National Commentary

A Secret Government For the Rich?

bentonmug

Tuesday’s extraordinary twin developments – the so-called Bush tax cut “deal” cut between President Obama and Congressional Republicans and the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – caused me to ask a rhetorical question on my Facebook site:
“Does this mean that the country really is run by a secret government primarily committed to supporting its military-industrial complex?”
A friend responded, “Of course, President Eisenhower said this 50 years ago!”

Tuesday’s extraordinary twin developments – the so-called Bush tax cut “deal” cut between President Obama and Congressional Republicans and the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – caused me to ask a rhetorical question on my Facebook site:

“Does this mean that the country really is run by a secret government primarily committed to supporting its military-industrial complex?”

A friend responded, “Of course, President Eisenhower said this 50 years ago!”

Indeed, Ike warned about the undue power and influence of that military-industrial complex, that includes Big Oil and major financial institutions, in his famous farewell speech before leaving the presidency in 1961.

No doubt some of his detractors at the time fancied charging Ike for violating the Espionage Act, the law that may be applied to Assange, for fomenting anti-American sentiment.

That dubious legislation was used to send three-time Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs to prison for five years, a film maker for three years and poet E.E. Cummings for months after its passage in 1917, all convicted for promoting sentiments either too favorable for U.S. enemies, or too critical of U.S. allies.
It was also used against Daniel Ellsberg for providing the secret Pentagon Papers to the New York Times that revealed a wide pattern of profoundly troubling, duplicitous U.S. behavior in the Vietnam War. Only a technicality freed him from serving time.

Indeed, it is instructive to consider Tuesday’s two major developments as one action with two parts.

The full-court press by President Obama and the Democratic National Committee to argue the merits of the tax cut deal has not quelled dissent, but only inflamed it.
So far, the Washington media has by-and-large completely missed the point about this. They report that Obama’s harsh “dressing down” in defense of his deal at his press conference Tuesday was aimed at the liberal wing of his own party.

But while Obama may have thought that’s where his comments were directed, in fact they assaulted the sensibilities of the more than two-thirds of Americans citizens, according to the polls, who oppose the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the rich.

Obama, in fact, has now postured himself against two thirds of the electorate, and no one is taking this sitting down.

If anything, the administration has underestimated the anger in the population, an anger that is sick and tired of the rich and privileged being pampered, coddled and bailed out, no matter what. They’re enraged at the way the Republicans have behaved like playground bullies to get their way on behalf of their rich masters, and “being angry as hell and not taking it any more” is more important to them than any concessions the deal contains.

The mood, in a country where a fifth of the adult population is either unemployed or underemployed, where there are five people competing for every job opening, is bordering on a revolt.

Medicaid is already being cut for needy Americans, and while unemployment insurance has been extended for another year for the chronically unemployed, the tax break for the rich is for not one, but two years. Moreover, the unemployment insurance pay outs are a pittance compared to what families need to maintain a decent standard of living.

Yesterday, while the rich were being bailed out by the “deal” at a cost of $900 billion to the economy, military personnel learned that they will receive their lowest pay increase in 50 years, at 1.4 percent the lowest number since 1962.

There can be no doubt that the impact of the tax cut on the national deficit will lead Republicans to demand immediate deficit-reduction action once the “deal” is passed into law. That will involve a furious push to scale back social safety nets for the poorer and middle class Americans, including Medicare and Social Security.

“These Republicans are driven to take America back to the 1920s,” exclaimed Sen. Bernie Sanders Tuesday, to a time when there was no Social Security, Medicare or other social protections.

While there have always been radical, right-wing crackpots favoring such objectives, now we are living in the time when the crackpots are running Washington, and even while ostensibly in power, the Democrats feel helpless to stand in their way.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]