Friday, August 5, 2011

Phony Debt Ceiling Con Achieves Its Goals: The Second Civil War in the United States - Will We be Enslaved by Corporate Governance? Mission Half-Done?

[Desperately seeking donations (even as little as $5.00, please) for gas for this blog's continuation!]

President Obama announced that he has averted a crisis with more than a trillion dollars in immediate spending cuts, a number much higher than the value of the stimulus package passed at the beginning of his administration. A bipartisan “super-committee” of perhaps only a dozen Senate and House members will earmark a further $3 trillion in near term budget cuts, which will be submitted to Congress as up-or-down no-amendment, take-it-or-leave-it votes. And should Congress reject them, a round of automatic budget cuts dictated by some unknown formula will ensue. Medicare, Medicaid, social security, environmental protection and much more will inevitably fall.

Thus on the strength of a single vote in Congress drummed up by this fake crisis, the will of the American people has been subverted. Medicare, Medicaid and social security, if put up for popular votes would all win. If Congress had to debate them under scrutiny and take votes in public on them, Wall Street and the corporations would lose and the people would win. But that's the purpose of a modern political “crisis:” to engineer the enactment of measures on behalf of elites that normal political processes would not allow.

Welcome to the future, where a black president has been the indispensable anchor player in the con game that ended the New Deal and Great Society.

After the market's performance yesterday, I have very little patience left to deal with Obama's reverses. Of course, some disinformation agent in The Wall Street Journal whispered to me yesterday (available in his regular rightwing column but not online without a subscription) that Obama's a Leftist! For sure.

Almost makes you think that they are even better at coordinating events than you thought before, doesn't it?

As a matter of conjecture I should share with you that I'm beginning to see Obama as a Greenspan, Jr., character or perhaps a baby Pete Peterson, who haltingly tells us from time to time that things are baaaaddd (or good, but could be better when in the Greenspan persona). And then proceeds to make them much worse. (I just wonder (sometimes, late at night when it's too hot to sleep and the bugs are biting) if Obama thinks he's going to have as secure a retirement as Bush and Cheney. Do they really think that the victims on the bottom who are left with nothing will never strike back?)

Barack Obama and the Debt Crisis: A Successful Con Game Explained

Bruce A. Dixon

August 04, 2011

The phony debt ceiling crisis was, from beginning to end, a con. It was an elaborate and successful hoax in which the nation's first black president, the Democratic and Republican parties, Wall Street and corporate media all played indispensable parts. The object of the supposed “crisis” was to short circuit public opinion, existing law, democratic process and traditions of public oversight, in order to deal fatal blows to Medicaid, Medicare, social security, job growth and public expenditures for the common good. It worked. We've been conned.

President Barack Obama as First Actor in the Con

The key actor in the con was and is Barack Obama, leader of the Democratic party and president of the United States. When the Bush and Obama administrations bailed out the banksters in 2008, 2009 and 2010 they didn't print new warehouses of greenbacks and send them over in a fleet of trucks. The Federal Reserve simply opened its spreadsheets, and wrote numbers with lots of zeroes crediting the banksters' accounts. It literally created the new money by giving it away, and next proceeded to borrow those funds back from the banksters at interest. The debt ceiling crisis was nothing but those same banksters twirling their mustaches and oinking “Well, we don't think you (the government that created the money by giving it to them) can really afford to repay all these loans you've been taking out... We might have to downgrade your credit rating...”

The whole notion of excessive government indebtedness, or that government might not be able, as the president threatened, to issue or cash social security checks was always a crock, a sham. There was never, ever a moment when Barack Obama didn't know that his homey analogies about government having to live within its means just like a family were just cynical fairy tales.

The president could have prevented this “crisis” by passing a debt ceiling when he had a 50 vote majority in Congress for all of 2009 and 2010. He could have avoided it again by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. Instead the president renewed the Bush tax cuts when he had a 50 vote majority in Congress. The president could have defused it in the last month by any of a number of means, including simply calling it fake. But giving away the game is not what actors in a con do.

The Second Actor: Corporate Media

The second key actor in the con was and is the corporate media establishment. Media is nothing less than the sum total of the public conversation. Our corporate media is owned by a tiny group of greedy billionaires and soulless corporations who get to decide what most of us see and hear, what gets in and what gets left out of that supposedly public conversation. So corporate media cynically repeated the bankster's doubts about getting their free money paid back.

Over the years, corporate media moguls had manufactured an entire Matrix-like world of fake “money experts” and economists who assured us in the 90s that tech stocks would never go down, and in the 2000s that real estate prices would never decrease, and always that lower taxes on the rich would trickle down to create jobs for the poor.

