FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Just Another Chicago Player Throwing the Game

by DAVE LINDORFF

If President Obama had been the commander of Allied forces during the invasion of Normandy 1944, he would have cut a deal with the Nazis when they launched the counter-offensive called the Battle of the Bulge, and WWII would have ended in Europe with a divided France and a still-extant Third Reich into the 1950s. If he had been president in 1965, we wouldn’t have Medicare today. If he had been Rosa Parks, black people might still be riding at the back of the bus.

The current president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, commander in chief of the most awesome military the world has ever known, is the most pathetic negotiator in the history of modern politics. Either that or he wants to lose.

During his first term, we watched him inexplicably water down his health reform program before it even got started, removing the option of a Canadian-style state-run insurance program known as “single-payer” from consideration, and then cutting deals with the insurance industry, the hospital industry and the pharmaceutical industry, before going to Congress with a plan that ended up being a gift to all three.

We watched him cave early on in negotiations over a crisis economic stimulus plan in 2009, giving Republicans a $425-billion tax cut that did nothing to boost jobs in return for getting a measly $425-billion in stimulus funding approved.

Now, when he is almost by accident in an unassailable position to have the hugely unfair and damaging Bush tax cuts for the rich finally expire on December 31, leaving Republicans stuck in January with having to pass Democratic legislation restoring tax cuts for just the middle class, he is giving it away, offering gratis an undermining of Social Security benefits for all Americans by way of a subtle change in the way inflation adjustments are made in future benefits.

For years, Social Security payments have been adjusted on an annual basis in accordance with the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ Consumer Price Index. Now Obama is proposing, in an offer to Republicans, that this adjustment be made not based on the CPI, which looks at a typical market basket of goods and services commonly purchased by ordinary people, but on something called a “chained CPI.” In the chained CPI methodology, assumptions are made that when prices rise, ordinary people switch to alternative, cheaper goods and services, so the chained CPI switches what’s in its basket to substitute those. For example, if car prices rise, it is assumed people will buy Fit instead of Civic sedans. If the price of hamburger rises, it is assumed people will switch to chicken or turkey burgers. If the cost of beer goes up, is is assumed people will switch from Heineken to Bud.

Set aside from the reality that for the elderly and disabled on Social Security, the chained CPI probably doesn’t really work, since their major expenses tend to be for things like medical care and drugs, which actually see faster inflation than most goods and services, or for rent or mortgage payments, which do not lend themselves to substitution easily (old and disabled people have a difficult time moving when rents or interest rates rise). The real question is why Obama would give in on this issue when he already has a winning hand by just letting the Dec. 31 deadline on the Bush tax cuts pass.

There is, as the president surely knows, no real crisis in letting the country go “over” the so-called fiscal cliff. Every expert and every politician knows that when that happens, it is not, despite what the scare-mongering talking heads in the media say, going to raise everyone’s taxes. No politician in Washington would dare to let that happen. They will simply pass a tax bill restoring the Bush tax cuts for people with incomes under $250,000.

The difference is that with the old law, which favored the rich, no longer in existence after New Year’s, restoring tax cuts for the middle class and the lower class would require a majority vote in Congress, and that will be easy to obtain. There would be no majority vote for restoring tax cuts for the rich, though, which have been costing the US Treasury over $70 billion a year for the past decade — an amount of revenue more than enough, if applied to the Social Security program, to keep it fully funded into the indefinite future.

As strong as the president’s bargaining position is today, it would be ten times stronger after December 31, because Republicans could no longer hold middle class tax cuts hostage in order to cut taxes for the rich.

And yet, here, once again, we see President Obama surrendering his position before serious bargaining has even begun.

It seems like the only place where this president ever stands his ground is in his insistence on killing lots of innocent people with armed drones in countries around the world that the US is not at war with (Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc.), and on threatening Iran with attack over its nuclear power program.

It would be nice to imagine that President Obama is playing Muhammed Ali’s “rope-a-dope” game of suckering his opponent before clocking him, but I’m afraid it’s not that at all. His behavior in this case looks a lot more like that of Arnold “Chick” Gandil, the notorious Chicago first baseman who orchestrated the throwing of the 1919 World Series by his Chicago White Sox.

Dave Lindorff is a  founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail