Strange where hope comes from. Last week, when Mitch McConnell announced the possible option of Obama’s raising the debt ceiling on his own, without signing onto any Republican led deficit-cutting plan, I felt a blip of positivity. Here was a way, coming from the unlikeliest corner, for Obama to emerge unscathed as a putative Democrat and get the task done. Alas, my hopes were dashed by our President, who seems to care more about appealing to the right for his reelection prospects (whatever happened to strengthening the base?) than about either his own party or–heaven forfend–the American people, especially the most vulnerable.
Who is Barack Obama? The justifications have begun to sound Nixonian: extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans–excuse me, the Job Creators–is justifiable, while protecting Social Security beneficiaries is not. Billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid! For a glimpse into the reality of enacting those cuts, read George Packer’s recent piece in The New Yorker; he describes one poor American family on the brink, with $29 to their name, who relocated across state lines in hope of finding work. This family–the parents got new teeth, thanks to Medicaid, before their move–still had hope in the system, even though the discussion in Washington cynically excludes them. Does anyone care about the poorest people in our land? During the Bush years, I felt an ongoing malaise about the administration’s flagrant excuses for its lack of compassion. Now Congress and the President, whom we elected on his promise of hope and change, have institutionalized that cynicism, by planning to redistribute wealth from the have-nots toward those who have never really felt any pain.
Cutting Social Security benefits to those already receiving them is an outrage. Recipients, by the way, include those who walk among us, first-generation Boomers who regard benefits as a way of making ends meet. I’m talking about people I know who were out of work during the depths of the Great Recession and who face all kinds of burdens–mortgage payments, college tuition, life insurance premiums, high tax liability (especially if you were an independent contractor ineligible for unemployment and had to borrow from savings)–and who rely on SS benefits as a much-deserved source of income. Does anyone want to know their stories?
Sometimes I feel as though I’m drifting in an unreal universe, like Rome before the fall, where black is white and white is black, a leaderless world in which Congress and the President seem hell-bent on self-preservation rather than addressing the problems that face the nation. On that note I am off into my day, into the tasks that await me, such as writing to my son’s college to ask for more scholarship money.