Barack Obama remains the President of the United States for the next four years. What is on the domestic agenda in American politics next?
The “Fiscal Cliff” and the “Grand Bargain”
Republicans in Congress plan to hold the approval of the federal budget hostage, as they did last time. What do they want? The continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and severe cuts to social programs that benefit the less fortunate in the name of deficit reduction. Most interesting about this is that the freshly reelected president and Democrats have signaled their willingness to largely go along with Republicans.
In what is known as the “Grand Bargain,” Democrats including Obama have proposed to slash programs such as Social Security to decrease the federal deficit, in order to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” i.e. the blockade of the federal budget by the GOP. Other than one might think from the Democrats’ campaign rhetoric, the focus is not on tax increases for corporations and the wealthiest individuals.
To understand why Obama would support policies that seem to run counter to his campaign promises of even a few weeks ago, namely to put his support behind the struggling American middle class, one has to reach back into his not-too-distant past. And there it lies, in the open: Obama is a neoliberal. 1 2 3
It is visible in the people he appointed to his economic team during the first term in office, the ways in which the financial industry was not heavily regulated after the financial crisis, and the way a public option was given up on early in favor of an industry-based model during the health care reform negotiations.
The irony of it all is that Obama the neoliberal, who pretends to be an economic progressive (liberal) during election season, is decried as everything from a socialist to a communist by the far-right commentators on talk radio and the Republican propaganda machine of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch that is Fox News.
Economically, Obama’s current proposals represent but a gradual difference to what a Romney/Ryan presidency would have wrought, but it is not qualitatively different. The interests of the super-wealthy are not touched by Obama and the Democratic Party.
The swift willingness to compromise with a Republican Party that has been playing hardball since day one (of Obama’s first term), combined with the Obama administration’s notable toughness towards its progressive supporters, reoccurring at the beginning of this second term, makes one wonder whether this is after all a game of good cop, bad cop. If Republican proposals seem extreme from a middle class perspective, the Democrats’ slightly less harsh plans all of a sudden look friendly in comparison. But it is a view from within a moving train.
[Update] My judgment of the situation was perhaps a bit too harsh. According to the New York Times (December 2), the Obama administration now forces the GOP to come to the table first with a serious offer, not the other way around like last time. Obama now wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to reduce the federal deficit.
“Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff.” (Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times, 2013/01/01)
“GOP’s Latest Fiscal Cliff Offer: Permanent Extension Of Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy.” (Igor Volksky, Think Progress, 12/12/2012) – Business as usual.
“Following the Debt Talks-Interactive Feature.” (Alicia Parlapiano and Josh Keller, New York Times, 2012/12/06) – A nice graphic overview of what Democrats and Republicans each offer in the current talks on the federal debt and budget.
“Criticized as Weak in Past Talks, Obama Takes Harder Line.” (Peter Baker, New York Times, 12/02/2012)
“The cold, hard realities behind Medicare cuts.” (Politico, 12/02/12)
“Inside the talks: Fiscal framework emerges.” (Politico, 11/29/12)
[Fact check] “Facts Falling Off the Fiscal Cliff.” (FactCheck, 11/14/2012)
“Fiscal Cliff? Obama Urged Not To Panic.” (Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, 11/13/2012)
[Op-ed] “Why the Grand Bargain Is One-Sided and Totally Unfair.” (Cenk Uygur, Huffington Post, 11/12/2012)
“White House Grand Bargain offer to Speaker Boehner Obtained by Bob Woodward.” (NBC News, 11/11/2012)
[Op-ed] “Let’s Not Make a Deal.” (Paul Krugman, New York Times, 11/08/2012)
“Liberals fear grand bargain betrayal if President Obama wins.” (Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico, 11/02/2012)
“Obama vows debt-cutting ‘grand bargain,’ immigration reform in Des Moines Register interview.” (Olivier Knox, Yahoo!News, 10/24/2012)
- Op-Ed: “Kill Lists and Giant Triplets: Obama and the Neoliberal Government.” (Tolu Olorunda, CounterPunch, 11/08/2012) ↩
- “Obama 2006—”Too many of us have been interested in defending programs as written in 1938.″ (Gaius Publius, AmericaBlog, 05/01/2012) ↩
- “No Economic Team of Rivals On Obama Staff: Rubin’s Manic Neoliberals Dominate.” (Steve Clemons, New America Foundation, Huffington Post, 02/28/2012) ↩
In the press landscape, the Biden-Ryan debate last week (October 11, 2012) was for the most part counted as a strong comeback for the Obama campaign, following the president’s lackluster performance against Mitt Romney the week before (October 3, 2012). Biden pointed out the glaring factual flaws of his opponents arguments. You can find some links detailing these in my last post here. So what is left for the Romney campaign between now and the second presidential debate tonight in Hempstead, New York (October 16, 2012)? For one thing, it is damage control. In an attempt at portraying himself as a compassionate conservative, as opposed to the long-time follower of Ayn Rand that he is, Paul Ryan went to a soup kitchen in northeast Ohio for a photo op showing him and his family cleaning some dishes. That did not go so well, as the artificiality of the whole maneuver was quite apparent:
“Charity president: Paul Ryan “did nothing” at soup kitchen photo-op.” (CBSNews, 10/15/2012)
“Charity president unhappy about Paul Ryan soup kitchen ‘photo op’.” (Washington Post, 10/15/2012)
According to the head of that apolitical charity, Ryan entered the soup kitchen without permission. And here is how he characterized what followed:
He [Ryan] did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.
