Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Anger turns to Despair

The Political Pagan thanks his readers for their comments on the last post about Obama, and wishes to clarify a few points. First of all, PoPa (as the Political Pagan is sometimes referred to; not to be confused with "Pol Pot," though the pronunciation is indeed similar) is well aware that Obama never promised during his campaign or since to wind down the war in Afghanistan as he did with the American occupation of Iraq. However, PoPa did not think that Obama would follow quite so Bushian (or Cheney-esque) a path, or try so hard to be seen as John McCain's little brown brother, in making war his top priority.

Obama has refused to stand up and fight for important domestic initiatives like a public works-job creation program or a health insurance "public option," instead giving every indication that he is willing to bargain away 50-75% of anything that he believes or once believed in. On the health reform issue, he promised from an early point in the discussions that he would make sure that whatever reform emerged would be "revenue-neutral," a position that ensured we would end up with a watered-down, corporate-friendly piece of shit, which is what we are now left with, after months of fruitless negotiations conspicuously lacking in strong Presidential leadership.

If Obama had been willing to make a strong moral argument for national health care, for example, "As Americans, we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, we have a moral responsibility to take care of each other, and so I am going to insist on a robust national health care policy that takes care of every American, whether powerful interests like the health insurance lobby like it or not," it would have been a much stronger case for serious health care reform. Instead, he let himself and his party get boxed into a fiscal cul-de-sac that cut off any serious hope of reform: "We will achieve health care reform as long as it does not cost anything." Well, you get what you pay for. Ever since that moment, the main point of opposition to any such reform has been that whatever plan is put forward will be "too expensive," will "bust the budget," etc. The same cost-conscious logic was allowed to strip last winter's economic stimulus plan of job-creating schemes, which might have given some real money and real hope to the growing hordes of unemployed, underemployed and foreclosed Americans.

This concern with so-called "fiscal responsibility" would be an easier pill to swallow if it were also applied to another major area of government expenditure, military spending. Here, however, cost is no object, and budget-busting is no crime. While every health care reform plan put forward has been run through the rigorous number-crunching mill of the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) to have its future costs dissected, the costs of Obama's escalation of the war effort in Afghanistan have been strangely exempt from such cost-conscious critiques. The lesson the American public is taught is this: national health care and jobs creation programs cannot be allowed, because they are too expensive, but the war in Afghanistan, including its worrisome expansion into Pakistan via CIA and JSOC drone attacks, is worth every billion.

This is where Obama most infuriates and disappoints PoPa. I see a terrible imbalance in his priorities, giving half-hearted support and weak-kneed leadership for domestic programs, but going to the mat for unlimited war. If the President had been as definite and insistent about health care or job creation programs as he has been about expanding the war in Afghanistan, it might have helped sway the corporate ass-kissing democrats in Congress to support such initiatives rather than look for ways to undermine them while pretending to support them. Imagine if Obama had gone before Congress and said, "I will veto any health care plan that does not include a public option," with the kind of decisiveness he showed in defending his Afghan war policy at West Point and in Oslo.

In short, Obama's greater emphasis on military spending than domestic programs is NOT what he campaigned on. He gave every impression we were going to get something very different from Bush policies, and instead, what we are getting is Bush in blackface. Let's not forget that the corporate and financial bail-outs began under Bush, and have been continued without any great modification under Obama. After a year of horrible unemployment and unending foreclosures, Obama has not produced much in the way of new policies or programs dramatically different from those of his predecessor. As an educator, PoPa has very sadly conclused that their education policies are nearly indistinguishable, looking to increased standardized testing and charter schools as magic bullet solutions, rather than facing the larger issues of chronic underfunding of education across the country.

Both Presidents, as well as Clinton before them, have proven to be all too beholden to corporate interests, whether these be the corporate interests of Wall Street, or those of the military-industrial complex from Blackwater to Halliburton, and all too willing to reply to the problems of economically stressed Americans with flimsy promises and optimistic rhetoric divorced from concrete action. When Obama had his chat with the heads of the leading financial service and banking companies, and urged them to do more to lend to small businesses to create more jobs, I had a sickening sense of deja vu. This is just the kind of thing Bush used to do. It makes for nice public relations, but is there anything else to it?

PoPa also feels that Obama is sadly contradicting himself on his former desire to move American foreign policy into a more diplomatic and multilateral, less militaristic and unilateral direction. His insistence that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran must do what America wants, and never mind their own political, economic and national security concerns and needs, is not exactly a shining example of multilateral diplomacy. Sure, he is doing some of that, but as long as he pursues a war-mongering policy in Afghanistan, his Nobel Peace Prize is going to become an increasingly ironic honor.

