Shock Doctrine II The Courage Con

Robert Borosage

The establishment campaign to use the economic crisis to cut Social Security and Medicare continues to escalate. Helene Cooper in New York Times offers up a new theme: If the president is courageous and puts country before campaign, he’ll “administer the disagreeable medicine that could help the economy mend over the long term, even if that means damaging his chances for re-election.”

What is that medicine? Cooper invokes David Rothkopf, establishment chronicler, adviser to global corporations, identified as a former Clinton Commerce Department official, to advise that the President has gotten the “3:00 a.m. phone call,” and must devote the remaining months of his first term to making “politically unpalatable budget cuts, including real — but hugely unpopular — reductions in Social Security, other entitlement programs and the military.”

Republican strategist Charlie Black, uber lobbyist for the largest corporate interests, naturally agrees. Obama can’t do much about jobs, but he could reduce long term deficits by gutting Social Security for those under 55 (my words, not his). “He could be a hero like Bill Clinton” when he negotiated with Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott on the 1997 budget.

Black is too smart not to know that his comment is utterly disingenuous. Clinton “was a hero” and won re-election by standing up to Gingrich—even to the point of a government shutdown—to defend Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment, the watchwords of his campaign.

But there are two fundamental problems with this bipartisan blather. It is wrong about both the challenges we face and the courage it takes to face them.

The U.S. has a big economic challenge. But dropping the floor out from under the elderly and the vulnerable won’t solve it. We have to build a new foundation for an economy that can’t go back to running on debt and bubbles. We have to make investments for long term growth—in clean energy, in competitive infrastructure, in research and development, in education and training. We’ve got to take back trade policy from the multinationals who ship jobs, not goods, abroad, and take back finance from the big banks that have turned from investment to gambling. We have to fix our ridiculous health care system, which is the source of all the blood-curdling, long-term debt projections (contrary to popular myth, we don’t have a short- or medium-term debt problem). And we have to pay for all this by taxing the rich, who captured ALL of the rewards of growth in the last decade; shutting down corporate tax scams, and reducing our bloated and wasteful military budget.

The mark of courage is taking on the multinationals over trade, the banks over finance, big Oil, big Pharma, the military-industrial complex, the hedge-fund billionaires paying lower tax rates than the cops who police their streets. The elderly didn’t cause the crisis and cutting their benefits isn’t the solution to it.

The establishment campaign for courage has only one thing right. President Obama will sacrifice his presidency if he goes after Social Security and Medicare and fails to put forth and fight for a bold economic strategy that will revive America and put people to work. Only his sacrifice will be a measure of cowardice and confusion, not courage: cowardice in the face of the entrenched interests that must be overcome if the economy is to be rebuilt, confusion about what is needed to put America back on track.

The shock doctrine campaign continues. Don’t fall for it. Fight back. Join us at our conference—Take Back the American Dream, October 3-5—where the American Dream Movement will forge the strategy for taking on the right.

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