Politics & Law

Why the right-wing bullies will hold the nation hostage again and again

Robert Reich

When I was a small boy I was bullied more than most, mainly because I was a foot shorter than than everyone else. They demanded the cupcake my mother had packed in my lunchbox, or, they said, they’d beat me up. After a close call in the boy’s room, I paid up. Weeks later, they demanded half my sandwich as well. I gave in to that one, too. But I could see what was coming next. They’d demand everything else. Somewhere along the line I decided I’d have a take a stand. The fight wasn’t pleasant. But the bullies stopped their bullying.

I hope the President decides he has to take a stand, and the sooner the better. Last December he caved in to Republican demands that the Bush tax cut be extended to wealthier Americans for two more years, at a cost of more than $60 billion. That was only the beginning — the equivalent of my cupcake.

Last night he gave away more than half the sandwich — $39 billion less than was budgeted for 2010, $79 billion less than he originally requested. Non-defense discretionary spending — basically, everything from roads and bridges to schools and innumerable programs for the poor — has been slashed.

The right-wing bullies are emboldened. They will hold the nation hostage again and again.

In a few weeks the debt ceiling has to be raised. After that, next year’s budget has to be decided on. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan has already put forward proposals to turn Medicare into vouchers that funnel money to private insurance companies, turn Medicaid and Food Stamps into block grants that give states discretion to shift them to the non-poor, and give even more big tax cuts to the rich.

There will also be Republican votes to de-fund the new health care law.

“Americans of different beliefs came together,” the President announced after agreement was reached. It was the “largest spending cut in our history.” He sounded triumphant. In fact, he’s encouraging the bullies onward.

All the while, he and the Democratic leadership in Congress refuse to refute the Republicans’ big lie — that spending cuts will lead to more jobs. In fact, spending cuts now will lead to fewer jobs. They’ll slow down an already-anemic recovery. That will cause immense and unnecessary suffering for millions of Americans.

The President continues to legitimize the Republican claim that too much government spending caused the economy to tank, and that by cutting back spending we’ll get the economy going again.

Even before the bullies began hammering him his deficit commission already recommended $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase. Then the President froze non-defense domestic spending and froze federal pay. And he continues to draw the false analogy between a family’s budget and the national budget.

He is losing the war of ideas because he won’t tell the American public the truth: That we need more government spending now — not less — in order to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession.

That we got into the Great Recession because Wall Street went bonkers and government failed to do its job at regulating financial markets. And that much of the current deficit comes from the necessary response to that financial crisis.

That the only ways to deal with the long-term budget problem is to demand that the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and to slow down soaring health-care costs.

And that, at a deeper level, the increasingly lopsided distribution of income and wealth has robbed the vast working middle class of the purchasing power they need to keep the economy going at full capacity.

“We preserved the investments we need to win the future,” he said last night. That’s not true. The budget he just approved will cut Pell grants to poor kids, while states continue massive cutbacks in school spending — firing tens of thousands of teachers and raising fees at public universities. The budget he approved is cruel to the nation’s working class and poor.

It is impossible to fight bullies merely by saying they’re going too far.

Cross-posted from Robert Reich’s blog.

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Comments to "Why the right-wing bullies will hold the nation hostage again and again":
    • not so sold

      …and yet we easily forget on how the rest of us got bullied in to ObamaCare last year!!! Its called politics and the golden rule – he with the power uses it!!

      what a whiner! i never heard you dicussinig bullying when democrats owned all three power bases – but now that you only own two, it becomes bullying!!

      [Report abuse]

    • inthend

      “We preserved the investments we need to win the future”
      B. Obama

      which of these is scarier?

      “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will become accustomed to believing it.”
      J. Goebbels

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    • Anthony St. John

      You are absolutely correct Prof. Reich.

      While republican indentured servants in Washington destroy the American Way of Life to serve their masters, the democrats have watched and done nothing to protect the American people against our nation’s greatest threat.

      What our Founding Fathers built the new republican tories are destroying, giving the Declaration of Independence a whole new meaning.

      Only Berkeley professors and scholars can save us at this point by using the power of education to fight back against the power of money that has destroyed every civilization before ours.

      Are you ready to join the members of the academic community together to lead us in that fight today Prof. Reich?

      [Report abuse]

    • Sharon Page-Medrich

      When the Democratic National Committee and Campaign to Re-Elect Obama come calling on me again (and they do! and will!), I will tell them this: I will not give another cent to the Democratic Party until its elected officials — including the President — begin to tell these truths to the public, out loud, and begin acting accordingly.

      Thank you Professor Reich for being a voice of sanity! Where are other such voices in highly influential places???

      [Report abuse]

    • Hidefumi Katsuura

      I have a sinister point of view. President Obama is much different from Mr. Obama when he was campaigning. First, he surrounded himself with people with Wall Street connection, Geitner and Summers, for example. Guantanamo has not closed yet. Watered down health care was passed, but he did not even push the single payer health care. He gave in very easily to the extension of Bush tax-cut for the rich. And in the latest budget negotiation, he gave in to the Republican demand.

      So I started to wonder if President Obama is really a Republican at heart. Then what President Obama is doing make sense, and this is the best thing Republican Party has done. Instead of confronting with Democrats like President Bush was, President Obama is pretending to be on the Democratic side, he is really working for the Republican Party. And he is very successful in passing Republican agenda.

      [Report abuse]

    • Emanuelle Goldstein

      Bullies? Is an ad hominem argument the best you can do?

      Demand the rich pay their fair share? I’ll be waiting for you to transfer cash to my bank account. Afterall, you are richer than I am, Robert.

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    • Tom Osborne

      I and six others drove from our homes in Orange County, CA to Henderson, Nevada in fall 2008 to walk precincts for Obama. We did this on our own dime, spending three days and speaking with hundreds of voters. Our dreams came true when Obama carried Nevada and went on to win the presidency.

      Here it is 2011, and our troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, military trials are still being held for accused terrorists, Guantanamo is still operating, the richest Americans are still getting huge tax breaks, and the insurance companies are still running health care. What happened to the “change we can believe in”?

      Unlike Obama,FDR stood for something; he dared to antagonize “the economic royalists” and put in place a New Deal that carried forward the earlier progressive movement and brought social democracy to America. I thought Obama would be another FDR; instead we got Bill Clinton w/o the peccadillos. I’m still looking for another Bobby Kennedy to arrise. Meanwhile, our president, I fear, is losing his ability to inspire and, consequently, to lead.

      Thank you for having the courage and brains to speak out, Mr. Reich.
      Tom Osborne

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    • grownupsonly

      Perhaps President Obama missed the ‘talk’ when the parent tells their adult child that now they are a grown-up. Perhaps he should check out stopbullying.gov which list warning signs of being bullied, remedies and effects and consequences that bulling has on(in this case) our American Democracy. And, it behooves the rest of the adults to participate in the intervention, with a swift kick.

      [Report abuse]

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