Gifts For Elders
Obama's Stealth Attack on Social Security

Hope Fades Away

Crabby Old Lady writes today as an American citizen with a deep belief that the business of our government should be most concerned with the underdog, the least among us who are not blessed with wealth or health or power. Those who have such attributes can take care of themselves.

Crabby believes that we – the people and the government – have an obligation to help the rest maintain a basic standard of living which includes food and shelter, of course, and also to enforce a reasonable balance between the haves and have-nots so as many as possible are free from want.

The person with the highest responsibility for this is the president who, even in the worst of times, has – or should have, if he will use it - the power and political know-how to lead the country toward these ends. (See FDR on the New Deal, Social Security and fear itself.)

Crabby spent eight years avoiding the face and voice of George W. Bush. Beginning with his first inaugural address, she read rather than watched whatever she thought might be important to know because she could not bear his ignorance, his crude manner of speech and his sneering, frat-boy attitude.

Two years ago, she thought she was done with that, but now finds herself avoiding President Obama, disappointed with his failure to live up to his campaign billing. Yes, he is more presentable on the world stage than his predecessor and he seems to have a better grasp of complex issues, but Crabby Old Lady wonders now if he can lead a horse to water, let alone 300 million hurting people on a long and treacherous road to recovery.

He seems not even to try.

Still, until recently, Crabby clung to the belief that the man she voted for would come through for the people as promised.

In romance, in friendship and, now she knows, in politics too, her love dies hard. At first, like that woman, Velma Hart, who told the president to his face that she was tired of apologizing for him, Crabby felt herself being let down by Obama. Then, when she realized he is either not what he claimed during the campaign or is too weak to live up to his own rhetoric, she felt betrayed.

Crabby has lost heart with the man. On every issue he has caved to the far right. A few points:

ECONOMY
Crabby is gradually coming to see that the bailout of the the too-big-to-fail banks may have been necessary. (See Matt Taibbi's Griftopia for easy-to-understand explanations.) Nevertheless, she is suspicious when the people who advise the president on economic matters are, to a man, part of the Wall Street/Washington revolving door and some are holdovers from the Bush administration.

Further, Crabby finds it unconscionable that no bankers have been indicted for their years of rigging the system for themselves, possibly illegally, (see, again, Griftopia) and that the people – mostly men – who did this were not just left in place at their banks after the truth emerged, but were also allowed to continue receiving their extravagant salaries and bonuses.

This was done while the government, with Obama's acquiescence, gave the banks trillions of dollars in close to no-interest loans while they jacked up credit card interest rates to 30 percent and walked off with ordinary people's homes based on fraudulent mortgages. Did you see any action from the president? Crabby didn't.

Now, this year's Wall Street bonuses are said to be the largest ever while CEOs continue to whine that the Obama administration is treating them badly. The president has nothing to say about this either.

HEALTH CARE
Even before debate in Congress began, Obama gave away the public option, and in secret meetings he had previously said would be televised, cut a deal with big pharma to give them billions in new revenue over coming years.

Then he sat back for a year while Republicans turned health care "reform" into another billion-dollar giveaway to the insurance companies, never using his bully pulpit and other resources to demand equity for the people.

Last week, we learned that the state of Arizona (you know, the one with the Republican governor who believes there are headless bodies in the desert) has cut off all organ transplants to Medicaid patients resulting in one 37-year-old father being snatched almost right out of the operating room and tossed out of the hospital to go home and die.

Not a word or any suggestion of help from our president. Although from a different political source than she accused, apparently Sarah Palin was right about death panels.

BIPARTISANSHIP
It took only about 10 minutes after the president's cheery announcement last week about new-found bipartisanship with Congressional Republicans that its leadership said they would block any and every Democratic bill until the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich are extended.

And so they have done, including a bill to feed poor and hungry children without a peep from the president who ran off to visit troops in Afghanistan while the Republicans trashed the extension of unemployment benefits. There is plenty of time to visit the troops before Christmas.

Only a couple of months into Obama's presidency it was obvious that Republicans, a minority in both Houses then, had no intention of cooperating with the president and his party. Ever. Yet the president has not stopped harping on bipartisanship.

What does it take for him to see that Republicans have declared war on him and the Democrats and that it is time, finally, for him to fight?

THE DEFICIT COMMISSION AND SOCIAL SECURITY
This is the president's commission. He created it and appointed the members, some of whom are connected to Peter G. Peterson, the billionaire who has spent 20 years and much of his wealth trying to destroy Social Security.

