Art offers his perspective as a movement progressive activist.
So much to discuss this epic week, a turning point for many activists. Kudos to Russ Feingold, Keith Olbermann, Rep. Cleaver and many other saying NO to this devil sandwich. Al Gore’s words on Olbermann are stirring. He says our system is totally corrupt, the media and too many pols. He urges people to get in the streets and resist austerity. He calls for a American Tahrir Square. Perhaps Gore’s time to lead is NOW:
We have the Israeli Spring breaking out. As Tel A’viv protestors let it be known:
A number of signs that were hung on Kaplan Street read “Resign, Egypt is here”.
Today 1/4 the population of Israel are in the streets, over 300,000, protesting for cheaper housing, the end to government corruption and more. It is the “Israeli Spring” as they, like us, are fed up with their government too corrupt to solve their problems. A liveblog is here. Read more on Ha-Aretz here .
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Ca) is one of the few brave members of congress. She and Congressman Conyers founded the Out of Poverty Caucus. Lee voted against the authorization for war right after September 11th fearing we were rushing into something we could not get out of. Here she is speaking July 30th on the debt vote and how “the American dream has become a nightmare for too many”:
Obama’s debt deal has sunk with the public of course. And Wall St. isn’t in love either this week. In fact Kevin Drum shows a mere 10 percent back this deal with no new revenue and cuts to hundreds of programs. 10! Congress’ approval sits at 14pct. Another wave is sweeping towards DC again.
The Whitehouse met with liberal groups and got an earful about the debt deal fiasco and don’t worry, the Whitehouse blames the base for not fighting hard enough. Yeah right buddies!
Recall when Obama asked America to call their congress members to urge them to cut a deal and end the debt crisis? And the circuits at the Capitol shorted? Guess who it appears flooded congress? yep- the Tea Party according to Pew:
…some 66% of Republicans and Tea Partiers contacted an elected official during the standoff while only 5% of the rest did the same. This despite a direct appeal from President Obama to do exactly that.
As was the case in the midterm election, age was a crucial factor. Only 19% of 18-29 year-olds followed the story closely and 1% contacted an official versus 54% of those over 50 who followed the debate and 16% who contacted an official.
Gee could it be because Dems did not phone in because the deal included “everything on the table including SS and Medicare”?
Progressives have many crucial state level battles ahead and it is important we be engaged in them in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, California and more. In fact in Colorado enough signatures were gathered to undo a freeze in tax rates and would raise the taxes to pay for schools. Lots to do, much more than in DC these days.
Tavis Smiley and Cornell West have launched a 15 city bus tour to highlight poverty in America and the poor are being criminalized. The bus tour hits key African-American, Latino and Native American communities suffering with intolerable double digit pct unemployment rates on top of massive poverty. Their first stop is Obama’s hometown Chicago and the goal is to not just highlight the poor but to show that criticism of this administration’s policies is not just ok but beneficial:
They’ll visit soup kitchens, public housing projects, and farms. They’ll stay with low-income families and along the way they’ll try to assess whether Obama’s policies are working.
“This is a way to galvanize as opposed to complain,” West said. “Both parties have rendered the poor invisible. The only thing we have left is to dramatize their plight.”
Lots of talk of how this debt deal is like FDR’s 1937. But there is a major difference, FDR aligned himself with progressives while Obama is conservative. Joe Nocera in a must read in the NYT points this out:
..One thing Roosevelt did right during the Depression was legislate into being a social safety net to soften the blows that a free-market economy can mete out in tough times. During this recession, it’s as if the government is going out of its way to make sure the blows are even more severe than they have to be. The debt-ceiling debate reflects a harsher, less empathetic America. It’s sad to see.
The deal is vindictive towards the less fortunate. It’s authors went to town against ordinary Americans by slashing at the safety net.
Famed economist Galbraith has a take on what we are seeing- make a Depression to help the rich:
Galbraith said he thinks some of the super-rich out there, sitting on all that cash, are actually hoping for the economy to crash and burn.
“The strategy of pursuing a deflationary strategy is a strategy that greatly benefits people with cash,” said Galbraith. “If you’re interested in deflating asset values, and you have cash with which to buy assets when things hit rock bottom, then you have a powerful interest in a deep depression.”
“That’s certainly consistent with the banks holding 1.4 trillion [dollars] of reserves, which is absolutely unprecedented,” said Pollin, who backs a tax on excess reserves. “That’s 10 percent of GDP.”
Speaking of FDR and throw backs to 1937 David Woolner, FDR historian from the Roosevelt Institute wrote a great piece on how Obama failed miserably on learning any lessons from Roosevelt. In fact after FDR realized his huge cuts contracted the economy he got passed a new stimulus which stabilized it at least. FDR was saved economically by WWII and thus his presidency.
The Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party passed a resolution this week calling for Obama to face a primary challenge for his rightward tilt and especially for the debt deal. Caucus members caught hell for saying out loud what many are thinking but the issue is injected into the political conversation in California. Read the resolution here .
After this catastrophic regressive debt deal we ask “where do we go f rom here as progressives?” I do not have a clear answer yet. Several orgs have piqued interest for me. One is the New Progressive Alliance. This org has a aggressive approach to try all things: primary Obama, if not then recruit delegates in places like Iowa to be non-pledged for leverage at the convention, if candidates do not uphold progressive values then vote third party. This new group is to organize progressives of all parties into one unit to push our pols and elect anti-austerity and anti-corporate folks.
This org has a platform. It is the 1912 Progressive Party platform which is great.
One more potent note on this debacle. In Texas, David Van Os, a well known name around here for Democrats, wrote a stunning indictment of how Obama is wrecking the party’s future. Van Os has been general counsel for AFL-CIO, former chair of the Travis Co. (Austin) Democratic Party, a precinct chair, counsel for ACLU, and many others. He was also nominated by Democratic primary voter to run for Attorney General here but lost.
His words have ignited a real discussion about Obama because he has been such a part of the party for so long:
…This president bears no resemblance to progressivism, populism, leadership, backbone, or to express Democratic Party values. I do not follow him, do not trust him, will not trust him, and will not follow him. To those who will inevitably say, “But oh my gosh, he is the only alternative to the right-wing conservative Republicans,” I say: “Give me an opponent who tells me straight up that he opposes me and doesn’t pretend otherwise. A Trojan horse pretending to my friend is the greatest danger of all because he co-opts my defenses and opens the city gates against me from the inside.” Grass roots Americans who supported this Trojan horse in the election of 2008 need to wake up to the truth about the political fraud that sucked them in.
Amen to that.