So I happen to be of the view that anyone who takes the time to care about politics deserves a fair hearing and a reasonable dialog. Even if you may disagree with them quite a lot. So I thought it would be worth posting a couple of recent discussion I've been having with some friends - both to the right and to the left of me and/or the President.
First up, here's a stimulating dialog I had with Clayton Trapp - who has been an activist and an e-mail correspondent of mine for some time.
Clayton was initiall writing in response to my posts about why the Obama buget makes me hopeful. Here's his initial e-mail:
Top 10 Reasons I'm Concerned about Obama
(1) Willing to let AIC goofs take $100K bonuses at the expense of me
(2) wasting cache on defending the right of AIG contortionists to take $100K bonuses for running their fucking company into the dirt, and then having the gall to demand that the rest of us, working hard and doing better, bail their sorry fucking ass out
(3) merit pay. does he realise that it goes to whoever doesn't bitch? (i.e. accepts the sorry state)?
(4) Does He understand that he is tacitly endorsing bonuses, for the same clowns who run their businesses into the ground and then WHINE for help... we don't make that in a year, man. He told L.A. he doesn't play. We dont' whine. But we do vote, ane he of all people should know that. We deserve better. We will vote again.
(5) I saw what he said in Wisconsin. That was rad. THIS is BULLSHIT. And it's not long until he gets called on it. The liberal press waited on Clinton, I have no idea why.
(6) I didn't vote for a friend to be moved around by Wall Street. I voted for a President to lead. If this is it, I'm still looking
(7) the historic transfer of wealth from everyone else to the elite, as noted by (Republican) Kevin Jarvis, is apparently not only to continue but to be encouraged. NO thank you. Might as well have voted for Hillary or anyone else.
(8) Nope. Those are the only seven. But they're very real. And this Bill Clintonesqe corporate ass kissing ain't gonna result in any support when we get another chance.
SO GET OFF THE FUCKING HOOF AND STAND FOR SOMETHING (like the election rhetoric)!!!!!
Well at least he said it respectfully. And with love. (Kidding.)
Here's my initial response:
With respect, I have to disagree - especially with point number 7. In economic terms, Barack has already been the most progressive President since FDR - the stimulus plan alone has given hundreds of billions of dollars to the poorest Americans, and by abolishing the Bush tax cuts and making further targetted tax hikes to the very wealthy, Obama has already put his money where his mouth is in terms of economic redistribution. His budget is ten times more money on, for example, early childhood education for the poor as AIG is paying out in bonuses.
Am I angry that those AIG Assholes are getting this money? Hell yes - they should be fired, right now, not rewarded. I am still inclined to hope they will be. But there was some reason to believe that these assholes' contracts, if broken, would have wound up with lawsuits resulting in triple the initial amount paid. I think Geithner, rightly or wrongly, calculated that it wasn't worth that risk.
Still, in terms of the scale of the things - the extraordinary investment that Obamam is making in our national infrastructure simply isn't comparable to things like these bonuses.
And finally, in terms of the overall financial bailout package - including AIG's - I hate giving the bosses of these companies one thin dime (the don't deserve it, I agree). But Obama has his finger in the dyke right now trying to prevent the entire US economy from literally collapsing overnight. I don't know yet whether he and his team are doing the right thing here, but I don't actually believe you know that for sure yet either - I can't even get my head around what would happen if the US financial system collapsed entirely - the consequences are simply beyond my comprehension. But I don't believe it would only, or even mainly, be fat cats and wall street types who would suffer. I'm willing to cut him a little bit of slack here.
In any case, the budget is a separate issue - and the budget is unabashedly a progressive vision. All progressives should get behind it - the Right would love to distract us from our progressive goals by ginning up populist outrage, but I am not going to let it happen.
With very best wishes and kind regards,
Thank you for your thoughtful and immediate response. I take it that we're both venting! So I would add:
> point number 7. In economic terms, Barack has already been
> the most progressive President since FDR
this is a really nice line (I'm going to get friendlier on other responses, I promise)...but the reality is that President Obama's standing is yet to be determined. He is currently tacking towards Big Business, which got us into this mess and fails to distinguish him from Reagan, Bushes, Clintons...
He has thrown the lower 98 percent of the economic pyramid some bones already, which is either nice or disingenuous, but doesn't distinguish him from Bill Clinton. (oh thanks for my $3k back)
> poorest Americans, and by abolishing the Bush tax cuts and
with all due respect I don't believe that many people voted for President Obama based on the limited belief that he might roll back Bush W. tax cuts to Bush H.W. levels, and at the same time kick cash down to any multi-billionaire who had a bad quarter and can't see how to sustain his/her profits
> Obama has already put his money where his mouth is in terms
> of economic redistribution.