The Commission's report sets out a plan for Social Security that will eventually reduce payments to beneficiaries by 30 percent. And not just future beneficiaries. It also recommends a different calculation for cost-of-living increases that will reduce yours and Crabby's benefits which are already among the lowest in the developed world.

Keep in mind that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit; it is self-funded by the workers of the United States. But even though the Commission's report did not get enough votes to require Congress to consider it, the president said he would study the recommendations as he prepares the next budget:

"We must correct our fiscal course," he said. "It will require cutting the spending we don't need in order to invest in what's necessary to grow our economy and our middle class. It will require all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to find common ground."

Crabby is wondering if he thinks Social Security is "spending we don't need." It appears to be time to brace for another Obama bipartisan cave.

UNEMPLOYMENT
The official unemployment rate jumped .2 percent in November to 9.8 percent. But "official" is not a synonym for correct and everyone should know by now that when part-timers, underemployed and discouraged workers are counted, the rate edges toward 20 percent – one-fifth of the workforce.

In addition, we are told there are five applicants for every available job in the U.S. and hardly any new jobs each month. What's an unemployed person to do when the jobs don't exist, the president does nothing create any and doesn't even offer a Clintonian, "I feel your pain"?

Last week, Congressional Republicans held hostage an extension of unemployment insurance to the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. The first, it is said, would add $60 billion to the deficit while the latter would add an estimated $700 billion.

That seems, in our straightened times, an easy choice; rich people can swallow the taxes without stressing their lifestyles much and given the current circumstances of everyone else, so what if it did?

By the time Crabby Old Lady was putting this post to bed in the late afternoon yesterday, President Obama announced a "framework agreement" with Republicans: extend jobless benefits for 13 months but at the cost of extending the Bush-era tax cuts, including those for rich people, for two more years.

This is pathetic. And it is the Republicans - those folks who keep shouting about the deficit - who blackmailed the president into continuing these tax cuts for the rich and he fell for it. He caved. Again.

Let's fantasize for a moment. If the president had played hard ball by demanding an end of tax cuts for the rich and extending unemployment benefits, does anyone believe the Republicans would kill it the deal? Really? And go home to their states for Christmas where 10 percent, and more in some cases, are out of work?

If Crabby were president, she'd make that gamble. She believes that if the president stood his ground, the Republicans would not be able to withstand the fury of their constituents.

Apologies for the language, how many millions of destroyed lives will it take for the president to tell rich assholes and their Congressional sycophants that it's time for them to do their part to help the recovery and suck it up?

(Just in passing, according to a CBS News poll released on 2 December, only 26 percent of Americans support extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone. But no one in Washington is listening to the people, least of all the president.)

A friend with whom Crabby Old Lady is basically on the same political page supported Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign of 2008. His reason? She has balls, he said, big ones along with hard-won political savvy that Crabby's friend found lacking in Obama.

Crabby has come to agree, especially now while watching Clinton's steady, smart response to the recent Wikileaks documents. She's doing a great job of handling the overblown hysteria about them.

Crabby is far from the only one who has given up on Obama and in the comments on Saul Friedman's Gray Matters column on Saturday about Obama and the Deficit Commission, Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge wrote:

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that Obama, while a great orator, is not a great leader. He doesn't stand for much of anything since becoming president. Instead of using his bully pulpit, he is still reaching for a compromise that the Republicans gleefully won't give him...

"More than a symbolic gesture is needed and it is now too little too late to get anything done."

Jan Adams of Happening Here followed up:

"Darlene has said it for me. Obama is a bust, captive to conventional wisdom that rewards the rich at the expense of most of us...

"After a siege of working from the inside, it's back to hammering the system from the outside if we want a decent life for ourselves and our loved ones."

Crabby is with both of them except that she has lost energy for the moment for hammering. At a time in history when we need leadership both tough and compassionate, President Obama looks like a beaten man, cowed by the Republicans, ready to meet any of their demands and even offer his own.

His apparent attempt at conciliation last week – freezing federal wages for two years – is ludicrous. He makes himself even weaker by punishing secretaries and postal workers, moreso with no economic or political gain from it.

And maybe the man so many of us believed could intelligently lead the nation out of its dark days is not as smart as we thought. On Sunday, Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism related this story:

"I met a law school classmate of Obama’s last week, and heard the long form version of reports on his conduct then: he’d get up and consistently make completely pedestrian, middle of the road comments (his classmate put them on the order of “rain is wet”)."

