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Joseph A. Palermo Headshot

Party Like It's 1994

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Lost in the din of the triumphal declarations of the nation "speaking with one voice" calling for a Restoration of the Reign of George W. Bush, is the fact that on key policies -- tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- the Republican agenda remains deeply unpopular. It's one thing to decry "government spending" but it's quite another thing when that means grandma is going to be moving into your basement because they stripped away her monthly check. The vast majority of Americans never supported a "privatize-and-pillage" attack on Social Security. Yet many of the Republican candidates in 2010 are on record supporting all manner of schemes to dismember Social Security.

President Obama might have squandered what was the only opportunity we might have for decades to restore the idea that government can be a public good capable of fighting effectively against entrenched power. But Wall Street got off scot-free and homeowners facing foreclosure got only the "Home Affordable Modification Plan" (HAMP), which appears to have been little more than a political ploy to give the appearance the government was doing something at a time when the number of foreclosures was shooting through the roof.

Now we're hearing the first mouse-like squeaks from Robert Gibbs and Harry Reid that maybe there should have been a "modification" of the Senate filibuster rule. That suggestion is about eighteen months too late. Obama, along with Reid, Max Baucus, and other Democratic Senators, internalized the notion that the Republicans had a 60-vote requirement to get anything passed. They told us that they had no choice but to try to court hacks like Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and Olympia Snowe. ("Yes We Can! But.") "The professional Left" tried to warn Obama that if the filibuster wasn't addressed it would render him just another Washington politician in the eyes of those who had put their faith in his "Change" agenda.

In the final analysis, it's the things that can't be measured in opinion polls that matter most. People tell pollsters they don't like "spending" but even the most vociferous Tea Baggers (if they're not rich) don't want grandma's Medicare thrown to the business-suited wolves over at Aetna or HCA. The "stimulus" of $787 billion was too small and larded with too many tax cuts to make it viable; it also did very little to stop the draconian lay-offs at the state and local level, (which collectively totaled about 195,000). The $820 billion bailout of the big investment banks (TARP) did nothing but reinforce their predatory practices and reckless gambling habits. The incentives are still the same. And they're at it again gambling on billions in "synthetic" toxic waste knowing the federal government has got their backs.

In the 1990s, the major "bipartisan" policies that Bill Clinton enacted before and after he faced a hostile Republican Congress were all disastrous for the country: NAFTA (outsourced jobs), the Telecommunications Act (gave us Fox News), and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act (which Larry Summers loved), set the nation on the trajectory that produced the "worst economic downturn since the Great Depression."

What was needed the past two years was nothing short of a wholesale reaffirmation of the role of government in society. But truculent cloture rules, backroom deals, and dizzying amounts of lobbying cash proved that even with a liberal Democratic President in power and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress Washington was as fucked up as ever. The Obama people have told us repeatedly that we're in the "worst economic downturn since the Great Depression." Yet the reforms the Administration offered to deal with the crisis were mild at best.

If the Republicans win enough seats on Tuesday to take the House of Representatives, Government Oversight Committee Chair, Darrell Issa, and other attack dogs will be set loose to gnaw at the ankles of every Obama Administration official. They'll ferret out people with their hands in the till and feign "shock" at the "corruption" they've uncovered. The corporate media will follow every detail of the Republicans' investigations with the same rapt attentiveness they showed covering the Clinton "scandals." They'll "dirty up" President Obama going into the 2012 re-election campaign (which has already begun).