Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Manchurian Candidate

Many on the Left think the President is a Manchurian Candidate: he came in professing deep commitment to Progressive values, but at the core, he is a neoliberal elitist, fully in the pay of Wall Street; committed to protecting the banks from any exposure to the GFC mess they caused; only pretending to support immigration reform; and most of all wanting to make the Grand Bargain (the Great Betrayal) that would gut Medicare, privatize Social Security and firmly cement his legacy as the President who destroyed liberalism. Naked Capitalism is a prime example of this point of view.

Take today's blog on Naked Capitalism: Michael Hudson Shreds Obama's Orwellian Speech on Middle Class Prosperity.  It's a merciless hatchet job, and you won't find a more ideologically rigid perspective anywhere on the right. Frustrating, because blog founder Yves Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs, is one of the smartest analysts I've run into on the web.

Here are some questions I would like to ask Yves or Michael Hudson:

  1. Do you really think Obama sold his soul to Big Finance for $15 million in 2008, falling to $5.5 million in 2012 (see here)? This was less than 2% of his 2008 total and under 1% of the total raised in 2012. Also, Goldman Sachs dropped from his second largest contributor in 2008 to his 53rd largest in 2012. They obviously were not pleased with the service the President rendered.
  2. Isn't it possible that he consistently (and, I agree, incorrectly) deferred to Geither over his Treasury Secretary's advice to go easy on the banks, in order to facilitate the recovery, instead of being in a dark, subterranean conspiracy to screw homeowners and enrich the banks?
  3. You do remember that he did raise the minimum wage in 2009, don't you (see here)?
  4. You do know that he lowered FICA from 7.65% to 5.65% in 2011 and 2012, before raising it back to 7.65% in 2013 as part of the fiscal cliff deal (see here)? And you do understand that one of the reasons he felt he had to move it back up to 7.65% is so that Social Security critics would not be able to say the Social Security will soon be bankrupt? (Obviously, if you know your MMT, you know that the Government does not really need a dedicated funding source to fund Social Security, but the public doesn't know that, and amazingly enough, Presidents do best when they work within the concepts public understands.)
  5. Do you really think that Obama defines high quality education as whatever non-unionized teachers provide? How do you account for the enormous amount of work educators in 40 states have done on Common Core standards and new methods of testing for both College and Career Readiness (see here)?
  6. What in the world does Michael mean by dissing the very modest progress in Manufacturing jobs, by saying that the Government includes "junk food and other ballast" in the manufacturing job category? That is just crap, and sloppy crap at that (see here and here).
  7. Do you know why 3/4 of medical bankruptcies involved people with insurance? Because these folks had crappy insurance, with limits or loopholes or the like. The ACA sets tough new standards and will effectively eliminate medical bankruptcies. If you think I'm wrong, let's make a penny bet and check in with each other in 2-3 years.
  8. Can you rigorously defend the claims you (Michael Hudson) make in this sentence: "Healthcare is going to remain overpriced, with bad incentives, too much bureaucracy, and too many costly middlemen"? The cost curve is bending. The ACA has set off a small revolution as providers move to Electronic Medical Records and away from fee-for-service healthcare delivery. We will witness a remarkable productivity jump in healthcare precisely because the incentives have been shifted, and through IPAB, there is a kaizen or constant improvement process testing, and a politically unstoppable way to scale up ideas and practices that test well. Again, a penny bet and let's check back in 2-3 years.
  9. What are you and Yves going to say when the President leaves office in 3 and 1/2 years and there has been no gutting of Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security? Will you allow the possibility that he played the Republicans austerity game with them, because he felt he had to - that he felt the only way to engage the austerity and debt fanatics was to play the game with them, get to $4 trillion in cuts and taxes over ten years that would lower deficits and stabilize the debt; that the whole austerity/Grand Bargain game was a political dance that the President eventually won - which is about to happen, when the Congress blows up over the CR or the debt ceiling this Fall, and Obama wins a huge victory? Or will you say he just wasn't smart enough to effect the Grand Betrayal and gut entitlements?
I've read the Chris Hedges piece that Yves linked to - America is a Tinderbox and the Bill Robinson piece - Global Capitalism and 21st Century Fascism. Obama frightens you, as so much of mid-20th Century capitalism frightened and discouraged Antonio Grammsci, when he saw how folks were hoodwinked into supporting The Big Con. Obama just might succeed, you fear. Obamacare might work. Immigration reform may happen. income inequality may begin to shrink a bit. Hope may actually catalyze positive change. And the Fat Cat Bankers will never get properly broken on the rack as a proper structural power change, or revolution, would ensure.

Without an overthrow of the Fat Cats, we are doomed to become a 21st Century Fascist state. From my perspective, if Republicans win, this might happen.

What I have struggled mightily to understand is - if you fear this scenario, why are you working so hard to take down the one person most likely to prevent it?

No comments:

Post a Comment