Which is a pretty good description of Obama's public statements in general.

Crabby Old Lady expects Republicans to be reprehensible in their mean-spirited and self-serving support of corporations and the wealthy. She did not expect a man who gained the presidency on the soaring rhetoric of hope to so completely dash it for everyone else.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: Whoopee! Not Wimpy!

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yesterday, I forgot to include a link to the day's Elderstory. Although I added it later, people who subscribe via email or RSS did not receive it, so here is the link: The Day "Joe" Almost Got in Woman Trouble.

Comments

Ronni, yes. The only vision this country is left with is that of the conservatives, which is terribly, tragically wrong. There is no alternative vision because Obama has given it away piece by piece.

This is excellent, and I, like you, am so disappointed in the way he has run the US. It has brought me to tears at times. I could go on and on about this, but right now, it is to emotional for me to do so.

You said it best in the ending of "She did not expect a man who gained the presidency on the soaring rhetoric of hope to so completely dash it for everyone else."

Yes.

But if we give up, we are left with nothing but the conservative view.

"Soaring rhetoric" is just that, rhetoric. The bottom line is Obama didn't have the votes on the tax bill. I blame Blue Dog Democrats for dashing our hope as much as you blame Obama. He set the bar high, but few are willing to even try to reach it.

I will probably have to work, at least tangentially, on re-electing the fellow, because electing people is my profession and the alternative will be worse. But I don't have to like it and I do have build whatever alternative centers of popular power I can.

My friend and co-worker Brendan Smith has tackled the TINA ("there is no alternative") problem from the perspective of someone younger than most of us. His thinking is interesting if only because he strives to find hope among the ashes.

Thanks Crabby.

Obama lost my support (and respect) by the fiasco he made of the health care reform. I seriously thought he would allow the public option to at least be on the table, but noooo. I concluded after that he was bought off -- or deluded in thinking the republicans would ever compromise. Never have I wanted a president to just stand his ground, stop caving on EVERYTHING as much as I did Obama. I've lost all faith in him, feel we elected a fraud.

Your thoughts are sad, but true. I'm afraid Obama wants to be liked and that's a dangerous position to take when you're the leader.

I suspect we have many more years of hardship ahead based on the current economic and political situation. We've lost our stature on the world stage.

I hate that I must agree with you. ARe there any mean liberals, any angry liberals or are we just too polite and too concerned with compromise?

Sometimes I feel like I live in Bizarro World--Republicans holding millions of hurting unemployed people hostage in order for the fat cats to keep their tax cuts. Fricken unbelievable!

Yes, where are the angry Democrats!! They should be shouting this from the rooftop, on every newscast and in every paper!

On Saturday I was doing some holiday shopping (having received a small $350.00 bonus that was unexpected)and in a terrific mood listening to holiday music while driving, etc. Then the news came on that Congress not only defeated taking away the tax cuts for the over $250,000 households but also the millionaire households. My mood changed so quickly it would have made your head spin. To say I was "spittin" mad would have been an understatement.

I was so depressed last night after I heard that Obama had 'caved' again by giving the rich 2 more years of tax cuts, with very little in return, that I couldn't sleep. The Republicans will be in charge in two more years and those tax cuts will be made permanent.

Obama signaled before beginning to deal with any of the issues (health care, the deficit, tax cuts) that he would compromise and the Republicans had his number early on. All they had to do was stand firm and he would cave in.

At first I gave him the benefit of a doubt because I thought he would learn in office. He has learned nothing. He is now on the way to becoming a one-term president unless the Republicans foolishly nominate Sarah Palin as his opponent. They are not that stupid, so that is not going to happen.

I agree with Paula that the Blue Dog Democrats helped to destroy health care reform, but Obama gave away the store when he didn't begin by demanding the single payer system (it was off the table, boys). He could have ended up with the public option, had he started from a strong position.

Do I feel betrayed? You betcha.

Yes, crushing disappointments, one after the other.

Our only hope here is to write and call our Representatives and Senators, the Democratic ones and demand they vote against this monstrosity, while they vote to extend Unemployment benefits. They can do some of this by reconciliation while they still have the majority vote as it's a financial measure.

