[Marxism] Obama's rethinking [was: Key Obama backer ...]

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Fri Apr 10 18:00:52 MDT 2009

Mark Lause writes: "What we need to consider is not so much the mind-reading
hows and whys of Obama's rethinking, but what we can do to push the
government towards such a rethinking...."

Hmmm ... I was thinking more in terms of anticipating the next stages of
policy, as we would become the opposition to THAT, the "liberal"/social
democratic/reformist policies that would follow the failure of the "less
extreme with more concessions" version of the Bush policies that we have

There is a reason why Obama is likely to get away with simply continuing
Bush-type policies, but marketed differently. And that is, those policies
were not applied very coherently or intelligently by Bush. The ruling class
is NOT going to allow any experimenting or monkeying around UNTIL it is
clear that it wasn't just Bush being a nincompoop, the policies really ARE
no good.

We should remember, Bush OPENLY lost control of his party on domestic social
policy early in his second term. He came out of the 2004 election with his
plan to "fix" social security by flushing it down the stock market toilet
bowl. And what happened is that HIS party's congressional majority did not
want to touch that with a ten-foot pole, so Sensenbrenner & Co. came up with
the idea of mounting a jihad against immigrants -- something directly
counter to Bush's policy, which had been to try to curry favor with Latinos
including presenting a new "bracero" marketed as a legalization program that
would benefit many of the undocumented.

In the last year or year and a half of his presidency, Bush even lost
control of foreign and war policy. The "surge" was not his plan, his
approach was slow and steady, stay the course for "victory" at all costs.
And anyways the "surge" --the REAL one-- was a surge of dollars to buy
cooperation from much of the insurgency, and with the understanding that the
U.S. would soon leave Iraq. This was the strategic approach of his
(bourgeois) opponents and critics, of the gradual withdrawal crowd.

Finally, when the Fed and the Treasury bungled the collapse of Lehman Bros.
so badly that the growing credit crunch exploded into a world-wide
mega-panic in September, those at the Treasury and the Fed (ironically) were
given carte-blanche to try to calm the hysteria, which they parlayed into
control of overall economic policy, with Bush as their press secretary. 

Obama has tinkered around the edges with "liberal" measures, extending
unemployment, helping state and local governments and so on, but in terms of
the banks and financial system, nothing has changed and neither has it on
the war (or more exactly, on the war, the "Obama" change took place under
Bush). On domestic social policy, he is picking up where Bush left off in
2004 proposing an immigration reform, the essence of which is going to be
(some) legalization in exchange for (lots) of guest worker. He is also
giving a lot of publicity to pushing "clean" energy and so on, which at this
point is a motherhood and apple pie position.

The main thing that isn't simply inherited from the Bush administration is
"health care reform." My *guess* is that he will push through a
quasi-universal coverage proposal. The real fight isn't going to be single
payer versus something like the current setup, but rather over ADDING to the
current setup a government sponsored/operated scheme. 

Obama seems to be very strongly for this, although I believe it was Edwards
that came up with the basic concept. The idea is mainly "political" in the
sense of vote-getting. You tell single-payer advocates, if that system is
really so superior, the government-sponsored plans will soon displace the
private insurers from the mainstream because they will be better, cheaper,
more efficient; and you tell private insurance supporters that if THEIR
system is so superior, it will soon marginalize the government scheme for
the same sorts of reasons. And if it gets to be a hot enough issue for
regular people to become involved, you tell THEM that rather than having
congress and the president say which way the system will be, it will instead
evolve based on the choices made by tens of millions of Americans over
several years.

In terms of bourgeois parliamentary and electoral cretinism, the scheme is
nothing short of brilliant. In terms of health and public policy, that's
another matter altogether. But I think he is going to win on this. Although
I'm not sure it's really true, it seems like a significant number of
bourgeois figures see corporate health care costs as a competitive
disadvantage, and they want to shift this cost outside the payroll. In the
last analysis that can't possibly happen, changing how you do the accounting
won't change the load on the economy, but the current system advocates are
clearly on the defensive even in the major media. And one more advantage for
the politicians is that it allows them to say they did something really
major in response to the economic crisis.

*  *  *

I don't have any particular ideas about how to deal with any of this stuff
propagandistically. I *still* think the axis of activity should be on three
or four issues/areas, and in all of those, focused not on the DC debate, but
movement-building from below. The areas I would prioritize would be
immigration/deportation/raids/legalization, and the Iraq/Afghanistan war. 

And in terms of propaganda, I think the emphasis should be on capitalism and
socialism as systems, and aimed primarily at young people especially college
students. That has been historically the "weather vane" segment of society
and would provide a stronger basis for going forward when broader forces go
into motion.


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