Plutocrats Win. Flawless Victory.
When I was a kid I used to play a video game called Mortal Kombat which involved two players engaged in a violent fighting match. Every time you hit your opponent it would drain them of hit-points, and the first player to run out of hit-points would lose the match. If you could defeat your opponent without them landing a single hit, it was called a “Flawless victory”. That’s what the plutocrats will have scored if the debt-ceiling deal currently on the table goes through.
Yes, the plutocrats. Not the Republicans. The media has been framing this as a death-match between Democrats and Republicans from the beginning, but that’s an inaccurate picture of what’s really going on, as it assumes that not only are the parties united internally but that they fundamentally disagree politically. Not so. Nearly all Republicans are bought-and-paid for by their wealthy donors from Wall Street and other Big Business interests (whom I refer to under the umbrella of “plutocrats”) and a majority of Democrats are owned by the same interests as well. The fight in Washington has not been Republicans vs. Democrats but rather Corporate Republicans and Corporate Democrats vs. the Economic Interests of the American people.
Unless he’s the most incompetent negotiator in the history of politics, it should now be completely apparent to everyone paying attention that Barack Obama has been playing for Team Plutocrats all along. You can go all the way back to his appointment of Tim Geithner and other Wall Street insiders to his economic team if you want evidence of that, but you really need look no further than his behavior over the course of this debate to make that determination.
Instead of doing what a liberal, a progressive, or any rational independent-thinking person would do in the midst of an economic recession and insist on holding off on spending cuts until unemployment goes down, then pushing hard for programs aimed to do just that, President Obama went into this process already agreeing with Republicans that spending cuts should be the top priority. So instead of the debate being Job Creation vs. Spending Cuts—a debate that any president could easily win—he turned the debate into Spending Cuts with Minor Revenue Increases vs. Spending Cuts Alone. And guess what? Spending Cuts Alone wins. Flawless Victory.
Why is that a victory for the plutocrats? Because the more money that gets cut out of the public sector, the more goes to the private sector. Cut government programs that help the poor and middle class and those citizens will be forced to go to the private sector to get those services, and they’ll find themselves charged a hell of a lot more by these profit-driven industries. A balanced budget is a good thing, but a deal that balances the budget on the backs of middle class workers and senior citizens while asking absolutely nothing in return from the wealthiest Americans and corporations is an abomination.
This is the deal on the table, according to the Huffington Post:
The deal calls for a first round of cuts that would total $917 billion over 10 years and allows the president to hike the debt cap — now at $14.3 trillion — by $900 billion, according to a presentation that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made to his members. Democrats reported those first cuts at a figure closer to $1 trillion. It was unclear Sunday night why those two estimates varied.
The next round of $1.5 trillion in cuts would be decided by a committee of 12 lawmakers evenly divided between the two parties and two chambers. This so-called super Congress would have to present its cuts by Thanksgiving, and the rest of Congress could not amend or filibuster the recommendations.
But if the super Congress somehow failed to enact savings, the measure requires automatic cuts worth at least $1.2 trillion. Those cuts would be split equally between military and domestic programs. Social Security, Medicaid and programs for the poor would be spared, but Medicare providers — not beneficiaries — would take a hit.
At first glance you might think this sounds somewhat reasonable. At least the cuts would spare Social Security and Medicare recipients…right? Doubtful. Cuts to providers will almost certainly affect recipients anyway, and even if they don’t this whole “super Congress” idea is designed to correct that apparent oversight. Twelve lawmakers evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans? How many of those Democrats will be corporate-owned? It’s practically guaranteed that at least one of them will, thus handing the majority to the plutocrats who can make sure cuts to Medicare and Social Security do affect beneficiaries and not just providers. If it’s a choice between that and the threat of these automatic ticking time-bomb cuts going off, of course they’ll accept whatever so-called “compromise” is put in front of them.
The most telling thing about this whole deal is the president’s reaction. Naturally, he doesn’t like the deal, but here’s the reason why:
President Obama seemed especially dissatisfied with the idea of the super committee, saying the leaders should have been able to accomplish all the cuts now.
