It’s Time for Progressives to Act

By Dan Kervick

By the time I post this, the Republicans in the House of Representatives may already have torpedoed last night’s fiscal cliff budget deal.  But the miserable lessons of both the budget deal and the White House political strategy that engendered it stand in any case: the Obama administration is both economically incompetent and hostile to progressive values.  Progressives need to stop acting like submissive partisan hacks, and stop offering mealy-mouthed gestures of moral support to a conservative, deceitful and morally bankrupt administration that is complicit in the attack on progressive values and broad prosperity.

The blogosphere is abuzz today with confusing postmortem evaluations of the negotiated deal.  But the political tally sheets of policy pundits like Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Matt Yglesias, Timothy Noah, Robert Reich and Jeffrey Sachs make no sense to me.  I really don’t care who won, who lost, who blinked, who glared, who caved and who prevailed in a stupid negotiation between two stupid parties over the best way to wreck our economy and punish the American people.  I also can’t relate at all to those who think the “debt crisis” is a real phenomenon and whose main criticism of the deal is only that it does not suck enough tax revenue out of the economy.  What I see is that if this deal passes:

1. The payroll tax is coming back right away.  That’s a major recessionary blow.

2. A bunch of spending cuts are going to be implemented in a couple of months.  That’s also recessionary.

3. The debt ceiling is still in place.  This means Republicans will soon be able to extort more recessionary cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

4. Some rich people’s taxes are going up a little, which is more than fine with me, but the tax increases are not offset by additional spending as they should be.  So the tax increases will also be recessionary.

5. There will be no direct action at all on employment and growth. The US government is still dead in the water as the prosperity of the country is eroded, so mass unemployment will continue to be a recessionary drag on the US economy.  The unemployed will have their benefits extended, of course, along with their hopelessness and crushed dreams, as they learn to live permanently beneath the bus under which Obama and the Republicans have thrown them.

So to me, this deal is a recession package. Welcome to the double dip!  I guess Obama has learned nothing from the experience of his Tory pal, David Cameron, or from the other countries in Euro Austerityland who have engineered a second punishing recession for their people.  Or maybe Obama is doing it to us on purpose, to inflict more conservative shock treatment on the US social contract that Pete Peterson, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have convinced him we can’t afford.

I have been told that I should count my blessings and be grateful Obama has negotiated a deal in which we only get 60% of the austerity that he and the Republicans negotiated last year with the Budget Control Act of 2011.  But that’s absurd.  Obama has preached debt crisis and deficit contraction incessantly since 2009.  He has actively sought a deficit destroying grand bargain and helped engineer the current crisis. He’s the anti-FDR.  He doesn’t get points because he only wants to drop a Nagasaki-sized atomic austerity bomb on the United States instead of a larger hydrogen austerity bomb. Both sides in this debate are utterly MAD.

There is no debt crisis.  There is no deficit crisis.

There is a jobs crisis.  There is an incomes crisis.  There is an economic development crisis.

We need a bigger deficit.  We need a more active Federal government.

Both Obama and the Republicans are enemies of ordinary Americans and their families.

I voted for Obama on November 7th solely to help defeat Mitt Romney and his party of contemptible troglodytes.  I was glad to do it, but defeating Romney is only the first preliminary stage of a progressive resurgence.  So on November 13th I went to my town clerk’s office and ended my life-long association with the Democratic Party.    I now strongly urge other progressives who are still members of the Democratic Party to take the same step.

Stand up and walk out.  Then let people know what you are doing.   I am sending a copy of this post to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as well as all of the major Democratic elected officials and party leaders in my state.

Until Democratic Party politicos see tangible, bottom line, sweat-inducing evidence that a core constituency of their party has simply had it – evidence in the form of dwindling registration rolls and shrinking donations – they will never be made to understand that Barack Obama and the conservative, neoliberal cadres that now dominate the party’s leadership elite are destroying their party and unraveling their coalition.

The austerity mania of Washington has turned into a national nightmare.  Make it stop.

