Thursday, October 14, 2010

Picking Up The Gauntlet

I've been challenged to come up with areas where I disagree with President Barack Obama. It seems that my blog posts mocking the moronic right wing of this country have been taken to mean I'm a buttboy for the current administration. I'm not.
First, in my defense, so much anger has been wrongly directed at the President. Much of what people are whining about-- higher taxes, job loss, a struggling economy-- are either patent bullshit or misinterpreted. Also, in my defense, so many other have jumped on the Bash Barack bandwagon that I haven't felt a need to point out the obvious flaws in his programs and policies. Third, where I have disagreed with him, in areas like environmental policy, bank bailouts, and energy programs, I've posted about those programs, and incidentally criticized the President within.
None of this should imply that I do not support Barack Obama as President. I do. I think he was dealt a shitty hand by an administration and political party that doesn't give a crap about the nation apart from how it can be raped by itself and its corporate overlords. Further, I think this cancer has infested Obama's own party to the extent that not only patriotism has gone by the wayside, but even party loyalty, the one thing a political party should at bottom expect, has been devoured.
I'm looking at you, Ben Nelson...Blance Lincoln. 
Obama is regularly and hyperbolically accused of being far left wing, of having a leftist agenda, of leading the country into socialism.
Bollocks. If anything, Obama has been right-centrist in governing. He has consistently sided with corporate interests over populist fervor.
Would a socialist bail out mulitnational banking corporations, the very heart of the capitalist system? And if he did, would he expect a return on that investment?
Wouldn't a socialist have nationalized AIG, the insurance company that is (or was) a linchpin to the entire frikkin' American economy, to ensure it never failed again? Instead, Obama bailed that out, too, and practically handed it a blank check of government guarantees, something any insurance company would have wet dreams over. Imagine, a company that deals in risk being absolutely risk-free! 
Would a socialist allow the heatlhcare reform system to genuflect to anti-baby factions that demanded that ghost pro-choice "measures" be stricken before dialogue could even begin? Or to allow the very problem with our private insurance plan, the greedy and rapacious HMOs, a seat at the table of reform?
Would YOU eat dinner with cannibals?
Here's some of the areas I've disagreed with Obama, vehemently:
1) The TARP program should have been focused on bailing out homeowners. Period. Take the $350 billion, cut it by two-thirds and give troubled homeowners a break in terms of paying down their mortgages. At the very least, this buys the economy a little time to swallow the inevitable foreclosures, allows consumers to actual spend a little more money, and gives us all time to wean ourselves over the enslavement we've subjected ourselves to, in the form of easy credit and rampant "shoved down our throats" consumerism.
Indeed, Cash For Clunkers, that amazingly successful program, is all the proof you need to see that Americans want to buy stuff, but there's deep uncertainty about jobs and the future. So another third of that TARP money could have gone to public works programs, shovel-ready infrastructure improvements that would have employed people at all levels. Yes, some of that has occured and thank god, or else employment numbers really would have hit Great Depression levels, instead of settling in at levels seen only during Republican administrations. We needed more. We'll get some more, but there's a problem, that I'll get into in a moment.  
Some banks would have need bailing out, to be sure, but it's idiotic that we gave money to banks that not only could have paid us back at any time, but eventually paid us back ahead of schedule. Clearly, those banks did not need that help! The S&P 500 is still overvalued, so there's still fat in the stock market. We could have let other investment banks go, we could have eevn let some of the money center banks go as well. really can't blame Obama for this: Bush and Hank Paulson had already pushed the bank bailouts front and center. It would have been next to impossible to avoid the final step. And in Obama's defense, TARP has been wildly successful thus far: something on the order of a ten percent default rate. Given the size of the fund and the deep troubles in the economy, this is a victory.
But my plan would have been more successful, less expensive, and more important, would have helped the people who really needed it. Now, those folks will never get help because Republicans have successfully branded the Bush bailout as "Obama's failure." It would be toxic to go back and ask for more money.
So fuck you, Rick Santelli and the Teabaggers you rode in on! I hope you all get foreclosed.
2) Taxes, but also Jobs: In addition to the above outline, a jobs program should have been front and center on Obama's agenda when he took office. Even if it meant reviving the Civlian Conservation Corps and paying people to pick up trash along the roadside, it would have helped. Right now, the private sector has added a net of one million jobs in 2010. It took Bush SIX YEARS to reach that level of hiring.
People are underemployed and the underlying truth is, people have stagnated in jobs and salary for thirty years, all sacrificed at the altar of tax cuts for the rich and the retarded (sorry, Trig) idea that somehow making the rich richer helps the middle class.