I know it's tempting to feel panic and let this go through with hope for something better to come. It's time to quit dreaming and recognize what we have here in our president, and it's extremely disappointing. There is still a barrier against this and it's the vague hope Democrats will find their backbone.

Call and tell them if they vote to extend this tax cut for the rich, and for now that might mean for anybody, and cut payroll taxes making social security in even bigger trouble, they'll never get our vote again. Of course, most won't ever believe us as Americans tend to say a lot and do little. This time we better mean it.

Damn! You've said it so well, what in the world could I add. Anybody interested in moving to Denmark with us? It gets cold as hell, otherwise it seems like a Utopia compared to the U.S.

Thank you Ronnie, er, that is crabby old lady. Well said, clear and to the point as always.

Speaking of moving I think France has the health care thing down and the food would be better not to mention better weather!

Jan

The only consolation I've had over the last year is to think what the country would have been like had the other side won the election in 2008 in light of the previous 8 miserable years. Now I'm beginning to wonder if there is a difference.

For what it's worth, I hope you send today's blog to the Obama administration.

Heartbreaking post. So much is going wrong and so fast.
We must start thinking like AMERICANS not who's wrong or who's right. Am I disgusted with 'my man'? Yes and bitterly disappointed too but let's not let his legacy or lack of it be the defining moment for our Nation. We have GOT to take back the government from the cynical and corrupt or this country of ours will become just another good idea gone bad.
I am much too old to declare a Revolution but I'm sure that is what it will take.
Keep speaking out and do all you can to get us back on the right road.

I don't want to give up on President Obama just yet, but I must admit, it's gotten a lot harder to keep on believing! I don't know what the Republicans would have done if Obama had stood firm on NO more tax cuts for the rich AND extending unemployment, but I suspect you're right, Ronni (aka: COL). The Repubs--even the most ardent tea baggers among the newly-elected representatives--wouldn't have wanted to face their unemployed constituents back home after having voted against unemployment benefits.

I think nwd may have a point--revolution could be the only way. I have to believe that there are more of "us" (meaning those who care what happens to our fellow Americans) than there are of "them" (those who want to hang on to their millions and devil take the rest of us).

I understand wanting to have enough money to feel secure and live well (I'd like to be in that situation myself) , but I don't understand pure, unadulterated GREED. My husband thinks that at some point it becomes "Who's got the biggest...yacht?" among the superrich, almost all of whom are men. They try to one-up each other--as men often do. Really!! Who needs 5 personal airplanes?

That's probably not going to change, but we badly need more balance, more sanity and more concern for the common good. Without those, we're just another (large) banana republic!

I remember the 2004 speech at the Demo Convention - watching it on TV. Never saw of this fellow before. I said aloud "This guy's going to be President someday." My guess is that a few million others were thinking the same thing. (And many of those were Republicans - scared to death.)

But I never would've guessed that it would be in four years.

He wasn't ready. Hillary was (not that I ever loved her).

Eight years in the Senate, making connections, learning the ropes, becoming a major player...then President.

Alternate History: Hillary as President, Obama leading the Senate (not officially, but influentially) - what could have been accomplished!

Oh, well.

Just read this piece that sheds a different light:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/obama_adult-in-chief_in_a_town.html

I worked for a state senator at one point, and I know from experience that there's no way, in this right-winged climate, that Obama could successfully press the progressive agenda completely.

Elaine of Kaliliy...I agree. I worked on Capital Hill a few years and I know how difficult it is to get something moved through the legislature when you have members of BOTH parties aligned against you.

As the Dems said 2 years ago, elections have consequences. Several Dems including one of my senators stood with the Repubicans in the vote against the House-passed bill tax. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) faces a tough election next year, and seeing all the other Blue Dog Democrats go down this past fall has made him more responsive to voters in our state who want unemployment benefits extended. The compromise was to swallow the inclusion of the upper income tax breaks.

Yes, Obama is a big disappointment in that he seems to acquiesce to the bullies on the hill. Why I don't know, and can't seem to figure out the reasoning for his lack of backbone and why he continues to want to work in bipartisanship with Republicans. What happened to this man? I am like you Crabby, I can't bare to listen to Obama anymore. Yes I am angry but how do I get my representatives to listen. My anger doesn't seem to be enough.

Crabby, you speak from my heart. For hell's sake, the man lashed out at progressives (!) during his whiny news conference.

