Friday, April 02, 2010

Faded Blue

[Where the 2003 tax cut money went. You use one of these to carry your money around, right?]

I am formerly blue. I drove to Grand Junction to campaign for Obama in 2008 and worked on the campaign full time for two weeks. Even though I told myself at the time not to expect too much and that he would turn out to be just another Democrat.

My main concern was and is that the distribution of incomes in the United States has been steadily shifting in favor of the rich since the late 1970's and was exacerbated by Republican tax policies and Reaganomics. The United States now has by far the least egalitarian income distribution of any developed country.

Countries like Sweden, France, Italy, Australia, and Japan, have GINI indexes in the twenties. More conservative countries like the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada edge into the low thirties. The liberal democratic egalitarian United States of America stands alone in being well into the mid-forties.

The majority of the huge growth of incomes during the boom 1990's wound up in the hands of one tenth of the population and half of that in the wealthiest one percent. We continue to undergo concentration of wealth, a social de-democratization. In that context, the worst possible policy was the 2003 tax cuts for the rich.

That is why I drove to Colorado. In each of four debates Barack Obama argued that the tax cuts were unfair and a strain on the treasury. In each of the four debates John McCain replied that "the middle of a recession is not the time to raise taxes". That exchange took place four times in nationally televised debates.

Sixteen days after the election, sixty one days before they took office, the Obama transition people dropped the repeal of the tax cuts. They said, and I quote, "the middle of a recession is not the time to raise taxes".

So the actual choice was to vote for McCain and get McCain or to vote for Obama and get McCain. Later, in musing on the betrayal, it occurred to me that the two were not quite the same. The difference was that McCain had told the truth about his tax policy, and Obama had lied about his.

I was also willing to campaign for Obama because his announced position was staunchly supportive of Israel. And because he selected as Vice-President Joe Biden, a sophisticated foreign policy expert and strong supporter of Israel. Well we just saw how that worked out.

He said publicly that he would fight to the death for the public option. Then abandoned it rather than campaign for it in the fall elections. Whatever one's opinion about the issues themselves, there is no debate whatever that he went back on the policies he announced in the campaign. The words 'betrayal' and 'cynical liar' come up again and again.

Now one also understands anew the contretemps about Canadian tar sands oil. Candidate Obama announced that we would seek more environmentally friendly energy sources than Alberta tar sands oil. There was a report, never followed up in the press, that he personally, not just somebody in his campaign, had privately assured the Canadian Prime Minister, Harper, that it was just campaign rhetoric and not to worry about it. I assumed at the time that the report of the conversation with Harper was Republican disinformation because I couldn't believe the Obama campaign could be that cynical nor stupid enough to let it leak. I now realize I was wrong on both adjectives.

It was a ploy to appear environmentalist when in fact he had no intention of restricting imports of Canadian oil. And of course his administration has made no such move. Which means that the Greens were also cynically lied to and betrayed by the Blues.

These are not questions of whether one supports repeal of the tax cuts or Israel or tar sand oil or the public option. These are questions of campaigning under false pretenses, of saying whatever it takes to get elected and having no intention of doing what one said. How can one support somebody when one has no idea what he actually stands for, what he intends?

And to tell the truth, when one no longer cares. This year and for sure in 2012 the first week in November, I am going hiking in the Sierra. No more.


  1. Anonymous4:21 PM

    I voted for McCain even though Sarah Palin was a scary idea for a VP. Obama was just too good to be true.

  2. Anonymous12:23 PM

    AMEN !!!

  3. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Let's look at the Israeli thing...Obama left Netanyahu cooling his heels after inviting him to dinner and asking him for an explanation for the approval of building plans on contested land. Mr. N. muttered and tried to excuse the event by saying he had no power....Mr. O found the explanation lacking and suggested Mr. N find a better one. Mr. O would be around waiting until Mr. N. could bring an acceptable one to the table.
    Whether one is pro Palestinian or pro Israeli, it has to be acknowledged that the negotiations have been lame for years. The negotiators have accepted meaningless rhetoric (on both sides) as real and have devised (again) meaningless treaties. I think calling Israel's meaningless rhetoric just that, was pretty cool. I hope there will be more truth telling on both sides from now on. However, my hopes are probably just so much spitting in the wind.
    Oh, and please do not assume that I am antisemitic just because I think it's time to stop accepting political nonsense from both Israel and Palestine.

