FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Democrats and the Fiscal Cliff

by SHAMUS COOKE

Literally the day after the election a sudden “urgency” gripped the nation: the imminent danger of the so-called “fiscal cliff” — the national automatic tax increases and spending cuts due in January. The media screamed that the suddenly approaching fiscal cliff would trigger a recession, forcing Democrats and Republicans to consider a “grand bargain” budget deal to avoid disaster.

Of course the fiscal cliff was looming throughout the presidential campaign; politicians simply agreed not to talk about it, since they shared — more or less — the same very unpopular “grand bargain” solutions: austerity cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other popular social programs.

Yes, Obama talked incessantly about the rich “paying their fair share” during his campaign, but he greatly exaggerated his willingness to make this happen, as well as the real differences between the Republicans and Democrats when it came to fixing the deficit.

This fact is revealed by the pro-corporate grand bargain that Obama nearly brokered last summer to fix the fiscal cliff.

The New York Times explains:

The White House agreed to cut at least $250 billion from Medicare in the next 10 years and another $800 billion in the decade after that, in part by raising the eligibility age. The administration had endorsed another $110 billion or so in cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs, with $250 billion more in the second decade. And in a move certain to provoke rebellion in the Democratic ranks, Obama was willing to apply a new, less generous formula for calculating Social Security benefits, which would start in 2015.

There you have it. Obama was already guilty of everything he accused the Republicans of during his presidential campaign. His “tax the rich” demagoguery was mainly for show, the exact same promise he broke after the 2008 election.

Some Democrats are already preparing to help Obama break the 2012 promise. The New York Times reports:

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, extended an olive branch to Republicans, suggesting Thursday that he could accept a tax plan [to fix the deficit] that leaves the top tax rate at 35 percent [leaving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in place].

And although Obama has vowed to stay firm over taxing the rich (this time), his toughness is only skin deep, and comes with dangerous strings attached.

For example, Obama only wants to tax the rich enough to be able to sell the grand bargain to the American public; any grand bargain will include historic cuts to cherished national programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and Obama wants to avoid some of the outrage by claiming that the rich were forced to share in the “sacrifice” too.

This is the “balanced approach” to deficit cutting that Obama discusses, meaning that he wants to raise some revenue from the rich while also making gigantic cuts to social programs.

But in a society racked by massive inequalities, this kind of “balance” is ludicrous. The rich, the banks and other corporations have accumulated trillions of dollars that, if taxed at high enough rates, would easily make ANY cuts to social programs unnecessary.

The nation is not broke, but much of the money has floated to the top. And while Obama is striving to pass a largely symbolic “tax the rich” measure as part of his grand bargain, he’s doing so only to push forward the massive cuts.

This is the political context that makes the demands “No Cuts, Tax the Rich” incredibly necessary not only to Labor and community groups but to all working people, who would be able to unify and fight these austerity cuts by organizing nationally coordinated demonstrations and putting forth the pro-worker solution of No Cuts, Tax the Rich to address the Fiscal Cliff and all future austerity budgets, whether they occur on a city, state, or national level.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has already put out a call to working people to organize and “fight like hell” to prevent any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Labor and community groups must immediately stop celebrating Obama’s election victory and quickly start mobilizing their members against his anti-worker agenda, lest they spend the next four years crying about the coming “historic betrayal.”

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail