Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Thoughts on a Disappointing Candidate

I might disappoint some of my friends by saying that I would probably vote for Obama if I lived in a swing state - even though 4 years ago I vowed I would never vote for John Kerry no matter what. Since I've never lived in a swing state, it has never been a big issue for me. I moved from Red Texas to Blue California and I've discovered that wherever either party has a stronghold, there is a similar frustration - politicians aren't scared of voters; so democracy is at a disadvantage. Indeed that is the analysis even some in the corporate media are applying to yesterday's bipartisan vote against the Wall Street bailout bill: click here for the analysis on incumbents facing re-election and here for the Wall Street money analysis. The fact that we are close to an election where "the people" actually matter a bit more than big money - if for only a few days - probably has a lot to do with why our government is already squeezing taxpayers for billions to boost rich speculators and investment banks.

Still, I think McCain and Palin are far too dangerous a pair to have running the most powerful country in the world - really running the world. Yes I'm coming out as a lesser evil proponent - it has always been a matter of degree; I just finally think the line has been crossed.

But again, I live in California - a state that McCain is very unlikely to win in November and a state where, I believe, it is more important to send a message to the Democrats in November than to boost Obama's winning score.

The message I want to send is that I do not support much of what the big "D" Democrats stand for. Just two examples - untempered support for Israel and support for this Wall Street bailout. Obama is taking an awful stand on both of these issues despite the fact that the American people disagree with him and he probably would be perfectly safe agreeing with them.

Israel

Whereas Obama - the alleged liberal Democrat - spoke before the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier this year to say "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." The present Prime Minister (recently resigned but still in power) of Israel has said he believes Jerusalem should be divided between and Israeli and Palestinian state. According to Time Magazine: "Olmert says Israel should withdraw from 'almost all' of the West Bank and Golan Heights. A former mayor of 'the undivided capital of the Jewish state,' he now advocates dividing Jerusalem with the Palestinians. He wants to keep some of the Jewish settlements that adjoin Israel's pre-1967 border but accepts giving the future Palestinian state Israeli territory in a land swap with a 'close to 1-to-1-ratio.' 'The notion of a Greater Israel no longer exists,' Olmert says, 'and anyone who still believes in it is deluding themselves.'" Not a great position, but a huge step forward under the circumstances - and far more progressive than Obama's stated position.


Wall Street Bailout


Here's what Obama said about a plan pitched by the wildly unpopular Bush and his wildly unpopular counterpart the U.S. Congress: "To the Democrats and Republicans who opposed this plan yesterday, I say: Step up to the plate and do what's right for this country ... And to all Americans, I say this: If I am president of the United States, this rescue plan will not be the end of what we do to strengthen this economy. It will only be the beginning." He went on to say, "There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out."

It is the same line being pushed by Mr. Bush when he says, "I also understand the frustration of responsible Americans who pay their mortgages on time, file their tax returns every April 15th, and are reluctant to pay the cost of excesses on Wall Street. But given the situation we are facing, not passing a bill now would cost these Americans much more later." Regardless of what you think of Mr. Bush or Senator Obama, they seem to agree on this critical matter almost completely. Basically Wall Street made a lot of mistakes, but if we don't bail these banks out to the tune of $700 billion in tax payer dollars, we ordinary Americans are going to suffer; It sucks but we have no choice.

Nonsense.

Hundreds of billions of dollars could go a long way in helping ordinary Americans without fattening the wallets of the speculators and big bank execs. Obama could set himself apart from the Pelosis and Reids in Congress - again leaders of a very unpopular Congress - but instead he seems to be following their lead. He is a cautious fearmonger, but a fearmonger nonetheless. He is providing no leadership on this - not even bad leadership since he is following the bad leadership of Pelosi and other Democratic politicians. He should be providing good leadership - calling for a moratorium on foreclosures and hundreds of billions for ordinary Americans not the super-rich gamblers who created this mess. But alas - he is stepping up the cheerleading to the silence of the liberals and even progressives who will do anything to see him elected. It is appalling.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I'm Celebrating the Defeat of the Wall Street Bailout Today

A financial crisis always hurts poor people and people like me who have a negative net worth (why can't Congress bail me out and pay my student loans?) more than it hurts the ruling class. And there may be that rare elitist or anarchist who wants to see the economy come crashing down because they either don't really have as much to lose or they see it as an opportunity. But that's not me. I'm celebrating because the bill represented the worst of big-money's influence over our democracy: A weak Republican President and a Treasury Secretary who has largely benefited from the schemes that are now bringing down our economy were pressuring Congress and the American people to give them hundreds of billions of dollars - some coming directly out of my indebted pockets - so that a few banks wouldn't go under.

So if the banks go under won't we all suffer? Possibly. However, there was no guarantee that we wouldn't have suffered under the bailout - in fact some economists believed we might suffer even more. AND we can and should still demand that Congress does inject some money into the economy. That money should just go directly to the people who need it - tenants who can't afford to pay rising rents; professionals who are still paying off student loans despite having decent-paying jobs; people who are having trouble paying off their mortgages; the people who lost homes in recent hurricanes; veterans who can't pay their medical bills; and on and on. All of these problems wouldn't disappear if the bailout bill was passed, and they might be exacerbated since tax dollars that could have provided relief might disappear as we discover that the investments that we are bailing out are worth almost nothing and $700 billion disappears into thin air (and perhaps a few of the fattest bank accounts).

I'm also celebrating because of the role in all of this played by some of the worst Democrats. As a progressive I certainly side with the Democrats more than Republicans, but critical moments like this remind me that almost all of them (the one's in Washington not the rank and file folks like my grandmother) are part of the same awful political system benefiting from the worst policies and practices in our system. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barney Frank were cheerleading and fearmongering more than any Republicans, outside of perhaps the White House. Their loss today is a setback to some of the most undemocratic Democrats; and they deserve it.

It was troubling to see the stock market fall over 700 points, but the economy is based on material circumstances on the ground. Either we have resources that will make our economy strong or we do not. They aren't pulled out of thin air on a broker's computer. It was no surprise that the market would plummet - it is dominated by the same forces who wanted this bill to pass. Sure a lot of Americans have small amounts in the market - in 401k's mostly - but most of the stocks on Wall Street are owned by a minority of Americans - the very rich who were more likely to benefit if the bill had passed.

With hundreds of billions of dollars at its disposal for investment bank bailouts and pointless wars, the federal government doesn't have to allow a crisis at the top to affect most Americans. But without demands from most of us, Congress still will pass some bad legislation that will probably result in a short-term Wall Street rally but ultimately do very little good for you or me.