So there's a deal on the debt-ceiling. Woo-hoo? While it's great that we're not defaulting this week, this deal will permanently damage the vitality and dynamism of the United States economy.
I'll be honest, I know I wouldn't have liked it if the 14th amendment option were to be exercised, as I fundamentally disapprove of the exercise of executive power over democratic achievement. That said, Obama has shown no problem with exercising this power in other political arenas.
First, let's look at terror policy. President Obama signed an executive order to continue the CIA's ability to carry out extraordinary renditions: secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to foreign nations for interrogations that aren't compliant with or beholden to US criminal law.
The U.S. still reserves the right to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without charge, try them via military tribunal, keep them imprisoned even if they are acquitted, and kill them in foreign countries with which America is not formally at war (including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan). When Obama closed the secret CIA prisons known as “black sites,” he specifically allowed for temporary detention facilities where a suspect could be taken before being sent to a foreign or domestic prison, a practice known as “rendition.” And even where the Obama White House has made a show of how it has broken with the Bush administration, such as outlawing enhanced interrogation techniques, it has done so through executive order, which can be reversed at any time by the sitting president.
(c/o The 9/14 Presidency)
It has to be noted that most of these policies are Bush-era, and I'll make an allowance that Obama has continued these policies for the sake of expediency. I understand that once executive power expands, it's not a great leadership tactic to then reduce your own power. But President Obama has acted to expand these powers.
President Obama has made prosecuting whistleblowers a cornerstone of his government. But most egregiously, Obama signed an executive order that authorizes the assassination of U.S. citizens in foreign lands without due process, whether they're in a battlefield or not.
Most recently, Obama has asserted that he has the right to continue the air war in Libya without congressional approval:
Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.
But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team -- including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh -- who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.
So Obama has demonstrated that he has no problem whatsoever in overriding or even averting Congress when it suits him to do so. But when it comes to an issue that will fundamentally affect the future of the United States of America, its economy and its middle/working-class citizens, he wants to compromise. He wants to deal with the Tea Party crazies, who have the world's finest loudspeakers but no democratic mandate.
That the Republican party is allowing themselves to be hijacked by this minority is anti-democratic in itself, but why would Obama give anything more than lip service to their priorities, which are based not in fact but in faith, and not even faith in God, but faith in their own righteousness?
It's no stretch to conclude that Obama fundamentally does not desire the same outcomes as the party and the voters that placed him in power. His actions prove that he believes that spending on social safety nets should be cut.
"The Republicans, Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Cantor DID NOT call for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. The President of the United States called for that," declared US Representative John Conyers in a press conference held by members of the House "Out of Poverty' Caucus on 07/27/11.".
All his actions, put together, leave one incontrovertible conclusion: President Barack Obama, the great arbiter of hope and change, has done more to gut the left's political agenda than any Republican could ever have dreamed. Where President Bush failed to destroy the social safety net, Obama has made cutting social security, Medicare and Medicaid a priority in the debt negotiations. In the NY Times:
No matter how the immediate issue is resolved, Mr. Obama, in his failed effort for greater deficit reduction, has put on the table far more in reductions for future years' spending, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, than he did in new revenue from the wealthy and corporations. He proposed fewer cuts in military spending and more in health care than a bipartisan Senate group that includes one of the chamber's most conservative Republicans. . . .
But by this month, in ultimately unsuccessful talks with Speaker John A. Boehner, Mr. Obama tentatively agreed to a plan that was farther to the right than that of the majority of the fiscal commission and a bipartisan group of senators, the so-called Gang of Six. It also included a slow rise in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65, and, after 2015, a change in the formula for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.
Now, of course, the social safety net alone does not guarantee prosperity for Americans. It's just what it says on the tin, a safety net. You know what keeps people off the safety net? Jobs. The GDP numbers are not good -- they show definitely that the economy has slowed down. Production is down. And how do we increase aggregate productivity? We get more people working. Which means there has to be enough money circulating in the system for employers to hire new staff. And normally, when the economy can't support job creation on its own, the government steps in with large public works projects, the kind where you hire millions of contractors who in turn hire millions of workers. So guess what happens with more cuts in discretionary spending? No money for public works projects, and little or no creation of new jobs.
Now here's the crux of my argument: this is an economic philosophy, a very traditional Keynesian philosophy mixed with a bit of Galbraith, the philosophy that has been championed by the Democratic party until Clinton became president.
Obama has shown, instead, a devotion to policies that are to the right of even mainstream Republican voters, as proven by the universal out-cry against George W. Bush's social security "reforms". He has demonstrated a commitment to continuing all Bush-era terror policies regarding torture, rendition, due process and surveillance. Obama has led a foreign policy strategy free of accountability to both voters and their elected representatives. And, most crucially, he has seen fit to decimate the values that define the party that put him in power.
The Oncoming Hope was founded on the idea that we should not surrender to cynicism in anything we do. To me, the height of cynicism is buying into a system that requires a vote between the lesser of two evils. As the 2012 election stands, I'll be forced to choose between a man who has demonstrated no substantive difference between his policies and those of his predecessor apart from overturning Don't Ask Don't Tell. I am being asked to choose between George W. Bush with a more advanced vocabulary and a Republican candidate that's looking more and more likely to be Rick Perry.
If these are my options, I abstain. I wish I could formally abstain as the Australian system allows, but I can't. But I have no intention of distancing myself from the electoral process. I will throw my support whole-heartedly behind any primary challenger who shows a commitment to the values that allow the American Dream to be more than an illusion. I will continue to use my voice and my words to speak, to advocate, and to campaign. I will vote for every other office, for Congressmen, for Senators, for Mayors, for City Council members. But unless something changes dramatically, I will not vote for President.