Archive for Barack and the debt Ceiling

Spinning the Down Grade

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on August 10, 2011 by playthell

 Joe Scarborough: Intellectual Lightweight


The Chattering Classes Provide More Heat than Light!

Listening to the loud mouth light-weight media wags, whether liberal or conservative, attempt to pin the blame for the economic crisis kicked off by the reduction of the US credit rating on President Obama makes me want to puke!  As Standard and Poor’s made clear in their statement explaining the reasons for downgrading the US credit rating for the first time in our history: it was the reckless behavior of the Congressional Republicans in threatening to push the nation into default until just a few hours before deadline that caused them to question the US government as a safe risk for investors.  While the US economy is experiencing other problems just now, there is no question that the reckless behavior of the Grand Obstructionist Party was the straw that broke the camel’s back! 

The plummeting stock market is a direct result of the panic induced by the credit downgrade, and the down grade is a direct result of the threat by the House Republicans not to raise the debt ceiling unless the President agreed to a budget plan that included all cuts and not a dime in tax increases on the rich.  Hence what is traditionally a fairly routine matter, raising the debt ceiling, became a choice between economic suicide and capitulation to the priorities of the most extreme right-wing elements of the Republican Party; who were pushing a budget shaped more by ideological than economic considerations.  This put the President in the position of attempting to negotiate with the moral equivalent of economic suicide bombers, who were willing to blow up the economy even if it meant they wouldn’t survive politically.

All of the choices available to the President were distasteful to his progressive base and odious to him personally, but he had a higher obligation to preserve the economic stability of the nation.  The old axiom that one should never negotiate with hostage takers is all well and good, unless they are threating to blow up the building with you and other hostages still inside.  In this scenario the paramount objective is to keep the bomb from going off and rescuing the hostages.  Hence those who say that the President should have called the bluff of the Tea Party fanatics and risk default are as reckless as them.  Look at the fallout from just threatening default; we can be certain that our troubles would be magnified ad infinitum had the country actually defaulted.   The President chose the lesser evil, which is the essence of politics in a divided government.  It’s time for the left to grow up and behave like politically mature actors: which means rallying around the Democrats to reelect the President and return both houses of Congress to Democratic control.

While ideologues on the left rant and rave, my sister, a retired educator in New Jersey, who cares for our 90 year old mother, lost $100,000 of her life’s savings in the crash of 2008 and thanks God that the President didn’t allow the government to default.  She represents millions of vulnerable Americans; especially those who depend on Social Security, unemployment compensation, pensions and other government entitlements, or has 40 k’s and other private retirement and investment plans.   After working a life time she is seeing her home lose value, her investments go down the drain and her pension threatened.  Hence she, and others like her, thinks the President is doing the best he can for the American people against the worst opposition any American President has ever faced.  And she believes Barack is the only friend working and middle class people like her have among those campaigning for the Oval office.  And so do I! 

Yet even so, the President just can’t win with the largely white chattering classes that dominate the discourse from their broadcast booths, editorial columns and internet blogs.  At times I feel like Diogenes the cynical Greek Philosopher, scurrying about in the dark of night trying to find a wise man.  After all, it’s not rocket science, and one does not have to be an intellectual giant to figure out who the culprit is here.  The Republicans made it plain that their paramount objective is to destroy the Presidency of Barack Obama. To accomplish this objective they became the Grand Obstructionist Party, opposing everything he attempted to do even when he adopted positions that they proposed; saying “no” over and over like a Buddhist chant stuck on stupid!  Turning a blind eye to the rampart racism and anarchism in their campaign rhetoric and slogans, the GOP encouraged the rise of the Tea Party.  And after the 2010 congressional elections the Republicans elected 87 freshmen who were pledged to the so-called Tea Party – a group of profoundly ignorant avowedly anti-government zealots. 

Congressman Cantor Dressed for Work

They sent in the Clowns!

With their arrival Speaker Boehner lost control of the Republican caucus, and things went rapidly downhill from there!  Rank amateurs with a Kamikaze mentality, these people equated political compromise with surrender and pledged to fight to the death of the American economy to get their way.  The result thus far is the escalating financial crisis that threatens to plunge the economy into chaos and possibly a double digit depression.  Since the facts I have presented here are indisputable, the swelling chorus of anti-Obama invective emanating from the chattering class – a collection of right wing verbal arsonists, wishy washy liberals and fuzzy headed leftist ideologues –makes no sense.  It is fundamentally irrational! While this is SNAFU for the Republicans – “Situation Normal All Fucked Up” – I am puzzled by the confusion on the left.  The critical lesson of the present fiasco is abundantly clear: It is not wise to elect anti-government zealots to office because they cannot govern!    



Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 8, 2011


An Open Letter to President Obama

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , on July 6, 2011 by playthell

Its’ Time to Go Gangsta!


The Embattled President and the Fighting Preacher


You must Use the Power We Gave You!

Dear Mr. President

Few people have followed your career closer than I have.  I remember the first time I ever saw you.  It was when you spoke to the Democratic National Convention that nominated John Kerry, a good enough guy but, an insufferably boring speaker.  After having listened to more than my share of his drone like speeches, it was a blast to hear you.  I was so impressed with both your mastery of the art of oratory, as well as the deep humanity in your vision and the gravitas of your argument; I sat right down to my computer and wrote “Hope is Reborn in Bean Town.”  The thesis of this essay was that whatever future the Democratic Party had, if it was going to be triumphal, you would play a major role in it. 