For these masters of alternative realities, rebranding the white nationalist wing of the Republican party as “the tea party” portraying it as a mass movement, and riffing on a new/old set of lies about the government going broke were par for the course. Corporate media set the limits of the political discourse inside a false reality - one where the myths that the US government could and might go broke, and where trickle down economics unquestioned facts. It portrayed the only political choices available in that universe as the president's accommodation vs the “tea party's” extremism.

The Third Actors: Republicans and their tea party faction

Every Jeff needs a Mutt, every good cop needs a bad cop. This was the role played by Republicans. Throughout the Obama presidency their job has been to refuse the president's pre-emptive compromises to meet them fifty, seventy, ninety percent of the way, moving the goal ever rightwards. Along the way a secondary function is to gratuitously insult the president, sometimes in openly racist terms, thus enabling some of the president's backers to try to rally black and progressive support around him despite his utter abandonment of any progressive agenda.

The power of Republicans and their tea party subsidiary to dictate the course of events has always been exaggerated. During the first two years of the Obama presidency they had no legislative majorities anywhere and could not even call a committee meeting. Even with a majority in the House since the beginning of this year, Republican power to do damage is always limited by the combined power of the Democratic White House and a large Democratic minority in Congress. Despite the insistence of Republicans and the power of corporate media, the imaginary “debt crisis” would not have existed unless the White House and Congressional Democrats co-signed it into existence.

The Fourth Actors, Hand Wringing Democrats, Progressives, and the Black Establishment

Last week we decided that Barack Obama, far from being weak, vacillating, and too spineless to stand up for the tens of millions of working and poor people who elevated him to office, was simply smarter than they were. Barack knows what side he's on - only Democrats and so-called “progressives” don't know, or pretend not to know.

Every abusive relationship has two parts. There's an abuser, who does what he does, and there's an enabling victim who forgives and makes excuses for the abuser. When Democrats and progressives waste ink and air on President Barack Obama trying to “make him do it” or discoursing on his “weakness” and lack of progressive backbone, they are effectively enabling his serial abuse by ascribing it to curable causes open to democratic remedies rather than deliberate intent and the people-proof mechanisms of their own party and of US governance in general. They enable their abuser.

The most pitiful and sometimes the most unprincipled of these are members of the Black Misleadership Class who support President Obama. The only card they have left is to point to the daily stream of racist quips and quotes from Republicans and tea partyers or Glen Beck, or whoever they can find that day calling the president a White House porch monkey, or some other racist epithet, as the reason to circle the wagons, squelch examination of Obama policies and silence criticism of his many betrayals in office of the cause of peace and justice.

The Directors of the Skit: Wall Street and Corporate America

Was there ever really any danger of the US going broke? The stock market didn't crash. The holders of US Treasury bonds didn't try to unload them with this horrific train wreck a mere 24 hours distant. That was because they knew the train and the tracks were imaginary, they knew it was a hoax. They knew that President Obama could have declared it a foolish stunt and ignored it. They knew they would get their money any damned way.

President Obama expects to raise more than 1 billion dollars in direct financing of his 2012 presidential campaign alone, most of it from corporate sources and from Wall Street. This doesn't count the money going to other Democrats in the House and Senate, or Democratic candidates for governor, for state and county level judges and other offices, for state legislatures and the like. Substantially the same contributors not only fund and own both parties, but also bankroll and dictate the policy positions of organizations like the Urban League, the National Council of LaRaza, and the NAACP.

If you don't think dependence on corporate money, as a politician, or say as the National Urban League, whose keynote address this weekend was delivered by billionaires Bill Gates, makes you subservient to a corporate agenda, you're living in some other world. All the actors in this drama live at the corporate trough. That's it, and that's all.

The Deal: Supercommittees, Automatic Cuts, and Default Governing By Budget Cutting

With all the players acting their parts, the rigged game produced its expected outcome. Contrived in the imaginary universe where trickle down economics are the accepted norm, The Deal contains no new taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

President Obama announced that he has averted a crisis with more than a trillion dollars in immediate spending cuts, a number much higher than the value of the stimulus package passed at the beginning of his administration. A bipartisan “super-committee” of perhaps only a dozen Senate and House members will earmark a further $3 trillion in near term budget cuts, which will be submitted to Congress as up-or-down no-amendment, take-it-or-leave-it votes. And should Congress reject them, a round of automatic budget cuts dictated by some unknown formula will ensue. Medicare, Medicaid, social security, environmental protection and much more will inevitably fall.

