A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Liberals have been betrayed

Very recently Obama's administration released a four trillion dollar budget proposal for 2016 that for the most part is not going to happen. Don't let the numbers fool you; just because it's a big number doesn't mean it's either irresponsible or unfeasible. Total economic output from the United States in 2014 was close to seventeen trillion dollars with a surprisingly strong fourth quarter growth of five percent, up from prior estimates. What Obama has proposed spends less than a quarter of the nation's wealth on national priorities. Maybe that still seems excessively high to you but there are a lot of things that still need to be addressed with no one but the federal government even considering addressing them. Four of the five of Obama's proposal are things that liberals like me have been waiting impatiently for since he first took office in 2009. So why do I call this a betrayal?

bait and switch

Doyle McManus of the LA Times had this to say about the President's 2016 budget: "...it's merely the president's announcement of what he'd do if Congress weren't there. It's a party platform with numbers." In other words he's reminding us that this isn't a serious proposal and reminds us along with everyone else that nothing in this budget is likely to pass with the exception of the defense spending that the Pentagon asked for. With both sides of Congress held by the Republican Party who have been almost pathologically hostile to Obama since he won the 2008 election, there's really no hope that they're going to take anything from him seriously. Of course, most of us figured that out six months into 2009. So my problem is that this is the budget proposal Obama should have been making every year since he took office.

Only now in his last two years of office has Obama come forward to once again champion liberal causes and liberal priorities. Only now is he willing to stand up to Republican opposition and show the nation what might be. I will be the first to admit that the budget he's set forth is a good one for liberals to fight for, with eighty percent of it promising things we can get behind. Only none of it will be possible now and both Obama and his administration knows this very well. This is my problem. This is a glorious proposal, only presented to us six years too late long after the damage has been done and there's no chance of negotiating even a slight compromise.

Obama's not the only one at fault here. Republicans have been fighting tooth and nail from the beginning, doing everything in their power and setting extraordinary new precedents in the lengths they'll go to in order to prevent even the appearance of success by Obama or the Democrats. They've now passed their fifty-fifth bill to repeal Obamacare in the House, and I'm sure the Senate will quickly ratify it. However, Obama will veto the bill and I don't expect they'll have the votes to overturn that veto. And again, six years after we started discussing health care reform they've still offered no viable alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, not even one they themselves are willing to vote for. We spent years without a budget because Republicans did everything to block it, and even when Democrats had a solid majority in both the House and Senate Republicans abused their privileges to make sure as little as possible could be done. I was deeply skeptical at first, but Pelosi managed to pass a remarkable amount of progressive legislation in the House in the first two years of Obama's administration that died in the Senate because Senate Republicans filibustered all of it. There was only a two week period during which Senate Democrats had a guarantee of cloture and most of that was during a recess. So Republicans have been frightfully effective at blocking Democratic legislation and Obama's policies and there wasn't much the administration could do about that.

What Obama did try to do was naive. He kept trying to compromise. He didn't try to negotiate toward the middle, he opened negotiations from the middle position allowing Republicans to drag him farther and farther to the right. Only the GOP's own incompetence saved Obama from even greater disaster when they were given ninety percent of what they demanded and still shut down the government over the last ten percent. Liberal priorities were abandoned for the majority of Obama's time as President, and I'm not going to forgive him for that.

The economy is doing better now, but eight years after the financial crash we still haven't recovered to the same level we were before it. Paul Krugman's prediction of an economic lost decade has come true. The loss and hardship inflicted on the nation was easily avoidable, and Obama shares a portion of the blame for that just as much as the Republicans. So now Obama steps forward with the plan we needed from the beginning and it's all for show, intended to make Republicans look bad as they made him look bad. It's intended to convince liberals that we haven't been abandoned by the Democratic Party after all, that if we put them back in power we'll get the priorities we've been demanding all along. But I doubt that very much, especially if the Democratic candidates are people like Hillary Clinton who are part of the so-called Third Way that focuses on centrist priorities rather than liberal ones.

No. We need someone like Elizabeth Warren who will fight for us without reservation, not another Clinton who will make pretty speeches and promote back room deals. To counter the extremism on the right we need someone who will push back just as hard toward the left. We need balance in our politics, but right now it's totally out of skew. Obama, in presenting this proposal, has tipped his hand about just how badly our priorities are off-center and the irony is that he's one of the primary reasons why. His "art of the possible" never truly conceded that Republicans would refuse to negotiate in good faith long until after the rest of us had figured it out. Does he think we're going to trust him now, that we're going to believe he's on our side after all?

No, Mr. President. You're far, far too late to kiss and make up now.

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