stuck with us. They are useful to government and they perpetuate themselves because they are so useful.

I'll go so far as to suggest that it is the bloated military and the metastasized National Security State that are now the primary domestic economic engines. The war economy continued without let up -- it kept growing -- after WWII, the reason being that the war economy was seen as the primary means of staying out of another Depression. It worked after a fashion.

But here we are in another Depression anyway. In some sectors, that's blamed on the "Peace Dividend" in consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union; without a major foe, there was no rationale for the continued bloated military budget, thus... well, it's complicated.

This time, though, the bloated military and security budgets don't seem to be having any positive effect on the economic situation of most Americans. In fact, things have been getting worse. More ominously, practically every politician, including Obama, is endlessly yabbering about cutting budgets for such things as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and any other kind of human assistance they can think of.

In other words, reducing further what little social services and income support most Americans have already paid for in order, it seems, to keep the wealthy as secure and comfortable as possible, and to keep the war machine and security state in tune forever.

Nothing else seems to matter to Our Rulers, nothing else at all.

And so the People rise, somewhat chaotically and ineffectively for the moment, but rise they do.

Redemption under Obama having failed, the Rs seek to put up a Gazillionaire with Issues as their nominee for the Throne. That will solve the problem! Right. Great plan. He could pull it off, of course, but at this point he is so close to implosion, it's hard to imagine just how he'd do it. It's early yet.

The pundits keep speculating that Romney's religion will keep him from being elected (Mormonism to me is more like a business with social service and secret society aspects rather than a religion), but this is pretty much the same narrative as was used by pundits to discuss the difficulty of electing JFK or Obama himself; some social "flaw" in other words, be it Catholicism or Mormonism or Colored-ism, interferes with the path to glory, and overcoming it is the test the candidate must pass.

What will hamstring Romney is his general snottiness. There would be no Redemption through him in any case. Back when Romney was endowed at the Temple, he took a vow to revenge the martyrdom of Prophet Joseph Smith in 1844. This is not quite the same as Redemption...

Obama, under the circumstances, has a much easier road than he otherwise would. He may be closer to re-confirmation on the Throne than anyone now realizes.

That means, if so, that Redemption, which this nation still so badly needs, is delayed yet again.

Psalm 94

3How long, O LORD?
How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?
4Hear their arrogance!
How these evildoers boast!
5They oppress your people, LORD,
hurting those you love.


  1. Another good article, Ché,

    Basically, governments around the world have kept capitalism afloat long past its expiration date. If capitalism is the milk in someone's fridge, it couldn't even be in a fridge. Too recent. It's in your grandmother's grandmother's ice box.

    Which brings up an immense, well, um, irony. Governments have done all of that for plutocrats, but governments have virtually no ability to say no to them. Without them, the plutocrats would have fallen a century ago at least. But that hasn't brought governments any leverage over them. In fact, it seems that governments keep losing more and more ground to capitalists with each passing year.

    Isn't it amazing to contemplate a time when the top rate was 91%? Of course, no one paid that amount, but we have been shown actual returns from the 40s with our robber barons paying roughly half of their income to the feds, after deductions.

    What was going on in society that enabled that kind of at least mild Keynesian redistribution? Today, the GOP is talking about slashing the top rate to 25%, and candidates like Ron Paul are calling for an end to the capital gains and the estate taxes, along with slashing the corporate rate by 20 percentage points.

    IOW, it's going from a good deal for business (during the Keynesian age) to a virtual permanent wealthfare state.

    What happened?

  2. Income tax rate chart, 1913 to the Present.

    [Note: the Tax Foundation used to list exemptions on this chart as well, demonstrating that for much of its history, most workers did not have an income tax liability. But they're going full throttle to make the case for how unfair the income tax burden on the rich is, so they've dropped a good deal of information that doesn't suit their policy frame and manipulated much of the rest.]

    What happened was Reaganomics, and that's one reason why we're in such an economic mess now. One that we cannot get out of without essentially revolutionary change. The only way for the economy to "recover" is through "growth," and the only kind of "growth" that can happen is the Boom and Bust Bubble.

    Unless our Betters (snort) can find another bubble to inflate, we're stuck on the down escalator -- permanently.

    They'll do fine, of course, until their thefts from one another start adding up, and then watch out.

    The People were drop kicked long ago.

    Of course it could all change on the morrow with the adoption of a sane tax policy and a sane economic policy. Politically, that's impossible though, at least it is not possible any time soon.

