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Posts Tagged ‘medicare’

[UPDATE: Having listened to the President’s speech today, and the way he beat up on Ayn Ryan, I am greatly reassured. He was more the President I voted for, the one I last saw in Tucson. Hardcore Liberals may not be satisfied. But. given the gloomy advance word on this address, I feel much, much better. What happens now, substantively, will tell the tale. But this was a good—and progressive—beginning.]

 

Until recently, with the rise of the Tea Party—and all its factions—our friends on the Right have tended to march in lock step, at least when it counts. Cut taxes, strong defense, keep too many poor black and Hispanic folks from voting, protect the fetus—until it’s born, of course, then it’s on its own.

Democrats? We may not like guns, but we’re experts at forming circular firing squads. And we’re a bit too ideologically diverse for our own good. Any caucus that has Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin in it—well, that’s one Thanksgiving dinner I’ll skip. So, too in the House, you’ve got Heath Shuler and Dennis Kucinich and everyone in between. The expression “herding cats” is overused, but apt. Whatever our qualms about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi—well, would you like their jobs?

Again, the ornery Tea Party has muddied things for the GOP, perhaps enough to drive John Boehner to drink. More. But Team R still has a ways to go before achieving Dem-level discord.

Now, to President Obama. He’s a polarizing figure, isn’t he? And not just in the obvious way. Of course the Right reflexively assaults everything he does, no matter how good for the country it might be. If he cured cancer, they’d whine about crippling the health care and insurance industries; if he found a way to extend life expectancy for another 50 years, the Repugs would be all over the Sunday shows, defending the mortuary lobby.

No, the polarization I refer to is among Democrats, those of us who have more or less supported the President’s pragmatic approach to dealing with an intransigent GOP, and those of us who accuse him of caving and appeasing.

I’ve been squarely in the former, supportive camp (see my last post and many others). Not that I haven’t had my moments of exasperation, when I wanted the President to get fired up, and to drop his apparent obsession with playing the wise, judicious consensus-builder—especially with an opposition so relentless and vicious. But I fear the circular firing squad. I fear that disappointment with Obama will breed apathy, and leave the country at the mercy of the Radical Right.

I see that with an extremist GOP, and a group of possible, maybe, wannabe exploratory presidential contenders ranging from dull to clownish, 2012 should be a slam-dunk. Maybe not as resoundingly as in 2008, but comfortably nonetheless. The last thing we Democrats should do is bicker and divide—and, above all, stay home on Election Day. The 2010 debacle and its terrible consequences, especially on the state level, should be a lesson to us.

But this week, for the first time, I’m starting to lose it with the President.  Clinging to that middle way, courting independents, he has conceded the economic debate to Republicans; when the national conversation should be about investment (ah, the State of the Union seems so long ago), we are harping on austerity—a code word for greasing the wealthy while screwing the rest of us.

The Republicans negotiate by setting their markers far, far to the right. Paul Ryan’s absurd, draconian budget nukes cherished, vital social programs while granting obscene tax breaks under the ruse that rich folks really create jobs (honest!) instead of merely fattening their coffers, and squeezing more work out of the employees they have. Or downsizing further, to please their shareholders.

Now the GOP will set its blackmailing machinery into motion. Make these savage cuts—and preserve those tax breaks—or we won’t raise the debt ceiling. Or we’ll start shooting puppies.

Instead of playing hardball, the President’s impulse seems to be to meet the GOP half way—that is, halfway between center and right, not left and right; if you think as the political spectrum as a baseball park, the POTUS seems to eliminate left field and use the 410-foot mark in center as a starting point. He winds up around the 375 mark in RIGHT center and calls it a victory.

As much as I have supported President Obama, I dread his speech tonight. Rep. Ayn Ryan has given him a golden opportunity­—Americans overwhelmingly love Medicare and Social Security. And need them. I know scores of people­—hard-working, middle class people—who, without those two programs, will wind up either destitute or dead 10 years before their time.

The President should fight for those entitlements with all the ferocity and rhetorical skill he can muster. But I fear he won’t. I fear, in his determination to be the reasonable “adult in the room,” he will lend legitimacy to Ryan’s insanity (like the endless pundits who hail the Wisconsinite’s “courage” in fighting for the poor, beleaguered wealthy). I fear he will concede left field entirely.

And then, while I’ll still vote for him—to do otherwise is madness—I, too, will finally be “exhausted of defending him.”

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An open letter to liberals—and liberals who call themselves progressives.

When the West Coast map lit up brilliantly, beautifully blue on Nov. 4, 2008, pushing Barack Obama over 270 electoral votes, millions of us experienced a wave of political euphoria the likes of which we never imagined we’d live to feel.

