Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Obama’s economic “stimulus” paves way for multi-trillion-dollar handout to the banks

9 February 2009

In his weekly radio address Saturday, President Barack Obama endorsed the compromise stimulus plan worked out by a small group of Republican senators, right-wing Democratic Senator Ben Nelson and “independent Democrat” Joseph Lieberman, a fervent supporter of the war in Iraq who backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain against Obama in the November elections.

The deal strips from the House of Representatives’ version of the stimulus plan some $40 billion in aid to states and localities and $19.5 billion in federal aid for school construction, reduces proposed health care subsidies for the unemployed, slashes new aid for the Head Start pre-school program, lowers a proposed increase in food stamps and scales back Obama’s middle-class tax cut, while adding a $70 billion tax break for upper-income families.

Obama’s endorsement of the “compromise” plan is a continuation of the basic trajectory that has emerged in the first weeks of his presidency. His administration’s response to the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression starts from the premise that nothing can be done that infringes on the wealth and prerogatives of the American financial aristocracy and proceeds to capitulate at every point to the demands of the Republican opposition and the most right-wing sections of his own party.

The revised Senate bill, which is expected to pass on Tuesday with the support of three Republicans, removes from Obama’s “stimulus and recovery” package anything that remotely suggests large-scale relief or public works, under conditions of soaring layoffs and home foreclosures and the bankruptcy of state and local governments across the country. Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, appearing on the Fox television network’s Sunday news program, assured moderator Chris Wallace that any remaining relief measures for the unemployed or other increases in social spending would not become permanent programs, but would be rescinded once the crisis had abated.

In attacking Obama’s economic stimulus package from the right, Republicans have been able to exploit the fact that it is a hodgepodge of spending proposals and tax cuts—including tens of billions for big business—without any internal coherency or rational perspective for resolving the economic crisis. Obama’s purported plan to jump-start economic activity while simultaneously transforming the United States into a “21st century economy” does neither. It testifies to the absence of any serious or comprehensive response to the mounting economic and social crisis.

One of its major purposes is to provide political cover for what is considered within the ruling elite to be a far more important component of the administration’s economic program—a vast expansion of the taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. The Washington Post said as much in its lead editorial on Sunday, entitled “Saving the Banks: The most important steps of the administration’s recovery plan are still to come.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who, as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, played a key role in engineering the first stage of the $700 billion bailout of the banks, was expected to unveil the administration’s plan to use hundreds of billions in additional public funds to cover banking losses on Monday. However, Summers let it be known that Geithner would delay his announcement until Tuesday.

One reason for the delay is to soften public opposition to the bank bailout by waiting until the Senate has approved the stimulus plan, so that the massive transfer of wealth to the financial elite can be presented as part of a broader recovery plan to rescue “Main Street.” In the meantime, Obama will hold televised town hall meetings on Monday and Tuesday in cities devastated by layoffs and home foreclosures in order to engage in a bit of campaign-style demagogy.

From numerous reports in the press based on leaks from the Obama administration, the main outlines of the new bank bailout are clear. The Treasury and the Federal Reserve will commit hundreds of billions of dollars to make fresh cash injections into the banks, guarantee the banks’ worthless assets and subsidize private investors who agree to buy some of the “toxic” asset-backed securities weighing down the banks’ balance sheets, while insuring the investors against potential losses.

There will be no serious restrictions on executive pay or on how the banks use the government money, such as requirements that they use it to increase their lending to other businesses and consumers. Moreover, the government will devise the plan so as to avoid taking any significant equity stake in the banks in return for the windfalls they receive, thus reinforcing the private control over the financial system by the very executives and investors who brought the banking system to the point of collapse through speculation in the pursuit of super profits and personal enrichment. The plan will avoid the government having to directly purchase the banks’ worthless assets in order to evade the political problem of paying prices wildly out of line with the actual market value of the securities.

The net result will be to protect the investments of major shareholders and ultimately make them, the top executives and big speculators immeasurably richer at the end of the day.

There is to be no investigation or public accounting of the fraudulent and criminal practices that led to the financial meltdown, or the role of government officials in utilizing the crisis to plunder the public treasury in order to further enrich the financial elite. This is despite the report issued Friday by the congressional panel set up to oversee the first $700 billion bailout which revealed that Bush administration officials overpaid for banks’ “troubled assets” by some $78 billion.

According to the New York Times editorial on Sunday, the new bank bailout “will ultimately put hundreds of billions of tax dollars, if not trillions, on the line.” Meanwhile, the cuts in the Senate stimulus bill to already inadequate federal aid to the states and localities contained in the House version will result in hundreds of thousands of layoffs of teachers and public employees by state governments reeling from the collapse in tax revenues and facing bankruptcy. It means the closure of parks, libraries, hospitals and the decimation of public transportation and other services.

State governments are facing a collective budget shortfall of $47.4 billion this fiscal year and the gap will rise, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, to $350 billion by 2011. Already, the biggest state in the country, California, has held up welfare checks and is closing public offices two days every month as a result of rolling furloughs of state workers. The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the only public hospital in the Las Vegas area has closed its outpatient oncology services center because of state Medicaid cuts, affecting hundreds of cancer patients. The Democratic governor of the state of Washington has proposed pay freezes and layoffs for teachers and state employees, a $350 million cut in funding for higher education, closures of 13 state parks and a 42 percent reduction in the state’s health insurance program for the working poor.

