Winning with Kamikaze Tactics

The dangerous political and economic trends of the past three decades are coming to a head in Washington current debt battle. The Right is armed with its anti-government extremism and its vast propaganda machine, while the Democrats seek compromise and the Left remains disorganized, as Danny Schechter notes.

By Danny Schechter

July 22, 2011  

During World War Two, the Japanese deployed units of pilots who turned their planes into bombs, and sacrificed themselves in the name of their emperor in a holy war against U.S. ships. They would aim for the deck of aircraft carriers and do as much damage as they could at a cost of their equipment and their lives.

Guerrilla armies refined the tactic and made it less pricey. Much lower cost suicide belts with explosives are now used by individuals to terrorize their enemies without having to sacrifice weapons systems.

Now, American politics has spawned its own kamikazes in the persona of ultra-right wing fanatics in suits who are ready to blow up the world financial system if they don’t get their way.

The use of the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling was carefully calculated as a political weapon to terrorize financial institutions and governments by playing a game of their own version of apocalypse now.

Concede to our political demands to shrink the government, no matter what the cost to the poor and or benefit dependent and even federal employees, or we will further destabilize the system. 

Our issues trump yours, say these contemporary kamikazes, because we have the votes. We don’t care if the nation defaults on its financial obligations.

They take no prisoners is their approach; “Let it all fall apart” is the threat, “our way or the highway” is their mantra.

In response, the Obama administration has been offering what it calls “a grand bargain,” which was off the table and is now back on after the White House signaled it would accept a short-term debt-ceiling hike. This approach, however, assures that the issue will stick around like a club to keep the battle going.

The “grand bargain” will allow for $4 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade. It will cut Medicare and Social Security in the name of “reform.”

The tension is overheating in a Washington already drenched in the sweat of summer humidity. National Public Radio compares the discussions to a game of high-stakes poker:

“If you remove the politics, the talking points and the media from the debt-ceiling showdown, you end up with something that looks like a high-stakes, no-limit Texas Hold ‘em poker game. You’ve got posturing, risk-taking, betting and, of course, bluffing.”

The Atlantic Wire reports: “As the deadline approaches, both parties will start flexing less and compromising more. …  According to The New York Times, the Republican hard-line stance on raising taxes is starting to splinter. Some have ‘appeared more willing to consider a deal locking in spending cuts that Mr. Obama has said he would take if balanced by new revenues.’”

The relentless righteousness of the ideologically driven Tea Party-backed “caucus of the crazy” freaked out not just the President and the Democrats but many Republicans who, like them, depend on financing by Wall Street.

In a world of crashing currencies and defaults on the European horizon, they don’t want the same here as trigger-happy hardliners dictate to the country, and by extension the world. 

The political coup threatens to turn into an economic coup even though economic issues are being used for partisan political purposes.

Wall Street is doing some political bombing of its own to get the GOP leadership to try to rein in their renegade factions out to please a base, which is, in turn, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers and others with self-interested agendas of their own. 

Schoolyard bullies have nothing on these guys who have been holding the political debate hostage to their simplistic message points, which are then drilled into the nodding minds of their base over the years by the likes of the Fox Views Network and their rightwing radio brigade.

The politicians will keep dancing and prancing until the music stops.

The fearless President Barack Obama, who has rarely seen a compromise he won’t embrace, is playing his usual double game, telling his supporters how firm he will be, and telling his avowed enemies he is willing to play in their pigpen if they would just be more “reasonable.”

But the whole point of their exercise is to posture at not being reasonable, to maintain the appearance of a united front to get as much as they can by way of concessions and goodies for their own districts while lambasting all government spending.

New York Times points out that many of the Tea Party boosters on Capitol Hill are not shy about seeking government pork while they are blasting government excess,

“WASHINGTON:  Freshman House Republicans who rode a wave of voter discontent into office last year vowed to stop out-of-control spending, but that has not stopped several of them from quietly trying to funnel millions of federal dollars into projects back home.” 

Progressive Democrats are furious and smell betrayal. Here’s what MoveOn had to say:

“Reports that the White House is negotiating a secret debt deal directly with House Republicans that could include deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security with limited or no immediate revenue increases are deeply troubling. Any deal that slashes programs for seniors and working families while doing nothing to make the rich and corporations pay their share is a total non-starter and Democrats in Congress should rule it out immediately.

“The Democratic base did not work night and day to elect Democrats so that they could cave to Tea Party extremists who are intent on gutting the social safety net millions of us fought to establish and protect.”

