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Obama's Anti-Populist Budget

Written by Subject: Economy - Economics USA
Obama's Anti-Populist Budget - by Stephen Lendman

Despite its flaws and failures during America's Great Depression, FDR's New Deal was remarkable for what it accomplished. It helped people, put millions back to work, reinvigorated the national spirit, built or renovated 700,000 miles of roads, 7,800 bridges, 45,000 schools, 2,500 hospitals, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 1,000 airfields, and various other infrastructure, including much of Chicago's lakefront where this writer lives. It cut unemployment from 25% in May 1933 to 11% in 1937, before declaring victory too early and letting it spike before early war production revived economic growth and headed it lower.

Moreover, his key legislation included:

-- the landmark 1935 Social Security Act - to this day, the single most important federal program keeping millions of seniors from poverty or easing it for those already poor;

-- unemployment insurance in partnership with states;

-- two "Soak the Rich" revenue acts to make high earners pay more, another targeting tax cheats, and one taxing undistributed corporate profits;

-- the landmark Wagner Act, letting labor, for the first time, bargain collectively with management;

-- Glass-Steagall, separating commercial from investment banks and insurance companies, among other provisions to curb speculation;

-- public housing and low financing measures;

-- other initiatives to reform and revive the economy; and

-- had he lived in good health, perhaps a second bill of rights, an economic one he proposed, but died before able to fulfill it.

Saying the first one fell short, he wanted guarantees for:

-- full employment with a living wage;

-- freedom from unfair competition and monopolies;

-- housing;

-- medical care;

-- education; and

-- greater social security, providing more than his landmark act.

Obama's No FDR

His agenda lets Wall Street loot the treasury, rewards other corporate favorites generously, ignores vital people needs, does little to create jobs or help homeowners facing foreclosure, and spends over $1 trillion annually on unbridled militarism and imperial wars at a time America has no enemies.

Now the latest - his proposed anti-populist FY 2012 budget, Republicans and right wing pundits say doesn't go far enough.

On February 14, New York Times writer Jackie Calmes headlined, "Obama's Budget Focuses on Path to Rein in Deficit," saying:

It "address(es) the deficit and the best path to long-term economic success....(H)e laid out a path for bringing down annual deficits to more sustainable levels over the rest of the decade," saying he'll reduce it "over the next decade by $1.1 trillion, or about 10%," and it's only for starters.

Much more is planned, targeting entitlements once thought untouchable, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They're heading for the chopping block toward elimination along with public pensions, robbing millions of vital protections and futures to do more for America's super-rich and facilitate imperial global rampaging.

That's Obama's real agenda - soaking working households and the poor, transferring greater wealth to America's super-rich already with too much, and continuing lawless imperial rampaging for unchallengeable global dominance.

Nonetheless, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan accused Obama of "an abdication of leadership" for not doing more, on the backs of working and poor households the way he and other Republicans propose, letting America's aristocracy get richer.

A same day Times editorial headlined, "The Obama Budget," saying:

"On paper, President Obama's new $3.7 trillion budget is encouraging. It makes a number of tough choices to cut the deficit....which is enough to prevent an uncontrolled explosion of debt in the next decade and, as a result, reduce the risk of a fiscal crisis. (It's) balanced enough to start the process of deficit reduction, but not so draconian that it would derail the recovery. (It's) a good starting point for discussion...."

Wall Street Journal writers want more, featured in a lead February 15 editorial headlined, "The Cee Lo Green Budget," calling it "cynical and unrealistic," saying:

"....what landed on Congress's doorstep on Monday was a White House budget that increases deficits above the spending baseline for the next two years. Hosni Mubarak was more in touch with reality last Thursday night," mindless, in fact, that he didn't fall. He was pushed, Washington and Egypt's military doing the shoving. "How unserious is this budget," asked Journal writers? Targeting most cuts after 2016, he proposed "Budget Flimfam 101."

Obama, Corporate/Imperial Tool

Whether now, later or in between, Obama's budget hammers working Americans, especially those poor, forgotten, vulnerable, and ignored since Reagan succeeded Carter. Democrats have been as cruel as Republicans, serving wealth and power interests alone while pretending to care.

Weeks after capitulating to Republicans on tax cuts for America's super-rich and corporations, adding hundreds of billions to the deficit, he now wants funding reductions for:

-- the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); it provides billions to states to help families heat or cool homes; in FY 2010, 8.3 million households needed it, especially to avoid freezing in winter;

-- Pell Grants, providing millions of dollars for higher education, what Kris Wright, University of Minnesota director of student finance, calls the "granddaddy of all (student) financial aid programs," crucial to help low-income students attend school;

-- WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) grants to states for supplemental foods, healthcare, and nutrition education for low-income families;

-- Head Start, providing comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income families with children;

-- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (targeted earlier with more coming), providing food stamps for poor households;

-- community development block grants for housing, overall reducing HUD's budget by $1.1 billion; and

-- other non-defense discretionary spending, cutting vital programs to sustain militarism, favoritism, waste, fraud, and other rewards for Washington's usual special interests, benefitting greatly at the public trough.

Social spending cuts now and ahead will facilitate them. On February 5, Obama's budget director, Jacob Lew, signaled what's planned in his New York Times op-ed headlined, "The Easy Cuts Are Behind Us," saying:

" make room for the investments we need to foster growth, we have to cut what we cannot afford," meaning longstanding social services millions rely on, need, and if lose will face grave hardships. They're coming to "prepare the United States to win in the world economy" at the expense of most of its citizens, sacrificed for elitist interests, the usual ones lined up for more.

A Final Comment

A previous article discussed equitable alternatives far different than Obama proposed. They include:

-- waging war on concentrated wealth and power;

-- an across-the-board populist agenda, making social justice issue one;

-- slashing the defense budget, minimally in half, ideally much more, including closing overseas bases, reducing force levels, ending foreign occupations, and renouncing imperial wars;

-- a progressive income tax replacing today's dysfunctional one;

-- removing the payroll tax ceiling, taxing all earned income at the same rate;

-- empowering workers to bargain collectively with management on equal terms;

-- a guaranteed living wage, adjusted by urban, rural, state and local considerations;

-- a guaranteed income for the indigent;

-- real regulatory reform, reinstituting vital ones eroded or lost;

-- abolishing monopoly and oligopoly power;

-- strengthening public education;

-- enacting universal, single-payer healthcare, excluding predatory insurers, except as a voluntary option;

-- returning money creation power to Congress as the Constitution mandates, and making banking a public utility away from Wall Street predators and its Federal Reserve handmaiden;

-- a Tobin Tax to make Wall Street and rich investors pay their fair share; and

-- establishing government of, by, and for the people for real, what America never had and doesn't under Democrat or Republican led governments.

The alternative includes imperial lawlessness, endemic corruption, high unemployment, growing impoverishment, social inequality and decay, unmet human needs, and eroding freedoms, heading America toward tyranny and ruin the way all past empires declined and fell. Republican or Democrat proposals will hasten it unless challenged and stopped.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.