Posted by rflacks on:
I haven't posted a blog for quite a while. We've done a bit of travel, have been otherwise busy, and also trying to figure out what I can contribute as the political whirlwinds intensify. I decided to wait until Pres. Obama responded to the rightwing onslaughts of recent weeks, being as dismayed as you are by the apparent success the tea party drive has been having in setting the terms of public discourse.
Obama gave a big speech this morning at George Washington U. All us handwringing folk on the left might breathe just a little easier in the aftermath. Obama laid out a reasonably progressive and powerful alternative framing of the deficit matter and made points that need to be reiterated and driven home from now on:
A primary cause of the deficits he inherited is the enormous tax benefits awarded to the super-rich.
The top 1% have been getting much richer while the rest of us have lost ground ion terms of income
The size of the deficit over the next decade must be reduced but not in ways that damage the lives of those ‘without clout'
The America we cherish is a place where we care for each other and where public investment is crucial to both sustaining our lives and remaining a great power
Taxing the super-rich is a major component of any effort to reduce deficits
Reducing the costs of healthcare is a major component of this, but that can be done by reforming and strengthening public health funded programs-whose existence is in fact a tool for reducing costs.
The federal spending that is most important is that which represents investment in the future
Military budgets are ‘on the table'
I think these points are valuable in advancing a progressive vision. Such a vision is absolutely crucial, since Obama's centrist agenda can only marginally advance jobs, justice, equality and democracy. Here's a sample of what he left out:
A concerted movement toward a green economy that will create jobs, save energy and turn away from climate disaster-that vision was one he once articulated but is now trying to implement in piecemeal and unarticulated ways.
The best way to control costs of healthcare is to reduce the control of insurance corporations over the healthcare system. Medicare available to all (as an option) would be a feasible path to reducing those costs and that control.
No specifics on what he thinks should happen to social security except for usefully mentioning that it is not itself a deficit problem. A progressive vision should go beyond defending the existing benefit structure to seek real security for everyone who has aged past their work lives.
Putting the military budget up for possible reduction is a very useful move-and it will be upt to progressives to spell out specifics that add up to a move away from the ‘long war' and Empire.
Obama's speech should be read as a response, not only the right, but to grassroots movement on the left-movement that has demanded that the deficit debate focus on tax benefits for the wealthy and war spending, that has demanded protection of medicare and social security, and job creation through alternative energy, public transit, weatherization and other green economy potentials.
If this blog is about anything its been about urging folks on the left to think strategically. For me the pillars of strategy involve promoting grassroots movement , articulating alternative vision and program and using the openings provided by the Democrats in power as resources for change. Obama's speech today suggests how these can work-at least to enable and compel the president to challenge the rightwing.