September 10, 2009

Obama’s Speech: The Poll Tax Plan

So Obama’s speech was just about what I expected. Nothing very good, a lot that’s very bad, and overall a continuation of every incompetence and perfidy which have distinguished his tenure thus far.
The basics and appeals were OK. He hit the general points on choice, security, cost in a workmanlike manner. America is the only democracy and the only wealthy country which allow this kind of system. Insecurity – the pitfalls can befall anyone. Some horror stories. That stuff was fine.
(Although the line about America’s unique depravity, like many others in this speech, spontaneously begged the question “So why are you intent on continuing with this depravity?” And every reference to the status quo, how he’s not gonna stand for it: “Then why are you staking your presidency on not only perpetuating it but making it worse?”)
In my prelude I said the core of the speech, the meat which would make the meal, was whether or not Obama stood up for a strong public option. He didn’t. That he mentioned it at all was clearly under duress, and the anodyne mentions he made were meant to be a sop to his stupid recalcitrant DFH “progressive friends”.
He hopes that progressives will be so grateful to even be mentioned that they’ll drop their substantive demands and cave in. Given progressives’ track record, there’s a decent chance he’ll be right about this. I’ll get back to this.
He starts out with an attempt to place his own proposal (and implicitly the public plan) somewhere near the middle, by explicitly triangulating between single-payer and a fictional Republican plan to do away with everything except individual purchasers. This triangulation is a fraud because (A) regardless of anything the Reps claim to “advocate”, they’re really in full obstruction mode and will simply say No to anything Obama advocates (more on this shortly), so they’re not even on the “spectrum”. Single-payer can only be assessed vs. other Democratic proposals, and this leads to the fact that (B) given single payer’s tremendous level of expert and decent level of public support, it’s far closer to the center than some ad hoc piece of villainy like the Baucus plan, which can stand in for what a Republican plan would look like.
Regardless of what Obama would like us to think, the public plan has consistently had 70+% support among the public, which places it smack dab in the center.
But he instead brings it up only to suggest it’s a nice little frill, a supplement at best, but hardly something of pivotal significance. He twice suggests it’s not necessary, and the “progressive friends” shouldn’t be so stubborn about it. The public option is only a “means to an end”. (This too is wrong in a way he just doesn’t get, as I’ll get to further down.)
Having declared to his own satisfaction how misguided the progressive friends are in obsessing on a public option, he then moves to demonize them, repeatedly framing false equivalences between two groups of “partisan spectacle”, “scare tactics”, “unyielding ideological camps”,”special interests”, those seeking to score “short-term political points”. He “will not waste time” with us.
He says these things to attack those whose special interest is to demand real reform, who are unyielding and ideological on behalf of the people, whose partisan spectacle is to denounce the partisan spectacle which has been ranged against the people, of which this speech is an example.
The demagogue proclaims: “I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.”
He says this as he aggressively seek to further entrench the status quo. 
His favorite special interests include the insurance parasites: they provide a “legitimate service”. Obama is so exuberant in his desire to laud them even as he decries abuses in the system that he absurdly contradicts himself, saying the insurers are not “bad people”, they only do bad things. This is of course utterly incoherent, the most ancient way to try to defend bad people.
His scare tactic is to claim that his plan is real reform without which disaster will befall, when in fact his plan will make the disaster worse, while what progressives demand could possibly stave off the disaster.
He is unyieldingly in the ideological camp of perpetuating the status quo. To him anything which would slightly modify business as usual is a “radical shift” away from “building on what we have”. He lies and claims there’s a “broad consensus” for the garbage and tyranny he espouses.
(Unless he’s referring to the broad consensus in Congress for the status quo. This certainly does exist. The Republicans approve of what Obama is doing even though they’ll vote against it.
The speech is littered with absurd love letters to Congress, to the alleged “difficult votes that put us on the path to recovery”. Do you know what votes he might be referring to? Me neither.
This brings me to how this clown is still flogging “bipartisanship” with his “Republican friends”. Could he really be so stupid, such a victim of the Stockholm syndrome, or battered wife syndrome, that he fails to understand that he has no Republican friends, that Republicans do not want to solve problems or do anything for the good of America, but only to destroy his presidency? And that he’s been simply serving himself up to them?
He’s a kumbaya-singing hippie to the point of dementia. I’ve always said, since last winter, that Obama’s fetish of “bipartisanship” does not represent some misguided political strategy, although it’s that too, but a deep-seated character flaw. The fact that he has absolutely refused to learn from experience on this proves I was right.)
His partisan spectacle is to stake his presidency on his solicitude for the insurance companies. Which brings up the bizarre politics of the individual mandate.
While he grudgingly muttered about the public option like a child forced to eat some nasty Brussels sprouts, he was quite cheerful in trumpeting the mandate which will override the “irresponsible behavior” of the “young and healthy”. He even made a patently fraudulent comparison to requirements to buy auto insurance.
To begin with, any irresponsibility of individuals is NOTHING compared to the irresponsibility of the insurance and drug rackets and the irresponsibility and cowardice of government, including most of all Obama’s personal irresponsibility and cowardice.  The absolute minimum for a responsible position is a strong public plan, Medicare for All. Anyone who does not demand this as his minimum forfeits all right to lecture anyone else about irresponsibility.
Let’s be clear on this: Obama has zero moral legitimacy, zero authority, he deserves zero respect or deference on any issue involving morality or responsibility, as he has completely and definitively abdicated on this front.
He displays his bad faith with the fraudulent auto insurance comparison (evidently he knew not to bring up Social Security or Medicare, successful single-payer systems). Any mandate to buy auto insurance is of course contingent upon choosing to own a car.
So there’s no comparison here at all. An insurance mandate, to buy a useless private “product”, as the price of being allowed to physically exist, is an unconstitutional POLL TAX, farmed out to private collectors, enacted on behalf of these collectors.
What I don’t get is the politics of this. That Obama was lying when he promised Change and ran on that promise, that he was always a Bush corporatist traitor, that I get. That he and his party seek to further enhance the position of feudal parasites in return for their campaign bribes, I get. It’s repulsive, but from their point of view it makes sense.
But why, in addition to conveying the normal loot from the people to the feudal rackets, would they also want to convey their political future to them as part of the loot by handing them this extra gimmie of a “mandate” which, when it bites, is going to be blamed directly on him and the Dems (with the Reps leading the charge)? This Poll Tax Plan, if enacted, really will be the end for the Democrats. It’s like they want to commit suicide, and for no reason at all.
Why don’t they just go through the motions of pretending to seek reform and when they get only a meager bill which changes nothing, blame that on the Reps? Why take upon yourself the full political burden of adding this very obvious, very burdensome policy of tyranny, which is so brazenly being set up for the sole purpose of collecting loot for a privileged special interest which is universally reviled, and which will not help anyone but only add tremendous pain and hardship for the very people already in pain?
And people say the Republicans have lost their minds. The Reps aren’t into anything nearly as politically deranged as this. If I were a Republican I’d be dumbfounded at how things have turned around since last fall, how infinitely better our future looks, and all of it handed to us by Obama! It boggles the mind.
After that, it seems superfluous to go into the other idiocies of the speech. He does draw his line in the sand, makes his veto threat – on the deficit. That really stirs the soul.
No one has understood Obama’s fetish of deficit hawkery on health reform while he clearly doesn’t care about the deficit at all where it comes to the bailouts or the Global War on Terror. (There was also the dubious salesmanship of saying “My plan won’t hurt the deficit as much as Iraq or tax cuts for the rich”, both of which Obama still supports anyway.)
In general, there was way too much emphasis on details of costs and cost control mechanisms. This guy just doesn’t get it – nobody cares about such details. It’s clear that whether or not anybody cares about the cost of something depends upon whether or not they support the thing in itself. Whether they care or not, period. You’re never going to convince anybody by spewing out a slew of numbers.
Evidently Obama doesn’t accept the research which has shown that repeating enemy talking points in order to rationally refute them accomplishes nothing but to further associate you with those canards. he hasn’t learned the lessons of the Saddam-9/11 connection. So in the speech he devoted an idiotic length of time to reminding everyone of every slander and attack, just in case anyone had forgotten.
So for all his vaunted oratorical prowess, he flunks Rhetoric 101. Good work.
(BTW, my first thought as the speech ended was, is this the kind of speech he used to give on the stump? He was cracked up to be such a mesmerizing, uplifting orator? Because the guy who gave that speech was just a boor. Once he had finished with the substance, such as it was, and then vamped on tediously for another 10-15 minutes, without even achieving any rhetorical climax.)
From here on I’m not going to judge Obama any differently from how I judged Bush. Bush was always clearly the enemy, while Obama has inflicted the added sting of betrayal. But now we know exactly who he is.
So the only question is, what must a progressive do now? Are you going to support the Poll Tax Plan?
When Obama said the public option was a mere “means to an end” he was dead wrong. By now it must be emblematic of possibilities and betrayals. No one who still, at this late date, continued to trust Obama can continue to do so. (Except for the insurance thugs, of course). He is bent on betraying his promise of reform and of imposing new levels of tyranny. This was clear at the outset with the bailouts and the resolve to maintain the Too Big to Fail banks in existence, and to make them even bigger and to further enhance the protection racket they have imposed.
Now he’s trying to impose the same pattern with health insurance feudalism. He has dedicated his entire policy to the core goal of benefiting this racket (just as Geithner said at the outset, our main goal is to maintain private profits for private banks). He wants to maintain the status quo, and he wants to enhance it by adding this Insurance Poll Tax, with the IRS commandeered as a private collection agency to enforce it.
From here on, our ONLY view of the Poll Tax Plan must center on this attempted imposition of tyranny. There is no other substantive aspect to it. Reform is dead for now.
Now it’s simply a question of, do progressives roll over, cave in, as they so often have, since Obama and the Democrats have rightly calculated that he can do whatever he wants to betray them and they’ll still support him since they have no other choice? One thing’s for sure: anyone who does cave in now has no right to ever complain again. From here on they get exactly what they deserve, since we now know that Obama is Bush.
Or have they wrongly calculated this time? Will progressives finally get over their timidity and impatience and resolve to turn their backs, renounce the Democratic party once and for all, and get to the hard, lengthy work of building a new party?
One thing’s for sure – nothing “progressive” will ever come out of the Democratic party. So are they who call themselves progressives really progressives? Or are they just the pliant “progressive friends” who can always be counted on the roll over in the end?
Obama, the Republicans, the lapdog Democrats, and the corporate rackets are counting on it.
One other thing I kept wondering about toward the end there, as Obama appropriated the memory of Ted Kennedy – is this really what Ted Kennedy would have wanted? Was he too that much of a sellout? Or would he have been appalled and disgusted at the travesty his great cause had come to? 


  1. Ted Kennedy was a clown. Don’t stop thinking in the last paragraph of a right on the money analysis.

    Comment by jake chase — September 15, 2009 @ 9:16 am

  2. Aw, c’mon!

    I guess that was more of a “political” flourish.

    Comment by Russ — September 15, 2009 @ 9:57 am

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