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Hope Fades Away

Posted Dec 07 2010 8:31am

Crabby Old Lady writes today as an American citizen with a deep belief that the business of our government should be most concerned with the underdog, the least among us who are not blessed with wealth or health or power. Those who have such attributes can take care of themselves.

Crabby believes that we – the people and the government – have an obligation to help the rest maintain a basic standard of living which includes food and shelter, of course, and also to enforce a reasonable balance between the haves and have-nots so as many as possible are free from want.

The person with the highest responsibility for this is the president who, even in the worst of times, has – or should have, if he will use it - the power and political know-how to lead the country toward these ends. (See FDR on the New Deal, Social Security and fear itself.)

Crabby spent eight years avoiding the face and voice of George W. Bush. Beginning with his first inaugural address, she read rather than watched whatever she thought might be important to know because she could not bear his ignorance, his crude manner of speech and his sneering, frat-boy attitude.

Two years ago, she thought she was done with that, but now finds herself avoiding President Obama, disappointed with his failure to live up to his campaign billing. Yes, he is more presentable on the world stage than his predecessor and he seems to have a better grasp of complex issues, but Crabby Old Lady wonders now if he can lead a horse to water, let alone 300 million hurting people on a long and treacherous road to recovery.

He seems not even to try.

Still, until recently, Crabby clung to the belief that the man she voted for would come through for the people as promised.

In romance, in friendship and, now she knows, in politics too, her love dies hard. At first, like that woman, Velma Hart, who told the president to his face that she was tired of apologizing for him, Crabby felt herself being let down by Obama. Then, when she realized he is either not what he claimed during the campaign or is too weak to live up to his own rhetoric, she felt betrayed.

Crabby has lost heart with the man. On every issue he has caved to the far right. A few points:

Crabby is gradually coming to see that the bailout of the the too-big-to-fail banks may have been necessary. (See Matt Taibbi's Griftopia for easy-to-understand explanations.) Nevertheless, she is suspicious when the people who advise the president on economic matters are, to a man, part of the Wall Street/Washington revolving door and some are holdovers from the Bush administration.

Further, Crabby finds it unconscionable that no bankers have been indicted for their years of rigging the system for themselves, possibly illegally, (see, again, Griftopia) and that the people – mostly men – who did this were not just left in place at their banks after the truth emerged, but were also allowed to continue receiving their extravagant salaries and bonuses.

This was done while the government, with Obama's acquiescence, gave the banks trillions of dollars in close to no-interest loans while they jacked up credit card interest rates to 30 percent and walked off with ordinary people's homes based on fraudulent mortgages. Did you see any action from the president? Crabby didn't.

Now, this year's Wall Street bonuses are said to be the largest ever while CEOs continue to whine that the Obama administration is treating them badly. The president has nothing to say about this either.

Even before debate in Congress began, Obama gave away the public option, and in secret meetings he had previously said would be televised, cut a deal with big pharma to give them billions in new revenue over coming years.

Then he sat back for a year while Republicans turned health care "reform" into another billion-dollar giveaway to the insurance companies, never using his bully pulpit and other resources to demand equity for the people.

Last week, we learned that the state of Arizona (you know, the one with the Republican governor who believes there are headless bodies in the desert) has cut off all organ transplants to Medicaid patients resulting in one 37-year-old father being snatched almost right out of the operating room and tossed out of the hospital to go home and die.

Not a word or any suggestion of help from our president. Although from a different political source than she accused, apparently Sarah Palin was right about death panels.

It took only about 10 minutes after the president's cheery announcement last week about new-found bipartisanship with Congressional Republicans that its leadership said they would block any and every Democratic bill until the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich are extended.

And so they have done, including a bill to feed poor and hungry children without a peep from the president who ran off to visit troops in Afghanistan while the Republicans trashed the extension of unemployment benefits. There is plenty of time to visit the troops before Christmas.

Only a couple of months into Obama's presidency it was obvious that Republicans, a minority in both Houses then, had no intention of cooperating with the president and his party. Ever. Yet the president has not stopped harping on bipartisanship.

What does it take for him to see that Republicans have declared war on him and the Democrats and that it is time, finally, for him to fight?

This is the president's commission. He created it and appointed the members, some of whom are connected to Peter G. Peterson, the billionaire who has spent 20 years and much of his wealth trying to destroy Social Security.

The Commission's report sets out a plan for Social Security that will eventually reduce payments to beneficiaries by 30 percent. And not just future beneficiaries. It also recommends a different calculation for cost-of-living increases that will reduce yours and Crabby's benefits which are already among the lowest in the developed world.

