Now that the debt drama is over for the moment, we can all safely retreat into what was once called the “dog days of summer” and chill out if the volatile weather allows us to. We can think back to that old song, “Summer time and the living is easy” even as we all know that for millions “the living” is anything but.
The House and Senate have become ghost-like chambers because all its members, so filled with strident indignation and inflexible talking points just a week ago, are now off on their paid vacations hyping their political war stories to their grandchildren.
Imbued with a sense of triumph, the Tea Party is huddling to come up with ongoing tactics to hold the system hostage while the party leaders plan the new “Super committee” with 12 chosen acolytes (how Biblical, that number 12!) to map the next round of fiscal blood-lettering.
All the superhero buzz in the movies and cartoons has no doubt influenced their choice of words and the pretence of the super wisdom of a few as a “Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction” is empanelled to become the next arena of combat with a chosen elite now dominating a factious process where an organised minority can outflank a slow moving majority.
So much for democracy
The lobbyists are already gearing up for the next battles, as the New York Times reported, “to figure out how to influence the panel to protect the programs and tax breaks from which they benefit”. The military contractors and health care industry operatives are digging in to defend their turf.
Meanwhile, the deal did not settle any problems and may have made them worse. The Hill newspaper reports, “The Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost more points in the last two weeks than it did after the House initially failed to approve a bailout of US banks at the height of the financial crisis in 2008”.
At the White House, the campaigning is set to go into overdrive with a bus tour of the devastated Midwest. Obama is saddling up to talk up the one need he has been downplaying for years – the need for jobs.
He is retooling as a born-again populist to champion the unemployed who may never find jobs again.
He is doing so in the face of new statistics that report the economy is in worse shape than it was before the recession.
Some 47 million Americans now qualify for food stamps, up 13 per cent from a year earlier. Unemployment is not budging and more and more job seekers are giving up after finding that if they have been out of work for more than six months, they can’t even get interviews for what jobs there are. Youth and minority unemployment are at depression levels. The ranks of the poor rise as those still working are squeezed as never before.
And housing? Eftnews.com reports, “Dragged down by such anchors as a bulging pipeline of foreclosures and a dearth of buyers, it will be many more months – if not years – before a housing market rebound takes hold”.
Yet the Commander-in-Chief, unlike the people who live in the region, won’t have problems with the cost of gassing up the bus. His “bundlers” are already at work shaking the money tree.
Money News reports: “A just-released study by the Centre for Responsive Politics shows that President Obama is relying more on Wall Street to fund his re-election this year than he did in 2008, according to CNBC, which obtained an advance copy of the report.
“Obama and the DNC combined are on pace to far exceed the amounts Obama raised from Wall Street donors in 2008, both in raw dollar amounts and as a percentage of what he raises overall.”
This may be why he has already thrown his progressive supporters in the words of one dissenting Democrat “under the bus” because he and his handlers calculate they may not like him now but they will vote for him in the end, or fear more gains by the far right.
Some on the right are reportedly going after the “bundlers” who broke fund-raising records in the Bush campaign, in essence talking far right while cultivating the old money centrists.
The “experts” predict that even in this time of economic decline, the political pumps will be well primed as the election draws closer and gains steam by sucking the media oxygen out of other stories with a press corpse that loves to cover politics like sporting events rich in polls and conflicting sound bites.
The newspapers are filled with stories about the nouveau rich gobbling up luxury goods and high priced cars.
Not everyone is hurting
Yet an increasing number of these people on all sides are reporting more dissatisfaction with all the politicians.
The National Journal reports on a new poll, “The survey … revealed a deep lack of faith among the public in Congress’ ability to get things done. When it comes to important problems facing the country, only seven per cent of respondents said they have a lot of confidence that Washington could make progress over the next year and 23 per cent said they have ‘no confidence at all’.”
Some liberals may finally be recognising that their immersion in partisan politics took their eyes off the economic ball with little or no grassroots organising. It seems clear that as the Tea Party pushed politicians from the right, there was no counterweight or unified effort on the left.
President Obama not only betrayed the activists of the left who championed his candidacy in 2008 but, also, his own legacy as a community organiser. He created, but then de-emphasised his “Organising for America” initiative to activate his base for traditional inside the beltway horse-trading.
He gave up on the “outside game” and let the right pick it up without a fight.
Now we are hearing about all kinds of plans by organisations like MoveOn – that became more of a money raising machine than a political movement – who are joining hands with fired Obama appointee Van Jones to build a ‘save the dream movement’ and express some visible support for the unemployed and millions losing homes and hope.
Former Vice President Al Gore is calling for a non-violent “American Spring” modelled on events in Tunisia and Egypt.
Keith Olbermann, the TV Anchor who left NBC to join Gore’s network Current cautions that “first the public has to get mad”.
Personally, I think the public is mad, but also depressed by the lack of leadership and a sense they can win. Popular calls to hold Wall Street accountable have gone nowhere as Wall Street money keeps politicians in tow and activists tweet each other into distraction. Activists rail at the president online but do little to get in his face and demand another course of action.
This may change in the fall but I am not holding my breath. It is easier, as we say, “to talk a good game” than play one.