Especially giddy were those of us old enough to remember another, bleaker November night in 1980, when a Hollywood second-stringer named Ronald Reagan swept into the White House, ushering in decades of right-wing policies that carried us into wars; greased the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and working poor; empowered a Christian fundamentalist, social conservative revival that threatened to turn the entire country into Dayton, Tenn., circa 1925; and validated a Lee Atwater-Karl Rove politics of the Big Lie and personal destruction that transformed “liberal” into a synonym for weak and unpatriotic—even, paradoxically, to many who tightly embraced liberal programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Oh, we got  jazzed about Bill Clinton and Al Gore in ’92. But Clinton’s centrism—many feel he governed as a Republican—his genuine personal failings and the relentlessly witch-hunting Right would drain much of the promise from his presidency and leave many liberals disappointed.  With the Supreme Court’s election of George W. Bush in 2000, and the 9/11 attacks, liberal Democrats became more cowed than ever.

But with the Obama ascendancy—after eight endless, disastrous years of Bush-Cheney and three decades of Reaganism—it was our turn. A revival. The dawn of a new liberal/progressive era.

Or was it? Many liberals are driven to distraction by President Obama’s almost obsessive desire to rise above the fray, to be the adult in the room, to reach consensus. We’re pissed because he’s too cozy with Wall Street; we’re pissed about the Bush Tax Cut extension; we’re pissed about the lack of a public option in the Health care bill; we’re pissed about Afghanistan, and we’re pissed about Gitmo and Bradley Manning. We’re pissed that he didn’t do more to plug up the BP leak. We’re pissed that he hasn’t done more to back unions in the Midwest. And in the Mideast, we’re either pissed that Obama didn’t intervene quickly enough to help the Libyan opposition—or we’re pissed that he intervened at all.

Now we’re preparing to be pissed—with good reason, perhaps—that our “middle way” POTUS won’t stand up to the Right and its resolve to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and all other remnants of the New Deal—and transform the USA into Kochistan.

Personally I agree with some, though not all, of the above. I remain a strong supporter of the President; perhaps my innate realism/pessimism kept me from expecting—and fantasizing—too much. Maybe President Obama hasn’t been a liberal messiah. But he has been an enlightened leader who has accomplished more legislatively than any President since Lyndon Johnson. This while dealing with a dysfunctional Senate, a rightist-rigged Supreme Court and a conservative propaganda juggernaut that has a frightening percentage of the electorate convinced that he’s un-American—or not American, and therefore not legitimate, at all.

(For more on POTUS’ accomplishments , check out http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com.)

How many of us would trade Obama for the deepest, darkest days of Bush-Cheney. Or a return to Reagan? Or, even more terrifying, any of the rightist ideologues now driving the Republican Party, zealots against whom Reagan himself might well lose a GOP Primary.

Why are we saddled with these Koch-and-corporate backed Teabagging extremists? Why are wingnuts like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann given any legitimacy? Why do we see a GOP House trying to eviscerate women’s reproductive rights; why do we see right-wing governors like Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder Paul LePage and John Kasich wage war on workers, teachers, firefighters and the middle class, while big business and the wealthy get fatter and fatter? Why do we hear about rolling back child labor laws? Why the talk bout “shared sacrifice”—that is for all but the richest Americans, the ones who can afford it? Why are we threatened with the destruction of social safety nets we foolishly took for granted—and for which many of us have paid for many years?

Well, one huge reason was the “enthusiasm gap” in the 2010 midterms. When millions of Democrats and other moderates-to-liberals said “Meh”  and stayed home, while fired up Teabaggers and righty extremists turned out in droves—along with independents who fell for the bullshit they heard on Fox News, and the lies in Koch-Chamber of Commerce-Rove-funded attack ads.

Whatever the level of one’s disappointment with Obama, the experience of 2010 should be traumatizing enough for millions of stay-at-homes not to make the same mistake again. Especially while the GOP is using the “voter fraud” myth to disenfranchise as many young and minority voters—Democratic leaning voters—as possible.

I still believe that in a second term, with a restored Congressional majority, Barack Obama can accomplish even more than he has in the past 26 months. And even if you remain disillusioned, even it depresses you to vote “against” the GOP instead of “for” Obama, as you did in ’08—get over it.

Think of the havoc a Pawlenty, Romney, a Rubio or whoever else can wreak. On social programs and women’s rights. On the middle class and workers. On the already corrupt Supreme Court. On international affairs.

If you think 2010 was bad….

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