President-elect drops hints of austerity measures, foreign adventures ahead
On retreat in the wild woods surrounding the populated areas of Humboldt County this Election Day, my enjoyment of four days straight of torrential rain was mitigated with the soothing knowledge that I had at least taken the time to cast my absentee ballot weeks ago in a ritual taking all of two minutes. (A few seconds of scribbling were saved this time around as I didn’t have to cast a write-in vote in this presidential election, unlike in 2004 where David Cobb engaged in an anti-democratic conspiracy to exclude the rightful nominee, Ralph Nader, from the California ballot.) I spun a laptop amongst the stats with one hand and cycled through the television channels with the other to bear witness to history. And yes, I am not such a rank partisan so as to not admit the historic landslide the evening resulted in for Barack Obama, who can fairly be called President-Elect, no matter how this might upset Dave Berman and other hardcore election reformers who think we need to wait for a month after the election to consider who might have won.
On the big night, BBC America had the most well-rounded coverage, with analysts (including Christopher Hitchens, appearing less bloated than usual) who packed more venomous wit into a few minutes than anything managed by the plodding Dems on MSNBC. It was pained grins all around on Fox News, where that irracible racist Karl Rove held court, mooing over the post-racial age we have all been living in, evidently, since the Cosby Show aired in the 1980s.
Gore Vidal had great fun taunting the prim and proper BBC host and excoriating the defeated Republicans: “They love war, they love money. They want to hang on to power however they can.” The old man seemed almost disappointed that more dirty tricks weren’t employed -- although Mark Crispin Miller was already on Democracy Now! arguing that West Virginia might have been stolen for McCain due to touch-screen voting machines flipping votes. Incidentally, Miller mentioned to Amy Goodman the other day a report that some machines down South during early voting had been flipping Obama choices to fringe candidate Cynthia McKinney, which would surely skew her results several orders of magnitude beyond their true insignificance.
BBC also gets props for actually interviewing a pre-selected voter in New York’s Times Square who somehow broke conditioning and declared Obama’s win as revenge for the stolen 2000 election in Florida -- a nakedly partisan sentiment eviscerating the conciliatory happy-talk with what is probably the real reason for the raucous celebrations taking place at various televised locales. Well, at least he didn’t behave like an idiot and blame third party candidates for Gore’s inept defense of his own ballot box victory.
As usual, Mark Shields over on PBS gushed about a return of optimism, apparently unaware that the worst of our blossoming economic depression is yet to come. Once more we can count on the leading channel for gimmickry, as CNN took the prize for most distracting and utterly useless graphical devices, with Obi-Wan-style holograms of various, mostly irrelevant guests who had little to say -- but who cares, they’re so shiny and neat-o!
An honorable mention should go to CSPAN-2 for piping in coverage from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., who actually read viewer comments on air -- imagine that, getting random people’s opinions about an election! CBC flashed a few shots of Rev. Jesse Jackson in tears -- whether in wont of what he might have had if the Democratic Party hadn’t have been so hostile to his more progressive challenge in ’84 and ’88 or not, it’s difficult to say. His wistfulness is probably mitigated by the fact that his son will in all probability be appointed to Obama’s seat in the Senate.
McCain is going to be in the Senate as long as his health allows (see Counterpunch for the controversy concerning that subject), despite his somewhat shaky showing tonight in his home state. Thus it was little wonder that he attempted to strike a subdued tone, although it must be admitted that he looked a bit shaky himself, clutching the podium and fighting back coughs and tears. Oddly enough, one hardly knew Sarah Palin was on stage until McCain threw in a last minute thanks, praising her as a “new voice” in his now-withered party. She said nothing, as was probably appropriate considering what impact she actually had on the Republican ticket.
I actually found Obama’s speech to be pretty flat, well-rehearsed to the extent of draining any of the passion evident in his speechifying during the campaign. Above all, it indicated his hastening momentum towards the center-right, established as he adjusted from his anti-war, anti-illegal surveillance positions during the primary to his pro-war, pro-spying positions taken during the summer and fall. The entire tone of it spoke of incrementalism, how he would accomplish less than expected during his first year, and, in a presumptuous stroke, during his first term. Even Chris Matthews was already talking about a “bipartisan cabinet” being rounded up by Clintion’s henchman, John Podesta, leading the transition team -- the same Podesta who had his faux-progressive think tank publish a study calling for the expansion of the U.S. Army by another 100,000 troops, identical to the position taken by the neocon Project for a New American Century.
As others have explained in greater detail, an Obama administration is set to result in a change in public relations more than in policy, the military budget set to engulf even more of our debt-ridden government’s declining resources. The comparison with Dr. Martin Luther King, heard almost right away from the president of his alma mater, seemed out of place, as King’s call for uncompromising justice and lasting peace hardly matches Obama’s hints at austerity measures to come. Even Keith Olbermann said the Obama speech “bookended McCain’s speech” before making dire warnings of anger “or worse” from disaffected McCain boosters, in a seemingly reverse fear-mongering of the kind Keith used to critique the crestfallen Bush bunch for.
I can give Obama enough credit to say: “This victory alone is not the change we speak.” No kidding. The defeat of the Bush legacy does not erase the decline in living standards, the dismantling of financial regulations and the embracing of megacorp-friendly systems of trade designed to undermine local and state laws protecting workers, consumers, unions and the ecosystem, all of which were Bill Clinton’s true legacy and Hillary Clinton’s true agenda.