It doesn't. It might help the abject poor, but it does nothing, nada, zilch, zero, for the wage earners of this nation. A true jobs program would demand the rich start putting money back into the economy and stop hoarding it.
You know what the rich have done with all that tax "relief"? Stuck it in a mattress. Literally. That's not my opinion, that's what Moody's discovered. They haven't pumped it back into their businesses, hiring workers. They haven't spent it on their mansions and yachts, employing tens of thousands of Americans (but plenty of undocumented workers). They've stuffed it into investments that likely are off-shore, meaning that China is getting that money too. These assholes are raping our country twice, once on the tax bill and once by profiting from foreign exchange and debt financing, and I don't know about you, but if someone wants sex from me, it's going to cost them.
Ass, gas, or grass, no one rides for free! Soak the rich? OH! HELL! YEA! Because god knows, they soak us at the drop of a zipper.
3) War: Iraq should have ended in 2009. Afghanistan should have been the focus immediately, and we should have been out of both already. Period. You can make the case, and I have, that we broke them so we should fix them, but you know what? We can't fix the unfixable. We can put it on its feet, brush its coat off and get it back on the road, and then move the hell out of the way.
By the way, these assholes who are whining about deficits and national debt and tax cuts...where the fuck were you when Bush was spending us into the poorhouse and wasn't even honest enough to budget for it? Ten trillion in national debt doesn't appear overnight when the total of the budget deficit in 2009 was "only" $1.1 trillion! Bush took office famously with a budget surplus and a national debt of just over $3 TRILLION!
4) Energy policy: I was intrigued to see a form of this floated a few weeks back, but my energy plan is simple. To wean America off fossil fuels, offer a bounty of one billion dollars (or maybe now, since that's stopped being real money after the Bush bailout, ten billion) to the company that can come up with a renewable energy source that is as BTU-efficient as fossil fuels and that doesn't degrade over long transmission distances. But...there's a catch to that ten billion dollars. That technology immediately becomes licensed to the Federal government. The company can sell the energy or the technology but in order to maintain the grid at uniform levels, there has to be an accountability. The government, unlike its other R&D arm, the Defense Department, gets to clamp down on how the technology evolves, scientifically AND economically. The deregulation of the utlility industry was supposed to lower our electricity, phone, and gas rates. It has not. I would reinstitute the profit limitations on energy: you can charge whatever you want, but you can only earn a set percentage. This means, you have to reinvest in the infrastructure, and is a powerful incentive to maintain cheap rates.
5) Economic Stimulus: I've said or referred to this in at least two places already, but here we go again. Economic stimulus in America has always, ALWAYS, come from the bottom up. Give money to the people who have needs, and they will spend it. Give money to those who don't have needs, and they'll sock it away. Yes, both grow the economy, but giving it to people who spend grows it far faster. 
The national debt will take centuries to pay down to manageable levels, I'm afraid, barring of course a war of conquest that sees us taking over China and India, then exploiting their resources by slavery. 
But we can balance the budget, and in the next few years. We can start. And we can expand social programs to protect those who have been harmed badly by the corporatocratic Republican party.
Give every family in the country $5,000. Let's assume 100 million families, and we're talking about  $500 billion. Compared to the bank bailout, that's small. But here's the kicker: Of that $500 billion, much if not most of it would be spent, and it would be spent in such a way that it would immediately impact every industry in America, from travel to electronics to banking to education.  
Let's assume then a 25% average tax rate (including payroll taxes), so the government would see at least $125 billion back within a year. A small downpayment on the economic recovery to come. $375 billion is infused into the economy, and that now starts to grow the way money in the economy grows: an investment here, a few jobs there, and next thing you know, that $375 billion is back at $500 billion and the government gets another piece of that.
And we're all better off for it.
6) Healthcare reform: I have no problem with private healthcare as a concept. Japan has it, and has 100% coverage, at lower rates than we do, and has 3,000 insurance companies competing for policyholders. The catch?
Japan puts a lid on profits and rate increases.
My preference would have been single-payer national healthcare, of the sort they have in England and the rest of the civilized world. I realize that may be more than this nation can swallow, but there it is. You want socialism? That's as close to socialism as you're going to find on this planet, comrade, and it's one stinking sector of a few countries who have been around a lot longer than our upstart nation, and oh by the way, they've debated this and found our system wanting.
They're the smart ones. We ought to be taking lessons.
I realize this has gone to greater lengths than I imagined it would, so I'm going to close it here. To say that I am in total agreement with Obama because I defend him is ludicrous and inane. Clearly, he's just another right wing corporatist tool to me.
But he's a damn sight better than the other guys.