Negotiating With Snakes – Obama and the Great Budget ‘Compromise’
I’m goddamned mad this morning. A friend of mine here locally had her car repossessed for no reason. More on that later.
First, I want to put something to bed.
Obama is not a Liberal. He’s not a Progressive. He’s not bringing us ‘hope’ – and the ‘change’ he’s brought us is nothing like what we envisioned; it’s nothing like he promised.
Obama is a fucking Republican.
I reach that conclusion by way of three sayings my grandfather used to use – “If it quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck, it’s a duck”; “you don’t negotiate with a snake. You cut its head off”; and “if you see a turtle sitting on a fencepost, it’s a lead-pipe-cinch it didn’t get there by itself.”
Along with a lot of other folks, I suspended my usual reality and voted for Obama in 2008. I voted for him because he promised to close Gitmo; roll back the Bush-era attacks on civil liberties and the Constitution, end two wars which were bleeding the country white of both blood and treasure, tell the cocksuckers on Wall Street and in the mahogany-paneled offices of large corporations that the free ride was over, and to begin, once again, running this country by and for the people.
Instead, the only thing the man did of any substance in his first 90 days in office was to host a Super Bowl party.
His first day in office, he could have addressed the first two on that list, plus thrown in DADT for good measure. He had the unbelievable luxury of a cooperative Congress; anything he wanted could have been there for the taking.
What none of us understood who voted both for Obama’s vision of ‘change’ and against the horrific likelihood of a Palin-Presidency-via-McCain-heart-attack was this: Obama was already bought-and-paid-for by the very people he’d have to oppose to get these things done. He was beholden to the money-interests via campaign contributions. The fix was in before he took the Oath.
Now, he’s ‘in’ for 2012, after pandering to the far right by way of a budget ‘compromise’ which was more of a complete surrender to the far Right and the money-interests which really run this country. He’s asking the rest of us to jump in with him – and from my own vantage point, it looks more like he’s asking us all to stand on the edge of a cliff, sing ‘KumBaYa’ and jump. He was standing there with a shiteating grin on his face, telling everyone that his goal was to raise one billion dollars (let that soak in for a moment) for his campaign (just where in the hell is he going to get all that money? No; I don’t have to think for even one moment to connect the dots on that one.)
Meantime, he told us that ‘everybody won’ in the Great Budget Compromise. I’ve got news for him: (1) He’s about to learn the painful lesson that there’s a huge difference between surrender and compromise; (2) All of that bullshit about ‘everyone wins’ plays well on the grade-school soccer-field – but when you’re up against the schoolyard-bully, there are other lessons in play; lessons like when the bully says “Gimme yer candy bar!”, the next day it’s “Gimme yer lunch!”
Back to my friend.
She hit the wall a couple of years ago, like so many other people. Forced to file for bankruptcy when her job evaporated along with so many others. Her bankruptcy attorney screwed up her filing and didn’t renew the loan for her car – but the bank (Wells Fargo, if you care to know) told her, “It’s all right – just keep making the payments.”
She did just that. Right up until a couple of weeks ago, when she walked out of her apartment (having lost her house), to find that her car was gone.
Not even a note on the door.
She called the police in a panic. Turns out that a repossession has to be filed with the police – but neither the repo-company nor the bank is required to serve any notice at all; they can come in the dead of night, take the car, and leave you wondering if it was stolen.
“Yeah. We took it. What about it?”, said the repo-people when she called, in tears. “Talk to your bank, deadbeat.” Then a dial-tone.
She called the bank. That was two weeks ago. She’s trying to get help from either the pro-bono section of the local Bar Association or the consumer-protection people – but as consumer-protection doesn’t deal with repossessions, she’s hoping she can get some form of representation.
But, you ask, “She made the payments. How can they take her car?” Good question. My own modest understanding of the law is that by accepting payments for another two years, that constitutes a de-facto contract – but the reality of the situation is that with three payments to go, the bank reneged on its deal, and took her car. Likely, they’ll sell it, keep the proceeds, and she’ll be without transportation; permanently.
I talked with her the other day. She has a job not far from where she lives now. The weather is getting better by degrees here in Oregon, so she bought a bicycle from Target. She now rides that to work. She’s trying to be cheerful about it, but ‘positive thinking’ can only take you so far.
Meantime, back in Washington, Obama sold out the whole country by way of caving in on nearly every budget-point to avert a governmental shutdown. One of China’s political apparatchiks mentioned the other day, “Maybe democracy doesn’t work. Look at the U.S. How can a system of government wind up incapable of funding itself?”
Damn good question, if you ask me.
