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Is politics from below ‘class warfare’?

The exciting presence and perseverance of protestors on Wall Street (and the spread of the #OccupyWallStreet protests to cities throughout America) is a welcome respite from years of passivity, and not only in relation to the scandalous legal and illegal abuses of comprador capitalists.

In addition, it is a reaction to the prolongations of predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a rising anti-democratic Islamophobic tide, to a shameless reliance on incarceration for harmless activities, to a presidency that seems less willing to confront hedge fund managers than jobless masses, and to a Congress that incredibly represents billionaires while scorning the people that put them in office.

But will this exhilarating presence be sustained in a manner that brings credible hope of restored and renewed democracy that is dedicated to social well-being at home and responsible law-oriented leadership abroad that is no longer drone-driven?

“Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America.”

There is little doubt that this move to the streets of America expresses a deep disillusionment with ordinary politics based on elections and governing institutions. Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America who poured unprecedented enthusiasm into his campaign that promised so much and delivered so little. Perhaps worse than Obama’s failure to deliver, was his refusal to fight for what he claimed to believe, or even to bring into his entourage of advisors a few voices of empathy and mildly progressive outlook.

From his initial appointment of Rahm Emmanuel onwards, it should have been clear that the Obama presidency was intent on playing the same old Washington games waged by special interests. More recently, these interests were further deformed by a Republican Party lurching to the right, by a surging Tea Party intent on pushing the government policy and role to the outer extremes of cruel and irresponsible public policy, by a pathetic Democratic Party that is trying to survive mainly by mimicking Republicans, and by a domineering media that has become largely captive to corporate America.

If such a portrayal of ordinary politics is more or less correct it is a wonder that a more radical sense from the left of America’s future took so long to materialise, if indeed it has. At least #OccupyWall Street is displaying the distress of young urban Americans and sending some warning signals to the bastions of the established power that acute displeasure is rising, and may become threatening to what is, as well as engaging with what might be.

Far right radicals

Of course, radicalism is not absent from the American political scene. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the forces of the right have been riding higher in the United States.

Such an impression is strengthened by the loss of composure by the Democratic party that struggles to show that it is almost as capitalist, pro-military, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and patriotic as its reactionary critics. Its traditional principles of a compassionate state serving the interests of the citizenry have been put in cold storage. Democrats are scared to seem weak, and even more scared to seem to be socialists.

“One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by government to care for the health, education and wellbeing of less advantaged people in the country.”

One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by the government to care for the health, education, and well-being of less advantaged people in the country. Thus the Wall Street protests, if indeed they do have a radical agenda, which is not yet clear, will be to fill this vacuum on the left that has been so disabling during the last twenty years when capitalism had no ideological rival.
One amusing legacy of Cold War anti-Marxism is for the reactionary legions in the country to complain that the protesters are intent on launching ‘class warfare.’ It is one of those post-liberal epithets that gets promiscuously tossed around by ascendant right wing ideologues so as to demonise even those who are reckless enough to propose a modest tax increase on the super-rich in America.

Even Barack Obama who has done his best to please Wall Street 99 per cent of the time, is being charged with waging ‘class warfare’. Liberals are so timid ever since the Berlin Wall fell, and with it fell the possibility of compassionate society, whether capitalist or socialist, the label intimidates. Since then every effort has been made to protect the interests of the exploiting social forces that exult and prosper while marginalised minorities weep and bleed.

As has been pointed out by trenchant critics of what is going on, yes, there is class warfare being practiced, not by its victims, but by the very folks that decry class warfare.

The rich have been extraordinarily successful during the last decade or so in redistributing income upward, from the poor to the rich and ultra rich, including from the increasingly worried middle classes to those plump elites sitting comfortably on top of the economic pyramid.

Combined with pro-corporate and pro-bank deregulation, tax holidays, labour-busting tactics, anti-immigrant-fervor, this assault on the citizenry of the country is an inversion of class warfare as delimited in the Marxist tradition.

The ‘new’ class warfare

The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government with the purpose of disenfranchising the citizenry, breaking the social contract of the New Deal, and relying on law enforcement to keep those who object under suspicion. This is a task facilitated by the repressive legislation made plausible by the 9/11 attacks and the curtailment of individual freedoms associated with the rigours of ‘homeland security’.