    So some people are making a rational choice to, shall we say, "withdraw" from the standard economy. Some are being forced out, of course.

    As that happens, another parallel and more informal economy is growing stronger. That can be a danger to those involved because the maw of the vampire squid (as Taibbi is "so tired" of hearing) is insatiable, and anything that looks like Profit is almost immediately consumed.

    I don't know how it resolves, but it is obvious that if the Powers That Be want to "save capitalism" they better start throwing some bones to the masses, or it's Game Over.

  3. I read a while back that what the rich probably intend is something like Pakistan or Mexico. They live in armored compounds with their own police force, their own electric generators, and rapid transit by helicopter to the best hospitals when they need it.

    Everyone else gets to be wretchedly poor, forever. At least, that's the plan.

    A kind of preview is in the Rolling Stone article, "The Dark Lord of Coal Country"

    Blankenship lives in Mingo County, West Virginia, just a few miles from where he grew up. It's one of the poorest, sickest, most economically depressed regions in America. Blankenship's house, which sits near the polluted waters of the Tug Fork, is an oasis of money and privilege in a landscape of rusting 4x4s and abandoned appliances. From the road, it looks like an estate in the Hamptons, with neatly trimmed hedges and a broad curving drive. The property is surrounded by a high steel fence, with cameras mounted near the automatic gate. The house itself, fittingly enough, is an old mining superintendent's building, built back in the days when coal barons like Blankenship hired armed guards to mow down striking miners with machine guns. Nearby is a helicopter landing pad, as well as a spacious garage for Blankenship's vehicles, which reportedly include a Bentley. Across the river, perched on the mountaintop like a castle, is Blankenship's corporate party house, a baronial estate where he entertains industry executives and politicians with superb views of his broken world.

    and later in the same article:

    During the 1980s, the company injected more than 1.4 billion gallons of slurry underground — seven times the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the BP disaster this spring. According to the lawsuit, Massey knew that the ground around the injection sites was cracked, which would allow the toxic waste to leach into nearby drinking water. But injecting the slurry underground saved Massey millions of dollars a year. "The BP oil spill was an accident," says Thompson. "This was an intentional environmental catastrophe." Massey denies any wrongdoing in the case. But after Blankenship started pumping the slurry underground, he took steps to make sure that he and his family did not suffer. Around the time that his neighbors were starting to get sick, Massey paid to build a waterline to bring clean, treated water directly to Blankenship's house from Matewan, a few miles away. Yet he never offered to provide the water to his neighbors, some of whom can see his house from their windows.

  4. Well...

    Latin America was long held up as the primary example of what happens to a society when a tiny fraction of the population is allowed to hold all the wealth and is constantly extracting more from the population.

    It endured for a very long time, hundreds and hundreds of years, and it seemed pretty stable, but the apparent stability was constantly beset with revolt and revolution from below (Mexico being prime example of that), and with the plutocracy constantly at war with one another.

    It wasn't as stable as it looked from the outside.

    Eventually the dawning came: This isn't the way forward, and there have been big changes in Latin America since.

    Why America's plutocracy wants to emulate the way things used to be in Latin America is a question begging for an answer.

    They like constant uprisings from below? They get off on constant rivalry and war with other plutocrats?

    They're either insane or completely mindless...

  5. Well, look at Blankenship. Even though he was piping in his own water, there was something completely insane about him polluting the land where he himself lived to the point where the water was toxic. I'll admit, the sensible thing to have done, from my perspective would simply have been to moved away from the contaminated coal country to someplace far away. That's not moral, indeed that would be just as evil, but it seems like it would have been smarter.

    I can only suppose that Blankenship felt that he could only really enjoy playing the tyrant if he was there in person to see the misery he was inflicting.

    Blankenship represents the important kind of oligarch, too. The kind that takes an active interest in politics and in pushing an agenda, and using his staggering wealth and power to that end. I suspect a certain amount of the 1% are pretty mindless about politics, so real rotters like Blankenship and the Kochs end up being in control.

  6. These self-defeating actions by Our Plutocracy mirror the self-defeating actions of Plutocrats of the past.

    Mindless, stupid, insane, whatever the case, they ultimately force their own downfall, as in the case of Blankenship, as only one example.

    Their prosperity depends on the health and well-being -- and prosperity -- of the Lower Orders.

    Sometimes they know this, and then they forget. Or something.

    This is why the People must resort to guillotines from time to time, whether metaphorically or literally.