Thus on the strength of a single vote in Congress drummed up by this fake crisis, the will of the American people has been subverted. Medicare, Medicaid and social security, if put up for popular votes would all win. If Congress had to debate them under scrutiny and take votes in public on them, Wall Street and the corporations would lose and the people would win. But that's the purpose of a modern political “crisis:” to engineer the enactment of measures on behalf of elites that normal political processes would not allow.

Welcome to the future, where a black president has been the indispensable anchor player in the con game that ended the New Deal and Great Society.

(Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA where he is on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at) The Coming Second Civil War in the United States: Will We be Enslaved by Corporate Governance? Steven Jonas, MD, MPH History never repeats itself exactly. But it makes some pretty decent copies. As I write this on March 29, 2011, we are winding down to the end of the so-called "debt-limit crisis," or the possible end, or the continuation of it, or what have you. Of course what is going on is not really about the debt-limit. It is about the future of the federal government in the United States and its appropriate role. As I wrote in my BuzzFlash@Truthout Commentary on Grover Norquist's wet dream, his 25-year campaign is focused only at the secondary level on taxation. It is primarily about his stated goal of "shrinking the federal government to the size of a bathtub and then drowning it in the bathtub," or as he used to more simply state it: "starve the beast." The "beast" for Norquist is of course not the whole of federal functions. His "beast to be starved" does not include the support of the military-industrial complex, the so-called "drug war" and its off-spring the prison-industrial complex, financial support of the investment and banking industries when needed, and the subsidies for the extractive industries and corporate farming. It is, rather, national domestic spending on support of the elderly, the health care delivery system, education, infra-structure, and at the top of his enemies list, environmental and financial regulation.

This is what the current struggle is about. The GOP and its wholly-owned and most convenient subsidiary/front organization the "Tea Party," serving solely the interest of their single master, the corporate power (a tiny oligarchy, leading their mass support by a clever combination of racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and political religiosity), are simply using the current so-called "debt crisis" as a means to force down the throat of the nation its view of what the Federal government should and should not be doing which it would be extremely unlikely to achieve through the legislative process. Of course no one over there ever reads the statement of purpose of the US Constitution, the Preamble. But that's another story (see my BF Commentary on it at).

Of course President Obama, if he were an old-line Democratic President like FDR, or Harry Truman, or JFK, or LBJ before he was swallowed up his perceived need to polish his "anti-Communist" credentials and expand the War on Vietnam, or even if he were Dwight David Eisenhower, who firmly believed that the New Deal was settled policy and need only to be buffed around the edges, would have made the issue very plain, would have clearly laid it before the nation, would have said something like:

"No, I am not going to let the Republicans and the corporate power they represent crucify the nation on a cross of falsehoods. Yes we do need to cut spending, reduce and eventually eliminate the deficit, and begin paying down the national debt, if for no other reason than that we are currently drowning in interest payment obligations.

And we do need to raise taxes, primarily on the rich and the large corporations, to help us do that. We don't need to 'shrink government,' both eliminating vital functions in education, health, the environment, our infra-structure, and the public services that we depend upon every day to keep our nation humming, and creating additional large numbers of the unemployed. We need to remember that the highest rates of economic growth in our nation were achieved when taxes on the wealthy and the large corporations were at their highest levels, yes during the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s." And so on and so forth. Many readers of the publications in which my commentaries and many others like them appear could write the speech as well as we can, or better.

But Obama is doing nothing of the kind. Obama is playing the Republicans' game. And in so doing he is serving the interests of the corporate power, with slightly different rhetoric, just as they are. But since Obama has been a Democratic Leadership Council front man since the beginning, with slightly different rhetoric from time-to-time (and yes, I was taken in by it too on occasion during the campaign and the early months of his Presidency) it should come as no surprise. But what is his total (un)interest and that of most of the leadership of the Democratic Party in fighting the corporate power leading to? In my view we are hurtling down the corridors of history towards the Second US Civil War.

Sad days for our country, but believe me, sadder days are coming, due to the public actions of the Obama/Boehner Coalition and the private actions of the corporate power that stands behind them. Barack Obama, meet James Buchanan. Citizens United, meet Dred Scott. The corporate power, meet the slave power (a tiny oligarchy like the Corporate power, but able to lead their mass support through the use of racism alone). The Charleston Batteries firing on Fort Sumter, meet the Christian Air Force dropping nuclear weapons on "the sanctums of wickedness." The first Civil War, meet the Second.