"Is this the deal I would have preferred? No," Obama said. "I believe that we could have made the tough choices required — on entitlement reform and tax reform — right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process."
He’s upset because it doesn’t cut enough. He wanted to cut your entitlements now, presumably so he could claim credit and brag about what a reasonable, middle-of-the-road, fiscally-responsible centrist moderate he is. “Look at me! You said I was a socialist but I just made cuts to entitlement programs that not even George W. Bush could accomplish! Does the Washington press give me credit for ‘leadership’ now?”
If I hear any pundits try and spin this as a victory for President Obama—“He was able to bring Republicans to the table in the end and he came off looking like the adult in the room”—I’m going to have to fight very hard to stifle the impulse to throw something at my television.
Obama is now handing the plutocrats and their Republican Party stooges one of the biggest political victories they’ve scored in a generation. The cuts they’ll end up getting will actually be more than they originally asked for, and there will be absolutely no revenue increases whatsoever—not so much as the closing of a corporate-jet loophole. The plutocrats get everything they want—or at least a clear path towards achieving everything they want—and the progressives who are the only ones actually fighting for the economic interests of the American people—get absolutely none of what they want.
And keep in mind that this whole thing was all for the sake of getting Republicans to vote for something that they’ve voted to do every single year prior to this one, purely as a matter of procedure. In order to get the Republicans to agree to pay the bills that Congress has already accumulated, Obama has handed them a deal sweeter than their corporate masters could ever have imagined.
As I wrote in my last piece, Obama could have put a stop to this at any time, either by invoking the 14th Amendment or referring to a clause in the Public Debt Deal of 1941 that gives him the power to direct the Treasury Secretary to pay the outstanding bills without any approval from Congress at all. There was never any “debt crisis” in the first place, but by acting like there was and playing along with the Republicans throughout the whole process, he’s not only given away the farm this time around but set the stage for the plutocrats to get even more of what they want by doing the same thing again in the future. For Obama, who has been working against his own team from the beginning, this is truly a Flawless Defeat.
If you’re as angry about this as I am, call your representatives and tell them to vote against this deal. Don’t worry—the United States will not default on its debt. The plutocrats would never have allowed that to happen in the first place, which is the biggest reason this whole thing has been nothing more than a charade. They’ve only allowed their puppets in congress to dangle this bluff in front of the American people (with the help of the Tea Party who’ve played their role throughout this process perfectly…if unwittingly) to make it seem as though some kind of “debt ceiling deal” was necessary. No deal was necessary. No deal is necessary now. They can raise the debt ceiling without any deal, and if push comes to shove they will.
If Democrats block the deal, it will force the president’s hand. He can not let the United States default on its debt—it would be political suicide and the plutocrats wouldn’t allow it anyway—so he will have no choice but to act unilaterally to get the Treasury Secretary to pay America’s bills and put an end to this nonsense once and for all. Not only that, but setting the precedent that the president can bypass Congress on this issue will prevent these shenanigans from ever happening again in the future, taking one more card out of the plutocrats’ hands.
It would probably hurt the president politically in the short term (he’d be instantly slammed as a “dictator” by the right-wing), but I think a bold move like that would actually help him in the long-term, and I think if he takes this deal his hopes for re-election are over anyway. No one is going to care how reasonable he looks—if the economy is still struggling come Election Day 2012 (and if these cuts pass there’s no doubt that it will be), he’s going to lose handily.
But I’m beyond the point of caring. No Republican president would have been able to accomplish such a massive surge of upward-wealth-redistribution because the Democratic Party would have had to stand united against such a thing. These Democrats will go along with the president simply because they’re in his party and they don’t want to stand up to him.
But why should we, the American people, care if we’re hurting the president politically when all he’s doing is hurting us economically? If he really and truly had no choice but to accept this abomination of a bill, you could make an argument that we should have his back. But he didn’t have to accept this at all, and he still doesn’t. We just have to force him not to.
Unfortunately, I don’t think our phone calls will be enough to stop this bullet-train now. The plutocrats are already making their phone calls telling everyone to get in line and let them take their Flawless Victory. And as long as most Americans are still too lazy, stupid, or uninformed to care enough to finally rise up and push back against them, their victories will continue to be flawless.