The news from Wisconsin last week was interesting, and the amount of support shown state workers was wonderful. While everyone loves a hero, the Democratic lawmakers who fled the state rather than be forced to allow the GOP-controlled legislature to gut workers’ rights were only playing at being heroes. The entire Democratic Party has been playing at being the hero for quite some time now, and for the most part, has had everyone fooled. Unfortunately, playing the hero and being the hero are not the same.
In 2009, the administration decided not to prosecute the officials who conspired with George W. Bush to make torture a legal and acceptable part of American policy. At the time, President Obama said we should move forward and put the past behind us. Turning to face the future only works if there is one.
Then the Democrats gave the United States a health care law, which was apparently full of holes and would not stand against a politicized Supreme Court. Not only does health care here cost almost twice what it costs in every other developed country, one of every six Americans is not covered. It cost the Democrats nothing because they gave us nothing. On the other hand, the insurance companies are very happy.
Last night, Charles Ferguson accepted his Oscar by reminding the American people that the recession was caused by Wall Street criminals who still walk among us and are not being prosecuted for wreaking havoc on the economy, which brings us back to Wisconsin. When people talk about the budget problems there and in DC, the story is all about “deficits.” These deficits have a number of interesting characteristics.
First, they were created by lawmakers. These elected officials betrayed the public trust by abusing their power. Being beholden to the corporate interests who bought them their golden tickets, they cut taxes and continued to spend money. Not only did they continue to spend money, they spent money mainly on things that helped their corporate masters get rich. War materiel is big business. War profiteering used to be considered unethical; but once upon a time, greed was also one of the seven deadly sins.
Next, after creating the deficits, lawmakers decided that the best way to finance their war bonanza was to cut non-defense spending. Naturally, this means that anything that benefits regular people is subject to the axe. Columnist Robert Kuttner put it concisely: “We have the party of cuts versus the party of deeper cuts.” While the GOP has earned its special place in hell for starting the whole mess, the Democrats are doing their best to get in there right beside them.
Politicians talking about budget issues are beginning to refer to “entitlements.” Someone kindly explained to me that entitlements are government handouts that people expect and with which politicians interfere at their peril. Many people will accept this definition for Medicare and Social Security; however, in the sense that I earned every cent that I have paid into Social Security and Medicare, do bet your socks that I am entitled to it, and so is every other American who has paid into the system. The radical right has these programs in its sights next. While I have come to expect such malfeasance from them, the fact that Democrats are even willing to enter into a conversation that perverts the meaning of Social Security into an “entitlement” is infuriating. Social Security is deferred wages. It is not a privilege to have deferred wages repaid to you; it is a right.
Wall Street, which owns DC, has set its sights on your retirement fund. It might be time to remind our elected officials that our retirement fund is ours. They might listen if we can convince them that we are about to revoke their golden tickets.