Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Neoliberalism and austerity, in Greece and the US

Greek version:

Inter Press Service, Greek Parliament Passes Austerity Bill 06/29/2011. The governing Pasok party got a 155 vote majority out of 298 cast. "[Prime Minister George] Papanderou expelled a Greek ruling party deputy who voted against the austerity packagae [sic]."

The vote took place as clashes between police and protesters broke out outside parliament, with the booms of stun grenades and tear gas resonating across the square outside the building.

Riot police fired volleys of tear gas at swarms of young men who were hurling rocks and other debris as well as setting fire to rubbish containers.

Police with truncheons occasionally charged the demonstrators, but pulled back just as quickly.

As stun grenades boomed and flashed, many members of the crowds jeered and booed.

Most of the anti-government protesters who marched to the square stayed clear of the fighting, but they vented their anger at the political establishment with chants and insults.
Here at home: David Rogers, Revenue vs. cuts in debt debate Politico 06/29/2011:

For their part, Obama and Reid appear prepared to reach much higher, putting substantial Medicare savings on the table if Republicans would accept added revenues. With the House GOP leadership in New York, all of Monday’s White House maneuvering was Senate-centric. But Obama’s hope is that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), with whom he met privately last week, will be intrigued by a bolder package that might also help neutralize the Medicare issue now hurting the GOP among elderly voters. [my emphasis]
Why would Obama want to give away one of the best gifts the Republicans have given the Democratic Party, the Paul Ryan plan to abolish Medicare? There are various possible answers, none of them good for the majority of people or the Democratic base.

Jon Walker, quoting the Politico paragraph, offers one of them in Obama Prepared to Sell Out Rank and File Democrats on Medicare to Enhance Personal Brand FDL 06/29/2011 :

Getting Republicans to sign onto a deal could enhance Obama’s personal brand. It would show him to be a serious "deficit hawk," able to rise above partisan politics and cut a deal. But he would be helping himself at the expense of everyone else in the party. By giving the Republicans the political "out" they want on Medicare privatization, Obama could be dealing a devastating blow to everyone else in his own party who hoped to use the Ryan vote against their GOP opponents in 2012.
Of course, Walker is making a big assumption, and a dubious one: that trying to sound as much as possible like an austerity Republican has a good chance of helping his reelection chances more than hurting them.

I just saw a 1996 characterization of Barack Obama from Adolph Reed, Jr. that sounds disturbingly perceptive based on the first 2 1/2 years of Obama's Presidency:

In Chicago ... we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program — the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.
Ironically, Obama's training in Saul Alinksy-style community organizing is used by the Republicans to illustrate his allegedly far-left orientation. But the "elevation of process over program" has always been one of the main raps on the Alinsky style from critics on the left. And I do think that part of what the Democratic base sees as a problem with Obama is just that, the "elevation of process over program."

If you want things to run more smoothly in the very short run, giving the Republicans a pass on the Medicare issue makes some sense. But only if you ignore the fact that the Republicans successfully used Obama's (non-existent) cuts to Medicare as a major campaign theme in 2010. And that the debt ceiling negotiations really are a farce. The Republicans are not going to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. They are in Congress to comfort the very comfortable. And Wall Street needs the debt ceiling raised. Plus the Republican leaders in both the Senate and the House have publicly said that they know the debt ceiling has to be raised.

Obama's version of the Herbert Hoover austerity approach is not as crazy or as destructive as the Republicans. But he's pursuing that approach as a matter of policy.

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"It is the logic of our times
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