I've gone from being an Obama supporter to now firmly believing that every progressive should be in firm opposition to Barack Obama, and that there needs to be political opposition to the Obama agenda and the Democratic Congress by progressives which is as strong as that of the so-called Tea Partiers.
The sad ting is, that we once again find ourselves in a situation where the only few high profile people providing any meaningful analysis of the problems faced by this country are actually conservatives, because there aren't any high profile elected Democrats or Democratic pundits with either enough spine or intellect to make the case against the Republican policies and "free market" ideologies that are destroying the nation's economy.
Instead its left up to people like David Stockman, former Reagan budget director, to make the case. I won't go into too much detail about Stockman's article in the New York Times, nor do I agree with everything that he said, but the point is that Stockman makes the case that underlying fundamentals of the economy these past 30 years have been driven by Republican policy, and that these underlying fundamentals are not just damaging to the economy, but that they are disastrous and fundamentally destructive in profound ways.
As Stockman notes, "But when, in the following years, the Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, finally crushed inflation, enabling a solid economic rebound, the new tax-cutters not only claimed victory for their supply-side strategy but hooked Republicans for good on the delusion that the economy will outgrow the deficit if plied with enough tax cuts."
This is exactly right, and it is what I said in How Reagan Sowed the Seeds of America's Demise. The reality is that the economic recovery that occurred late in Reagan's first term was not a product of Reagan's economic policies, it was a product of the Federal Reserve's policies, and also, which Stockman leaves out, the resolution of the oil crisis which is actually what largely allowed the Fed to be able to take the actions it did to bring down inflation. But yet, while the taming of out of control inflation was the real cause of the economic recovery, it was "Raganomics" that got all the credit, which has since hooked the American right on the idea that the policies of unsustainable tax cuts and giving the farm to the rich actually works.
It never worked. The short-term recovery was a result of getting inflation under control, which was a result of ending the oil crisis, and the longer term "growth" of the 1980s and 1990s was all a debt financed bubble.
But instead of strongly going after these core and fundamental problems and misconceptions, Democrats, led by the Obama White House, have been busy trying to cater to the right and to "honor the Reagan legacy".
Which leads us to Robert Gibbs' now widely parsed comments on the "professional left".
"I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested, I mean, it’s crazy."
"They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality."
As far as I'm concerned this is the last straw.
Firstly, I've never heard any progressive say that we should eliminate the Pentagon, that's just trying to cast Progressives in an undeserved radical light.
Secondly, as has been noted by many others that have commented on the Gibbs comments, Barack Obama himself, when he was running for president, said that he strongly supported a "public option" as part of his health care reform agenda, and he said it again early in the discussions about reform, but then he just easily backed away from it, even though polls showed that a majority of Americans supported the idea as well, and analysis from every meaningful economist including the CBO, concluded that a strong public option would do more to control costs than a plan without a public option. So, the "public option", which is even weak as health care reform ideas go, was not only popular among the American electorate, it was also objectively judged to be more fiscally sound!
But it was dropped without a fight. Why? Everyone on the "professional left" knows why. Firstly because the insurance industry lobbyists flat out told the president that they wouldn't even come to the table if there was a public option, and secondly because the noisy Tea Baggers were already calling him a "socialist".
What Gibbs is apparently saying is that getting good legislation passed is not reality, which is useless.
What made progressives even more angry is that Obama said right from the beginning that a Single Payer system was off the table and not even up for discussion, and that's what a lot of progressives were actually pushing for.
But by taking a Single Payer system off the table Obama made two major blunders. Firstly, it meant that they weren't interested in considering all options to look at what could be the actual best way to control costs and improve heath care, but even more important from at least a political game playing perspective, it meant that they were already starting from a center-right position.
If they had just at least entertained the notion of a Single Payer system and fought for it a little and made the case for it a little, even if only superficially, then they could have "conceded" on Single Payer and moved to a public option as a more "centrist" option.
But instead they tried to start out by outright rejecting the ideas of the so-called "left" and moving to the right preemptively. We all see where that got them, all it did was redefine what was considered "too far left". And that's the real problem with the Obama White House.
