Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Okay, I'll drop the cynicism for a moment and give the prez some props for delivering the straightforward ideological manifesto he should have provided a long time ago. He's finally stopped believing his own bullshit about bipartisanship and One America yadda yadda, and apparently (although it has yet to be demonstrated) abandoned the strategy of negotiating with himself and pre-caving on every confrontation with the Republiwackos.
Strong words on climate change; direct debunking of libertarianism; repudiation of militarism (rhetorically anyway -- see below); historically correct representation of civil rights and justice as a historically unfinished process, not an inherent feature of American society and -- to many people's surprise -- making the struggle for lesbian and gay equality part of a triumvirate with the women's movement and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s; promising to protect the vulnerable and needy; promising to invest in public goods and regulate commerce for the common welfare; some talk about gun safety; immigration reform.
Not everyone on the portside is completely happy, however. No mention of the horrifically destructive and pointless war on drugs and the prison-industrial complex. In fact, he has shown every sign of continuing it and ramping it up. As for the military-industrial complex, he spoke of peace but not of a peace dividend; did not even mention the vast archipelago of overseas military bases; did not mention the undeclared drone war in Pakistan and Yemen and the extrajudicial executions done on his sole authority. No mention of the surveillance state and the absurdly bloated, largely secret national security establishment.
Talk of saving money on health care was vague. The true debate right now is whether we do it by hurting Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, or by making health care more efficient and effective by hurting drug and medical device companies, hospital and nursing home chains, and wealthy sub-specialist physicians, all of which are fattening on our own flesh. The entire argument about deficits and entitlements is actually between these two entirely different definitions of the problem, but he failed to clarify that.
Talk of inequality was also vague. We need to tax the wealthy even more, not necessarily by further raising marginal tax rates but by taxing investment income the way we tax wages. We need to insure a full employment economy through our public investments, a goal he did not state. We need universal access to affordable higher education, also not specified. We need to break up the big financial institutions, tax financial transactions, insure workers' right to organize, and strengthen shareholders' rights and create executive accountability. All unmentioned. Corporations are legal fictions, chartered by government; government can take their charters away, after all, but that power is never exercised.
So it's better than what we've been hearing, but not quite there yet. So sez me.