We know what Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, thinks of the left side of the Democratic Party: “f-ing retarded.”   Well it’s time for Rahm’s Retards to act.

Update: (11:15 EST, 1/1/13) The US House of Representatives voted to approve  the Double Dip Act.

30 responses to “It’s Time for Progressives to Act

  1. The title of this post is highly offensive. People with intellectual disability are not “retards” and the use of this slur is equivalent to a racial epithet. You should be ashamed and you should apologize.

    • I will not. I am using Rahm Emanuel’s epithet and throwing it back at him and his ilk. I know very well how offensive the epithet is. Ever since the day Emanuel used it, it has been burned into my self-identity. It’s now a badge of honor as far as I am concerned.

    • I agree. Very poor taste, in particular for an organization struggling to be widely heard and taken seriously.

    • Oh good god man calm down, it’s a blog post.. spare us the PC hypersensitivity. You read this whole post and that’s the point you wanted to discuss?

  2. Nigel Clayden

    They wont act, you can be sure of that. Just like the left wing of the Labour Party in the UK crumpled. Both parties have been divorced from the interests of their supporting base.


  3. Why does a self professed progressive website post such a regressive and insulting title? This is shameful.

  4. I think Dan Kervick is trying to make the point that he sees being one of “Rahm’s Retards” is actually a “perverse badge of pride.” The choice of the word “Retard” is Rahm’s and betrays Rahm’s empathy deficit for individuals with learning difficulties not Kervick’s.

    • Thanks Schofield. Yes, that’s it exactly.

      • If you insist on using it, please put quotes around it. You are quoting Rahm. It’s horrible to read. Who even wants to get to the bottom of the post to find your meaning? It’s a monstrous turnoff to anyone who cares about others’ feelings and circumstances, which pretty much should be the audience you’re trying to reach.

    • Doesn’t matter.

  5. Great post, Dan. But I really think it’s better to primary establishment Democrats in 2014. Taking over the D party is easier than building a third party because the institutions aren’t so opposed.

    • That might be true Joe. But first it is necessary to get their attention. A mass exodus would cause mass party panic.

      • I have the perfect inauguration tune now for both the Republicans in Congress and the Obama administration:

        Crappy Days Are Here Again
        (with apologies to Milton Ager and Jack Yellen)

        Crappy days are here again,
        Recession’s in the air again
        Let us wring our hands with care again —
        Crappy days are here again

        All together, mourn it now —
        There’s no one who can ‘scape it now
        Have to sell the kids to serfdom now
        Crappy days are here again

        Your jobs and incomes are gone —
        There’ll be no more from now on!

        Crappy days are here again,
        Recession’s in the air again
        Let us wring our hands with care again —
        Crappy days are here again

  6. OK, you guys win on the title, but not the same line in the body of the post.

    Typical 21st century liberalism to get the vapors about potentially offensive language, but fall submissively in line when plutocrats attack their own children.

  7. Butch Busselle

    Gee. I read and understood the post without my head exploding over the use of the word “retard.” Maybe that’s an insensitive prick in the mirror. Naw, then I wouldn’t be concerned about the unemployed. Thanks Dan. This is one I can copy for my redneck friends and they’ll be able to understand it.

  8. I feel the same way. I voted for Obama just because the alternative was worse even though the Prez is to the right of Nixon. I too quit my lifelong affiliation with the Democratic party. The most disturbing thing in all of this is so-called progressives buying into the deficit nonsense….shameful, just shameful.

    • They ought to call this deal “The Double Dip Act” – because that’s where we’re headed. Payroll tax coming back; more debt ceiling-forced spending cuts in a couple of months; tax increases not offset by additional spending. These guys just vacuumed billions of much-needed dollars out of the economy.

      Then we have economists like Sachs telling us the deal should be rejected only because it doesn’t vacuum enough money out of the economy – and that the robbed and defrauded middle class needs to pay more taxes to guarantee the integrity of the social insurance plans the plutocrats still let us have.

  9. Agree with Dan Kervick’s analysis of the latest budget sell-out. Double Dip here we come !

    Disagree that the Democratic party can be reformed. You might as well try reforming the Republican party. In fact, you have a better chance of getting Republicans to support some MMT ideas like suspending FICA and using the platinum coin to pay off the debt. Republicans only care about the debt when a Democrat is in the White House.

    I dunno what the answer is. It may take a collapse to bring about meaningful change. But don’t worry, we’ll eventually get that collapse. The question is, what *kind* of change will rise up from the ashes ?

  10. The second administration hasn’t begun and the politics of the next 4 yrs. including the mid-term elections could yield positive results for reform. Progressive force may prove to embody a much wider swath of the electorate now that the center has shifted to the right of many unifying issues. It may be to early to judge but it’s definitely time to battle for the high ground. I’m interested in more explicit details as to forecasting the recessional effects of the TPA. If predictions can accurately project how regressive policy will play out on the ground they have more weight. Since the subject is making a bad situation worse, why not focus on a regional/local situation that has serious problems and project every possible external effected by absurd policy as a document that depicts direct causality. I can appreciate a general prediction based on theory, but would like to see a magnified presentation of an isolated case.

  11. As a former Democratic precinct chair, I share Dan’s sentiments 100% (including tossing Rahm’s offensive epithet back in his face). I think it’s worth staying registered as a Democrat so I can have a small influence in primary elections, but no national Democratic organization will receive a penny from me until I see prominent party-supported candidates who vigorously articulate MMT-style alternatives to conventional wisdom “deficit reduction” policies. And every time a Democratic fundraiser calls me, I tell them precisely that … hoping that, like water on rock, it may have some tiny effect.

  12. Crappy days are here again,
    The skies above are drear again
    So let’s cry into our beer again –
    Crappy days are here again

    All together, moan out loud:
    “We’re done with that Obama crowd!”
    And the crap of which their so damn-proud
    Crappy days are here again

    No more au-ster-i-ty!
    Rock! and Roll!, M-M-T!

    Crappy days are here for now,
    But we won’t walk in fear or doubt
    ‘Cause we know what we are clear about
    Crappy days won’t drag us down!

  13. I’ll start by agreeing that everything you’ve said about this stinking deal is true. But if you think leaving the Democratic Party is going to save the country, you need to pay closer attention to history, says, since 1968. That’s the year we lost it all. We’ve been trying to get the country back ever since, but the only way we’ve been able to accomplish anything has been to make these sickening lurches to the right. Yes, the country gets hurt – the damage done during the Clinton administration, through the passage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley and other horrors was unfathomable, but the alternative is the permanent Republican majority Karl Rove dreamed of. What I can say of Obama is he’s better than Clinton. It’s going to take a generation for us to get back half of what we’ve lost since LBJ, but it’s better than losing it all.

    • Unless you are willing to send a loud and scary message, nothing will change. The Democratic Party isn’t getting gradually more liberal – it’s getting more conservative. Rank and file Democrats are willing to follow Obama anywhere. And they’ll follow the next conservative candidate anywhere as well.

  14. John Zelnicker

    GIVE ‘EM HELL, DAN! With you all the way.

  15. As long as rank and file Union members continue to push the Obama brand name the resistance will be futile. The UAW always pushes for its members to support the current administration. Union leadership will not engage in meaningful discussion on the issues that are brought up in this post. I know this as I am a Union member and I would guess that over 70% of the rank and file close their ears to discussion, mainly on the suggestions of their union leaders. Whenever I make a suggestion to dig into the issues I am told that I should check my sources because the statement that ‘Obama is a traitor to the working and Middle class values’ will cause the situation to get really ugly very fast. And I mean ugly.

  16. Stephen Lance

    I have been hanging in there, trying to wear my Rahm’s Retard badge with honor but I’m afraid I have to agree with Dan. I have to change party affiliation. I think maybe we could help the Greens get their economic platform in order and exert pressure from there.