Saturday, November 7, 2009

Joe Bageant: Obama's fight for reform... Lay off the footwork and throw a punch!

  Almost a year after the Great Giddy Swarming of the Obamians last November, some of the revelers are waking up with one booger of a hangover. And they are asking themselves, "What were we thinking when we had that tenth drink of Democratic Party Kool-Aid?" It was a clear cut case of seduction and date rape. The spike in the drink was, of course, hope. Poor pathetic American liberals. Forever doomed to be naive freshmen at the senior beer bash.

  We try to take comfort in that we won't have to listen to or look at John McCain or Sarah Palin for four years, except in the American Legion Magazine and in Palin's case, as a centerfold in the next issue of Middle Aged Skin. Okay, we really are grateful. But could the pathetic McCain-Palin clown act possibly have created much more havoc than what we are seeing?

  Case in point: I got up this morning to the headline: "Social Security Checks to Shrink." Surely this makes a slew of Generation Xers cackle with glee. But some of us are trying to stay drunk on that check until our date with a heart attack or one of those death panels the Republicans are yammering about. Since January I've been telling my wife we could expect Social Security to start shrinking. Ever the concerned citizen, she replies, "Can't you find another jag to get on? Eight months for god sake!"

  To be honest though, I wasn't sure just how the Social Security scam would be run on us. All I knew was that the steady stream of payments into Social Security represents the last big hog still running the woods. Sooner or later corporate interests would gut it.

  Corporate interests? Yup. It's like this… Congress and the president hands the public treasury to elite financial corporations, via bailouts, special tax breaks and cash stuffed aircraft carriers bound for their fortified French villas. Then Congress and the administration go looking for some new scheme to the pay for the Congressional Country Club out there in Bethesda, Maryland, the White House heating bill and money to keep Air Force One stocked with toilet paper and Armagnac marinated quail breasts.

  This newest Social Security shell game is quite a bit slicker than the previous one. The old one consisted of simply ripping the money out of the SS fund, and replacing it with bad paper--IOUs repayable in up to 100 years. Since our Social Security checks cannot be cut by law, the boys on the Hill had a problem. The solution was to raise the Medicare prescription drug premium deducted from SS payments. Now I ask you, could the old zombie war hero and the semi-slutty Alaskan have come up with anything like that? I doubt it. It takes a Harvard degree in constitutional law and a devil on your shoulder named Tim Geithner whispering the game plays in your ear.

  A poster on AlterNet named "monkeywrench" observed that Obama couldn't have handed the corporate owners of this country more if he had been a Trojan Horse candidate. So prescient was the poster that I have hijacked his chain of thought herein. Could Obama be a Trojan horse? Maybe, but it would be a waste of time and effort. Trojan horses are not necessary in a country that has only one political party anyway--Big Business. The Republicans vs. Democrats mock combat is mere bread and circuses for the sweaty, clamoring crowd. Personally, I have no problem with that. I fully understand I was born under a corpocracy. But I do wish our masters grasped the importance of free alcohol in the suspension of disbelief.

  Despite the traditional honeymoon, the Obama marriage to the people did not start on a good note. The checking account and all the credit cards were solely in the groom's name. Consequently we had the direct cash handout to Wall Street (smooch, smooch--married one month and already the guy has another dame!). We howled when Bush did the same on the way out. But when Obama did Bush one better, or actually many times better, we all prayed he knew what he was doing… which was CPR on expiring bankers. But who knew? Perhaps pumping money into the bloated carcass of klepto-capitalism might revive the old trollop, eliciting those watery coughs and glazed blinks seen in drowning victims. So imagine our surprise when the ailing patient got up and kicked the hell out of the rescuers. "Whadda ya mean help out mortgage victims with some of this dough? Their job is to pay the friggin’ freight, stay in debt, not get out of it." Just down the beach the stock exchange lay, also flattened by the exploding housing bubble. Aroused by the smell of money, the market sits up for a moment, manages a weak smile, then plops out again. Then sits up, then buckles... sits... buckles... sits... buckles. This is what you get for 8.5 trillion Samolians?

  Doc Holmes, an economics professor at our local university, a fellow much given to driving caps and whiskey sours, tells me:

  "The economy will fire up next year, we will see a recovery."

  "Why?" I ask.

  "At the right times there will be new kinds of stimulus money."

  "So it's like squirting starter fluid into the carburetor?"

  "Sort of."

  "What if there isn't any gas in the tank?"

  "Then it will be a limited recovery."

  For this you must study eight or ten years? Now I know why I like garage mechanics better than economists. Mechanics assume the goal is to get down the road more than a mile or so.

  Meanwhile, the much anticipated and loudly ballyhooed healthcare reform is on the stretcher in a definite code blue. Not only has someone hidden the defibrillator, but packs of orchestrated brown shirts beat on the body as it is wheeled through Town Hall. Folks like monkeywrench are somewhat suspicious of the weak fight Obama has put up against the brown shirts. Millions of us watching the healthcare fight from the cheap seats have been yelling to Obama, "Punch back for christ's sake! We know you can dance like a butterfly. Now sting like a goddamned bee!"

