We repeatedly hear the belief that Democrats and Republicans can't agree on anything. But when it comes to economic policy, conflict is an engineered myth, a smokescreen perpetuated by the "inside the Beltway gang" ostensibly to keep the faithful of both parties happy. I call it smoke and mirror politics.
What is being obscured is the fact that both parties shamelessly support multi-national corporations and financial elites at the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Since the late 1970s, the GOP and its billionaire backers have spent billions of dollars shaping government in their own "profits at any cost" vision. The Democrats began falling nicely into line beginning with President Jimmy Carter, who started the deregulation craze by deregulating the airline and trucking industries. No, this is not your grandfather's Democratic Party anymore.
The Democratic Party, once the champion of working people and defender of Roosevelt's New Deal that defined liberalism, now finds itself making policy and laws that are destroying what is left of the New Deal and subsequently, the middle class.
Reading between the lines of President Obama's top 50 achievements speaks to this reality.
Yes, President Obama and Congress threw working people a few bones like the auto bailout and extension of long-term unemployment benefits (to be rescinded somewhat if the sequester happens) but closer scrutiny of the list reveals that a majority of "accomplishments" were for the very few at the very top of the economic scale.
No. 1 on the list is health care reform. Polls show that 77 percent of Americans overwhelmingly wanted a government-run health care option to compete with private insurers. But the public option was dead on arrival after President Obama and Finance Committee Chairman Democrat Sen. Max Baucus played the "Washington shell game" and let Big Pharma and the insurance industry dictate the terms of the legislation, which was a huge windfall to both.
The insurance industry got millions of new customers and high premiums subsidized by the taxpayer and Big Pharma can continue its predatory pricing and monopolistic policies while high drug prices and health care costs continue to devastate the budgets of working class families.
No. 2 on the list is the passage of the stimulus, which was touted and allegedly designed to spur the economy for everyone. But figures show that 93 percent of recovery dollars went to the 1 percent. The stimulus did keep the economy from going off the cliff by not completely shutting down our banking system but offered little else in the long term to bring back good jobs with benefits to working people. Relative to our 1979 economy (when Democrats acted like Democrats), the current economy has lost about one-third of its ability to generate good jobs or those with good wages, health care benefits and retirement.
Lastly, let's look at No. 3 on the list: Wall Street reform. As I write, the White House and Congress are effectively putting the last nails in the coffin of Dodd-Frank, the law originally designed to re-write the rules of how Wall Street did business.
Instead, Congress is once again pandering to groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association that is sitting on bad mortgages to the tune of a 30 percent loss, which they are loath to write off. The only way to recoup their losses is to create another housing bubble and Congress is only too happy to comply by loosening lending standards again.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley is currently crafting a bill that would set up a trust to "purchase or guarantee refinanced (private) mortgages." Taxpayers will be forced once again to pay for the excesses of investors. After all, this IS how our democracy works these days.
America experienced her greatest prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s when we had a political balance of power and laws that ensured fairness. The Democrats representing working people were a counterweight to the power of the capital class, represented by Republicans. Income equality and upward mobility, a core component of the American Dream, was the result. Today, there is overwhelming evidence that your children will not have their fair shot at the American dream. Our democracy and dreams have been sold to the highest bidder. If indeed there are only two kinds of power in America: organized money and organized people, organized money has had its way. Which do you belong to?