Heads They Win, Tails You Lose: The Elite Strategy to Shrink the Middle Class

-          Leonard G. Ramirez, Ph.D.
       Obama’s retreat from the electoral mandate to reverse George Bush’s pro-war, pro-corporate, and socially conservative agenda quickly transformed him from a “Yes we can/Si se puede” candidate to a presidential mendicant, grateful for whatever the Republicans choose to drop into his begging bowl.  Military escalation, corporate bailouts and tax cuts for the super rich, and a willingness to shred the middle and working class safety net might soon comprise the Obama legacy.  While initially unexpected, the pattern has become so familiar that many have begun to doubt if Obama ever really was the great liberal hope, the chosen one, destined to put the populist soul back into an increasingly heartless and compromised Democratic Party. Like Bill Clinton before him, Obama came into the Oval Office with a Kennedy mystique and an Ivy League confidence but, regrettably, with an increasingly apparent Reagan Lite political agenda.       

Not long after Hillary’s defeat, the army of Clintonites returned to power through the back door. This should have been the first major clue that while not a Blue Dog, Obama was less of a reformer than a follower of the Democratic Leadership Council, a party faction dedicated to creating a “third way” through bipartisan consensus or, as some would put it, out-and-out capitulation to the corporate/banking elite and their Congressional representatives. Bill Clinton is perhaps the DLC’s most celebrated politician, the man who gave us NAFTA, workfare, and a business friendly legislative policy environment, which eventually gained the Clintons many friends on Wall Street. 

The DLC national policy giveaway is evident in local government as well. It is no surprise to see states with Scott Walker type Republican governors and conservative legislators wheel the policy guillotine into legislative houses, preparing to drop the blade and demolish pensions, unions, public education, and a host of social programs. However, in states like Illinois where Democrats retain a legislative majority and the governorship, it is Democrats, in concert with Republicans, who are attempting to carry out many of the same conservative, anti-middle class policies as their Republican counterparts. 

Looting with the Lights On is the title of one of Naomi Klein’s most recent articles on the elite agenda to strip benefits away from the middle and working classes. What stands in the way of the ransacking of the public coffers are some brave members of the Democratic Progressive Caucus, many of whom refused to sign on to the latest deficit deal and the erosion of the safety net. Long term, however, what is necessary to stop the funneling of tax dollars to billionaires and the destruction of the public safety net might be an Arab Spring in the U.S. that might act to resuscitate our own failing democracy (This article was written prior to the rise of the Occupy Wall Street and its local expression, Occupy Chicago).