  But we've seen our guy take a backroom dive for Big Pharma already. And he was barely out of the arena dressing room before he ditched the public option from his fight kit. Now he's trying to stuff it back in without being too noticeable about it. At this point though, it doesn't look good. And why are the GOP bookies all smiling? Dammit, they are the minority party. Doubtlessly though, we will see "The Bill" passed, then carried through the streets of the city on the shoulders of laurel crowned senators. But it will be too weak to sit up and wave at the crowd.

  Stepping outside the fight arena to catch a breath of fresh air, we feel heat on the neck from our newest war, Afghanistan, which is getting hotter by the day. Sticklers remind me that it is an expansion of an old war. Agreed. Old or new, it's getting bigger and hotter and promises to be longer and more expensive than anyone mentioned when we agreed to pay the tab. Personally, I don't remember agreeing to anything, but Obama calls it "our" action on behalf of democracy, so maybe I did. I forget a lot of stuff these days. And besides, democracy, blue fingers, Afghan women set free to wear thongs in the bazaar and watch Oprah? What more could any freedom loving American ask? Well, some do ask for more; Haliburton is in Afghanistan and wants a bundle for doing the same bang-up job it did in Iraq.

  Come to think of it, a lot of Americans would ask for a job. Now if anybody thought an Obama administration would be a job creation administration, they surely must be running down the street pulling out their hair and screaming, "Oh prince of my days, darest thou have me drink of this bitter betrayal?" We've seen an outright rejection of job creation, except for a few small showcase programs for PR purposes. So called shovel ready stuff, easily photographed and conveniently located in blue state strongholds. But then too, the bankers needed the money more.

  This morning we got a new "interrogation agency." With the FBI, the CIA and the U.S. Army, we need one more? Apparently. This one is to be overseen directly by the White House. Liberals had a shit fit when Bush and Cheney did essentially the same thing. Ran a slap shop out of the White House. And they did so, we might add, without the expense of creating a new agency. There they were, just two guys smoking cigars and riding their tricycles around the Oval Office and signing off on torture memos. Now how expensive could that be?

  Also, we thought it had been established that the White House was not supposed to be in that business. I might be prudish, but it's rather unseemly for a president to be personally in charge of the republic's ball shockers and the waterboards. We hung Saddam Hussein's ass for that very thing. The Obama victory was supposed to be proof of our national rejection of this.

  Oh, but how could I have forgotten? We will use more fully trained "interrogators." Isn't it at least a little chilling how that term has become so easily accepted into our daily language, or that TV series based on interrogation are broadcast into the nation's living rooms? Spooky damned country we've got here.

  We are assured however, that these people trained in coercion, people convinced they hold the life or death of this nation in their hands, and who are sanctioned by the president of the United States himself, would never torture anyone. Never, never, never. Not even when left completely alone in some unknown site with a "high-value detainee." Never, never, never, cross their hearts and hope to die.

  On a strangely hopeful note, the CIA is pissed about the new agency having all the fun. So maybe Obama is on to something. Or maybe he's just naive. Maybe I am. Maybe we all are. Americans are pretty famous for being clueless. One thing I do know is this: Anyone who chooses to scare the piss out of other people for a living, coerce people in locked chambers while wearing military uniforms, or spend their life navigating dark channels of lies and deceit, no matter how noble the cause is supposed to be, is a freak. Why should we ever trust any of them?

  And let's not even talk about prosecuting that venomous old toad Cheney or his ventriloquist lap dummy, Sparky the Dry Drunk Cowboy. "Sparky, tell the people what you learned today." "Mission accomplished! Yuk, yuk, yuk! And get your hand out of my ass, Dick!"

  Why is there no prosecution of any of the Bush administration for all those smoldering Iraqi babies? Because Obama says we need to go forward and not look back. Personally, I don't feel very good about turning my back while such genocidal torturing creeps are still at large.

  The capitalist royalty's quo remains in place, yes, with a few cosmetic changes in credit cards and mortgages, but nevertheless AFTER both industries made off with their greatest haul in history. For the owning class corporate elites, the so-called reforms are gnat bites, irritating but easily overcome. Legions of Harvard MBAs are working on how to thwart those laws as we speak. Organizations that do the same without friends in Congress are called racketeers.

  To his everlasting credit, Obama did deliver on his main promise… Hope. And that sure as hell is all we're left holding. Well, that and a national debt so big we've all quit counting. The debt is like one of those PBS Nova astronomy specials--after the first few billion you don't care how many stars there are in the universe, you'd rather watch The Office. Which feels a lot more like real life than the media's news reports, wherein well coiffed blondes prattle about the consumer index and the coming Thanksgiving shopping season. As if the country were not dead broke and the Chinese loan sharks were not standing out there under the street light.

  The sharks had better be ready to take their due in cash. We've got plenty of that. The presses over at the U.S. Mint are running so hot the printers wear barbecue gloves. Still, the last of the real money is gone, having left us a couple of years ago when it was hauled up to the 35th floor executive lounges on Wall Street and swapped out for Yuan and Euros.

  Unfortunately, I'm stuck here in the States for a couple more months watching this miserable set of national affairs unfold. The boys in the executive lounge have cashed in. I've decided to cash in too. By going into the umbrella business. It's sure to rain shit on everybody else left down here in the streets.

  About the author: Joe Bageant is a long-time contributor to the Capital City Free Press and writes from Virginia. This article originally appeared in 2004 on Joe's website where you can read more of his essays:

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