Tag Archives: USA

The rich get richer, and the poor….

Obama announces debt deal

Well, when you’re a Tea Party-backed Republican and you’re crowing about your ‘victory‘ in the debt-ceiling deadlock, why should you care? After all, you stood in the landslide mid-terms on a ticket of no taxes and rolling back so-called ‘big government’, under a misguided sense of taking America back to Washington-era constitution, and after weeks of acrimonious argument and Capitol chicanery, you’ve succeeded in hijacking a process that’s hitherto been smooth and commonplace and turning it into a means to push America further to the right.

It’s astonishing that, for an administration that still holds a Senate majority, this government can be held hostage by a group of politicians that, for all the aghast cries from dissenting Democrats, didn’t even support such a painful bill because the cuts were not nearly tough enough, and the compromises too weak. The likes of Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, who would sooner give up their right to bear arms than bring in tax increases for the rich, have come off best in a game of brinkmanship that played with the global economy as if it was a roulette table. While many thought that a deal would eventually be done, simply because it had to, it’s incredible to think that a President whose election ideals reached out to the poor and disenfranchised so much has now been forced to support a deal that must’ve felt like sucking vinegar, against everything he and many of his party stood for.

So why did it come to this? The debt ceiling had to to be raised, as it had painlessly by countless Democrat and Republican Presidents before, but this time the Democrats, shorn of their House majority, had to face the fact that this time the vote would be made, by those on the far right, to symbolise the deep divisions on Capitol Hill. The GOP, so riven itself in conflict that on Friday its House leader, John Boehner, humiliatingly lost proposed vote simply to approve his own party’s plan, has managed to play a game of chicken, safe in the knowledge that however opposed to their plans President Obama was, he would most likely compromise in the national interest, something they would refuse at all costs. And what costs? While many doom mongers had forseen another 2008, the reality was that a US that couldn’t service its own payrolls could’ve sent the markets into turmoil, and yet Tea Party-backed Republicans and many more moderate in their party saw it as a viable alternative to many of their bete noires, especially that spectre of all spectres, tax rises for the rich.

It’s a distasteful, unpalatable truth that many of these super-rich politicos see it as their divine right to save the majority of the wealth for the majority of the rich. Bush’s tax cuts, an abomination when they were brought in 2001, are staggeringly still here, making those with the most proportionally better off year on year. It was this unthinkable that saw the Right push back against a series of proposed Democrat plans that would’ve seen them take a hit along with many schemes designed to help the poorest – social security, education, Medicare, Medicaid – in favour of swingeing cuts that simply left them untouched. To a British citizen like myself, even with a Conservative-lead government, this seems an almost unbelievable truth. That a country as apparently welcoming and diverse as the United States, self-appointed global leader and trumpeter of its ideals, can allow this abomination to persist, in fact to be furthered is shameful beyond description. But this, to many on the Right, is the American Dream. You are responsible only for yourself, you reap what you sow, your success is yours alone to enjoy, and no-one, NO ONE, is going to deprive you of it. Perfect, if you’re a millionaire, but if you’re below the poverty line? Well, you just need to work harder. It comes as no surprise that the majority of these Tea Party-backed are white, middle and upper-class (yes, there are token minorities, there always are), and their supporters even more so, while all the poor are often black, many minorities. Well, they’re just poor because they’re lazy, or they don’t work hard enough, or they’ve not made their own opportunities. It’s one of the staggering conditions of the United States: try to redistribute wealth, to help using taxes those less well off than you? You’re a socialist.

In a Europe where Obama would be, and is, welcomed with open arms for his lofty ideals and balanced views, many in his own country happily equate him with Stalin. And as the Right pushes further from the centre, these viewpoints, festering in the fetid cauldron of the likes of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, gain more and more mainstream credence, and soon, they are talked of as the ‘centre’ ground in a country whose politics are becoming ever more polarised. So, we’re left with a bill, that’s passed with disgust by the majority of Democrats, and amazingly rejected even more so by the Tea Party for its weakness, that ‘saves’ the States, for now. And you almost have to take your hat off for the way the Right fought the battle. They’ve weakened the President, undermined the economy, and a Senate majority, won a bill that’s abhorrent to Democrats, and for them this is just the beginning. And why? Because they’d rather see people on the street over medical bills, bankrupted by mortgage repayments, homeless and jobless, because they see it as their divine right to retain all the wealth they have, at the expense of those who have none. That is, in their eyes, the American way, the American ‘dream’.

It’s a disgrace, and no amount of argument, however eloquently expressed, will convince me that the Tea Party is anything other than the politics of the mean. The selfishness of the wealthy over the powerlessness of the poor. Helping those less well off than you isn’t socialism, it’s humanity, and these last few weeks have shown, as if it wasn’t already flashing like a million watt bulb, that these people have none.

If the shoe fits….

While it’s sad that it didn’t connect with its intended target, the shoe seen around the world (possibly as it’s now called) did at least manage to unite countries, peoples, races and religions around the globe. I’m sure there can’t be another event that brought together Iraqis, Iranians, Americans, British, French, Pakitstanis, Russians and Africans alike to the same side of the fence than Muntazer al-Zaidi’s double-throw against the US President last week. Much as it pains to praise, you can’t really complain about Dubya’s ducking (after all, he did it on climate change for the last 8 years) but it’s a shame they didn’t make contact.

The shoe's near miss on George Bush

Mind you, for all the praise and support, it’s faintly depressing, and also rather familiar, that the hero was thoroughly rewarded for his efforts. Rather than a pardon, it seems he received a beating for his actions, and this is even before his 31st December trial. The charge? Insulting a foreign leader. The irony…. He gets my vote for man of the year.

Judgement day…..

It’s 24 hours until the votes will start coming back for the US Presidential nominations. In just over a day we’ll start to have a clearer picture of whether it’s four more years or time for change. There are many on this side of the Atlantic that are sick of the coverage, and probably many in the United States as well, but, like or loathe it, this may one of the most important elections in our lifetime, maybe even our parents’.

It’s easy to be caught up in the rhetoric, and that Obama will transform the USA into a country that will leave today’s United States looking like a distant memory in four years’ time, and only the most carried away idealist would think that it’s that easy, but the choice that the American people have is clear: another term for the GOP, and it’ll be a continuation of what has come before (even if McCain wants to paint himself as the maverick, he’s voted for 90% of the bills that Bush proposed), or the Democrats, and at least a chance to take the country from the isolationist war-hungry superpower it is, into a country that is willing to engage, to discuss, and to reach out.

Make no mistake, if the rest of the world could vote, Obama would be a shoe-in. In recent polls in the UK, and in Europe, more than 75% of those questioned wanted him in office over the embattled veteran McCain. But it’s down to the American people, and in their hands is the future of their country, and, beyond that, the ripples that wash across the globe every time the US wields its power. The signs are good. Obama leads by between 6 and 10%, depending on which polls you follow, and has done since the economic crisis hit hard. Ironically, until then, Obama was struggling after a wave of (successful) negative attacks.

But for once, the legacy of his own party looks likely to be McCain’s downfall. Even better, his running mate, Sarah Palin, will be spared the terrifying prospect of being a breath away from the Commander in Chief role. This is a woman that would still forbid abortion even in the case of incestual rape, and believes man-made global warming is mostly a myth. There are so many things wrong with this woman being in office as the VP that it’s too short a time to list them here.

It won’t be an easy ride. The US Economy will be the elephant in the room, whichever candidate wins. Their four year term’s spending plans will be crippled by the bail-out and losses (nothing, obviously, compared to the 100m a month that is going on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts) and the legacy of the Bush years will be felt far and wide. But Obama is as equipped as any to deal with it.

So, cross your fingers, arms, legs and everything else, and pray that America follows through its intention from the polls and makes history by putting Barack Obama in office. The alternative is too bleak to consider.