I would just ask you to reconsider this sentence, particularly in light of AIG redistribution, which everyone understands.
> rewarded. I am still inclined to hope they will be. But
> there was some reason to believe that these assholes'
> contracts, if broken, would have wound up with lawsuits
I'm guessing that we've both been around the block enough times to understand that whenever anything changes, and a cash flow is interrupted, there will be lawsuits. I've never been afraid of them if I thought I was doing the right thing. Why should President Obama? Tim is a different question, he's never had credibility on the left. When he offers lame-ass explanations like this it just brands him a Clinton wannabe.
They want money? They don't deserve it and didn't earn it and effectively stole it? Our policy is to back down because we're afraid of their lawyers? I don't think so. I KNOW I didn't vote for that.
> Still, in terms of the scale of the things - the
> extraordinary investment that Obamam is making in our
> national infrastructure simply isn't comparable to
> things like these bonuses.
It's not separable because it's part of the same movement. That being said, and repeated, the move to renewable energy and improve education at the same time as healing the economy is breathtaking in ambition and scope.
The economy, though: is the necessary and inevitable re-settling of a monolith where too much cash went up too fast, repeatedly and for nearly 30 years... If someone was worth 45 million at lunch time and is now worth 32 million it's really just a market correction in terms of 1980 value. When they fire ten thousand people to maintain their profit margin there's a problem. We need to fix the second one, not the first.
> literally collapsing overnight. I don't know yet whether
> he and his team are doing the right thing here, but I
> don't actually believe you know that for sure
> yet either - I can't even get my head around what would
> happen if the US financial system collapsed entirely
I hear some dumb clod Republican candidate saying the same thing in four years. And that we've been paying corporate CEOs to rip us off, and that he wouldn't have done it (Newt Gringrich very wisely, I think, urged McCain to denounce bailouts and turn it into the Bush/Obama Bailout...of course Mr Gringrich's problem was that he also effectively urged no one to ever question a corporate strategy in public ever again...that was a moment and this is a moment. I expect us to do better than Gingrich/McCain)
I'm with the President, but I'm afraid I've plummeted to B+ and falling. We need fundamental economic reform, and we need it at the expense of those to whom the President is aggressively and immediately currying favour.....there will not be a better opportunity than this, they will not hand over cash on their own, they do not give a fuck about healthcare for you or me, and the president is killing the wave that could make it happen.
I really appreciate your taking the time to respond, though. I know that we're all in this together. My only point is that there are a lot of us unwilling to go the wrong way.
And finally, here's me again:
I guess my overall point is that you can argue the rights and wrongs of things like the AIG bonuses issue, and I'm perfectly prepared to believe that Obama may have made a mistake there (I'm not sure he did, but there are things I would have done differently).
But my larger point is that we have a President who has already (in the stimulus package) passed a $750Billion+ progressive package that is making massive investments in services to the poor, education, transport infrastructure... just tons of great stuff that redistributes wealth from wealthy taxpayers straight to poor and working people. And the budget is based on the same principle, boldly taking a big chunk out of our need to invest for the future and lining up exactly with his campaign pledges in this area.
But this scares the conventional Washington types - because if this progam happens and stays popular it's the end of the conservative era in American politics. So better to gin up anger over things like executive bonuses - it's the same "demonise immigrants and gay marriage" strategy these people have been using to win elections for years, and it's a great big distraction exercise. "Oooohhh... look over here, rich people are getting money! Don't look over there where the country's problems are getting solved." I'm not fooled.
I meant what I said about Obama already being the most progressive President since Roosevelt, and I stand by my statement abotu redistribution. Hundreds of billions are going to help the poor and working class whose wages have stagnated for a decade (or who are out of work right now). Even the financial bailout money is going to keep tens of thousands of working class people in jobs - not just in the banks themselves bit in the companies they finance. Alternatively, you can let these companies go under and then you have to pay welfare and unemployment for their workers later on - I don't see how that's better for the taxpayer, and it sure isn't better for the workers.
Anyway, enough rambling. But I am highlighting the budgt stuff because I'm truly excited about it, and I think all of us who voted for a progressive vision of America should be.
All best wishes,
So tell me - who's right? Diatribes, defences, indignation and indifference all welcome in comments.
And stay tuned for an e-mail dialog with an old friend from the right.