Anthony Asadullah Samad
*Within a week of Congress passing its compromise debt-ceiling legislation, and a week after President Obama signed the legislation into to law, raising the debt ceiling a measly $2.4 trillion dollars, the Wall Street markets, and the global markets tied to it, have been in a constant downward trend. Nearly every economist predicted it.
Speaker John Boehner and President Obama were on the right track when they tried to meet in the middle on a “big deal” that would have made more than a $4 trillion dollar reduction in the deficit (over ten years). House Majority Leader, Eric Kantor, yanked Boehner’s coat in a hidden game of “who’s really in charge,” and Boehner tucked his tail on the deal. The Republican capitulated to the Tea Party and played politics instead of pragmatism. Ideological trumps common sense, and national good. Boehner even went on television and bragged that he got 98% of what he asked for, and no taxes. Well, I don’t know what the hell he asked for, but the deal needed revenues and his “victory” has turned to putty.
The world’s leading credit rater, Standard and Poor’s down graded America from a AAA rating to a AA+ rating, which means American banks pay more to borrow money and then they raise interest rates to American consumers looking for home loans, car loans, lines of business credit and credit card extensions. When rates go up, people stop spending, business production slows, and people get laid off. Not to mention, that retirees, and near retirees, have seen their 401ks and other retirement fund instruments drop 20% in value. Not a comfortable time for America, who was hardly amused by the Republicans game of chicken, just because they’ve trying to get Obama for re-election. Our politicians played chicken with our economy, and now we’ve gotten hit by a truck.
Will we survive it?
The deeper question here is whether Congress is even considering this market hit, their fault? There is a lesson to be learnt here, but are the ideologues paying attention. It’s a troubling thought to think they might not be paying attention, as the House has gone on vacation. Some people play too much. Particularly, when other people, like the American people, can get hurt. Polls are suggesting that the credit rating downgrade is being blamed on the Republicans and Tea Party pettiness. They have come out the big losers in the public discourse arena. But the biggest losers are still the American people. The President, however, is not faultless. The best thing that came out of this for him is that he, at least, appeared sincere. He met them in the middle, and even went over to their side on a couple of issues. Which, of course, made most of us Progressives wince. I don’t have any delusions of grander like many of my contemporaries on the far left. I knew what I was dealing with when I drank the Kool-Aid. I see Obama as liberal on some of my issues, but I don’t see him as a liberal. Never did. Because, as an independent, I’m not a liberal. Moderate politics is the most pragmatic politics and I thought Obama’s politics was most pragmatic. I think he could force a little more, and it’s just not happening. Good thing the deal did fall through. The way the Republicans are bending him over, we’d be out there with Smiley and West, had Medicare and Social Security took a hit without raising taxes. Not really…but I get their point.
This President has to stand for something at some point in time. The American people are mad and they need their to get mad too. This post downrating press conference stuff has an “I told you so” tone, but isn’t really helping anybody. No more than the compromised legislation helped the markets gain confidence that Congress was doing something significant. The President had to know this. He’s too smart not to know. This is a not a case of something was better than nothing. It’s a case of something was not enough to do something. And now it’s messy. The only thing I came away with was that the Republicans must hate Obama more than they love their country to put the American people through this kind of pain. I hope they remember it in 2012. If they make too much of a mess, Obama only has himself to blame.
The health care debate got messy because the President turned it over the Congress and the ideologues hijacked it. Now, the Tea Party hijacked the debt ceiling legislation and the hard work done to stabilize the economy has been jeopardized. I know he was trying to prove a point by demonstrating how unreasonable the Tea Party was, and that the Republicans weren’t negotiating in good faith for most of the crisis. But President Obama can’t sabotage himself like that, nor can he continue to frustrate his base whose beginning to think he has no fight in him. Maybe the smooth taste is fooling us. But the continuing capitulation of President Barack Obama to the Republicans is turning negotiations into a joke, and making him look like he’s leaderless. Nobody likes seeing their leader surrender every time. But nobody likes watching their legislature take negotiations too far. The point here is the Republicans wanted to jump off a cliff, the President didn’t have to jump with them. They still would’ve looked like the losers, and we still may have been downgraded, almost definitely, but the nation would’ve known you were principled and sincere. Instead, like a person hit in the pedestrian crosswalk, the President’s in the right but he’s walking away with a definite limp.
The President’s stand against the rich is going to have to become a lot more aggressive. And do me favor, Brother President? Please say poverty and spell P-O-O-R so Tavis and Cornel will get off your tip, and we can bring them back into the family again without a chilling silence in the room. I’m REALLY not in support of the hater-aid they’ve been throwing your way, YOUR WHOLE term in office. But good idea is good idea. A conference on poverty is really not a bad idea.
Put it up after the JOBS conference…and after you push back on the Republicans on the next deficit reduction discussion. Push the change you pushed on us to elect you.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.