Real wages have been declining since before Carter, before Ford. In terms of the electoral mandate provided with a similar landslide for the Democrats in Congress, parallels have already been drawn between Obama’s win and the 1964 election of LBJ over Goldwater (the only other Arizona Republican to go anywhere). But his Great Society agenda stalled short of plans for full employment, which has always been the concept most hated by exploitive industries who depend on destitution to squeeze employees without mercy. This agenda was sacrificed, along with President Johnson's second full term, on the altar of bloodshed in Vietnam.
Even with a lapdog establishment media in his corner, will war in Central Asia swallow up any chances for Obama to finish what LBJ started?
Labels: bbc, cynthia mckinney, david cobb, democracy now, economy, fox, gore vidal, john podesta, media, msnbc, pbs, pnac, politics, president johnson, president obama, ralph nader, senator mccain, war
As Johnston notes, the cuts in education and health care benefits mostly enjoyed by the "90 percent" also factor in, as do the massive under-reporting in capital gains and business income. Since corporate earnings are approaching 15% of total GDP, one-and-a-half times their usual share of national income, we can see how the cuts in capital gains, corporate and banking taxes on the state and federal level (and yes, that was the "liberal Democrat" Davis administration in California as much as Wilson) have aggravated this imbalance. If the current rate of income growth for the super-rich and stagnation for the rest of us continues for just two more years, the United States will break its own record and leave 90% of the country with less than half the income. In terms of aggregated wealth, the picture looks nearly as stark, with the top 1% owning 38% of all net assets, and over half if you don't count primary residences.
So why does this matter and how does this apply to Humboldt County? Economics professor Edward Wolff put it this way:
Typically when countries are more equal, educational achievement and benefits are more equally distributed in the country. In a country like the United States, there are still huge disparities in resources going to education, so quality of schooling and schooling performance are unequal. If you have a society with large concentrations of poor families, average school achievement is usually a lot lower than where you have a much more homogeneous middle class population, as you find in most Western European countries. So schooling suffers in this country, and, as a result, you get a labor force that is less well educated on average than in a country like the Netherlands, Germany or even France. So the high level of inequality results in less human capital being developed in this country, which ultimately affects economic performance.We don't need no stinking pie charts, but merely a glance out the window to see the concentration of poor families in Humboldt County, the ones who are considered "undereducated, lazy, whacked-out, shiftless pack of scoundrels" in the typically pithy, pro-bourgeois manner of a North Coast Journal which is, after all, published by a Fieldbrook winery operator. Evidently there aren't enough local boys and girls willing to live in migrant worker shantytowns out at Sun Valley Floral Farms to enjoy those deep breaths of methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide which the Journal's friend Congressman Thompson is responsible for the continued use of in this state.
Well golly, if we should all be quitting our dream jobs to go make beds in Benbow for near-minimum wage, why isn't the Journal among those businesses suffering from a labor shortage? Heidi Walters begins to hint at some more reality-based analysis when noting the dire lack of affordable and available housing in Southern Humboldt, before falling back on that old reliable bigotry of how all those damned hippie liberal kids are "lazy," "don't want to work," "lazy," "don't want to work," usually stoned and laughing at ceilings, oh and of course "lazy" again. While looking down their noses at their peers seems to be what most of these pro-Establishment writers excel at, it was a real shame for the Journal not to exercise that biting wit in a more constructive direction and connect the lack of housing, the dearth of educational opportunities for families trapped in truly grinding poverty, and that 25 percent decline in the key 30-39 age group.
Instead of digging into this cycle of poverty and maleducation well-matched by often-brutal law enforcement agencies and always callous criminal justice systems, Walters laments the plight of the bosses and can only ask the workers whether they are "good enough" for their betters. Class consciousness, anyone? These same journalists wonder why the public considers the media to be so completely unworthy of respect, worse than even politicians, cops and lawyers. Reporters, as Ronnie Dugger once told me on his last visit to Humboldt County, used to be cut from the same cloth as the Average Joe they were targeting with their words. Now that gritty apprenticeships have been replaced by sterile academic hoop-jumping, the craft has become a profession and self-respecting members of the Forth Estate enjoy hobnobbing with the very creatures of power they supposedly hold accountable. It's just so incredible to think an everyday Humboldter would consider the exploitation of foreign migrant workers as necessary or even beneficial.
The old codger-type banter about those darned brats wanting to "create their own hours?" These self-professed cutting edge types at the Journal might want to take their own advice and look around at the market. As Ryan Blitstein reports in the San Jose Mercury News in a jot on the corporate culture over at Netflix, "Flexible schedules are now available to 28 percent of full-time U.S. workers, almost twice the number in 1991, according to the non-profit advocacy group Corporate Voices for Working Families... Employees [at Netflix] schedule time off within the rhythm of their jobs." Anyone willing to be the one dumb enough to suggest how lazy those Netflix people are when their business stands to break $1 billion in sales this year?
I can't claim with any credulity to have the one true and holy answer to meet the needs and ends of local labor, but whatever that answer is, it won't be discovered with crotchety finger-pointing at 'those damned kids.' Though I can't buy Shawn Warford's cabal theory of all local media as Arkley's puppets, the Journal's inane blamecasting towards the poor, as if they should be ashamed of their own poverty and subsequent lack of marketable skills (key word there being 'market') is surely worthy of Robin Arkley Sr. Nine years on and I still remember walking out of an exciting convention at the Arcata Vet's Hall and reading clearly his hand-made signs warning of "Communism" should ideals of environmental and social justice finally take root in Humboldt County. The local landed gentry grip tightly to these fears if Hodgson's latest cover story is any indication, and their hired guns are all to happy to ignore half the pertinent facts in order to spread their view of Humboldt County's poor and unemployed as untermenchen to be swept aside.