Keep in mind that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit; it is self-funded by the workers of the United States. But even though the Commission's report did not get enough votes to require Congress to consider it, the president said he would study the recommendations as he prepares the next budget:

"We must correct our fiscal course," he said. "It will require cutting the spending we don't need in order to invest in what's necessary to grow our economy and our middle class. It will require all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to find common ground."

Crabby is wondering if he thinks Social Security is "spending we don't need." It appears to be time to brace for another Obama bipartisan cave.

The official unemployment rate jumped .2 percent in November to 9.8 percent. But "official" is not a synonym for correct and everyone should know by now that when part-timers, underemployed and discouraged workers are counted, the rate edges toward 20 percent – one-fifth of the workforce.

In addition, we are told there are five applicants for every available job in the U.S. and hardly any new jobs each month. What's an unemployed person to do when the jobs don't exist, the president does nothing create any and doesn't even offer a Clintonian, "I feel your pain"?

Last week, Congressional Republicans held hostage an extension of unemployment insurance to the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. The first, it is said, would add $60 billion to the deficit while the latter would add an estimated $700 billion.

That seems, in our straightened times, an easy choice; rich people can swallow the taxes without stressing their lifestyles much and given the current circumstances of everyone else, so what if it did?

By the time Crabby Old Lady was putting this post to bed in the late afternoon yesterday, President Obama announced a "framework agreement" with Republicans: extend jobless benefits for 13 months but at the cost of extending the Bush-era tax cuts, including those for rich people, for two more years.

This is pathetic. And it is the Republicans - those folks who keep shouting about the deficit - who blackmailed the president into continuing these tax cuts for the rich and he fell for it. He caved. Again.

Let's fantasize for a moment. If the president had played hard ball by demanding an end of tax cuts for the rich and extending unemployment benefits, does anyone believe the Republicans would kill it the deal? Really? And go home to their states for Christmas where 10 percent, and more in some cases, are out of work?

If Crabby were president, she'd make that gamble. She believes that if the president stood his ground, the Republicans would not be able to withstand the fury of their constituents.

Apologies for the language, how many millions of destroyed lives will it take for the president to tell rich assholes and their Congressional sycophants that it's time for them to do their part to help the recovery and suck it up?

(Just in passing, according to a CBS News poll released on 2 December, only 26 percent of Americans support extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone. But no one in Washington is listening to the people, least of all the president.)

A friend with whom Crabby Old Lady is basically on the same political page supported Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign of 2008. His reason? She has balls, he said, big ones along with hard-won political savvy that Crabby's friend found lacking in Obama.

Crabby has come to agree, especially now while watching Clinton's steady, smart response to the recent Wikileaks documents. She's doing a great job of handling the overblown hysteria about them.

Crabby is far from the only one who has given up on Obama and in the comments on Saul Friedman's Gray Matters column on Saturday about Obama and the Deficit Commission, Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge wrote:

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that Obama, while a great orator, is not a great leader. He doesn't stand for much of anything since becoming president. Instead of using his bully pulpit, he is still reaching for a compromise that the Republicans gleefully won't give him...

"More than a symbolic gesture is needed and it is now too little too late to get anything done."

Jan Adams of Happening Here followed up:

"Darlene has said it for me. Obama is a bust, captive to conventional wisdom that rewards the rich at the expense of most of us...

"After a siege of working from the inside, it's back to hammering the system from the outside if we want a decent life for ourselves and our loved ones."

Crabby is with both of them except that she has lost energy for the moment for hammering. At a time in history when we need leadership both tough and compassionate, President Obama looks like a beaten man, cowed by the Republicans, ready to meet any of their demands and even offer his own.

His apparent attempt at conciliation last week – freezing federal wages for two years – is ludicrous. He makes himself even weaker by punishing secretaries and postal workers, moreso with no economic or political gain from it.

And maybe the man so many of us believed could intelligently lead the nation out of its dark days is not as smart as we thought. On Sunday, Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism related this story:

"I met a law school classmate of Obama’s last week, and heard the long form version of reports on his conduct then: he’d get up and consistently make completely pedestrian, middle of the road comments (his classmate put them on the order of “rain is wet”)."

Which is a pretty good description of Obama's public statements in general.

Crabby Old Lady expects Republicans to be reprehensible in their mean-spirited and self-serving support of corporations and the wealthy. She did not expect a man who gained the presidency on the soaring rhetoric of hope to so completely dash it for everyone else.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: Whoopee! Not Wimpy!

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yesterday, I forgot to include a link to the day's Elderstory. Although I added it later, people who subscribe via email or RSS did not receive it, so here is the link: The Day "Joe" Almost Got in Woman Trouble .

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