And yes, you’re probably going to be a victim, if not immediately, sometime in the future. That’s unless Obama does the uncharacteristic for him, at least so far, and fiercely pushes back against the several false assertions driving decisions in Washington: a) reducing spending rather than increasing it or maintaining it is a prescription for economic health. b) the deficit is so large action must be taken immediately. c) Social Security is part of the deficit problem. d) Obama’s Health Reform will not reduce the deficit. e) the middle-class is clamoring to have its safety net dismantled. f) Republicans care about deficits and spending. g) low taxes for the wealthy and smaller government create jobs. I’ll stop before you reach for the throw-up bag.
Obama is going to address the deficit today, and rather than waiting on pins and needles I’m waiting on spikes, shards of glass and razor blades. Obama is a brilliant and charismatic man. But the Man of Steel he ain’t, not so far at least. No one really knows what actually will be in his proposals though there are rumors and floated hints. Supposedly there are tax hikes for the wealthy in the plan. But if this movie is like the last several, the administration put them there only in order to negotiate them away fairly quickly. And like previously, what the administration gets in return won’t be bupkis, but pretty close.
Purely in political terms, Obama could make the mother of all contrasts with Republicans’ budget plans, especially Paul Ryan’s budget from worlds beyond. In fact, given that Ryan’s plan and other Republican plans shred the middle class safety net into a pile of threads, and all but chases the nation’s most vulnerable down the street with baseball bats Obama has the opportunity to politically crucify Republicans for their whopping overreach, a crucifixion I will pay to see.
I’m not encouraged on the basis of recent history. Obama’s customary response to Republicans so far is along the lines of Bernie Madoff telling you in advance he’s going to swindle you out of your pants and then deciding it’s politically required, or even advantageous to go ahead and take the hit. Or maybe it’s as though John Boehner had a plastic, toy gun stuck in Obama’s back and demanded he cough his wallet up, or get shot. Obama reaches around and feels the gun, but despite knowing it’s a plastic, flips the “crafty” Boehner the dough.
In some ways this is a historical moment you have to pinch yourself to remind you it is really happening. After the devastation of the Great Depression, the enormous human suffering not only caused directly by it, but the deep vulnerability of much of our population it revealed, the nation began to cobble together and carefully construct a system of protections, a safety net. It was a worldwide depression, and other modern nations embarked upon a similar course, shaken awake by the depth of the crisis to a persistent and raw vulnerability so many citizens lived with every day of their lives under modern economies.
This safety net was not erected on a whim, but as a means to address real and critical realities. It was conceived as a way to mitigate the damage to citizens from economic forces beyond their control, and in fact from some of the vagaries and cruelties of nature itself that can render life so brutal for the old, the weak and the afflicted.
Unable to see into the minds of the conservative ideologues who now drive the actions and positions of the Republican Party, it’s impossible to know whether they simply do not know the actual history behind the safety net, are unaware of conditions for many Americans in the country before the depression and the New Deal or are simply so intoxicated by ideology that history and reality are beside the point, and are given nary a thought.
But indeed it is genuinely shocking, and in these times you would think it is impossible truly to be shocked, to think the nation really could go back, literally, many, many decades, to a time when thirty percent of the elderly lived in poverty, and many more suffered with severe hardship, when Americans did in fact starve from lack of means, and many, many of the old, the sick and the poor died from lack of medical care. Indeed it is beyond tragedy that political dynamics could reach such a state in these United States, that the nation would set itself back so very far, so thoughtlessly and foolishly return to a time and to the problems America worked hard, if not to overcome, to manage with some modicum of effectiveness and dignity. Such were the accomplishments that fortified America into something special, especially its middle class.
Maybe I’m unduly pessimistic and Obama will fly in with his cape flapping in the wind and save the day…or at the least push a dresser against the door to keep the beasts at bay. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes.