Winners and Losers for the First Half of 2013

Well, the stock market is doing pretty well so far this year.  And I keep hearing that the housing market is rebounding, not that it’s done me any good.  They even say on the news that consumer sentiment is improving, despite the high unemployment and low wages that continue to starve the middle class down into the lower class.

So the economy seems to be winning, even if it’s only making slow gains.

But 2013 has been a pretty lousy year for principles.

The Fiscal Cliff and the Sequester

The year began with President Obama’s rejection of my principled stance on how to deal with the so-called Fiscal Cliff.  I had sided with those who said he should let the tax cuts expire at the end of 2012.  This would have given him a position of strength, so he could negotiate a new budget deal with a new Congress in 2013.

But I’m sorry to say, the Prez didn’t see things my way.  Instead he listened to the voices of panic, and dropped everything to rush through a tax package that gave Republicans exactly what they wanted: a continuation of the Bush-era anti-progressive tax policies that are doing so much to propagate wealth inequality in our society.

In so doing, Obama gave away his only bargaining chip.  When it came time for negotiations on the Sequester, he had no leverage, and the Republicans once again got exactly what they wanted.

Has this man never played poker?  Has he never gone overseas and haggled in a market?  How does one get to be President of the United States without learning how to negotiate?  Rule number one: don’t start by giving the other side everything they ask for.  That’s not negotiation, it’s appeasement; and if you do it once, things will only continue to get worse for you.

The failed premise behind the Sequester was that Republicans would be willing to reach a compromise on social programs in order to avert cuts to defense spending.  Obviously the premise was false.  These Tea Party types are not the defense-obsessed Republicans of the Bush era.  They are anarchists.

Tea Party Anarchists and Filibuster Reform

Oh yes, I’ve said it before: the Tea Party is a bunch of anarchists. But at least Harry Reid agrees with me now.  The Tea Partiers are anarchists, he said, and the world shrugged, because, well, we knew that already.

The Tea Party wants to shut down the government by any means necessary: gerrymandering; procedural stalling in the Senate; actual legislation; and eventually, “Second Amendment remedies.”  They don’t want to fix a broken system: they want to break the system beyond any hope of repair.  This suits the needs of neo-feudalism.

Unfortunately, Senator Reid failed to kill the filibuster, and the system remains broken.  Reid failed to seize his opportunity to do something in the fight against anarchy.  He made a “gentleman’s bargain” instead of reforming the filibuster at the beginning of the present session of the Senate.  It took mere days for the Republicans in the Senate to demonstrate that they are no gentlemen, leaving us with a dysfunctional government, unable to even bring judicial nominees up for a vote.

There’s a reason for all this.  A liberal government protects the weak.  Destroy that government, and you get anarchy, where the wealthy and powerful thrive at the expense of the starving masses.  The very purpose of the rule of law is to protect the weak against the strong.  The purpose of neo-feudalism is to remove these protections, so that the wealthy and powerful may rule unfettered.

The Tea Party will do anything in their power to destroy any and all social programs or public services; even if means throwing the military under the bus.  Let’s not forget, national defense is a function of government.  These people want government eliminated.  The One Percent can hire private security forces, and the rest of us can go hang.  This is their goal, and Obama is letting them win.

Obama turns out to be George W. Bush in disguise

Ultimately, President Obama has been a supreme disappointment to his liberal base.  Yes, he ended the war in Iraq, which is why I endorsed him in 2008.  If Hillary Clinton had won (or gods forbid, John “Warmonger” McCain), we’d still be staying the course in Iraq, even today.

But that was sort of the end of his progressive accomplishments.  Obama has not delivered on his promise to be a great reformer, champion of the middle class, true believer in freedom and democracy and truth and beauty.  Instead he’s been something of a “Dubya Lite.”

Dubya Lite

Obama bailed out the banks to save the economy that Bush destroyed; but he failed to implement FDR-style public works programs to build the economy back up; or to prosecute criminal financial institutions; or even to really do anything about improper foreclosures.

Without a public option, health care reform was just a giveaway to the insurance companies.

But wait, there’s more.

Drone strikes

The most surreal moment of the past four and half years came when I found myself agreeing with Rand Paul about drone strikes.

I mean, first of all, seriously, if you’re going to mount a filibuster, that was the way to do it.  Stand up on the floor of the Senate and talk and talk and talk.  I’m OK with that.  That was how all filibusters should be conducted.  None of these procedural gimmicks: an actual proper talking filibuster.

And his point was that drone strikes should not target American citizens.  Whoah, Rand Paul, are you sure you didn’t just join the ACLU?  You’re starting to sound kind of like a liberal, dude…  I would have thought that insisting on due process of law would go against all your Tea Party anarchism, doesn’t it?  Because the existence of due process implies the existence of a functional government, which in turn requires, you know, TAXES to fund its operation…

Domestic spying

Most recently, the leaked revelation that Bush-era domestic spying programs are still in place should surprise nobody.  Anger and outrage, yes, but surprise, no.  And where were the anger and outrage when a white Republican was in the White House?  Conspicuously absent.

Well, I for one believe in principles.  Domestic spying was unconstitutional when Bush was in office, and it’s still bloody well unconstitutional with Obama in office, and it would be just as unconstitutional if Romney had won in November.  It’s an unreasonable search & seizure, regardless of which party holds power.

The domestic spying program violated the Fourth Amendment when Dick Cheney proposed it; it violated the 4th Amendment when George W. Bush and his rubber-stamp Congress authorized it; and it has continued to violate the Constitution of the United States, every day up to the present day.

Next time: Some predictions for the second half of 2013

About Jesse S. Smith

I’m just a regular guy who happens to have had a lot of interesting experiences. I believe in self-improvement, both for the individual and for society as a whole. I’m subject to strong opinions, but I’m trying to learn to be less confrontational about the way I present them.

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