Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

America and Its Discontents


Three Gallup poll records were shattered this week. First, American satisfaction with government is at a record low—18%. Second, the Republican Party’s favorability rating is at an all-time low of 28%. Third, the highest ever percentage of respondents cited “dysfunctional government” as the number one problem facing the U.S.—above even the economy.

Americans’ discontent is plenty justified. In addition to the government shutdown, a default is imminent, which Bloomberg News says would be “a catastrophe dwarfing Lehman’s fall”. To make matters worse, Republicans are making an agreement on the debt ceiling contingent on cuts to social programs. For example, a letter signed by 51 House Republicans shows they want to use the debt ceiling crisis as a “window to preserve the long-term viability of Social Security”. Translation: cut social security benefits.

The previous page of that letter considers the following ways to “preserve Social Security’s solvency” (another euphemism for cutting benefits):

* Continuing and expanding the phase-in of raising the retirement age

* Adjusting the inflation formula used for calculating future growth

* Means-testing benefits of high income recipients of Social Security

* Gradually restoring the cap on wages subject to FICA to its Reagan-era levels

Each of these represents either a reduction of Social Security benefits or a threat to the program. The labyrinthine wording—e.g. ‘continuing and expanding the phase-in of raising the retirement age’, instead of simply ‘raising the retirement age’—is natural, given how profoundly unpopular and regressive these schemes are. The road to inequality is paved with vague prose.

If the past is any predictor of the future, Obama will give the GOP the benefits cuts that they’re hoping for. Recall that in July 2011, Obama offered to cut Social Security and Medicare by $700 billion in exchange for passage of his “Grand Bargain”—a grandiose term that tries to evoke the New Deal yet represents the exact opposite: cuts in benefits. This was not the only time that Obama has offered to cut both Social Security and Medicare. The Green Party’s chief economic adviser, Jack Rasmus, covers Obama’s numerous attempts at cutting these social programs.

Without a serious social movement like Occupy to ply the demands of the 99%, it is likely that Obama will continue to serve the 1%, the true beneficiary of his administration.  A recent study from UC Berkeley demonstrates that “the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery.” One interviewer confronted Obama with this statistic and even he couldn’t disagree, offering the lame excuse that “the folks in the middle and at the bottom haven’t seen wage or income growth…over the last 15 years”; the implication being that he inherited this problem and that it is a historical fact, out of his control.

Meanwhile the same group that naïvely expects Obama to advocate for their interests in this debt-ceiling fiasco is celebrating his nomination of the supposedly progressive Janet Yellen. One need not read far to realize she represents the same tried and tragic policies of her predecessor. As CNN plainly stated, “her views are considered to be closely aligned with current Chairman Ben Bernanke, and for that reason, the leadership transition is expected to be smooth once his term ends in January.” New boss same as the old boss.

Notable among her professed views is a commitment to the same form of Quantitative Easing (QE) that Bernanke pursued; i.e., giving $13 trillion to banks and investors. Small wonder that American discontent is breaking historical records.

Ken Klippenstein lives in Madison, WI, USA, where he edits He can be reached via email at or on Twitter @kenklippenstein


Ken Klippenstein is an American journalist who can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or by email:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again