Remarks on President’s Deficit Reduction Speech

‎”This is not class warfare. It’s math. (…) I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.” President Obama

First of all, I find it laudable that the president is starting to use some more populist rhetoric and take a stance against the rich and the corporations. I will doubt the class warfare claim. Economics is never a neutral matter, but intensely socio-political. Math is neutral, and the numbers (budget) can be allocated in any way with any impact on specific members of society. And in Buffett’s conception, we have had class warfare for the longest time. If we give tax breaks to the rich, while cutting Medicaid and Medicare, this is class warfare. It means the handing over of money from the middle and lower class to the upper class. One can read into the data, that there is no class warfare, or not in the exact sense of the term. But in my definition of class warfare, the continuous tension in society, in which a certain group of the population increases its income and power, whereas another loses it (1 in 6 Americans live in poverty), constitutes the lived expression of social tensions, hence class warfare.

I also cringed at the way in which Obama formulated a conditional sentence. “And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share.” The simple audience may be inclined to cheer for Obama’s steadfastness for threatening to veto a bill that cuts Medicare. But I read into it that in case of deficit reduction there has to be both tax increases for the wealthy AND cuts into Medicare. Obama merely ruled out cuts into Medicare without tax increases for the wealthy. So a lot of things are unsettled, and as always Obama defers to the reigning conversation in the Beltway rather than what is happening in the real lives of working class people. He is the only “hope” and “change” that remains among Republican contenders like Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann, who promise a combination of religious revival, climate change denial, layoffs, militarism, corporate welfare and cuts into social programs.

The more general question would be in regards to the framing of the important economic issues in this country. Is the deficit our biggest problem, or is it the unemployment and inequality crisis? That shows, again, how trapped our president is in his power to frame the debate.

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