Paul Ryan, the Republican congressional representative from Wisconsin who said at the end of 2008 “I fear for the worst if we don’t pass this bailout” has created a ‘Path to Prosperity’ budget bill based on insane mathematics and general idiocy from the Heritage Group (a right-wing think-tank which says that if we throw anyone over 65 into the street and condemn them to die from the first illness they contract by way of eliminating Social Security and Medicare, then unemployment will by magic drop to less than 3% in a couple of years.)
Ryan’s notions of ‘prosperity’ have, on balance, less than no chance of passage – at least for now. Obama could use this program (which would gut the social safety-net, privatize a good part of America’s educational system and finish redistributing the rest of the nation’s wealth into the hands of the one-percenters) as a chance to present the case for a genuine social-democracy which worked – but we can count on him continuing to talk about ‘middle ground’.
I’ve news for him. The ‘middle’ is now the Right. We’ve got the Right, and the ultraRight. There are no more Kennedys; no more FDRs. The very oxygen has been sucked from the political discourse by a gang of fascist wolverines on the far Right, to the extent that the whole conversation has been pulled to the right-hand side of your radio-dial, where people like Rush Limbaugh, Lars Larson and Bill O’Reilly have comfortable home-court advantages working for corporate-owned media.
As to our democracy and our economy, we need to look at some things with a broader lens:
First, we need to quit looking at the Tea Party, the religious Right, and the other, smaller-yet-similar groups as separate from the Republican Party – in point of fact, these groups are the Republican Party now, and there’s nothing the party elite can, or will, do to change that.
Second, we need to understand Obama’s real motivation here: He’s fallen prey to the siren-song which affects all first-termers – the desire for a second term. That’s his motivation, pure and simple, and he’s going to cave and pander to the ultraRight until (he hopes) they confuse him with one of their own.
Problem is, he IS one of their own, by default if not by declaration. He’s effectively run up the white flag in the war of ideologies, and surrendered to the ultraRight. (“…if it quacks like a duck….”)
Third, the American economy is probably finished. The Fed gave us Quantitative Easing at the end of last year – a fancy word for ‘let’s print more money’; we’re now being treated to a budget which is virtually guaranteed to cost us another 400,000-600,000 jobs in the coming year, and a new policy which has allowed the dollar to free-fall against the world’s currencies.
This process will make American goods cheaper overseas – something which Wall Street and the one-percenters will appreciate, no doubt, as they sip champagne in their homes in the Hamptons – but that same policy has already shoved oil prices to all time highs, and is all but guaranteed to throttle any modest ‘recovery’ which may be underway.
America is now the Turtle on the Fencepost – a surreal creature; impaled on a spike and writhing its last; put there by the schoolyard-bullies of the far Right, who have no intention of engaging in ‘dialogue’, ‘negotiation’, or ‘reason’. They’re going to continue to demand more and more, because they know they can get it from a president who has balls the size of BB’s. Do you think they won’t try to use the upcoming debt-ceiling vote as leverage for more concessions? If so, you haven’t been paying attention.
Obama is out of luck, friends, and runway. He’s alienated the people who elected him – and the people who didn’t (the snakes of the ultraRight) don’t care.
You don’t negotiate with a snake. You cut its fucking head off with a shovel.
Right now, from where I sit, I don’t see how we can avoid complete breakdown. Wells Fargo, the bank which just repossessed my friend’s car, paid no taxes last year. Perhaps I’m unnerved by having it brought-home to me by the experience of a friend, but it’s clear to me now in a way that wasn’t before: These people are thieves. Not just Wells Fargo – but Citicorp; Bank of America; Goldman-Sachs, and all the rest. They deserve to answer for what they’ve done, not just to her, but to everyone, everywhere. That’s a lot of answering, folks.
The only real question in my mind is how long we’ll put up with it. That’s a wild-card, and one that’s hard to judge, because there’s more than enough idiocy in America to fill three or four continents – you can’t explain the Tea Party, the religious Right, the continued support of the one-percenters by the poorest Americans and the docile acceptance by America’s middle class of its own evisceration, otherwise.
I do know this, however.
Somewhere, there’s a person with some form of midlevel authority – an Army Colonel, a midlevel government employee or an academician with some cojones – who is watching the collapse of America unfold and is asking, “How did this all happen, and what can I do?”
I know this is true, because I’m asking myself the same damn question.
That person is saying, “This cannot end well. It simply can’t.”
Whoever this person is, he or she is looking at serious options which don’t involve the electoral process. There’s a word for what that person is contemplating.
W.D. Noble: Obama sold out the whole country by way of caving in on nearly every budget-point to avert a governmental shutdown. One of China’s political