Economist Robert Reich’s caustic tweet yesterday said it all. With growing fear-fueled anger stemming for persisting high unemployment, and new waves of economic crises coming from the current, catastrophic budget shortfalls faced by jurisdictions from the biggest federal agencies to the smallest towns, with Wall Street and the super-rich off the hook, all the anger is being focused on only two institutions: government and labor unions. The current threat of a federal government shutdown attacks both.
This is, of course, how Wall Street and the super-rich want it to be. It is with a shocking swiftness that the national discourse shifted fundamentally in the course of a few weeks earlier this year from the debate over extending Bush’s tax cuts to the rich to, now, cutting Medicare and stripping unions of their basic rights to collective bargaining for the purposes of driving down wages and denying benefits.
Many are blaming President Obama for all this, and their arguments are not without merit. It was, after all, Obama who worked so hard to bail out Wall Street and then broke a campaign promise by agreeing to an extension of those tax cuts. Has anyone seen a single job created as a result of those tax cuts?
No, on the contrary, there are an abundance of statistics showing how disproportionately the super-rich have outstripped the middle class in economic gains in the last decade, including one showing their net worth has grown by 300 percent compared to only 25 percent for all the rest of us.
Of course, extending the Bush tax cut to the rich, which added $700 billion to the national deficit, has had absolutely no part of the current, urgent discourse on the need to reduce the federal deficit, and to overcome massive budgetary shortfalls on the backs of working people this spring.
There was a great deception that occurred in Washington in December that both major political parties shared responsibility for foisting on the American public, with the usual willing complicity of a spineless national media. It had to do with the phony “epochal progress” made during the so-called “Lame Duck Session” of Congress.
In reality, it all centered around extending the tax cut to the rich. The intractable Republicans said they’d block every single Obama initiative unless he agreed to that extension, but if he did agree to extend it, they’d throw him some bones on other of his legislative priorities. Obama caved, and the Republicans went along with allowing him to claim a great victory with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and some other measures, all in the name of this phony so-called “bi-partisanship.”
And in his State of the Union, Obama recalled his original electoral mandate, distinguishing between national investment in the future versus business as usual. But as in January 2009, the rhetoric has not translated into reality.