James Buchanan, among other things, was likely the first gay President of the United States. A life-long bachelor, he was accompanied in the White House for part of his Presidency by a long-time, also single, male friend. Given the level of homophobia in our country, actively promoted and used for political purposes by the Republicans, he was likely the last gay President for quite some time to come. Much more importantly, he was a Northern (Pennsylvania) Democrat who attempted to stave off the impending violent struggle over the expansion of slavery westward by giving in to the slave power at every turn.

Barack Obama is of course the first US African-American President. Given the level of anti-black/Hispanic/Muslim/you-name-it racism in our country, actively promoted and used by the Republicans for political purposes, he is likely to be the last African-American President for some time to come. More importantly, he was a Northern, so-called "liberal," who attempted at every turn to appease the corporate power, by doing so creating, rather than diminishing, just as the appeaser Buchanan had done 150 years before, the very real possibility of a second Civil War.

In the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Southern-dominated Supreme Court went way beyond the issue that was before them: could a former slave sue to protect his rights. They could have simply said, no, he couldn't because as a slave, former or not, under the Constitution which Michele Bachmann has apparently never read even though she graduated from law school, he "didn't have standing." (Perhaps I am being unfair here. Perhaps she read it, but just couldn't understand its plain meaning in re slavery and slaves.) And they could have let it go at that.

But they went way beyond that to, among other things, declare unconstitutional the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which Thomas Jefferson had called "the firebell in the night warning of future bloody conflict," which banned slavery in the Territories above a certain geographic parallel. The slave power desperately wanted to expand slavery to as many of the future states as possible, not so much because slave-power would be of much real use out there, but because the breeding of slaves and an expanding internal market for them would vastly increase their profits above what growing cotton could bring them.

And so the Citizens United decision, the product of a far right-wing dominated Supreme Court went way beyond what it might have. It might merely have maintained the fiction, created by the railroad lawyers who dominated the Court in the 1880s , that corporations are "people" and as such could contribute money directly to political campaigns, with limits on those contributions imposed by Congress as they are on real people.

But they went beyond that saying that their contributions, if they appeared (ho, ho, ho) to be "issue-oriented," could be a) unlimited, b) made at any time during a campaign, and c) (here's the real kicker) could be made anonymously. Just as the Dred Scott decision vastly expanded the interests and powers of the slave power, so did the Citizens United decision vastly expand the interests and power of the corporate power. At least in the 1860 election, the slave power had a clear opponent. The then newly-minted Republican Party ran on a platform of limiting the expansion of slavery in the territories while making it clear that they had no designs on slavery in the existing states. Of course, Lincoln won and well before he was inaugurated the slave power went to war. This is where the analogy comes to a grinding halt (so far).

Right now there is no national political force, with effective national political leadership, to oppose the corporate power. Whether or not Obama is re-elected (and the Republicans may well prefer to have him remain in the White House, see my previous Commentary, "The GOP's Presidential Dilemma", the corporate power is firmly in control of the organs of the state. And will remain so for quite some time.

But someday, the obvious outcomes of their policies will have weighed heavily enough upon enough Americans that somehow or the other a revolt will start, whether at the ballot box (unlikely, because of the Republican thorough control of that institution through voter suppression and voting fraud) or elsewhere. Then we may well see the modern equivalent of South Carolina's attack on the federal Fort Sumter, although played out by a much more powerful force, let's say the "Christian Air Force" now coming out of the US Air Force Academy, whose leadership might well for openers decide to, let's say, "nuke" such "sanctums of wickedness" as, say, New York City.

What such Second Civil War scenarios might look like in more detail I will get to in a future commentary or two. In the meantime, be afraid; be very afraid.

(Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout (,, Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine (; a Contributor to The Planetary Movement (; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post (; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; a Contributor to Op-Ed (; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad (

And from another sage source:
Hidden Agenda: The "Debt Crisis Plan" Was To Strike a Blow at the National Social Safety Net Shamus Cooke The debt crisis has been averted and people across the globe are breathing sighs of relief. But in the back rooms of the US Congress, politicians are celebrating for a different reason. It's the kind of celebration that erupts when a group executes a complicated plan to perfection. The objective in this case was to strike the first blows against the national social safety net without encountering massive resistance. Mission half-accomplished thus far. Half accomplished because only half of the $2.5 billion in cuts have been decided on. The other half will be sent to a bi-partisan committee where, according to the White House Fact Sheet: "... the committee will consider responsible entitlement [Social Security and Medicare] and tax reform [cuts to entitlement programs]. This means putting all the priorities of both parties on the table – including both entitlement reform [Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid] and revenue-raising tax reform.” If the committee fails to agree on the cuts, they would be automatically triggered, and Medicare would be the target: "...any cuts to Medicare would be capped and limited to the provider side." This means that fewer doctors would accept Medicare patients or they would provide fewer services to Medicare beneficiaries. When it comes to cutting Social Security and Medicare, the Democrats are Republicans (and) are only trying to get their foot into the door. Nevertheless, the potential cuts will have a massive impact on the millions of Americans who depend on these vital services. And if these cuts are allowed to happen unopposed, the possibility of future, more dramatic cuts is certain. Equally bad is that the budget deal makes the unemployment situation even worse. In writing about the effect the cuts would have on employment, a Moody’s analyst predicted that: "The deal announced last night calls for a yearly average of $240 billion in cuts over the next decade. Very roughly, that suggests the new plan would cost around 1.6 million jobs per year during that time. [!]" (August 1st, 2011). This noxious level of contempt for working people was the product of a manufactured crisis, with Democrats and Republicans playing along. How did Obama and the Democrats essentially push through the long-term objectives of the Republican Party? Author Michael Hudson explains on Democracy Now: "... There has to be a crisis. Now, in reality, there is no crisis at all. In reality, raising the debt ceiling has been done for a hundred years automatically. There is no connection between raising the debt ceiling and arguing over tax policy. Tax policy takes many years to work out. All of a sudden, Mr. Obama is going along with the charade of saying, "Wait a minute, let’s create a crisis."... And Wall Street doesn’t like real crises, so there’s an artificial non-crisis that Obama is treating as a crisis so that he can put forth the recommendations of the Deficit Reduction Commission to get rid of Social Security that he has supported all along." (July 22nd, 2011). Thus, it's not true that Obama was "held hostage" by the Republicans. If he told the country only half of what Mr. Hudson explained on Democracy Now, the Republicans would have folded instantly. If Obama would have told the country that the Republicans wanted massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare, instead of purposely hiding these issues, Republican voters would have converged on Capitol Hill with torches and pitchforks. Instead, Obama went along with the charade; because in order for it to succeed, he was required to play a leading role in the drama. Liberal groups and the major labor federations - AFL-CIO and Change to Win - have given a left cover to Obama's far-right policies, wrongly blaming only the Republicans every step of the way. But this willful blindness has its limits. These groups intend to "get out the vote" for Obama in 2012 while ignoring all the damage he's done to working families, while they also ignore all the promises Obama made to them and didn't keep last time. The rank-and-file members of labor unions and liberal groups are among the million of Americans suffering under Obama's economic policies and will not follow their leaders like lemmings over the cliff for Obama's next presidential run. There will be a profound lack of rank-and-file volunteers to campaign for Obama, even as labor union leaders throw away their members’ dues money for the campaign. And because fewer members will campaign for Obama, he will feel less inclined to reward them after (or if) he wins. Instead, he'll again reward Wall Street, meaning, he'll continue to take from working people and give to the rich, further exacerbating the problem. To change this downward spiral for labor and liberal groups a new approach is desperately needed, and can be started in two steps: 1) Put forth independent demands. 2) Wage a real fight for these demands. The most immediate demands for the majority of people are job creation and saving Social Security, Medicare, and the broader safety net including Medicaid. These demands require that revenue be raised by taxing the rich and corporations, since no other group can afford any taxes, and inequality continues to skyrocket. There is a direct link between the decades-long lowering of taxes on the wealthy and corporations and deficits rising on the national and state level. Economist Richard Wolff explains on Democracy Now: "We’re running a deficit because the people who run this society would like us to deal with our economic problems, not by taxing those who have it, the way we used to, but instead by endlessly borrowing from them. And now the ultimate irony, we’ve borrowed so much as a nation from the rich and the corporations, they now are not so sure they want to continue to lend to us, because we’re so deeply in debt. And they want us instead to go stick it to poor people and sick people instead. It’s an extraordinary moment in our history as a nation." (July 29th, 2011). So instead of directly taxing the very rich and corporations, we are borrowing money from them with interest. Much of the money we are borrowing from them was given to them via the bank bailouts; they were given free taxpayer money and lent the money back to the taxpayers, while demanding that programs that benefit working people be slashed! This extraordinary moment requires extraordinary action from working class organizations, including mass demonstrations as part of a sustained, independent campaign. The deficit reduction plan worked out by the cooperation between Republicans and Democrats is not set in stone. Massive, ongoing protests have a tendency to make politicians re-think their policies. Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for Workers Action (
And you had hoped things might calm down after yesterday's market madness? Hope springs anew. _____________________

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