January 18, 2010

On The Edge Of Grateness

The election in Massachusetts to select Ted Kennedy's replacement is generating a great deal of discussion. The portents are that Obama is about to take a serious hit to his power, squandered in an attempt to run the nation that he wished he had and not the nation that is.

The people of Massachusetts are now just as likely to select Scott Brown as Martha Coakley, yet the cognitive dissonance that the Obama Era may be at an end generates some interesting observations. One such is that of William Rivers Pitt, who in a recent op-ed written for Truthout opined that "The calamities of Republican rule are still too fresh in mind for people to turn on a dime and embrace their madness again."

Au contraire, mon frère! That condition ended four years ago, not last week! The Democrats were given majority power as of November 2006, and then had it strengthened in 2008. People have since been waiting with decreasing patience for Obama to deliver on promises made overtly or implied during the campaign, and the Republicans eagerly remind them of every one of these every chance they get.

Just what has Obama given the people of America using this record political firepower? He's given them a rescued banking system which continues to abuse them with high loan interest and low numbers of loan approvals. He's given them oppressive credit card rules and no relief from foreclosure. He's seeking to impose an expensive and mandatory medical insurance while jobs continue to be lost. And so very much more that isn't seen as being beneficial on Main Street.

So tell me again - why should the people stand with Obama?

Smarter politicians than Obama see the reality writing on the wall: they are going to be blamed for Obama's failures this fall. There is no one else available to feel the wrath of the people over these issues except those of the party which Obama leads.

One of the most vulnerable House Democrats, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), decided that he needed to spend more time with his family rather than run for re-election. Despite representing "the most Democratic-friendly district in Arkansas", Snyder apparently had no money to run a tough re-election campaign, and a SurveyUSA poll showed him trailing 17 percent behind his Republican challenger. Supporting Obama's agenda hurt him with the hometown voters. A majority of his constituents clearly disapproved of this.

Snyder just needed to sellout to those who have the money, as apparently Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has. Sen. Murkowski is clearly in the pocket of Southern Co. ($38,000), Duke Energy ($22,550), CSX, Progress Energy, and other top utility and energy companies. The total of their generosity in donations since 2004 equals more than $124,500. In return, she did the bidding of these "customers" by introducing an amendment to the Clean Air Act as part of an energy industry campaign to limit the scope of greenhouse gas regulations. Such yeo(wo)manly service saved these companies millions, showing that she was an excellent investment.

There is clearly money in pay-to-play. There is nothing to match it coming from We, the People. We're far too poor. We work for a living, and we know that doesn't pay very well.

One thing that the ridiculous health care "reform" effort has exposed is just how much money is transferred between "our" elected representatives and the private commercial sector. It is seen by these firms as insurance against higher expenses imposed by law. Corporations will gladly contribute money for the right to craft a pending bill in ways that benefit the donor.

One such example is the "Safeway Amendment" which allows insurance premiums to be higher for employees who fail certain physical fitness tests. The current Senate bill also allows for this provision as of the bill's passage. What a coincidence! The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society say this amendment breaks Obama's promise that people's health status would not affect the cost of their insurance premiums, but there isn't much hope that this provision will disappear from the final bill. It is supported both by Democrats and Republicans, and is one of the items that bought-and-paid-for President Obama himself desires to see in the final bill.

But the final bill's passage is anything but a sure thing. The race to fill Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts is giving the Republicans the opportunity they have sought since the beginning of Obama's term. That is to eliminate the possibility that they just might lose a major power-play cloture vote. They have largely been successful in peeling off Blue Dog votes when the issue is important enough, but this isn't always the case. For as the final Senate bill vote demonstrated Christmas Eve, even the Blue Dogs will heel when their leashes are tugged hard enough by the Oval Office. They just don't feel the pull very often, or very quickly.

In an interview with Paul G. Kirk Jr. -the 123rd person in the history of the Senate to serve six months or less- Kirk revealed that he was the 60th vote nine times to break Republican filibusters, including 4 regarding the Senate health care bill, out of 97 total votes he cast. That means that roughly ten percent of the time spent in the Senate was used putting down obstructive Republican recalcitrance. If Brown wins, that will come to a screaming halt.

That is what made the race between Democratic State Attorney General Martha Coakley and Republican State Senator Scott Brown such an important effort for the GOP. Winning that seat would eliminate the 60 vote filibuster-killer advantage of the Democrats, which would then force Majority Leader Harry Reid to resort to Senate rule trickery (as the Republicans often did during their tenure as the majority party under Dubya in order to eliminate Democratic party interference with their bills) and provide yet another free weapon for the Republicans to use in the fall campaign to retake the House. Maybe even the Senate, although that's a long shot according to experts. Obama will then be reduced to pursuing the "bipartisanship" he insisted upon from the beginning.

