Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Obama's Gift to America

The great hope of 2008 has delivered a goose egg with his strategically mismanaged "compromise" with the Tea Party Republicans over the debt ceiling and the brokered deficit reductions. Here is a bit from Mother Jones magazine to highlight what Obama gave away:
The Obama-GOP plan cuts $917 billion in government spending over the next decade. Nearly $570 billion of that would come from what's called "nondefense discretionary spending." That's budget-speak for the pile of money the government invests in the nation's safety and future—education and job training, air traffic control, health research, border security, physical infrastructure, environmental and consumer protection, child care, nutrition, law enforcement, and more.

The White House's plan would slash this type of spending nearly in half as a percentage of gross domestic product, from about 3.3 percent of America's GDP to as low as 1.7 percent, the lowest in nearly half a century, says Ethan Pollack, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Pollack's calculations suggest the cuts in Obama's plan are almost as deep as those in Rep. Paul Ryan's slash-and-burn budget, which shrunk non-defense discretionary spending down to just 1.5 percent of GDP. The president has claimed that the debt deal will allow America to continue making "job-creating investments in things like education and research." But on crucial public investment, Obama's and Ryan's plans are next-door neighbors. "There's no way to square this plan with the president's 'Winning the Future' agenda," Pollack says. "That agenda ends."


Jobs programs could also go under the knife. Rick McHugh, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, points to two endangered programs: the Workforce Investment Act, which funds job training programs for young, adult, and dislocated workers, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides benefits and training to workers whose jobs were lost due to outsourcing. McHugh says both programs are necessary at a time when 14 million Americans are out of work.

McHugh adds that the bill does not include an extension of federal funding for unemployment benefits, which is set to expire at the end of the year. All told, he fears that already weak job market could be dealt a massive body blow by the Obama-GOP debt deal. "To have this big of an austerity proposal in Washington is disconcerting and misguided," he says.


Education, environmental protection, and jobs programs are just the start. An array of social safety net programs—the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, food stamps, housing assistance for low-income individuals, foster-care money, and basic income-security programs—could lose funding under the debt ceiling plan. So, too, could critical infrastructure investments in better bridges, roads, and rail transportation.

Nor is this the final round of cuts. The Obama-GOP deal also sets up a bipartisan deficit reduction committee that must identify, by the end of 2011, an additional $1.5 trillion in cuts to be spread over 10 years.
Obama's legacy will the a "leaner and meaner" America, one where the rich ride high and the poor litter the street like trash after a parade. The number of homeless will surge. Unemployment will surge. The home foreclosures will continue. It is a grim future. That is Obama's legacy. Sure the Republican fanatics gave him a push, but history will judge that he was eager to make the leap. Obama ran as a progressive in 2008 but ends up being a right-of-centre politician who in the 1960s would have been comfortable taking the reins from Dwight Eisenhower.

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