American society is being bankrupted as the resources of the country are placed at the disposal of the richest of the rich.

Obama’s economic program underscores the fact that no progressive or rational economic plan to solve the crisis can be developed outside of a massive, independent and revolutionary movement of the working class to break the power and political domination of the financial aristocracy.

The only answer is a socialist program, which includes the removal of the major banks and financial institutions from private ownership and their transformation into public utilities under the democratic control of the working population. The vast financial resources that the banks control must be used to provide decent education, housing, health care, retirements and well-paying jobs for all.

The prerequisite for the nationalization of the banks under the control of the working class and their subordination to the needs of society is a break with the two parties of big business and the development of an independent political movement of the working class. It is a question of state power. No capitalist government can or will carry out this task. What is required is a political and revolutionary struggle to establish a workers’ government.

Barry Grey

Thursday, February 05, 2009

No need to meet GOP halfway
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, February 4, 2009


For President Obama to treat individual Republicans with civility is one
thing. Etiquette, however, has its limits. Embracing bipartisanship as a
political goal can be a snare and a delusion.

It has certainly seemed so of late, as GOP congressmen responded to
Obama's friendly overtures by voting unanimously against his desperately
needed economic stimulus, persevering in their party's cultlike faith in
tax cuts and aligning themselves with a bombastic radio talker who brags
that he wants the president to fail.

In response, the mannerly official scorers at ABC's "The Note" awarded
the president "a goose egg in the first inning of bipartisanship,"
although the stimulus package passed in the House by a vote of 244-188.
Never mind that the White House had dropped a couple of spending
items-subsidized contraceptives and refurbishing the National Mall-that
Republicans disliked. Washington Post editors lamented that "Obama had
the controversial provisions removed, but too late to win over

Too late? The new administration was one week old. The changes preceded
the vote. Persons more concerned with substance than manners might
suspect that hopeful chatter about bipartisanship is a sucker's game.
How often did pundits urge President George W. Bush to be sensitive to
Democrats' delicate feelings? The Post's idea of centrism appears to be
the balance of opinion at a K Street lobbyists' cocktail party.

The last time we had a new Democratic president, essentially the same
thing happened. Republican congressmen voted against Bill Clinton's 1993
tax and budget proposals, uniformly predicting doom. Raising marginal
income tax rates a few points on the wealthy, they charged, would lead
to economic ruin. Instead, the exact opposite happened. Over the ensuing
eight years, the nation witnessed the creation of 25 million new jobs, a
balanced federal budget and steadily rising prosperity.

Today, an act of historical memory is required to recall that when Bush
took office in 2001, people actually worried about paying down the
national debt too fast. No problem. The new president embraced what it's
tempting to call Limbaughnomics, the absurd belief that tax cuts
invariably lead to greater government revenues and more and better jobs.

Instead, Bush presided over a sluggish economy, the worst record of job
creation since World War II, growing inequality and the current banking
crisis, a direct result of "free market" deregulatory fundamentalism
combined with a speculative real estate bubble that sustained the
illusion of prosperity until it burst. Oh, and yes, runaway budget
deficits, thanks mainly to the combination of Bush's tax cuts and the
war in Iraq.

In a recent interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, U.S. Rep.
Barney Frank, the rare Democrat who appears to relish spirited give and
take, correctly pointed out that "the largest spending bill in history
is going to turn out to be the war in Iraq. . . . And I don't understand
why, from some of my conservative friends, building a road, building a
school, helping somebody get health care, that's wasteful spending, but
that war in Iraq, which is going to cost us over $1 trillion before
we're through-yes, I wish we [wouldn't] have done that. We'd have been
in a lot better shape fiscally."

In short, the past 16 years couldn't have done more to expose the
wrongheadedness of the Republican "war on arithmetic" had it been a
laboratory experiment. GOP tax-cut theology is sheer superstition, on
the level with sacrificing goats and reading tea leaves. Meet
grandstanding GOP congressmen halfway? What for? Democrats swept the
2006 and 2008 congressional elections precisely because the public
finally gets it. Pretty much everybody except Rush Limbaugh's faithful
listeners has caught on.

That's how I understood Obama's dismissive reference to the AM radio
entertainer: Times are serious; Limbaugh's not. Needless to say, the
portly chatterbox made the best of it, remarking that Obama supporters
expect everybody to bend over and grab their ankles just because the
president had a black father. To which Jay Leno made the perfect
rejoinder: Rush grab his own ankles? That'll be the day.

Future debates with Limbaugh are probably best left to his fellow
comedians. Meanwhile, all the bipartisanship Obama needs appears to be
coming from Republican governors, who need all the revenue they can get
to cope with rising unemployment, Medicaid and education costs, but who
don't have the luxury of temporary deficit spending. With the economy
spiraling sickeningly downward, the last thing we need is thousands of
laid-off state employees.

Under the circumstances, with capital markets largely frozen, consumers
too fearful to spend and swollen inventories making businesses leery of
new investment, government spending on infrastructure and new technology
is pretty much the only useful tool left to get the economy moving

This isn't a tea party, it's the worst economic crisis since the 1930s,
and there's little to be gained worrying over the hurt feelings of GOP
true believers who caused it.

· -–––––·–––––-Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author
and recipient of the National Magazine Award.