In order to enhance their prospects, the Republicans appear to be returning to their tried-and-true methods of winning: cheating. Daily Kos has posted an alert naming Erick Erickson of the RedState blog as the organizer of an attempt to tie up Coakley's phone bank. You can check this out for yourself at these links and decide if the charge is valid.

In addition to grass roots pranks, the Fat Wallets of Wall Street -freshly engorged with "record profits"- are opening to disgorge mass quantities of cash intended to aid Scott Brown's effort. Think Progress reports that Wall Street front groups FreedomWorks and Club for Growth are actively aiding Brown, whom they charge is "teaming up with Wall Street bankers to kill financial reform and preserve a system of Bush-era unfettered capitalism."

And then there is the use of Diebold machines to tally the ballots.

It's likely that these tactics will work, for this mostly white state is, in the words of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, bubbling with discontent regarding Obama.

Blow reports that after one year, Obama has the lowest approval rating in the 30 years among whites, differing from the other president of this period by 10 to 36 percent (New York Times and CBS News polls). To add insult to injury, a Quinnipiac University poll found that most whites think that Obama has been a worse president than George W. Bush. "Whites are now fuming at him," says Blow.

In the comment section to the William Rivers Pitt post, here are some examples of the anger people express:

Sat, 01/16/2010 - 04:17 — Anonymous (not verified)

The hoi polloi are energized. They know that Obama's so-called health "insurance" reform is not going to help them at all. The people are smart enough to realize that Obama and the Democrats (and, yes, I WAS a Democrat!), have sucked up to the corporatists, just the like Cheney/Bush regime. Face it. If Brown wins, it'll be a referendum on Obama and the Democratic Congress. Sad, but true. So, MA voters may well put Brown into the Senate. Well, we'll live through it. Maybe it'll be a wake-up call for the Dems and Obama who lift their proverbial middle finger at us.

Sat, 01/16/2010 - 15:00 — Anonymous (not verified)

A lot of the anger out there results from the Dems calling a subsidy to the insurance industry a health care reform measure. Most Obama voters took him at face value when he he argued for progress and change. These same people now have little left but 'faint hope'.

And the counter fire from the Democratic Party battery? Visits from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in support of a candidate who isn't helping herself any. As if!

Too late, Democratic party officials are realizing their errors could very well hurt their prospects. And yet, Brown has been tossing them softballs to hit out of the park if the Democrats had bothered to pick up a bat!

Jonathan Chait of The New Republic looks at the consequences of Obama's failures and declares, "you did nothing on the issue that consumed most of your time" and implies that Democrats "wait for your November beating as a failed Congress running with a failed president."

Was this worth pursuing "bipartisanship", Barry? Heck of a job!

Win or lose, Obama now owns the health care bill. He would have been better served to have gotten involved a whole lot sooner than he did. Now, there really is no good alternative -especially if Coakley loses Tuesday- except to dump the health insurance reform bill.

BuzzFlash columnist Steven Jonas, MD, is especially scathing in his advocacy regarding dumping the Senate bill, saying "There are many reasons to hope that the current health care deform monstrosity doesn't get through Congress just so that Obama/Emmanuel can say that they have produced 'something.'"

Obama needs to cut his losses on health insurance reform, for the time has come to deal with other issues before the looming consequences are irreversible.

But in the fall, other problems lurk to plague Obama:

  • The Financial Times -a conservative business newspaper- supports Obama's effort to "tax the banks to cover the cost they have imposed on society" in bailing them out of their foolishness. He should have started with this position, not come to it too late to have any advantage.

  • There is restoring the balance between the economy and the consumers who see inflation rising as their wages fall.

  • There is the massive unemployment which plagues one of his most staunch blocs of support - minorities: 17.2% for African Americans and 13.9 for Latinos. Both groups overwhelmingly supported him in 2008.

The last problem Obama faces this fall is from his own camp. Can he afford for Harold Ford to slide in to New York from Tennessee and become the next Joe Lieberman? Ford will likely prove to be another reliably corporatist vote.

Obama will then at that point have nothing left but surrender to the inevitable: do the best he can in the last couple of years, then stand aside so that someone else can run. He will be as finished as LBJ after the Tet Offensive revealed to the American people that they were betrayed by liars - and for the same reason.

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