On top of that, the pots and pans Ryan and his family ‘cleaned’ for the photo op “did not appear to be dirty.”
As of October 13, 2012, Ohio leans slightly towards Obama (51% versus 46%), according to a PPP poll.
[Infographic] Here you can find the electoral map from the New York Times.
The second televised debate of the 2012 presidential elections is scheduled for tonight (Thursday, 11 October, 2012), featuring Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Paul Ryan. After the last debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, which a majority of commentators from all sides saw as a victory (at least on style) for Romney, it is going to be quite interesting to see, in my opinion, what debate strategy the Obama camp will choose this time around.
“9 Ways to Watch the Vice Presidential Debate Online.” (Mashable, 2012/10/11)
C-SPAN has the debate here.
The YouTube election hub has a live stream of the debates here.
You can also watch the complete first Biden-Ryan debate at the New York Times, which has a nifty running transcript next to the video.
Here is the full debate, courtesy of the YouTube Politics channel:
Here is a brief update from Talking Points Memo about the state of public opinion polls before the Biden-Ryan debate (2012/10/10):
“Veep Debate Violations: Ryan, Biden rough up the facts in their one and only meeting.” (FactCheck, 10/12/2012)
“Fact-checking the vice presidential debate.” (PolitiFact, 10/11/2012)
“Vice-Presidential Debate Fact-Checks and Updates.“(New York Times)
“What Everyone Needs To Know Before Watching The VP Debate.” -Paul Ryans positions and actions prior to the debate, with linked sources. (Think Progress, 10/10/2012)
“How to Prime Your BS Detection Skills Before the Presidential Debates.” (Lifehacker, 10/03/2012)
[Op-ed] “Blame Obama For Libya, But Don’t Blame Bush For 9/11.” (Slate, 10/16/2012) – “[T]he Republican Party line [in 2002] was that anyone who accused the president of neglect or deceit was unpatriotic.”
“Biden, Ryan Square Off on Foreign Policy, Economy in Debate.” (Wall Street Journal, 10/12/2012)
[Op-ed] “The Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden Was Right to Laugh.” (Rolling Stone, 10/12/2012)
“Vice presidential debate: 7 takeaways from Danville.” (Politico, 10/12/2012)
“6 Must-See Moments from the Vice-Presidential Debate.” (Daily Beast, 10/11/2012)
“Biden Pins Ryan Down On Taxes: ‘Oh, Now You’re Jack Kennedy?’” (Talking Points Memo, 10/11/2012)
“Biden v. Ryan: The Old Pro Takes On the Lying Kid.” (Alternet, 10/11/2012)
“Joe Biden Addresses 47 Percent During Vice Presidential Debate.” (Huffington Post, 10/11/2012)
“Joe Biden goes after Paul Ryan in lone VP debate.” (Politico, 10/11/2012)
“Joe Biden’s Passion Trumps Paul Ryan at Vice-Presidential Debate” (Daily Beast, 10/11/2012)
[Video] “Woman At VP Debate Calls Obama A Communist.” (Talking Points Memo, 10/11/2012)
“5 things to watch in VP debate.” (Politico, 10/11/2012)
“Six Things to Watch For in Biden-Ryan Debate.” (New York Times, 10/10/2012)
“US-Wahlkampf: Biden punktet im TV-Duell gegen Ryan.” (Zeit Online, 12.10.2012)
“TV-Debatte der Stellvertreter im US-Wahlkampf – Biden dominiert das Unentschieden.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11.10.2012)
“Pre-Debate, Biden, Ryan Share Lackluster Favorable Ratings.” (Gallup, 10/11/2012)
“Vice Presidential Debates Rarely Influence Voters.” (Gallup, 10/10/2012)
[Podcast] “When Veeps Attack.” (My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, 10/07/2012) -A discussion of the history of vice presidents and their challengers in American presidential debates
[Podcast] “How Presidential Debates Work.” (Stuff You Should Know, 11/10/2011)
“How Presidential Debates Work.” (HowStuffWorks, 10/13/2000)
German Language Background information:
“Das Streben nach Glück – Anspruch und Wirklichkeit: Amerika vor der Wahl.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, 28.10.2012) – Die Diskussionsrunde nimmt Bezug auf Mark Twains kürzlich nach hundert Jahren der Geheimhaltung veröffentlichten “Geheimen Biographie” sowie David Remnicks Obama-Biographie “Die Brücke – Barack Obama und die Vollendung der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegung”, im Original “The Bridge – The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” (2010).
“Debattenkultur: Warum wir Amis keine kritischen Denker sind.” (Zeit Online, 02.10.2012)