By Alexander Cockburn
Across two evenings this week, we've been offered
Version one came in the Republican presidential candidates' debate at the Reagan Library in
There were some disappointments. I was hoping for fire and brimstone from Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party's Pasionaria. But her performance was pallid, her vibrant persona dulled down, even her natural hair resembled a wig.
Hardly had I raised a cheer for her denunciation of the Libyan adventure — delivered with a clarity apparently beyond the powers of
Ron Paul, who attracts passionate and well-deserved adherents for the lucidity of his denunciations of empire, came over as principled but a bit daffy. He was in the mode of a nutty professor or like a character in one of Thomas Love Peacock's splendid satires. His fans swiftly claimed he was aced out of the debate, which I don't think is true. He just didn't use the openings he was given to his best advantage.
Paul hates every manifestation of government. I don't think he cares much for immigrants from south of the border either. I didn't hear a cry of outrage from him when most of his fellow debaters were calling for a heavier federal presence —"boots on the ground," drones and a continuous fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. And he seems to favor the Keystone XL pipeline, even though, as my coeditor Jeffrey St. Clair points out to me, it will require one of the largest and most aggressive eminent domain actions since the construction of the interstate highways. Opposition to eminent domain is bedrock for any libertarian.
The most rational sounding Republican was
Perry had some simple assignments — mainly to show that he could speak in coherent sentences and hold his own without hauling out his laser gun. (Perry says he packs heat even in jogging rig because he's frightened of snakes.) As something of a Reagan look-alike, in decent physical shape and with a strong voice, he did OK. He and his advisors are sticking to the game plan, which is presently aimed at capturing the right-wing core votes in the early caucuses and primaries in
Perry's headliners were an accusation that Social Security is a vast Ponzi scheme, Obama is most likely a brazen liar and, amid wild cheers in the Reagan library auditorium, that he hasn't lost a wink of sleep after signing execution warrants for convicted murderers — 234 at time of writing, more than any other governor in U.S. history.
It seems hard to imagine that an onslaught on Social Security won't cost him among the vital elderly independents, assuming he gets the Republican nomination and goes head-to-head with Obama just under a year from now.
But then, having followed Reagan through his early primary battles back in 1979 and early 1980, I remember all the demented campaign statements of the Californian: His reiterated belief that the "Apocalypse" would come in our lifetimes, his amazing fictions, like liberating
No Republican offered a plan, except the African-American Herman Cain. They all contented themselves with brickbats for government and a call for the release of supposedly pent-up market forces that are hog-tied by government red tape and onerous taxation.
This brings us to Thursday night, and Obama's address to Congress. He flourished a $447 billion plan involving tax cuts, public works, extensions of unemployment relief and credits to businesses hiring people who'd been out of work for more than six months.
It'll do something. Economists raced to their calculators and said that the proposal might add about a million jobs.
But as the economists Randall Wrey and Stephanie Kelton point out, "Business will not hire more workers until it has more sales. Consumers will not spend more until they've got more jobs.
"A private-sector recovery requires 300,000 new jobs every month. But the private sector doesn't need 300,000 new workers per month to meet prospective sales. The new jobs can only come from the federal government — the only economic entity that can afford to hire. Obama's 1 million infrastructure jobs is a nice down-payment, but it is only three month's worth."
They call for a real New Deal program like
There's a problem, aside from the fact that Obama has displayed zero appetite for big liberal ideas, he has yet to get a plan, any plan, let alone a really bold, new plan past Republicans in Congress. Republicans, who with his eager co-operation, ate him for breakfast in the showdown over raising the ceiling and who will sabotage even his present modest proposals.
"Stop the political circus," he cried to Congress last night. Why should the Republicans listen to him after he himself stopped the circus at the start of August by mumbling, "You win."
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs