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Obama and GOP Play Tag Team on Entitlements

November 29, 2012

This article by Glen Ford is re-posted from Black Agenda Report.

It seems that every breathless moment of corporate media news is choreographed to convince Americans that austerity is as inevitable as tomorrow’s weather. The objective of this con game is to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The two principle parties engaged in negotiations – the White House and congressional Republican leaders – are both agreed that entitlements must be put under the knife. The “grand bargain” that both Obama and the GOP seek has already been made, in principle. Austerity is the common language and goal of the talks, and nobody that counts in the discussions is defending entitlements.

There is only one problem: the vast majority of Americans oppose cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

This is the great difficulty facing both Obama and the Republicans: the fact that the public favors the maintenance and even expansion of the meager U.S. social safety net. The disagreement, the great debate, is not between Republicans and the White House, who both agree on putting entitlements on the chopping block. The disagreement is between strong majorities of the American people, who want no tampering with the three entitlement programs, and Obama and his Republican friends, who are hell bent on so-called entitlement “reform.”

This is not a fight between the two parties; it is a choreographed beat-down of the American majority by corporate Democratic and Republican thugs, aided by shrieking corporate media banshees screaming, Watch out for the cliff, Watch out for the cliff!.

The “grand bargain” was struck back in the summer of 2011, when both sides agreed on roughly $4 trillion in cuts. The agreement only unraveled because a presidential election was drawing near, and the two parties needed to pretend that they were separated by vast political differences. Now that the election is over and the verdict is in, corporate Democrats and Republicans can abandon the pretense of a great ideological divide, and return to their shared mission of cutting entitlements. Both hide behind the phony “fiscal cliff” to convince the public that the pending theft of entitlements is an unstoppable act of nature, rather than a conspiracy of corporate henchmen, against the clear wishes of the majority of Americans.

Robert Reich, the liberal former Labor Secretary in President Bill Clinton’s administration, says that Obama is not behaving like a president who is serious about facing down the Republicans. If he were, Obama would let the Bush tax cuts die at the end of this year, and then have Democrats introduce new tax cuts for the middle class. The president could dare the Republicans to hold middle class to tax cuts hostage to cuts for the rich. In that kind of facedown, Obama would likely win.

But Obama is not trying to outmaneuver Republicans; he and the GOP have teamed up to stampede the public – the suckers in this game – into giving up their entitlements. As David Swanson puts it, we are not witnessing the making of a grand bargain, but a “grand catastrophe.”

Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison, the Black co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says he and the other 75 members “are not going to allow the most vulnerable Americans to shoulder the burden of this fiscal problem.” But the left wing of the Democratic Party can only stop the forces arrayed against entitlements by actively opposing their own president, who is playing austerity tag team with the Republicans. And the so-called progressives don’t have it in them.

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