Just in case all of you out there want to read something really sobering, try this from today's Salon:

www.salon.com/news/us_economy/index.html?story=/news/feature/2010/12/06/america_collapse_2025

I warmly welcome Obama to the center. I love him all the more now. Two terms here he now comes. My dear progressive friends, I feel your pain, however.

The Democrats have been compromising for 30 years now. When are the Republicans going to start?

Lord, I wish Howard Dean was president.

I never thought Hillary Clinton could have been elected president, but now I find myself wondering how she would have handled these problems. She is stronger, I think. The GOP learned early on that Obama didn't get it--bipartisanship to them means "we suggest something, and you go along."

I am despondent. I find myself thinking, "If the Republicans somehow managed to choose the Democratic candidate for president, how would such a person differ from Barack Obama?"

Alas, I am hard-put to find any differences between what the GOP would likely come up with and we we are now stuck with: a soft, polite, starched-collared, erudite, young and inexperienced man who wants to please, does not know how to wield power, who cannot even find anyone who knows how to delegate power, who loves to give great speeches, who garners no respect from anyone, and is black (assuring he that he is adequately cowed) and who seems to believe whatever the Greedy Old Party says.

Ask yourself this: How is he any different from the Republicans' likely preference of their dream Democratic opponent? They must be laughing themselves silly. How could it be any worse?

Once again, I find myself unable to listen to the voice of "my President."

UGH.

Been thinking about this all day. Yes I am terribly disappointed. Would it help for Obama to rev up the volume, act angry and come from his belly? He is way too nice (polite. Sigh. He already gave a lot away. How does real change happen? Why the hell do we have such a terribly divided, toxically corroded Congress?

I was not a big Obama supporter but in him I had hope and saw a possibility change. Now I have neither. Crabby has said it well.

We always have to look at what it is the capitalists want. They don't want to pay taxes. If we try to make them pay taxes they will evade them or go somewhere where the taxes are lower or nonexistent. Capital can move quite freely where it wants to these days.
As a class, capitalists have no sense of social responsibility. It's entirely their fault that we have come to this pass.

He's wasted the lame duck session, he's ignored the gift of the "bully pulpit," he's kowtowed to the finance industry and helped drive economic value offshore.... He makes failure look easy.

Disappointing, no doubt. Hopeless, I am not certain of that.
But I don't understand the resistance to make the Republicans live with the results of their positions. Had they refused to extend unemployment benefits (and I am not convinced they would have allowed them to expire), they would have taken a lot of heat as the economy went back into its downward spiral. At the same time, the President gave away everything he claimed to want...the tax cuts for the rich, and the increased revenue to decrease the deficit, or to finance the extension of the unemployment benefits.
But if it were McCain in office? I think I might be living somewhere overseas.

I have been living in the US for many years now and think it has changed a lot. The Republicans of the 1960s like Barry Goldwater are now the centrist Republicans. Most of the standard Republicans have moved to the extreme right fringe. I also think that the Democrats now are like the more liberal Republicans of years ago and no longer Democrats. Obama to me is not a real Democrat and what he has done shows it. The other thing that startles me is that if only 26% of Americans support the Bush tax cuts, why are not the 74% who are opposed more vocal? Why are they not in the streets showing that they are upset? If this were England, France or another country in Europe, there would be strikes, people walking in their capitals. Why are the people here so lethargic? It looks like Obama did not try very hard to fight for his base and is upset at them for not congratulating him. I hope the Democratic base has more fighting spirit than their leader has.

It' heartbreaking to those of us that had so much hope...

I am stunned & disappointed beyond words....

I tried hard not to comment, didn't work - Crabby you've said very eloquently exactly what needed to be said for a very long time. The 'system' is broken and no one has the guts to fix it.

As for the 'crumbs from the master's table' unemployment funds, has everyone forgotten the 8 million people out of work in 2009 that no longer qualify for this Obama largesse?

There are still no jobs on the horizon and the homeless rate is one of the highest since 1929 and rising daily, but no one (including the media) is talking about it.

What's sad is if you were part of those who remember protesting in the 60's - unless it has a bell or whistle or can be added to your Ipod/pad/cell phone today, people are blithely oblivious and 'so totally' uninterested.

Thank you Crabby for saying what some of us have been thinking.

After reading your blog - I could let some air out! I realize I have been holding my breath, not wanting it to form the words you have so righly used to voice the disappointment I am feeling about Obama and the political scene of late. I am wondering if it is time to study-up on the Tea Party?

It's a heartbreaker.

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