At the same time, Obama is following in Bill Clinton’s footsteps, according to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:

“After a bruising midterm election, the president moves to the political center. He distances himself from his Democratic base. He calls for cuts in Social Security and signs historic legislation ending a major entitlement program. He agrees to balance the budget with major cuts in domestic discretionary spending.

“He has a showdown with Republicans who threaten to bring government to its knees if their budget demands aren’t met. He wins the showdown, successfully painting them as radicals. He goes on to win re-election.

“Barack Obama in 2012? Maybe. But the president who actually did it was Bill Clinton.”

This debt issue has been calculated to focus attention on government as the fount of all evil, and distract attention away from out-of-control corporate enrichment, Wall Street crimes, and the looting in the form of higher and higher CEO bonuses and greed-driven compensation schemes. 

There is little mention about how the failed and deceptive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drove the deficit up – with GOP backing of course!

A new poll shows public outrage at the government reaching their highest levels ever. (Some of this is fueled by the stalemate on Capitol Hill.)

This jihad on debt was hatched by right-wing think tanks and the studies commissioned by billionaire Pete Peterson paint alarmist scenarios about the government going broke through a combination of reckless entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare and runaway spending.

There’s no mention of the amount wasted on wars or the debt that finances programs spawned by the Pentagon and the private sector that they believe can do no wrong.

It is in sharp contrast to the debt issue I explored in my 2006 film “In Debt We Trust: America Before The Bubble Burst.” It focused on mounting consumer debt and how it turned so many families into serfs, living to pay off high-interest credit cards, crushing student loans and fraudulent sub-prime mortgages.

Not only is this personal debt crisis that so many American feel deeply not on the Republican agenda, but the kamikazes have fought successfully to neuter proposed reforms to protect consumers. They also have managed to force the administration to abandon Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, who led the fight for government agency to stop the abuses by banks and credit-card companies.

These Republicans have no shame in weakening efforts that would make the octopus-like grasping of loan companies more transparent and less predatory. Protecting people is not one of their priorities. Defending the privileged is.

While their narrative of negativity became dominant, progressives either became a cheering squad for corporate Democrats or over-focused on the machinations of the flamboyant characters on the Right, like Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. 

Progressives mostly reacted defensively, instead of acting offensively.

They did not fight the Right’s narrative with another one attacking the economic powers in a crusade for justice. They watched as community organizations like ACORN were driven into the ground and only woke up when the Governor of Wisconsin went after the collective bargaining rights of unions.

Instead of organizing and uniting around campaigns based on programs for substantive change, the progressives played defense, trying to hold on to existing rights. They stopped fighting for new rights for all Americans.

As a result, the Left has left itself out of this polarized political war even as the economy worsens while the media focuses on the clash of the gladiators on Capitol Hill.

But Reich reminds us these are not Clinton times:

“When the Great Recession wiped out $7.8 trillion of home values, it crushed the nest eggs and eliminated the collateral of America’s middle class. As a result, consumer spending has been decimated. Households have been forced to reduce their debt to 115% of disposable personal income from 130% in 2007, and there’s more to come. Household debt averaged 75% of personal income between 1975 and 2000.

“We’re in a vicious cycle in which job and wage losses further reduce Americans’ willingness to spend, which further slows the economy. Job growth has effectively stopped. The fraction of the population now working (58.2%) is near a 25-year low — lower than it was when the recession officially ended in June 2009.”

Who is talking about this disaster?

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed the DVD Plunder The Crime of Our Time to expose Wall Street Crimes. (PlundertheCrimeOfOurTime.com) Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

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4 comments on “Winning with Kamikaze Tactics

  1. Rory B on said:

    I consider myself a progressive. I will give you a few reasons why we haven’t been able to go on the full offensive. 1) Roughly 80% of the population under 35 has no idea what things were like before Reagan. I am 45 and grew up being able to believe the nightly news for the most part and had a parent who was a union and teamster member. My co workers who in their 20′s just get a glazed over look when I or other older fellow employees tell them they need to get educated about what is happening or they will get screwed big time. The younger generation has indeed been dumbed down and made apathetic.
    2)With all the downsizing everyone is working harder and longer hours each day and are exhausted when they come home from work. I include myself in this group. I still make time to research news stories and sign petitions through Credo, Move On and others but it is very time consuming. Days off are spent catching up on chores or well deserved leisure activities. I have a theory more hours/less time is all part of the Rights way of keeping us beaten down.
    3)Progressive rallies aren’t all they should be. Since I have only gone to two in the last couple of years (I would like to go to more but they are always on a Saturday I have to work. I usually get an email about them only a week ahead of time and can’t change my schedule)I may have a low opinion of them based on my experiences. The first one I went to was outside Senator Franken’s office at 11 am, on a February weekday, in zero degrees. Needless to say only about a dozen people were there and all were over 50 years in age. The second event I went to, the organizer at least had the sense to schedule it after 4 pm. It was out side of a Wells Fargo bank. I found out about it through Move On and had the impression that this was Wells Fargo’s main H.Q. I also saw on the website that 89 people signed up to be there. When I arrived there were roughly 2 dozen people outside the building. I and one other gentleman in his 20′s were the youngest attendees. Also, it wasn’t the main headquarters but a downtown bank branch. As one passerby pointed out, we were probably just making the bank tellers nervous not the CEO’s as was intended.