I don’t claim any special insight; I was not the only one who was captivated by your charisma. Yet not in my most imaginative moments did I ever think that you would become President of the United States four years later.  On that night at the convention you painted a picture of a bi-partisan politics that could bring the nation together and bind up the wounds of the past, then march into a bold new world a strong and united nation – “with liberty and justice for all.”  And you said it with such eloquence and passion that even cynical old political pros began to believe it.  Yet when you announced your intention to run for President I wondered if it was going to be like all the other black candidates who have run for President, you’d make a little splash among black folks and some white progressives then it would be all over.

I was certainly not unique in my pessimism; everybody I knew felt that way in the beginning.  My longtime friend Hank Thomas, the heroic Freedom Rider from St. Augustine Florida, says “When somebody first came to me and asked for a donation for “Baraka Obama” I took one look at his picture and said ‘Barack Obama huh?…This guy’s real name is probably Willie Jones and his street name is “Sweet Pea.'”  His response was typical among those who didn’t see you speak that night.  Before you came along Hank used to call himself “a Colin Powell Republican!”  Now he is an avid Obamaite. 

So let the impetuous youngsters and armchair revolutionaries make light of your ascendancy to the pinnacle of power in the most powerful nation in the world; after all, what do they know of real struggle.  Iyago’s description of Cassio in Shakespeare’s Othello describes them perfectly: bookish theorics who know no more of real struggle than a spinster!  But to those of us who grew up in apartheid America and fought to change it: you represent the fruition of our dreams; the rare and priceless fruit of our labors.  We know that governing is not easy; we understand the political process, and we marvel at your skill at the game.  We admire your humanity and intellectual gravitas, and share your vision for America and the world.  I have publicly offered to beat down anybody who says otherwise, and thus far I have no takers in spite of numerous brazen provocations.  I have repeated slapped your main antagonist Cornell West in public; I done beat that silly bushy head boy like a runaway slave!  But I have yet to hear a peep out of him. I about to conclude that he’s all blow and no go!

The reason that I have been publicly flagellating Dr. West, and trying my best to goad him into a fight, is  not only because he is the most prominent of your critics on the left, but also because his arguments reveal all of the flaws in their case against you.  Listening to Dr. West one gets the impression that he thinks you are an emperor who can shake his scepter and make their dreams come true; not an American President who has countervailing forces that check his power both in the Congress and the Federal Judiciary – which are all co-equal branches of our government.  Dr. West and his cohort of hysterics and ideological automatons on the left resemble no one as much as their fanatical counterparts on the right who have the unmitigated gall to call themselves “Tea Party Patriots.” I regard them as equally dangerous to your enlightened democratic agenda; thus I implore you to continue to ignore them all.  For I have no doubt that that would be in the best interests of this nation.

However, there has never been a time when Thomas Jefferson’s warnings about the dangers of an ignorant electorate were more relevant than right now!  There are two warnings that are especially relevant: An ignorant electorate will elect and return the worst people to power, and A people cannot be ignorant and free, it never was and never will be!  The last congressional elections demonstrated the awful truth of both prescient observations.  Hence your task is clear Mr. President.  You should call the bluff of the intransigent Republicans in the House and use this as “a teachable moment!”  You are professor of Constitutional Law, and you should turn the country into a class room again.   

Teach this nation how the constitution is structured so that a majority in house of Congress cannot dictate policy. That in order to become law a measure has to be passed in both houses and signed by the President. Explain how threatening to bring down the world financial system by allowing the US to default on our debts because they can’t have their way is a violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution and the intent of the founders. Then you should stand on the provision in the 14th Amendment which clearly states that the legally acquired debts of the US government must be paid, and guarantee the debt yourself!  The Republican ideologues love to wave the Constitution around…well there is no clearer statement on how the Constitution mandates that our debts be handled.  In other words: stare the Grand Obstructionist Party down and dare them to refuse to raise the debt ceiling!  

The Republicans are clearly delusional about how such a reckless policy will benefit them politically. The recent polls show that most Americans correctly blame the disastrous economic policies of George Bush for the economic crisis, and the next largest block of voters blame Wall Street.  The next group blames Congress and hardly anybody blames you! Now is the time to stand up to the right-wing anti-government Republican fanatics!   Channel Harry Truman in 1948, when he denounced the Republican controlled House as “A do-nothing Congress” and drove them into oblivion. 

Take to the bully pulpit Mr. President; you are twice as smart as your Republican opponents, you are the best orator in American politics, and the truth is on your side!  Explain to the people the difference between the stated corporate tax rate and the “effective tax rate.”  Jack Smith, a Harvard trained tax attorney, explained it to me this way: “The difference between the stated tax rate and the “effective tax rate” is what percentage of the stated rate is actually collected after all of the tax loopholes corporations enjoy; which is about 5% on average.  By this standard the US has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world.  Look at GE, the most profitable corporation tn America…yet they paid nothing in taxes.  You can’t get any lower than that!!!”

Go for it Mr. President!  Speak to the people and explain that this is what happens when you put people who passionately hate government – and are therefore contemptuous of the complex art and science of governing – in charge of the most complex society in the world.  You will have all the evidence you need to show that such people cannot govern effectively.  It’s time to go Gangsta!!




Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

July 6, 2011