Obama the Conservative?

When I was voting for President Obama in 2008, I felt that at least he was a moderate–but with some possibility that he had liberal tendencies.  Obviously, for a liberal like me, he was better than Bush.  And I thought he had more of a chance to support liberal causes than did Hillary Clinton.  The deciding factor for me was that I thought he would improve the image of the United States throughout the world–more than would Clinton.

I’m not going to say I made a mistake in who I supported in 2008 since I don’t know that Clinton would have done any better.  And it’s probably going too far to call him a conservative.  But, at this point, I don’t even know if he can be called a moderate.  In any event, I think it’s very fair to say that he doesn’t know how to be a President who leads the country.

I have been criticizing Obama almost since he took office that he would not stand up for what he believes in.  He could say good (progressive) things at first, only to back down later on.  He became more of a mediator and less of a leader as time went by.  The problem was, and is, that he doesn’t know how to mediate (i.e., in his case how to negotiate).  Most mediations open with each side staking out a position that would give them everything they want.  And sometimes one of the sides will open with am extreme position that they know is unwinnable but that will cause the dialog to start at a position more tilted toward them than would otherwise be the case.  (The Republicans, obviously, do both of those constantly.)

But that’s not the way Obama negotiates.  He opens with a position that is not what he really wants and then capitulates toward the other side from there.  (If he opens with the positions he really wants, then maybe it truly is correct to call him a conservative.)  The latest example of this–and it is a huge example that could completely change the meaning of being an American–is the current battle regarding the budget and deficit spending.  Rather than taking a position that preserves benefits for medium- and low-income Americans (i.e., most of the country), he is already compromising on Medicare and Medicaid.  It makes absolutely no sense for a President to open the negotiations by saying that any reductions in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid must be accompanied by tax increases on the rich and cuts in defense spending.  But that is what he is doing.  This is out and out stupidity.  He should be opening by saying that he will not accept any spending cuts on those types of programs and that the real issue is income, not spending.  Doesn’t it seem that it should be easy to convince voters that tax increases on the rich will result in the deficit going down while programs that they have come to know and love will not have to change?  It just makes no sense to me that the medium- and low-income voters (again, this means almost all voters) would want to allow the rich to get richer while they, themselves, get screwed.  And why does Obama think that opening toward the right will help him in the polls?  The Republicans will just keep criticizing him until he goes farther and farther to the right.  That doesn’t help his poll numbers.

It’s no secret that progressives (like me) have been hugely disappointed by Obama.  If the budget and deficit negotiations end up with no tax increases for the rich and massive cuts on “entitlement” programs, the only question for progressives like me will be to decide whether we will stop supporting Obama at all and whether we will support a progressive candidate, rather than Obama, in the next election.  After all, how can you tell the difference between Obama and a conservative?


A Conservative-dominated National Commission is Expected to Propose Raising the Social Security Age to 70

In 1983, the Social Security retirement age was raised from 65 to 67.  (67 is the full retirement age for people born after 1960.)  On December 1 of this year, the  National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is expected to issue a report that will propose raising the full retirement age from 67 to 70.  The Commission is dominated by conservatives and has the goal of issuing proposals on how to address the national deficit.  However, showing its true conservative colors, it will focus on the long-time conservative goal of cutting Social Security benefits—even though Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit.  (Of course, there are many ways to reduce the deficit, but–and I’ll state the obvious here–conservatives have continually thwarted those by, among other strategies, illogically opposing any kind of new taxes and by continually pushing for tax breaks for the richest Americans.  According to the conservatives’ long-standing counterfeit philosophy, the only way to cut the deficit is to cut services, even though the deficit reached record levels under the Reagan and Bush regimes.)

NOW is campaigning to have its supporters contact their members of Congress to show strong opposition to the expected report from the Commission.  NOW says that, if the Commission’s expected proposal to raise the retirement age to 70 is enacted, the reduction in lifetime retirement benefits would be $35,419, which, along with the 1983 reduction, “would slice one-third off the average retiree’s Social Security income.”  NOW also says:

Life expectancy for some women has dropped, not increased – Contrary to the benefit-cutters’ claims, Social Security is not going broke because people are living longer. Rather, a long-range solvency challenge in Social Security comes from the widening income gap between rich and poor. Today, 16 percent of all income is not subject to the payroll tax due to the taxable earnings cap (up to $106,800 annual income) versus only 10 percent in 1983, according to the Social Security Administration. In other words, most of the income for millionaires and billionaires is not subject to the payroll tax. Raising the cap on taxable income or adjusting the payroll tax rate would eradicate the long-term Social Security budget imbalance (National Academy of Social Insurance, 2010), providing a solution that avoids any cut in benefits. Raising the retirement age, said to be justified by a supposed increase in longevity, hurts all workers despite the unequal distribution of increased life expectancy. Men at the top of earnings have experienced a life expectancy increase of 5 years since 1982 while low-income men have seen a life expectancy increase of 1.1 years. For low-income women, life expectancy has in fact decreased.

Often, the monthly Social Security check is the only source of income for elderly women. Many do not have pension income and, after a lifetime of wage discrimination and years out of the paid workforce raising children and caring for sick relatives few women have been able to save and invest sufficiently for their retirement years. If anything, an improvement in Social Security benefits should be made, rather than cutting them.


Please go to this NOW page that will allow you to send an e-mail to your member of Congress.