Party Like It’s 1994

barack obama bill clintonLost in the din of the triumphal declarations of the nation “speaking with one voice” calling for a Restoration of the Reign of George W. Bush, is the fact that on key policies — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — the Republican agenda remains deeply unpopular. It’s one thing to decry “government spending” but it’s quite another thing when that means grandma is going to be moving into your basement because they stripped away her monthly check. The vast majority of Americans never supported a “privatize-and-pillage” attack on Social Security. Yet many of the Republican candidates in 2010 are on record supporting all manner of schemes to dismember Social Security.

President Obama might have squandered what was the only opportunity we might have for decades to restore the idea that government can be a public good capable of fighting effectively against entrenched power. But Wall Street got off scot-free and homeowners facing foreclosure got only the “Home Affordable Modification Plan,” which appears to have been little more than a political ploy to give the appearance the government was doing something at a time when the number of foreclosures was shooting through the roof.

Now we’re hearing the first mouse-like squeaks from Robert Gibbs and Harry Reid that maybe there should have been a “modification” of the Senate filibuster rule. That suggestion is about eighteen months too late. Obama, along with Reid, Max Baucus, and other Democratic Senators, internalized the notion that the Republicans had a 60-vote requirement to get anything passed. They told us that they had no choice but to try to court hacks like Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and Olympia Snowe. (“Yes We Can! But.”) “The professional Left” tried to warn Obama that if the filibuster wasn’t addressed it would render him just another Washington politician in the eyes of those who had put their faith in his “Change” agenda.

In the final analysis, it’s the things that can’t be measured in opinion polls that matter most. People tell pollsters they don’t like “spending” but even the most vociferous Tea Baggers (if they’re not rich) don’t want grandma’s Medicare thrown to the business-suited wolves over at Aetna or HCA. The “stimulus” of $787 billion was too small and loaded with too many tax cuts to make it viable; it also did nothing to stop the draconian lay-offs at the state and local level. The $820 billion bailout of the big investment banks did nothing but reinforce their predatory practices and reckless gambling habits. The incentives are still the same. And they’re at it again gambling on billions in “synthetic” toxic waste knowing the federal government has got their backs.

In the 1990s, the major “bipartisan” policies that Bill Clinton enacted before and after he faced a hostile Republican Congress were all disastrous for the country: NAFTA (outsourced jobs), the Telecommunications Act (gave us Fox News), and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act (which Larry Summers loved), set the nation on the trajectory that produced the “worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

What was needed was nothing short of a wholesale reaffirmation of the role of government in society. But truculent cloture rules, backroom deals, and dizzying amounts of lobbying cash proved that even with a liberal Democratic President in power and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress Washington was as f**ked up as ever. The Obama people have told us repeatedly that we’re in the “worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” Yet the reforms the Administration offered to deal with the crisis were mild at best.

Joseph PalermoIf the Republicans win enough seats on Tuesday to take the House of Representatives, Government Oversight Committee Chair, Darrell Issa, and other attack dogs will be set loose to gnaw at the ankles of every Obama Administration official. They’ll ferret out people with their hands in the till and feign “shock” at the “corruption” they’ve uncovered. The corporate media will follow every detail of the Republicans’ investigations with the same rapt attentiveness they showed covering the Clinton “scandals.” They’ll “dirty up” President Obama going into the re-election campaign (which has already begun).

Joseph Palermo

Crossposted with Joseph A Palermo


  1. John Lloyd Scharf says

    Do your comments, in cold light of day of the results of the Midterm elections not sound completely out of touch?

  2. says

    “The vast majority of Americans never supported a ‘privatize-and-pillage’ attack on Social Security.” They still don’t. In spite of those facts, President Obama appointed an “Austerity” (Deficit) Commission (during a Second Depression/Recession) and “Put Social Security on the Table”:

    “The vast majority of Americans never supported a” Mandate to buy private insurance from corporations. They still don’t. In spite of those facts, President Obama made secret deals and sold out the Public Option:

    “They’ll ‘dirty up’ President Obama going into the re-election campaign (which has already begun).” True – the “pals around with terrorists” campaign never ended. And still, that made no difference with him – as he courted the radical, and supposed opposition with endless appeasements – which served as excuses to mask his actual leanings. Once Obama 180ed on Retroactive Immunity (FISA), shocking a majority of his supporters, the future cast was set:

    If we were sickened by bootstrapping and self-sacrificing messages during the first two years, we may as well prepare for a tripling of those outrages as our “new majority” changes hands – thanks to the “old” majority.

  3. marshall says

    He seems to have left out Frank, Dodd, and that funny law that wanted everyone to own a home and it did not matter if they had enough salary to make the payments. think about it for a minute, and tell me how you can have a no questions asked loan application?
    The things he did list are some of the reasons for the mess we are in but he left out the fact that the Bush guy wanted to add some rules to the GSEs (fred and fan) and Frank and Dodd blocked that. So how is the too big to fail money we are paying the two GSEs working out for you?? It is not going well right nw and we will soon give the GSEs some more money.

  4. allen_osuno says

    Dr. Palermo, as usual, is right on the money. Couldn’t have stated the present ‘turd in the punch bowl’ any better than he did. Always love the writings of this most insightful professor. Hope enough people read this and do something to demand real change, or else we are all headed for some kind of twilight of the American experiment. We will become another Third World ‘has been’ power than turned its back on common sense in favor of fascist demagoguery.

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