By Ivan G. Goldman
Sending the President out to make a deal is like telling Lady Gaga to fix the trade deficit for you. The results won't be pretty. Though he’s erroneously been portrayed as a master Chicago-type fixer, he’s proved over and over again that he’s one of the very worst negotiators west of Iraq. If Obama were haggling for a forty-dollar rug it would cost him ten thousand plus tax, carrying charges, and the shopkeeper’s serving of lukewarm tea.
Recently he froze the salaries of federal workers for the next two years, giving Republicans something they wanted and screwing a lot of Democratic union members in exchange for . . . nothing. He and his advisors apparently never stopped to think that if they really wanted to do this thing it could be part of a deal that would, say, help him extend jobless benefits for the millions who’ve already started to lose them. If LBJ were around to see this he’d ask to return to hell. Not extending these benefits has already started working its way through the economy like a giant dust storm. It’s hard to find sane economists who think it was a good idea, but Republicans and their blue dog allies don’t listen to economists, scientists, and the like, who have a pernicious habit of trying to warn them about facts.
Obama and his people have already signaled he’s ready to cave and let Republicans and conservative blue dogs who claim to be concerned about the deficit to extend tax cuts for millionaires and cost the treasury $700 billion over the next ten years. Don’t expect him to get much out of the deal. If you sent him out to sell your cow he’d probably trade her for a few beans.
We know all abut his quickness to cave on the public option in the health care bill, which meant greed-o-maniacal insurance thieves would be free to continue slicing off their huge mob-sized vigorish from chunks of funds supposed to go toward medical care.
When Obama does try to act like a wheeler-dealer the results are even worse than when he surrenders before sitting down to the table. He owed Janet Napolitano a favor when she campaigned for him against Hillary so he made her Homeland Security secretary. This was wrong for two very big reasons. One, she stinks at the job. When they caught the underwear bomber already on the plane with the explosives she said it shows the system “is working.” Under her wise stewardship we continue frisking elderly white women at airports.
But more important? When Democrat Napolitano joined the Cabinet she stepped down as Arizona governor with two years still left on her term, handing the baton to next-in-line Jan Brewer, a tea party Republican maniac who sees invisible heads in the Arizona desert, who wages personal war on busboys and housemaids, who thinks it’s a good idea for rednecks to carry concealed firearms into bars and churches, and who lately ruled that a 32-year-old father will have to die because the state can’t afford a liver transplant. Remember when the Republicans warned us about death panels? Well Brewer is a one-woman death panel.
Obama appointed a deficit commission loaded with weasels and let ex-Senator Alan Simpson, a vicious lap dog for the financial oligarchy, take center stage to preach in favor of adding additional financial burdens on the bottom 99 percent while corporations and the fabulously wealthy are handed even more breaks. Those who oppose his plan, he said, are the forces of "darkness," and he said it in such a way that news media treated his rap as though it had some element of truth. And where was Obama? Ceding ground.
Not all this is Obama’s fault. The public, when it takes its eyes off Dancing with the Stars and such, is fed the Republican line that Democrats don’t care about deficits at the same time Republicans are spilling red ink everywhere to help out their fat-cat pals. And news media either fail to clarify the picture or, if they’re part of the Fox-Murdoch empire or their clone outfits like CNBC, paint one that unmistakably blames everything on the Democrats, including a global financial collapse and subsequent bailout that took place on Bush’s watch. But a president is supposed to be a leader, to make the tough choices and explain them and fight for them and get people behind them. That’s not happening, and after two years of fumbling, looks less and less likely.