Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A "Special Comment" that'll K.O. You!

Keith Olbermann, now on Current, in one of his signature special comments, gives his impassioned analysis of the debt-ceiling deal recently struck by President Obama and Speaker Boehner.

The outcome of this deal was never in doubt: The president would capitulate, Boehner would get 98% of his demands (according to his assessment), and the Tea Party faction within the Republican party--actually operating as a third party aligned with the Republican party--get to keep all their marbles with which to play another day (as the deal didn't include any revenue increases, a "balanced approach" upon which the president insisted).

I'm convinced that had Speaker Boehner been able to move the Tea Party Caucus in the House, the president would have negotiated the "really big deal" with which he teased the Tea Party, and upon which they refused to bite. The deal presumably would have increased the age recipients could first begin to draw down their Social Security, and would have shaved a bit off the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) rate, in return for new revenues.

The Super Congress (a twelve member panel) that emerged from this deal, which the law gives the authority to recommend cuts, with triggers that could force cuts to the defense budget, and social programs, if other cuts aren't agreed to before the triggers take effect, is congress once again abdicating its duty to do the hard work of governance. No where in our constitution is there a provision for such a Super Congress, but that didn't stop one from being formed.

With cuts to the budget's non-defense, discretionary fund, it's very unlikely that congress will have the funds or the will to enact another stimulus program that went to states for shovel-ready infrastructure projects, shoring up bridges, repairing roads, and levees--to name a few.

Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) are, once again, organizing a March on Washington on Aug. 27th, with Co-host of the March Tom Joyner. The focus of the March will be on jobs, and the need for congress, now that the debt-ceiling isn't using up all the oxygen in our nation, to turn its collective attention to this pressing national emergency. Learn more here.

However, no jobs will be forthcoming from this congress. I've said this repeatedly. Reducing unemployment works for the president and against the Republicans who're staking out the White House in 2012. An improved economy and job outlook will assuredly give President Obama a clear path to reelection. To thwart this outcome, and to keep their promise to "take back the country," and to make President Obama a one-term president, Republicans have taken to doing some rather shady things (i.e. Koch brothers' financed absentee voter applications with erroneous return dates.).

Across the nation, Republicans are gearing up for the 2012 election with a vengeance, with strict voter I.D. requirements in place. Republican-controlled state houses are doing whatever else they can legally to suppress voter turnout, as a large turnout generally favors Democrats and incumbents.

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment can be watched by clicking on this link or, if you choose, you can read the full transcript below. Of course, you can do both, listen while you read. Regardless of how you tackle it, please take the time to absorb and measure his words. It's rare that we hear pundits from the Left speak with such candor, and with such insight.


I close, as promised, with a Special Comment on the debt deal.

Our government has now given up the concept of right and wrong.

We have, in this deal, declared that we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all political incumbents are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Re-nomination, re-election, and the pursuit of hypocrisy.

We have, in this deal, gone from the Four Freedoms to the Four Great Hypocrisies.

We have superceded Congress to facilitate 750 billion dollars in domestic cuts including Medicare in order to end an artificially-induced political hostage crisis over debt, originating from the bills run up by a Republican president who funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex by unfunded, unnecessary, and unproductive wars, enabled in doing so by the very same Republican leaders who now cry for balanced budgets - and we have called it compromise. And those who defend it have called it a credit to a pragmatic president who wins some sort of political "points" because, having stood for almost nothing here, he gave away almost nothing for which he stood.

It would be comical if it were not tragic.

Either way, it is a signal moment in our history, in which both parties have agreed and codified that the political structure of this nation shall now based entirely on hypocrisy and political self-perpetuation.

Let us start with the first of the Great Hypocrisies: The Committee. The Republican dogs can run back to their corporate masters and say they have forced one-and-one-half trillion dollars in cuts and palmed off the responsibility for them on this nonsensical "Super Congress" committee.

For two-and-a-half brutal years we have listened to these Tea Party mountebanks screech about the Constitution of the United States as if it were the revealed word and not the product of other - albeit far better - politicians. They demand the repeal of Amendments they don't like, and the strict interpretation of the ones they do, and the specific citation of authorization within the Constitution for every proposed act or expenditure or legislation.

Except this one.

Where does it say in the Constitution that the two houses of Congress can, in effect, create a third house to do its dirty work for it; to sacrifice a few Congressmen and Senators so the vast majority of incumbents can tell the voters they had nothing to do with this?

This leads to the second of the Great Hypocrisies: how, in the same breath, the Republicans can create an extra-Constitutional "Super Congress" and yet also demand a Constitutional Amendment to force the economic stupidity that would be a mandated balanced budget. Firstly: pick a side! Ignore the Constitution or adhere to it.

Firstly, pick a side, ignore the constitution or adhere to it. And of what value would this Mandated Balanced Budget be? Our own history proves that at a time of economic crisis, if the businesses aren't spending, and the consumers aren't spending, the government must. Our ancestors were the lab rats in the horrible experiments of the Hoover Administration that brought on the Great Depression, in which the government curled up into a ball while it simultaneously insisted the economy should heal itself, when, in times of crisis - then and now - the economy turns out to be comprised entirely of a bunch of rich people who will sit on their money no matter if the country starves.

Forgotten in the Republican Voodoo dance, dressed in the skins of the mythical Balanced Budget, triumphant over the severed head of short-term retrenchment that they can hold up to their moronic followers, are the long-term implications of the mandated Balanced Budget.

What happens if there's ever another… war?

Or another… terrorist attack?

Or another… naturaldisaster?

Or any other emergency that requires A government to spend a dollar morethan it has? A Constitutional Amendment denying us the right to run a deficit, is madness, and it will be tested by catastrophe sooner than any of its authors with their under-developed imaginations that can count only contributions and votes, can contemplate.

And the third of the Great Hypocrisies is hidden inside the shell game that is the Super Congress. TheSuper Congress is supposed to cut evenly from domestic and defense spending, but if it cannot agree on those cuts, or Congress will not endorse them, there will be a "trigger" that automatically cuts a trillion-two or more - but those cuts will not necessarily come evenly from the Pentagon. We are presented with an agreement that seems to guarantee the gutting of every local sacred cow from the Defense Department. Except if the Congressmen and Senators to whom the cows are sacred, disagree, and overrule, or sabotage the Super Congress, or, except if for some reason a 12-member Committee split evenly along party lines can't manage to avoid finishing every damned vote 6-to-6.

We're cutting Defense. Unless we're not.

The fourth of the Great Hypocrisies is the evident agreement to not add any revenues to the process of cutting. Not only is the impetus to make human budget sacrifices out of thepoor and dependent formalized… but the rich and the corporations are thus indemnified, again, and given more money not merely to spend on themselves and their own luxuries, but more vitally, they are given more money to spend on buying politicians, and legislatures, and courts, buying entire states, all of which can be directed like so many weapons, in the service of one cause and one cause alone: making bystatute and ruling, the further protection of the wealthy at the expense ofeverybody else, untouchable, inviolable - permanent.

The White House today boasted of loopholes to be closed and tax breaks to be rescinded -- later.
By a committee.

A committee that has yet to be formed.

There are no new taxes. Except the stealth ones, enacted on 99 out of 100 Americans by this evil transaction. Every dollar cut from the Safety Net is another dollar added to the citizen's cost for education, for security, for health, for life itself. It is another dollar he can't spend on making a better life for himself, or atleast his children. It is another dollar he must spend instead on simply keeping himself alive.

Where is the outrage over these Great Hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media, for whom access is of greater importance than criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don't buy newspapers or can't leapwebsite paywalls or could not afford cable tv?

Do you expect it to comefrom a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance, but only perceive how to get elected, or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves, who will merely calculate whether or not it's right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions?

Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country, with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, socialmedia, sports, and trivia?

Where is the outrage to come from?

From you!

It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins. They are too busy trying to keep their jobs, to do their jobs.

It will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the 'free press,' the watchdog of democracy envisioned by Jefferson. They are too busy trying to get exclusive DETAILS about exactly how the bankrobbers emptied the public's pockets, to give a damn about telling anybody what they looked like, or which way they went.

It will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue. They can't hear the clue through all the chatter and scandal and diversion and delusion and illusion.

The betrayal of what this nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal. There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us, and it has been artificially induced by union-bashing and the sowing ofhatreds and fears, and now this ever-more-institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue, and it will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent.

And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return. We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960's and early 1970's and we must protest this deal and all the God damn deals to come, in the streets. We must arise, non-violently but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation take-overs - but modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified, by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication.

It is from an old and almost clich├ęd motion picture that the wisdom comes: First, you've got to get mad.

I cannot say to you, meethere or there at this hour or that one, and we will peacefully break the back of government that now exists merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming when the window for us to restore the control of our government to our selves will close, and we had damn well better act before then.

Because this deal is more than a tipping point in which the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong, and while our government has now declared that it has given up the concept of right-and-wrong, you and I… have not, and will not, do so.

Good night, and good luck.

11 comments:

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

He hit the nail with the hammer with this rant.
But the key words were "first we have to get mad".

Black Diaspora said...

BigmacInPittsburgh said...'But the key words were "first we have to get mad'."

You're right, of course, they're key. The last organized anger I saw take place in this country came from the Tea Party (much of it as artificial as its AstroTurf movement), and Wisconsinites enraged over Gov. Walker's union busting attacks against teachers, firemen, police officers (as a final assault) and other civil servants.

I've asked myself the same question: Where's the rage?

When Boehner asks, "Where's the jobs," the question should be countered with, Where's the rage that unemployment hovers around 9.2%, and real unemployment around 20% and a Republican congress drags its feet on the issue while furloughing FAA workers to the tune of 4000, and FAA construction jobs to the tune of 70,000, while the nation loses 200 million dollars a week while Republican use yet another manufactured crisis as leverage to break the back of those unions representing FAA workers?

"Where's the rage!"

Greg L said...

DB,

I've been thinking about this thing lately and wondering why the Obama and the dems seem to be so much aboard the austerity train here. Let's face it, there's been no talk about what could help (i.e. more stimulus and job creation), but everything has focused mainly on cuts. The only essential difference between the grand bargain and what was agreed to was the method by which this all was to occur. Obama wanted to revenue enhancements while the republicans were just dug in on cuts alone, but the bottom line is that both were talking cuts not stimulus and job creation. One has to raise the question, as Olbermann does, because the standard response to these conditions is to engage in stimulus. Quietly as it's kept, even tax cuts are a form of stimulus albeit a largely ineffective attempt that centers primarily on the wealthy.

In the aftermath of the "deal" the rating agencies are keeping up the pressure with threats of downgrades and negative outlook assessments. The US fiscal condition has been the same since 2008 and has steadily deteriorated as liabilities have been assumed from private sector bailouts and even prior to that, it wasn't so great. So the question is why now? Why now does it seem that everything has to be urgently dealt with when these same rating agencies failed to call out the problems with all the mortgage backed bonds that were issued by Wall Street?


After today's events in the markets and continued threats of downgrades, it appears that the oligarchs had both sides under pressure to cut the budget. I read where Obama was privately assuring the bankers that there'd be no default, which basically explains the capitulation. They're basically in control as had been apparent for some time.

The super congress will also be controlled and the oligarchs will dictate directly what they want to see. There's plenty of precedent for this if we look at what's happening in Europe. Basically, what these people want is any state asset of value in exchange for the government debt. Ultimately that means privatization accelerates dramatically as a full scale raid is mounted on the people and our collective treasury. They have help from both sides and the craziness we just witnessed has the natural effect of pissing everyone off at the administration and the T-Party, while we miss who is actually behind all of this.