    My whole point is that most progressives don’t have the killer thought process of the far Right. In other words we aren’t nut jobs. That appears to be a draw back. I think that unless a protest event can garner at least a thousand or more attendees, don’t bother to do it. On line petitions appear to be very effective however. I think progressive need to re think how to attack the Right before they attack. Things that worked in the 60′s just don’t cut it these days.

  2. rosemerry on said:

    Certainly something is needed desperately. Most Congress members cannot possible be considered representatives of their constituents. Look at the AIPAC domination of practically all of them for one thing. Obama has turned out to be even worse than anyone would expect, and cannot stand up for the US people, assuming he has any care at all for anyone but the very rich. How can Wall Street and rating agencies destroy whole countries?
    There is no semblance of democracy left.

  3. tough talking cohernet fact based progressives are excluded from the American media, if you doubt theb re-think the reasons why Kieth Olberman was pushed out of MSNBC into the internet wasteland. Our media doesn’t even bother to throw softballs anymore they just repeat the center-right-nut bag talking points with different verbs and collect their corporate paychecks. Mr. Parry has written at length about this, see his archives.

    Although Roy B. comments about dumbed down younger ones may be true, it is not their fault as corporate America funded and pushed the destruction of our school systems via the white backlash of the 1960s-70s at first because they wanted lower tax rates and the Republican took the ball and ran with it. In the following years corporate America decided to abandon the country in total and have been shifting capital overseas for going on twenty five years.I’ve talked to a ex-wall street bean counter who put the figure at two-three trillion over the last thirty-forty years.

    They do need educated americans anymore, hence privatize education and throw the vast majority on the scrape heap of history.

    The biggest lie about the global economy is not the wiz-bang techno stuff that everyone harps on endlessly.

    A modern factory that can produce cars, or steel, or circut boards, or shirts, or toasters with only 1/5 of the workers that used to do it forty years ago is a matter of choice driven by return on investment. Thus we are led to believe by our elites the reason they go overseas is to automate and take advantage of workers who are smarter and cheaper than Americans. That is a total lie. Yes, hi-tec companies out source engineering and advaned production, but that is only 1/10 of the story.

    Take Stanley Tools for example, about five years ago there was a interview with one of its board members in a business magazine where he stated that because of Chinese requirements, as a condition to take advantage of China’s large cheap work force a floor was set as to how many Chinese they had to employe. Hence after looking at the numbers, they realized they could fire every american worker, (a work force somewhere around 15k to 17k) and close 40 American factories and hire 30-40k Chinese workers via contracts at 1/6 of the cost.

    If it hasn’t been made clear by now this forty year crusade to destroy the American industrial base, first because it was union, then because it voted Democratic, then because they just didn’t give a shit anymore the American coproate elite has destoryed this nation’s economy, its tax base, its educational system largely on the vague notion of profit whim and pure greed.

    The current debate over our debt and that “we are bankrupt” wouldn’t be half as bad if were not for this one dirty little fact that is covered up. That old wall street guy I ran into at party ten years ago also said that as much as 2/3 of the capital sent overseas the last forty years was based on US gov bonds which are held as colateral in this vast complex web of theft.

    These bonds are all coming due at the same time the Social Security bonds will come due over the next twenty-five years and hence corporate America has already made its choice: pay off the mulitudes of private and public bonds owned on the their own corporate debt largely financied by the American taxpayer and screw the United States to death. That is why they do not want their taxes raised; coporate America is a fruad, they are cluless profit mongers who have lost sight decades ago why they were able to use US bonds as colateral in the first place. OUr bonds were worth something years ago because we procduced thing here – hence the profits flowed home and supported our tax base that made the bonds a good investment.

    Our bonds are worthless and the Chinese have been dumping them for the last three years and they are not going to lend us more money so that the FED can print more bonds, rasie more money to give to US companies via the “window” at the FED …… as the Chinese have already played us Americans for fools and no longer need us.

    Hell the China wrote a three billion dollar check to INTEL to cover the cost of a new fab plant in northen China back in 2009, they didn’t even think twice about it; to the Chinese it was pocket change.