Obama is doing tremendous damage to progressive ideas, even more damage than Bush and Reagan did, because Obama is redefining what it means to be progressive. The health care plan passed by the Obama administration is now the definition of a "far left" health care agenda, when in fact its a damned right-wing agenda. Hell he basically did the Republican's work for them by passing what in reality they would have loved to have been able to pass themselves.
If the Republicans had tried to pass the exact same plan that the Democrats just passed every progressive in America would have railed against it as a right-wing give away to big business, but because the Democrats were selling it lots of Democratic voters got on board, pushing what amounts to a right-wing agenda.
The reality is that some of the health care reform ideas of the "professional left" are in fact more business friendly, would control costs more, and, I believe, would have broader public support. For example, some form of government run national health insurance system, even if it also allowed for private insurance companies, as many of the European do, paid for via a direct tax on income, a direct tax on employers, and on sales taxes of "unhealthy items", like junk food, cigarettes, etc., would actually be a boon to American businesses.
If you look at foreign competitors around the world, virtually all of our top competitors in developed nations have national health care systems with universal coverage. Places like Germany and Japan, which outperform the United Stated on exports, are able to do so in part because health care costs are actually cheaper for the companies there.
In both Germany and Japan, and many European countries, employers pay a tax per employee that goes toward health care, but guess what? That tax is relatively simple, straight forward, consistent, and cheap compared to the overhead of providing health insurance faced by American employers.
It's actually cheaper to just pay a tax than it is to shop for health plans, administer the plans, bargain for rates, and of course, still pay much more for the plans themselves than competitors pay in countries with government run/funded universal health care systems. Not only that, but the citizens then get the benefit of never having to worry about losing their insurance due to changing jobs or losing their job, and since the plans are national, not regional (though one could argue that in Europe the nations are like states) you don't have to get different insurance when you move either (within the same country).
These are the types of benefits that Americans and employers want and need, and yet the Obama administration and people like Robert Gibbs call this all some "far-left fairy tale".
And the even sadder thing is, is that the so-called "professional left" in America is still largely clueless. I still see prominent so-called "liberals", people like Rachel Maddow and writers on Huffinton post, etc. talking about how much money the super-rich "make" or "earn", even while they are decrying the incomes of the super-rich.
They miss the whole point.
A recent example, though perhaps not the best, I noticed was an article by Stephen Gandel of TIME (Time for Super Taxes for the Super Rich?).
Stephen states: "The rich make increasingly more of the nation's income. So shouldn't they pay a larger percentage of the income tax."
No, that's the point, the super rich are not making increasingly more of the nation's income, the super rich are taking more of the nation's income.
That's the fundamental issue that still isn't addressed, even by the vast majority of so-called "progressives", "liberals", and "professional-leftists". They keep saying that the rich need to pay more taxes since they are "making" more money, etc. No, they aren't, that's the point!
Stop saying that the super rich are "making" their money, they aren't, and by making such a claim it necessarily sets up the counter augment that taking "rightfully earned" money from anyone, no matter how rich, is bad. And that's a valid point. But the premise is wrong and the left in America still doesn't get it; certainly not any meaningful Democrats, though I think a few get it, like Kucinich , maybe.
What we need to be talking about is the fact that the vast majority of the income of the super rich is not a product of their work, it is not wealth that they produced, it is in fact income that has already been redistributed from the working class to the super rich. It is unearned income in the first place. Taxing it away from them isn't taking hard earned money from them to give it to an undeserving underclass, its taking unearned money that was never rightfully theirs in the first place back and giving it back to the people who really created it to begin with.
That's the point, that's where the discussion needs to be. As long as people keep incorrectly referring to the incomes of the super rich as "earned" the discussion will never move forward and progress won't be made.
As David Stockman said in his assessment of the economy:
"The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector. ... But the trillion-dollar conglomerates that inhabit this new financial world are not free enterprises. They are rather wards of the state, extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives."
Actally they aren't extracting billions, they are extracting trillions.
Can we expect Barack Obama to even approach this issue? Certainly not, but David Stockman, former budget director of Ronald Reagan did...
See also: The Linguistics of Economic Deception