Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Good Fight: Taking On the Axis of Greed

Arkansa's Blue Dog Mike Ross
George W. Bush coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” during his infamous 2002 State of the Union speech in referring to Iraq, Iran and North Korea. It should be obvious to Americans by now that what really undermines our security as a people is an Axis of Greed compromised of Wall Street, fossil fuel’s Energy Industrial Complex and the Medical Industrial Complex. These are the people that confiscate assets from communities to enrich the mega rich, undermine the environment and promote wars in foreign lands for oil and make it damn hard for millions of people to get affordable healthcare for any illness more serious than a common cold.

This Axis of Greed represents an entrenched juggernaut of corporate power and moneyed interests with tentacles inside the media as well as the corridors of power in Washington and every state capital. Electing Democrats by itself was never going to be enough as the fight over health-care reform illustrates. With Republicans out of power, money that previously went to Republicans is now funneled to conservative Blue Dog Democrats. Hence, my posts earlier this year describing Senators Evan Bayh and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus as “Corporatist Class Warriors.”

First, let us review the good news. Yes, believe it or not, there is good news to speak of in this righteous struggle against the Axis of Greed. What has been achieved is that the battle is finally joined after four decades of predatory conservatism. Barack Obama in ‘08 and congressional majorities in ’06 and ’08 were elected with a mandate of reform and change. Many Democrats, including the president himself were supported with small donations from regular folks. Hence, there is an actual fight taking place and liberals finally have allies in the White House and congress with teeth and progressive sensibilities.

Predatory conservatism is discredited and despite a recent rough patch for President Obama, the Axis of Greed has been forced to negotiate on political terrain less favorable to them than ever before. Also, President Obama has proven an effective counter-puncher whenever his back is up against the wall and I suspect that lesson will be relearned by his adversaries during the congressional recess in August.

Remember, initially opponents of the economic stimulus package defined the terms of debate but once Obama counter-punched the Economic Recovery Act Passed – albeit at far less than liberals like me had hoped. That will likely be the end results with respect to health care reform, cap and trade legislation and attempts to reform Wall Street with a consumer protection agency – Obama’s counter-punching will salvage enough political space to advance the ball even as liberals like me are disappointed.

Unfortunately, in America, merely winning elections with large majorities is not enough when taking on the Axis of Greed and the playing field is still tilted in their favor. Enough Democrats in southern and rural districts remain obstacles to change. This poses a strategic dilemma for Democrats and liberals. Democrats need the Blue Dogs to caucus with them in order to maintain a majority.

Yet these very same Blue Dogs are opposed to core Democratic Party values such as health-care that benefits people instead of HMOs. Indeed, the Blue Dogs are more concerned with the well being of the Medical Industrial Complex and fear that a strong public option will force insurance companies to charge more reasonable prices for medication. They feel more beholden to financial contributors at Goldman Sachs, Exxon and Aetna than the hard working farmers, wage earners and small business entrepreneurs who voted for them.

The upshot is that for all the terrific organizing done the previous two election cycles and the incredible way the Internet has transformed campaign financing, the Axis of Greed still has the dollars and institutional strength to shift the end product of legislation in their favor. Through the power of advertising and their allies in the corporate media, the Axis of Greed can scare the public with myths and disinformation to undermine needed investments in infrastructure, education or making health-care affordable for the single Mom working three jobs. Blue Dog congressional Democrats who rely on the support of constituents earning less than $40,000 a year will not support tax increases on millionaires to help pay for health-care for everyone because they fear the Axis of Greed more than that those constituents they allegedly represent.

So does that mean we give up and throw in the towel? Hell no! It means we have more work to do and our struggle is just beginning. In recent years we have successfully harnessed our natural constituencies in cities and minority demographics to achieve a majority. And thanks to previous Democratic National Committee Chairman, Howard Dean, the Democratic Party is a presence in states and communities it previously wasn’t.

But there is still an organizing lag for liberals in too many rural communities. Unions are especially weak in these districts and people like Arkansas House Democrat Mike Ross for example who triumphantly boast that they “slowed down” health-care reform, need to be convinced that favoring the Axis of Greed over the people will cause him real political pain. As reveals, two of Congressman Ross’s top five industry contributors in the 2009-2010 campaign cycle are health-care professionals and Pharmaceutical/Healthcare Products. Ross is merely one example of a stark reality: until he fears his constituents more than the Axis of Greed, nothing will ever change and not even the rhetorical gifts of President Obama will be enough.

Meaningful change is going to take a long time. We’re only in the first inning of an extra inning game requiring resolve, endurance, patience and resilience. President Obama will sign watered down health-care legislation and call it reform this year. He will have no choice. In a few years we will hopefully be able to revisit the issue with greater political strength.

Obama will also have no choice but to sign watered down cap and trade legislation. Given the current pace of global warming it also won’t be good enough and will have to be revisited when the political terrain is more favorable - and hopefully won't be too late too save the planet. Finally, the Wall Street economy will have some more reforms but the huge imbalances in the system will not be addressed any time soon if plutocrats such as Treasury Timothy Geithner have anything to say about it.

This is a long, tough, righteous and worthy fight. I’m in all the way for as long as it takes. We all need to be.


Igor said...

Obama qualifications to reform health care:

No birth certificate

Cannot stop smoking

Difficulty telling the truth.

Narcissistic personality disorder

Therefore, I Igor produce Obama Birth Certificate at

Compare Obama Care vs Igor Care at Obama vs Igor Care

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Forget, please, "conservatism." It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

"[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

John Lofton, Editor,
Recovering Republican

PS – And “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” Rush Limbaugh never made a bigger ass of himself than at CPAC where he told that blasphemous “joke” about himself and God.

Patrick said...

Rob, your blog is really impressive. The seriousness, depth and quality of your interviews and subjects are first rate.

My impression is that Obama seriously misread the nature of partisanship - which has always been what I've dreaded about him (see my previous comments). Being a formal social worker, he gives the impression, or seems to have the belief, that the persuasion of reason can overrule partisanship. But partisanship is only secondarily about ideas.

And I'm still not sure Obama gets it.

He thought that if he allowed Congress to initiate health care reform, they would own it and want to invest in its success. But the truth is that there *is* no good or easy way to pass health care reform. The Conservamentalists have clearly stated their priority. Destroying Obama's efforts will further their own party and careers.

This is about getting Republicans and Conservatives back into power. The debate, for them, isn't about health care, but how to undermine and destroy the Democrats at every turn. Party first, country second. This has been the mantra of the Republicans during the last decades, especially under Bush, when they allowed Bush to undermine the Constitution for the sake of party cohesion and unity. (And they have said so themselves.)

And then there's the money - the lobbyists.

Obama, when cornered, does have a good counterpunch but Jesus, when will the guy start anticipating the first punch?

At this rate, the public option looks almost dead. If the public option *does* die, then this whole effort will have been mostly wasted. Obama will have his Pyhrric victory, the Conservatives will be disgruntled because he got even that.

The insurance industry will breathe a sigh of relief and loopholes, to whatever law is passed, will proliferate like flies on a corpse.

I blame Obama for this. He just doesn't seem to *get* his opposition and the nature of it.

Patrick said...

I just noticed this morning that Arianna Huffington said almost exactly what I wrote: Obama needs to stop pretending that there's such a thing as bi-partisan consensus, this after Sen. Grassley kicked Obama in the nuts.

The Domocrats are behaving the way they did under the Bush administration: cowed, defensive, frightened, feckless...

In short, they're behaving like a minority party. The new Harry and Louise is the Death Panel. What's worse, Obama is freakin' running around like a god damn marriage counselor instead of defending his party and defending his allies.

I just want to bang my head on the table.

Anonymous said...

I've got to be honest here. I saw all this coming pretty much from the get-go, which is why, after thinking long and hard about it, decided to write in my own ticket at the polls last November, rather than vote for the Obama/Biden ticket. Since then, I've been going along with the following quote (the writer's name escapes me at the moment): "It's better to vote one's conscience and to vote for someone who can't win than to vote for somebody who can win and will betray you."