“The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government.”

Disavowing American party and institutional politics and situating hope with the arousal of progressive forces in civil society is different from concluding that the Wall Street protests are more than a tantalising flash in the pan at this stage.

Even with this cautionary commentary, it is obvious that these events own a large acknowledged debt to Tahrir Square (as well as to a surprising initial push from the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine, Adbusters) – especially the ethos of a nonviolent leaderless, programme-less spontaneous rising that learns day-by-day what it is about, who it is, and what is possible.

Of course, the immediate stakes for the protesters seem much lower than in Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world, as there is little present risk of death or physical injury at the hands of the police on American streets. Additionally, however disappointing and abusive the political and economic realities have become, they are not cruelly and corruptly autocratic.

For this reason, the ghouls of Wall Street do not provide quite as potent a unifying target as was the grim personage of Hosni Mubarak, a cruel autocrat in power for more than three decades, and so it may be harder to transform these protests into a sustainable movement.

But in other ways the stakes and risks on Wall Street are higher than they might seem. As long as America is beholden to militarists and right-wing billionaires its shadow negatively affects many ongoing struggles throughout the world.

This America turns away from the needed global cooperation to address climate change, world poverty, severe human rights abuses, nuclear disarmament, and such concrete issues as self-determination for the Palestinian people and peace for Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other outposts of misery.

This America opposes carbon taxes, and refuses to support the establishment of a Global Peoples Parliament or a UN Emergency Peace Force that might encourage global democracy and make the protection of vulnerable people a task for the United Nations rather than a geopolitical maneuver.

The world needs an America that rediscovers its own dream of liberty and justice, and awakens from a long and debilitating nightmare that has silenced its ‘better angels’.

In the end, we all must hope and engage. The beginnings of hope are rooted in the correctness of analysis, and so we can be thankful that this initiative places its focus on the shortcomings of a merely procedural democracy, the deforming impact of financial and corporate practices, and does not look to the reform or even the control of the state as the cure for what ails.

The implicit not so subtle point is that the centre of power over the destinies of the American people has shifted its locus from Washington to New York, and beyond! Underneath the rhetoric is the search for substantive democracy that upholds rights, demands justice and freedom, and allows people to participate in the control of their destinies

via Is politics from below ‘class warfare’? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

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Deficit Super Committee Struggles To Make Progress As Clock Ticks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The super committee is struggling.

After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer’s budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began last month.

While the panel members themselves aren’t doing much talking, other lawmakers, aides and lobbyists closely tracking the committee are increasingly skeptical, even pessimistic, that the panel will be able to meet its assigned goal of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years.

The reason? A familiar deadlock over taxes and cuts to major programs like Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.

Democrats won’t go for an agreement that doesn’t include lots of new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently anti-tax. The impasse over revenues means that Democrats won’t agree to cost curbs on popular entitlement programs like Medicare.

“Fairness has to be a prerequisite for it,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “We have just come through passing a bill that was (all spending) cuts, no revenue.” Pelosi was referring to the August debt limit bill, which set tight “caps” on agency budgets but didn’t contain revenue increases pressed by Democrats.

Democrats are more insistent on revenues now.

“There’s been no movement on revenues and I’m not sure the Democrats will agree to anything without revenues,” added a Democratic lobbyist who required anonymity to speak candidly.

Asked last week whether she is confident that the panel can hit its $1.2 trillion goal, co-chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sidestepped the question.

“I am confident that the public is watching us very closely to see if we can show this country that this democracy can work,” Murray told reporters. “I carry that weight on my shoulders every day and so does every member of this committee.”

The two parties have equal strength on the panel, which has until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan to submit for up-or-down House and Senate votes in December. That means bipartisan compromise is a prerequisite for a successful result.

Thus far, say aides to panel members and other lawmakers, neither side has demonstrated the required flexibility in the super-secret talks.

The $1.2 trillion target evolved after efforts by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to strike a so-called grand bargain on taxes and spending fell apart in July.