Obama and Bush, buddies in war. Eisenhower was right: "Beware the military industrial complex." I don't think we need to have elections anymore. Just have the Supreme Court appoint a President from the military, and a Vice-President from Wall Street, and the result will be much like what we now refer to as "democracy."


Anonymous said...

ALL of those elected clowns have their price.

Which stands to reason.

Campaigns are expensive. So these people look to investors to pay for their campaigns - and who's got the cash?

Big corporations like oil and health insurance.

Once someone gets elected, he or she is beholden to the corporations who paid for their campaign. Not the people for electing them. The people didn't even truly elect them; they chose whatever candidate they liked best from among the ones that the corporate-controlled mainstream media offered to the public.

I've long said that the 2008 election was bought.

What can I say? It's why I did support Kucinich from early, early on.

I can only hope that with things like blogs, YouTube, and other forms of alternative media, the word will get out about lower-profile candidates who might actually be better for the nation.

That, and there are a few other things America needs to get cracking on:

1: End corporate personhood at once
2: Take control of the Presidential debates away from the Commission on Presidential Debates (a partisan organization that wrestled control away from the League of Women Voters in 1988) and give it into the hands of a nonpartisan group like Citizens' Debate Commission.

And that would just be a start.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

We have been living in a corporate oligarchy for quite some time now. The people have not gotten angry enough to counteract the astro-turfed teabaggers who show up armed and dangerous at town hall meetings.

We are a nation divided. Idiocracy vs everyone else and that is overshadowed by very rich and influential puppet masters.

The people are not willing to be informed active citizens. It seems to me that most either go one way or the other, either active or informed, but rarely both with a third party of apathetic whiners who do neither.

We have the government we deserve. Don't you find it ironic that the American Public had the balls to criticize the Iraqi people for "not wanting Freedom enough" when clearly our population doesn't want it either. Otherwise the people would have taken the reigns back by now.

Matt BP said...

perhaps the problem for the Obama admin is that Bush has left them in a hole as far as Afghanistan is concerned. America, after all of this, can't afford a loss. You can argue that its already lost, seeing as there has been negligable gains made for such a huge expenditure, especially when the price of heroin hasn't even been affected by the war torn state of Afghanistan, but then perhaps that because its always been war torn anyway. Or possibly the opium producers in Tasmania picked up their game and capitalised on a wide open market, which would be ironic, seeing as Tasmania is part of a 'free' country.
M, its good to see you back in action on here, but this isn't really about Pagan or Heathen ideals, its about wanting 30 or more years of american foreign policy to change because you were swept along by an idealogue. So was I, so was everybody else. I guess that its a good thing Obama can at least string a coherrent sentence together.

Paul said...

In your last post I asked; What can we, as heathens, do to stop the "business as usual" attitute of those in power? I feel like this question needs to be thrown out there again.

I'll freely admit that my personal political affiliation is libertarian; but, I feel open dialogoue is important among all groups of perople. We've seen what happens when people of Pagan beliefs enter the public sphere; they are riduculed and marginalized. You've said it yourself; as a university professor you were uncomfortable admitting your own stance on Paganism.

It seems like most viewers of your blog are unhappy with Americas current political situation. How can we, as Heathans, act upon our feelings in a way where we will be taken seriously?

Maelstrom said...

Paul, I have to confess that right now, I don't see a specifically or exclusively "Pagan" response to the political crisis that we are in. I hope to make common cause with left-wing Pagans to push for something like European social democracy, but I expect that I am as likely to find like-minded folk among Socialists and Greens than among Pagans, at least in America with its overwhelming right-wing orientation. I also have to say that while I know that many American Pagans, particularly Asatru types, seem drawn to libertarianism, I personally find it a dead end. It seems to go along with a philosophy of radical individualism that just leaves us disunited and self-absorbed, easy prey to the power of multinational corporations to bend the world to their will. I see a powerful need for collective action, with labor unions one source of hope, though of course they have their problems and limitations too. Pagan-wise, I continue to ponder how Scandinavia evolved from Viking times to its current semi-Socialist state, and whether this represents a radical break from the past, or a continuation and fulfillment of the Viking spirit.

Paul said...

Couldn't it also be said that a government can bend to the wills of their corporate masters just as easily as single person could? or even that a government could be even more suseptable to manipulation since power is concentrated in a small group of people?

I, too, see a need for collective action to solve our preceived problems; However, I see the solution as a collection of individuals willingly working together in a commly held belief.

Personally I think that is how scandinavia evolved into a semi-socialist state. It began with individuals who chose, of their own free will, to work twords a common goal. Eventually, it transformed into individuals who were compelled, by a centreal government, to work twords a common goal.

Most libertairians i've met, myself included, are not "rudded individualist" per say. We just beleive in vouluntary serive instead of compulsatory service.

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