  4. Anonymous is quite right that the rhetoric on both sides is meaningless but is mistaken about why.

    There is nothing antisemitic about letting oneself be fooled by press propaganda. The facts are much simpler than anybody is admitting. The underlying fact is that Israel wants peace and the Palestinians don't. This is not because Israel is more virtuous than the Palestinians (though it is is) but because Israel is a prosperous successful society and does not want or need anything the Palestinians have. They do not feel inferior to the Palestinians and do not resent them. Israel is a successful society and does not need a scapegoat.

    When Israel had a chance for peace with Egypt, they jumped at it even though it cost them the strategic depth of the Sinai peninsula and joint control of the Suez Canal. When Israel had a chance for peace with Jordan, they jumped at that too and both side signed.

    By contrast Palestinian society has made a sow's ear out of a silk purse, creating chaos and poverty in what might have been a thriving society. They start from the assumption that they as Muslims are supposed to be superior to the lesser breeds, the dhimmis, whom they deign to tolerate. But these dhimmis, instead of groveling as Muslim culture demands they do, surpass the Muslims in every civil enterprise and defeat them militarily. The erosion of ego and status is palpable. This is the moral basis for their rejectionism.

    Whatever its origins, no Palestinian has ever acknowledged Israel's legitimacy nor its right to exist within secure borders indefinitely. Nothing has ever been offered but 'hudna', a truce.

    They continue to teach their children to hate Israel and Israelis and to inculcate the struggle to destroy their neighbors. Palestinian mobs often gather to shout, "Death to the Jews!"

    In the face of unremitting rejectionism, formalized at Khartoum in 1964 but dating much further back, there is really not much for either side to negotiate about. Which is why the rhetoric is so fatuous.

    But the Americans and Europeans have electorates to answer to, and those electorates want to see diplomatic efforts toward peace.

    The fact is that there cannot be peace until the Palestinians want peace. Which is lost on those electorates who are convinced that the situation is somehow symmetrical, which it isn't.

    The premise to the idea that Israel should make concessions to the Palestinians is that some combination of concessions will mollify the Palestinians and that they will then sincerely agree to peaceful coexistence with Israel. But that is simply and demonstrably not so.

    If the source of their antipathy is the occupation, why was there was there war after war before there was an occupation? If the source of their antipathy was the Nakba, the creation of Israel, why were there Arab mass pogroms and attacks before there was an Israeli state?

    Hamas, to their credit, have been more candid than the PA about their objectives. They have been quite explicit that they do not want concessions, that their sole objective is to destroy Israel.

    Yet Anonymous, like so many Americans and Europeans, believes what the press tells her the Palestinians want, and ignores what the Palestinians themselves say they want.

  5. Anonymous3:16 AM

    You are a small minded bigot and the world will breathe a sigh of relief when your generation dies off.

  6. Anonymous is quite mistaken. The distinctive mark of bigotry is a certainty that is indifferent to facts. Every fact and every argument tends toward the conclusion that the Muslims generally and the Palestinians in particular, ought to give up their pointless and hopeless campaign against Israel.

    Nothing whatever supports it but Muslim supremacist doctrines, the mindless xenophobia and racism of the Arabs, distorted and contrafactual views of history based on little more than denial, and the usually covert antisemitism of Western people ill-concealing their prejudices under a transparent veil of Israelphobia.

    Just strategically, Israel will continue to flourish for the same reasons Japan, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Switzerland flourish - because countries with educated industrious people flourish.

    On the other hand, when the oil either runs out of is superseded by other energy sources, who will give a damn about the primitivenesses and fantasies of the Palestinians? Without petrodollars to bribe and cajole the Western press and politicians to unworthy biases, who would say a word in favor of authoritarian regimes supported only by violence and religious fanaticism?

    Has it ever occurred to Anonymous that the expression "the Arab street" is a euphemism for "primitive morons"? And that educated Arabs and Persians are themselves not that impressed with the Palestinian "cause"?