We do need to get angry and organized, but the focus must go beyond the strawmen who are presented and to the root cause of the problem IMO. It's the system and those who control it that are the problem. Changing the players in a broken system will not address this issue

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "I've been thinking about this thing lately and wondering why the Obama and the dems seem to be so much aboard the austerity train here. Let's face it, there's been no talk about what could help...."

A fourteen trillion dollars deficit has many spooked on wall street.

They're spooked that the amount is so high, and because of the obvious solution: cancelling the fed debt, or as others have suggested, "default[ing] on debt as solution to rising debt ceiling."

Ron Paul shares his thoughts on Congress cancelling the $1.6 trillion in Treasury bonds owned (accumulated during QE1 and QE2) by the Federal Reserve as a one-time event to alleviate the time constraint of the August deadline for debt ceiling negotiations.

Here's Stanley Druckenmiller's take on our mounting debt:

'A financial crisis is surely going to happen as big or bigger than the one we had in 2008 if we continue to behave the way we're behaving," says Stanley Druckenmiller, the legendary investor and onetime fund manager for George Soros. Is this another warning from Wall Street that Congress must immediately raise the federal debt limit to prevent the end of civilization?

"No—Mr. Druckenmiller has heard enough of such "clamor and hyperbole." The grave danger he sees is that politicians might give the government authority to borrow beyond the current limit of $14.3 trillion without any conditions to control spending.

"One of the world's most successful money managers, the lanky, sandy-haired Mr. Druckenmiller is so concerned about the government's ability to pay for its future obligations that he's willing to accept a temporary delay in the interest payments he's owed on his U.S. Treasury bonds—if the result is a Washington deal to restrain runaway entitlement costs.

"I think technical default would be horrible," he says from the 24th floor of his midtown Manhattan office, "but I don't think it's going to be the end of the world. It's not going to be catastrophic. What's going to be catastrophic is if we don't solve the real problem," meaning Washington's spending addiction.

More.

A "technical default" is seen as one way to end the run-away fiscal train.

A stimulus, on the other hand, would add to an already staggering deficit, making it more difficult for the federal government to pay interest on what it has borrowed, and meet its other obligations, putting wall street, and banks around the world, at greater risk.

By contracting the debt through a program of austerity would be one way to signal that the government won't default, although some would prefer this method to the alternative--a massive government deficit, requiring the continued infusion of borrowed money (and the problems associated with such borrowing).

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "We do need to get angry and organized, but the focus must go beyond the strawmen who are presented and to the root cause of the problem IMO. It's the system and those who control it that are the problem. Changing the players in a broken system will not address this issue."

I agree. Special interest money has corrupted the system, determining the outcome of elections, and shaping legislation for its own private use.

If we can bring pressure on congress to clean up its act, by enacting legislation that will make the system more honest, and more responsive and accountable to the people than to corporations, this would go a long way toward returning government to the people.

I have an idea how this might be done. It will be a visible statement (visibility makes an indelible statement), and impacting, but it won't be time intensive, or costly, and it won't require people to attend rallies, or townhalls.

Only boldness and dedication are required.

Nevertheless, it will still amass numbers in the millions, rather than in the thousands, and draw people together efficiently, be they in small towns, urban centers or suburbs--and from every corner of this nation.

One person from the media with courage of conviction could expedite things (perhaps Keith Olbermann), but such a person is not required, as the idea could be implemented by the people, for the people.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L:

Earlier I wrote the following:

A stimulus, on the other hand, would add to an already staggering deficit, making it more difficult for the federal government to pay interest on what it has borrowed....

[A] massive government deficit, requiring the continued infusion of borrowed money (and the problems associated with such borrowing).


Today, I learn that Standard & Poor's (S&P) has downgraded our credit rating, from a AAA rating to AA+. At this time, there's no indication that Moody or Fitch will follow suit.

