May 2011, Week 4


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Thu, 26 May 2011 23:45:59 -0400
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His Home is Not My Home

by Carl Bloice,
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

The Black Commentator

May 26, 2011 - Issue 428


What will it take to Bring Obama Home?
Moving Left - Part 9

Maybe it depends on where home is. It's not where I am. I'm
to the left of Obama. Quite a bit. When Obama refers to "my
friends on the left" he's telling us two things: he has some
and that's not where he's at. I knew it all along and that
still didn't stop me from welling up when he made that first
speech to his party's convention. I was reminded of the
source of that emotion the other night watching the PBS
documentary on the Freedom Riders when Robert Kennedy said
someday there would be a black president. None of us thought
it would happen so soon. When it did most of us were pleased
and proud of the brother, in a way that I think a lot of
white people have trouble relating to.

Home? The place we should be talking about, I think, is the
place he himself described in the campaign, the place he
said he wanted to take the country when he asked for our
votes and our money. He promised "change" and we crossed our
fingers. He said he would end the foreign wars and we pulled
the lever by his name. He said he would attack poverty and
bring relief from some of the burdens working people
increasingly have to bear and we thought: well hold you to

Now I'm not saying he hasn't accomplished anything. Some
positive things have happened since he moved into the White
House. And I do think he is trying to find a way out of
Afghanistan. And, yes he's been stymied at every turn by
members of the opposition party that shape their policies
around making him fail, and some members of his own party
that lend them a helping hand. And they are egged on by the
legions of the reactionary and racist right. And these
people are a real danger.

Yet we are very disappointed.

As others have said, most of us ardent about to add to the
undermining of the Obama presidency and most likely we are
going to pull that same lever again. But I think there is
something at work here that is very fundamental and it
relates to the Administration's response to our everyday
lives and the future of the country.

On June 3, 2004, over two years before the economic crisis
erupted and two years before Obama was elected, Bill Moyers
had this to say:

    There's no question about it: The corporate
    conservatives and their allies in the political and
    religious right are achieving a vast transformation of
    American life that only they understand because they are
    its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In
    creating the greatest economic inequality in the
    advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our
    states, and our cities and counties with structural
    deficits that will last until our children's children
    are ready for retirement, and they are systematically
    stripping government of all its functions except
    rewarding the rich and waging war.

And, he went on:

    Let's face the reality: If ripping off the public trust;
    if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense
    of the poor; if driving the country into deficits
    deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring
    states to balance their budgets on the backs of the
    poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor
    force resembles a nation of serfs - if this isn't class
    war, what is?

The attack on public worker unions, the drive to eviscerate
or destroy Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the
attack on teachers and the defunding of public education,
the slashing of social welfare programs, the home
foreclosure crisis, are not merely interconnected, they are
part of one project.

Right now the lives of millions of people are being rendered
increasingly precarious. All working people are feeling it
and African Americans are being hit extra hard. On top of
historic racism - and largely because of it - we have to put
up to with a catastrophic rate of joblessness, especially
for our young people, and a disproportionate share of home
foreclosures. The schools that are crumbling the fastest and
facing unacceptable teacher layoffs are in our

I never expected the President to choose liberal and
progressive economists to try and rescue the economy when
the crisis hit full force. He chose some of the movers and
shakers of the finance industry and their academic fellow
travelers (some of the same people that helped get us into
this mess). It wasn't just because the hedge fund people
contributed so much to his campaign; they are competent and
besides they know where the bodies are buried.

The problem is that the President is now ignoring the wise
counsel of those who are saying clearly and forcefully that
this "deficit reduction" business is a shuck. This is the
"Shock Doctrine" that Naomi Klein spelled out in her book.
The aim of the austerity drive in this country and in most
of the advanced capitalist world - think of Greece, Ireland,
Portugal - is to emerge from the present economic crisis
with the system intact and the assets of the rich and
powerful secure.  Right now these shape the policies of both
of the two major political parties, the bulk of the major
mass media and business groups.

It's reported that President Obama got no applause the other
night when he told the audience at a Washington's Capital
Hilton Hotel fundraiser: "Let me tell you, we as Democrats,
we as progressives, need to be just as concerned about the
debt as anybody else. Because that's how we will be able to
move our vision forward - investing in education, investing
in infrastructure, investing in clean energy, if we've got a
government that lives within its means. So we've got to be
concerned about that."

Though the reports are still murky, it seems the President
said pretty much the same thing when he met with members of
the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this month and he
scarcely got any amens there either.

These days when I hear anyone in official Washington say
something about investing in education, infrastructure or
clean energy, I reach for my computer. They aren't talking
about investing in anything. They're too busy arguing about
how much less to spend, how much to sock it to working
people and poor while the banks are raking it in and paying
out obscene bonuses big time. The tragedy here is that the
Obama administration has effectively ruled out any more
overt economic stimulus. What talk there is about spending
on infrastructure offers no specific targets or budget
allocations. The result is that there is no long-term
employment program or meaningful steps to deal with the
plight of the jobless today.

And whatever happened to green jobs?

"Successful job creation is the key to deficit reduction
over the medium term," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said
recently. "We must commit to the sizeable and sustained
level of public investment needed to rebuild our crumbling
roads, bridges and schools and prepare our country for the
next generation. From technology to education, investments
today will make responsible fiscal balance achievable and -
most important - create good jobs for America's workers and
help us win the future." Obama used to talk that way but no
more; now the cart has been moved to front of the horse.

"Today's budget debate is being framed as if the President's
proposal is the `left' and the Republican proposal is the
`right,' Richard Eskow, a senior fellow with The Campaign
for America's Future wrote the other day. "Actually, the
President's offering a center-right plan and the GOP's
offering a radical-right plan. The budget plan that most
closely reflects public opinion is the one offered by the
House Progressive Caucus, and that's being dismissed as
coming from the 'loony left' - even though polls show it
represents the real 'center' of public opinion."

What should progressives do now? Seems to me we have little
choice but to draw a line in the sand of our own. The budget
proposals of the Black Congressional Caucus and the
Progressive Congressional Caucus's "People's Budget" should
become our rallying point. We should resist with all the
creative energy we can muster, and quite independently, any
attempts to undermine Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid, insist on an end the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and
Libya, and for a turn away from the "deficit reduction"
mania toward real action to create jobs and aid the

And I agree with what Congressmember Barbara Lee said last
November: "We're going to have to develop our own ways of
communicating the truth to the America people that means
grassroots organizing, town halls, and using social media
networks. We're going to have to be 21st Century
communicators to turn it around and to hit each and every
front simultaneously. Because the fact is that money now
rules in campaigns and those with money can distort the
facts, tell lies, and it's hard to get a consistent platform
to refute them."

One of the lessons of the Freedom Rider story is that
administrations can change (not in the "make me do it"
sense. Obama's no FDR.). The Kennedys were not happy about
the activity of the young riders; they tried to get the
project called off. But in the end the dedication and
tenacity of the protestors won out. Segregation in
interstate travel was banned. If, like them, we refuse to
roll over or be quiet, if we insist that the needs and
aspirations of Main Street, the ghetto and the barrio get
through to the corridors of power, maybe, just maybe, the
President will come back home. That is to the place he said
he was when change was promised and the saga began.

Click here to read any commentary in this BC series.

[BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is
a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence
for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a
healthcare union. He is one of the moderators of Portside.]


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