Last night, Lawrence O’Donnel just about dropped to his knees in worship and awe over Barack Obama’s strategic multi-dimensional chess strategy around the current debt ceiling ‘negotiations’ with the Republican Congressional Leadership. You can see the video here:
Basically, he made quite a eloquent (although false) case as to how the President has been playing the Republicans all along with s0-called false promises of entitlement spending cuts knowing with his super brain that the Repubs won’t actually negotiate any actual deal that involves raising taxes on their corporate campaing sponsors. He chastisted liberals for not trusting the President and questioning his character around placing Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid cuts on the table because the President was really just playing out the masterful art of the deal.
Let’s rewind. First and foremost, let us NOT forget that the President choose to partcipate in this obscene game of chicken with raising the nation’s debt limit in the first place. The only reason we are in talks that give the President cover to open up serious cuts to Medicare and Social Security is that he wanted to play the game. Back in January, incoming House Speaker John Boehner already pledged that he would deliver the votes in the House to raise the debt limit. From the Rachel Maddow Blog, January 4th, 2011:
” Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already said his chamber will vote to raise the debt ceiling rather than let the nation default on its loans. The other side of the GOP equation, cutting $100 billion from the nonsecurity discretionary portion of the budget — read: the programs that keep the country running — would be so painful that it’s almost politically impossible.”
The Republican Congressional Leadership out-right admitted that the debt ceiling would be raised. And, what did the Obama administration do with the confession that the Republicans would not vote against raising the debt limit? Did he simply and firmly state that America would meet its financial obligations and applaud the Republican Speaker for his sensible commitment to America’s fiscal responsibility?
No. He didn’t.
Instead, on January 6th, he sent Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner out onto the airwaves where the Secretary declared that failure to raise the debt limit would cause a ‘national disaster’…
“In a letter sent to every member of Congress, Geithner said the national debt stands at $13.95 trillion – $335 billion short of the limit on borrowing that Congress set last year. Unless Congress acts to raise the limit, the letter says, the United States will default on its debt, an unprecedented event that could destroy “millions of American jobs,” cause interest rates to spike, damage the dollar, and halt payments to millions of Social Security recipients, veterans and active U.S. troops.”
Obama was setting the table. He was instilling the threat…the fear…of the dire consequences for what would occur if America failed to raise the debt ceiling. Dire consequences around an action the Republican leadership in the House already stated it would NOT take.
Timothy Geithner sent a four page letter to Congress outlining the potential catastrophe to the American economy to Congress that week. Look at the language in the above quotes and further consider his additional warning.
Geithner’s letter warned that default would spur “catastrophic damage to the economy, potentially much more harmful than the effects of the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009”
Obama was laying his case in the mortar of fear and threat. Not to the Republicans, but to the American people. He was setting up the rationalization for all the future ‘concessions’ he would have to allow to protect the American people from utter calamity. The future negotiated cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security would need to be justified as concessions to a mortal threat, otherwise the backlash against his Presidency could be fatal.
It all comes down to motives, Mr O’Donnel.
And, I do not for second trust Obama’s motives to serve anything but his own retention of power. The President has consistently and relentlessly sided with corporate intests, private insurance companies, big banks, and military industrial wealth over the good of the people. Obama has calculated that he needs the open coffers of the powerful interests that he serves to retain his Presidency. In order to retain there favor, he must prove that he is committed to serving their interests. It serves the powerful to retain a leader in office who can pass off destruction of the social safety net and civil and human rights as necessary concessions to thwart total financial armaggedon. Obama has been able to pass off legislation that would cause utter revolt under Republican leadership.
At this time, it is crystal clear who Obama represents and it is not us.
I have no doubt that some last minute debt negotiation deal will pass off before the August 2nd deadline. I have no doubt it will contain considerable cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. I don’t believe Social Security will suffer cuts until after the 2012 election cycle. But, Obama has done serious damage to the future of the program by placing it upon the negotiation block and placing its future up for negotiation. I expect more tax ‘relief’ for the wealth, and more transfer of the tax burdens onto the people who can least afford it, all under the guise of saving them.
We are witnessing a dance of Kabuki theatre. Power plays to tease out who will receive the favors of the corporate benefactors of election cycles. It is naive and pretty silly to take it as anything else.