I'm of the mind that a clean increase to the debt ceiling without the accompanying wrangling, and threats of default to arm-twist concessions, would have slipped through without drawing the attention of raters.

I blame Republicans.

They knew what was at stake, and allowed the crisis to continue well pass the eleventh hour.

Republicans will blame Democrats, of course, but the final say rests with the American people, many of whom haven't always acted, or voted, in their best interest.

S&P's action may have been motivated by revenge, but, despite that, they have a clear reason for the reduction of our Triple A rating.

"The credit agency said it was making the move because the deficit reduction plan passed by Congress Tuesday did not go far enough to stabilize the country's debt situation."

And this:

"More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political
institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic
challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a
negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.

"Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us
pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal
consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics any
time soon."

What I was trying to say before: Borrowing to fund a stimulus package is doubtful given this nation's already growing debt, and the fear that this debt will threaten our "top-notch" credit rating.

Greg L said...

>>I'm of the mind that a clean increase to the debt ceiling without the accompanying wrangling, and threats of default to arm-twist concessions, would have slipped through without drawing the attention of raters.

I blame Republicans.<<<

I blame them as well. A less acrimonious debate would have come across much better. Moreover, as you say, had this been done cleanly, as it was done innumerable times previously, we may not have been in this situation. No doubt, the republicans spin machine will suggest that Obama is at fault, but the polls say otherwise.

>>>What I was trying to say before: Borrowing to fund a stimulus package is doubtful given this nation's already growing debt, and the fear that this debt will threaten our "top-notch" credit rating.<<<<

I agree and that's particularly the case now. Unfortunately, however, these cuts will not be balanced in any sort of way, although the republicans may have sufficient cover now to retreat from their no tax pledge now that S & P's downgrade rationale refers to the lack of revenue enhancement.

If we could actually have an honest discussion in this country, it might include the consideration of a VAT tax. That might go a long way to remedy our problems as far as revenue enhancement, particularly if it replaced the income tax. Even though I might be out of a job, I've always felt that a national sales tax or a value added tax, in place of the income tax, would be the way to go. It would eliminate a byzantine tax code and eliminate all of these tax shelter and havens plus get at the underground economy that's not taxed currently. It would be far easier to administer as well.

Greg L said...

BD,

Looking at S&P's defense of its downgrade and it appears it was looking for Obama's grand deal of $ 4.0 trillion. The republicans surely would have known about that target as well, so this may lend credence to the whole idea about sabotage on the part of the republicans.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "[T]his may lend credence to the whole idea about sabotage on the part of the republicans."

Republicans would "drag us to hell," if it resulted in their winning Congress and the White House.

They have no ruth, and their only allegiance is to the party and to winning, despite their constant flag waving, and fake constitutional zeal. (Didn't every piece of legislation introduced in the House require a Constitutional reference point to be legitimate? That provision fell by the wayside.)

If they respected the constitution, they wouldn't spend so much time railing against it, and threatening to change it.

During the debt ceiling branigan, we didn't hear a squeak from those Republicans vying to represent their party in the upcoming presidential election.

But as soon as our national rating took a hit, they all found the political courage, and the voice, to attack the president and Democrats, and lay the blame at their feet.

For once, I'd like to see a candidate praise the other side for good work, and not resort to ad hominem attacks, but focus on policy differences, and without the usual rancor.

I know. I'll come to my senses soon.

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Hey Diaspora:

I wanted to let you know that I'm back from my vacation. Thank you Jesus! Be encouraged because things have to get worse before they can get better because you cannot see the light without darkness.

Black Diaspora said...

GrannyStandingforTruth said...
"Hey Diaspora:

"I wanted to let you know that I'm back from my vacation. Thank you Jesus! Be encouraged because things have to get worse before they can get better because you cannot see the light without darkness."

Well said, Granny. Welcome back. You were missed.