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A Classic Case of Premature Capitulation

By Peter Cavanaugh

In the frenzied world of political foreplay, there are few things that offer the same degree of collective embarrassment as a revival of premature capitulation.

I just don’t get it.

With any number of viable options remaining open toward reducing a federal debt primarily bloated in little more than a decade by two unneeded wars and radical tax cuts for the wealthy under Republican leadership, President Obama’s unconscionable surrender on Social Security and Medicare issues in his new budgetary proposals are more mysterious than quantum mechanics, the Bermuda Triangle and Donald Trump’s hair all rolled into one.

That’s why the 125-member Oakhurst Democratic Club approved the following resolution at its monthly meeting on April 5:

It is hereby resolved that the Oakhurst Democratic Club strongly condemns any action on the part of President Obama which would in any way negatively impact upon future payments of Social Security benefits, including any changes in annual cost-of-living adjustments as currently structured.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am on the Executive Committee of the club and moderate our monthly meetings. I would also observe that the vote referenced above was not unanimous. After all, we’re Democrats. At least a third of those in attendance expressed certain reservations on issues dealing with party loyalty, phraseology, timing and other understandable concerns. But a clear majority joined me in supporting the desirability of an immediate, decisive response to what seems to be an odd and unhelpful inclusion in our President’s initial overture to a chronically recalcitrant and oftentimes mindlessly oppositional Congress.

In such matters, this is not Obama’s first rodeo.

On Jan. 13, 2009, a young President-elect prefaced his first term in office with a three-hour dinner meeting at the home of conservative columnist George Will in Chevy Chase, Md., with other GOP luminaries at the table including the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post. This and a number of other administrative olive branch gestures through subsequent months and years have conclusively proven that any motion toward conciliation and compromise with “the other side” has normally come to naught, particularly after dramatic Tea Party victories in 2010. Reflection upon such Democratic losses offers further reason to scorn such unwelcomed abandonment of fundamental basics as we witness in President Obama’s new proposals.

John Boehner became Speaker of the House of Representatives with an astounding Republican majority even as separate state elections saw Republicans seize control of governorships from Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin. By the time all votes were counted, the GOP had additionally won at least 19 state legislative bodies from Democrats, including both chambers in Alabama and Wisconsin, the Michigan House, the Ohio House and the Pennsylvania House—just in time for gerrymandered redistricting.

It is my strong contention that this powerful and impressive 2010 Republican resurgence was a direct consequence of disaffected, disappointed, disillusioned 2008 Obama supporters, particularly the young disenchanted, staying home by the millions. There was a sad and self-defeating abandonment of hope in a President who, during his first two Oval Office years, was seen not practicing what he had so passionately preached.

“Yes, we can’t?”

The concept of a simple single-payer approach to universal health insurance being trashed at the outset of “Obama care” planning in its earliest stages?

No serious legislation addressing financial horrors that brought about a financial crisis threatening the entire world?

A “surge” of 20,000 more young American warriors sent to Afghanistan authorized by the President on Dec. 3, 2009?

The only true hope of passing progressive political legislation in the relatively near future rests with a wrestling of House control away from current conservative extremes in 2014. Such a transformation, combined with a “filibuster proof” Senate majority and a sitting Democratic President, could finally put obvious objectives derailed in 2010 back on track, but not if we once again fall victim to déjà vu.

On Sept. 6, 2008, candidate Barack Obama stated the following in a speech to the National AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Convention in Washington, D.C.

John McCain’s campaign has gone even further, suggesting that the best answer to the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut the cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age. I will not do either.

But now he is?

I fail to see any tactical reason for the obvious change of heart outlined in this singularly outrageous aspect of Obama’s budget, particularly given that the overall plan otherwise offers exceptionally promising positions on preschool education, veterans’ benefits, deficit reduction, vital infrastructure investment and other gratifying goodies. Even with a cynical suspicion of purely political posturing, one cannot imagine any potential upside. I believe there is every reason to conclude this unnecessary notion was at best ill-advised and at worst a return to excessive expurgation.

Jeremy Weinstein worked at the Obama White House as a member of the National Security Council and quotes the President as specifically insisting to many visiting activist groups, “Your job is to hold my feet to the fire. You need to be out there every day raising these issues, telling us when we’re doing the right or wrong thing. My role is to be President of the United States, and your role is to be a strong voice for people who aren’t always heard.”

This remarkably echoes the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, upon meeting with prominent labor leaders after his election in 1932 and hearing their ideas on reforms and restructuring, said, “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it!”

Forceful intervention at the executive level being criminally unlawful and surely unwarranted, I suggest considering this a respectful attempt at appropriately polite persuasion.

Although I remain absolutely delighted that Barack Obama is our President instead of Mitt Romney, now almost as unknown and unwelcomed in Republican rhetoric as George W. Bush, I am thoroughly convinced there are a multitude of other moves to be made in addressing governmental spending other than slashing into COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments). How about moving FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) payments above the current threshold of $113,700, changing income tax rates back to Clinton administration levels and, most of all, closing billions of dollars lost through corporate loopholes?

Wait! What about Eisenhower era rates? He was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces when he won World Was II as a five-star general, let alone being elected to our nation’s highest office as a fine Republican.

Let’s see. For the wealthiest Americans making more than $400,000 a year that would be a marginal rate of 91%—effective from 1954 through 1963 when I graduated from college. Today, it’s 35% above $388,350, even as the Tea Party sulks and sobs, tears flowing in that crazy crocodile way over “highest in history” taxation even as they continue their vigilant search high and low for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) concentration camps wherein Barack Obama is worshipped as a living god, women wear pants while voting and English is forbidden.

Perhaps Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), often seen wearing pants, says it best for the Oakhurst Democratic Club:

I was shocked to hear that the President’s newest budget proposal would cut $100 billion in Social Security benefits. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle-class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch. In short, a “chained CPI” is just a fancy way to say, “cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled and orphans.”

I love that lady!

But hate those cuts.

*****

Peter Cavanaugh promoted and produced hundreds of concerts with the likes of Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Kiss and so on, and ran a seven-station radio group that included top-rated rock ’n’ roll stations. Peter is currently on the Executive Committee of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst. Contact him at ledzep2001@aol.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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