Those discussions and earlier talks led by Vice President Joe Biden identified numerous options for cutting the deficit. They included requiring federal workers to contribute more to their retirement, cutting farm subsidies, auctioning broadcast spectrum and curbing payments to Medicare providers like skilled nursing facilities, rural hospitals and home health care services.

The super committee could scoop up these relatively easy-to-generate savings but still fall short of the $1.2 trillion target. Interest groups like the powerful farm lobby might be willing to accept cuts when everybody else is getting hit, too, but are likely to fight back if they’re among the relative few getting singled out for sacrifice.

“Once you start taking things off the table or you pick a deal that only hits some parts of the budget, then you have some people who get hit who say, `Well, why me? Why not other people?'” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

To be sure, the super committee still has time. And panel members, while divided, earnestly want a result. A more optimistic scenario is that in coming days and weeks, members of the panel will become more flexible as the deadline nears – and as pressure builds from financial markets and credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s, which in August downgraded U.S. debt from its AAA rating.

At the same time, failure to produce a measure would trigger painful across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon budget and a big slice of domestic programs. The idea behind this so-called sequester was to force the two sides to come together because the alternative is too painful.

“I made it clear to the Republican members of the super committee that I expect there will be an outcome, that there has to be an outcome,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a Washington forum on Thursday. “The sequester that was built behind this is ugly, and it was meant to be ugly so that no one would go there. I don’t underestimate how hard it’s going to be to come to an agreement by the so-called super committee, but we have to get to one.”

The across-the-board sequester, however, wouldn’t take effect until the beginning of 2013, which is already fueling speculation that Congress would simply revisit the issue after the elections next year.

via Deficit Super Committee Struggles To Make Progress As Clock Ticks.

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House Republicans tweet frustration with Geithner during hearing – The Hill’s Twitter Room

Is this serious? Ocho Cinco gets fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for tweeting near game time, but congressmen can tweet during sessions of congress without any consequences?

 

 

 

Republican congressmen vented their frustration with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Thursday during his testimony to the House Financial Services Committee.

The Financial Services Committee live-tweeted the hearing @FinancialCmte using the #Geithner hashtag, with Republicans accusing Geithner of sidestepping questions.

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) tweeted: “#Geithner avoids comment on #OccupyWallStreet protestors: ‘sense of concern on 9% [unemployment]. Well, we need to unwind regulations #4jobs!”

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) wrote: “Can’t believe that after cancelling 4 times, #Geither is trying to sneak out early before members get their Qs answered. @FinancialCmte”

Westmoreland also attacked his Democratic colleagues for not asking Geithner tough questions.

“It’s unfortunate so many Ds in @FinancialCmte hearing are throwing #Geithner softball Qs. We need real answers on actions of Treasury Dept,” he tweeted.

Geithner faced similar hostility from GOP senators earlier in the day, where he testified at a Senate hearing.

via House Republicans tweet frustration with Geithner during hearing – The Hill’s Twitter Room.

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Obama Voices Empathy With ‘Frustration’ Behind Anti-Wall Street Protests | Fox News

Three weeks into a growing protest movement targeting Wall Street and the nation’s financial services sector, President Obama expressed empathy Thursday for the demonstrators, even going so far as to elevate them as a force in the 2012 election cycle.

“I think part of people’s frustrations, part of my frustration, was a lot of [lending] practices that should not have been allowed weren’t necessarily against the law, but they had a huge destructive impact,” the president said at a midday news conference Thursday.

via Obama Voices Empathy With ‘Frustration’ Behind Anti-Wall Street Protests | Fox News.

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Obama to GOP: Act on jobs or get run out of town

A combative President Barack Obama challenged a divided Congress on Thursday to unite behind his jobs bill or get ready to be run “out of town” by angry voters. Hoping to use public frustration and economic worry as leverage, he called his proposal an insurance plan against a painful return to recession.

via Obama to GOP: Act on jobs or get run out of town.

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Occupy Wall Street – Official Demands updated

The Sovereign People’s Movement, represented nationally through the people occupying the various Liberty Square locations across this great country, have laid out and democratically submitted and are currently voting on the list of following Demands to then be distilled into one Unified Common demand of the people.

via Occupy Wall Street – Official Demands – coupmedia.org.

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