James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Daring to challenge St. Obama

People who are unhappy with some of the moves, or failures to move, by President Obama are being told, in effect, to sit down and shut up.

“Give the man a chance,” someone inevitably says when we complain that Obama's economic advisers are members of the same crowd that brought us our economic troubles –- most of them frequent passers through the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street jobs paying well upward of $1 million a year.

The same message is practically shouted when we note that the Obama economic program protects the very wealthy, helps the Wall Street and banking moguls consolidate their power (and become even more “too big to fail”) and ensures that more jobs are lost and that the incomes of those of us who are not enormously rich will continue to slip and that our economic perches become ever more precarious.

“Just wait. We'll see how it works out,” we're told when we point out that Obama has given the National Rifle Association it's latest boost toward arming the entire population –- or at least the far right side of the population –- by bowing without even a complaint to the latest ploy that allows the carrying of concealed weapons in national parks.

“Stop whining; would the alternative have been better?” we are asked when we note that Obama's approach to the Middle East, our ongoing senseless wars and the taking and treatment of prisoners around the world seems to be acceptance of Dick Cheney's policies. (And, boy, are the right wing fruit cakes warming up their voices to crow over that fact; the letters already are starting to appear in newspapers all over the country. See New York Times letters page for May 20 for one example.)

Health care? Self-proclaimed “liberals” and, especially, “moderates” are telling us to shut our pie holes when we object to the fact that single payer, government-run health care was taken “off the table” from day one of the Obama administration. Those already prepared to name schools after the young president snarl when we point out that the plans being espoused by Obama and the Democrats in Congress are at bottom little more than profit-assurance programs for insurance companies and pharmas.

Well, gang, I'm not going to shut up, and neither are a host of others who are paying close attention to the Washington dance.

Do you think the rich guys are keeping quiet and waiting to “see how it plays out?” Do you think the bankers –- who have been using millions of our tax dollars to lobby Congress since the moment they got the TARP checks –- are patiently waiting to see what Obama and their stooges in Congress do about the economy? Is the arms industry not talking constantly into the ears of their servants in government? Has AIPAC been silent since last November?

Well, gee, how about all the “progress” Obama and the Dems have made on things like –- uh, well, say protecting us from credit card predation?

If you believe the credit card moves really benefit us, I want to tell you about a number of deals I can offer you, for just a piddling fee, on bridges, land, insurance, mortgage refinancing and anything else you may want.

I'm sick to death of being taken and having no ability to do anything about it, so maybe it's time I join the takees.

Gee whiz golly gosh: Congress, with Obama's backing, intends to restrict credit card interest rates to –- what is today's number? Maybe 28 percent? Wow, what a deal huh? Meanwhile the banks are paying their suckers –- that is, customers -– as much as 3 percent in some cases. Even a point or two more for dollars you're willing to tie up for several years. Yessiree, a hell of a deal.

Also banks supposedly will be limited in when and how much they can jump the interest rates they charge on cards. Maybe.

But here's what people who don't know the banking game probably don't realize: In return for taking such punishment, the banks plan to bring back annual fees for the right to carry their credit cards. They intend to drop most or all of their “incentive” programs such as providing frequent flyer miles. They've said so; read the business pages.

The banks come out ahead. We pay fees for the right to buy on credit and pay interest rates that throughout history, up to the past few decades, were illegal (and even brought physical punishment up to and including death) in all societies throughout the world. The banks lose the costs of administering those bothersome incentive programs –- which came about, anyway, only because there was some competition among banks and other institutions for credit card accounts.

With the consolidation in the financial rackets brought about by the economic collapse and the resulting bailout and help -- actually, demand -- by government for further mergers, competition has been made all but obsolete. The big financial outfits still standing can carve up the credit card market with only minor squabbling. There is no further need for those costly competitive gambits.

Isn't it interesting that come high tide for them or low, the political right pitches and fights and demands and attacks for what it wants?

The left, when it wins an election or three, says “Let's be moderate” and “Let's see how it plays out,” and clears the field for the armies of the right to surround our politicians. And we go incrementally forever rightward. In or out of office, the right, the hugely rich, the Powers That Be, fight on. They gain three steps, perhaps the liberals take us back one, and then the right moves another three toward their goals.

Oh, you say, but we're making such wonderful progress on some important issues. We have stem cell research back, and it's obvious that prohibitions against gay people marrying will, in a few years, have gone the way of laws against interracial marriages, for example.

True, and those are good things. But they never were issues for the rich and powerful, who only went along with the religulous right on such things because those people were useful for a time. The wild-eyed preachers and their followers are much weaker now than they were even five years ago –- they'll be back, of course, but not for quite awhile -– and so the rich can get rid of them in the same way that they scrape muck from their boots after a stroll around the stable yard.

The rich have no religion but power and privilege, and they're still in charge. Our society is far, far to the right of where it was 50 years ago on all things that matter to the very rich and powerful, and we are still losing power and wealth to them. Jobs are still leaving the country, either abroad or into the ether. There is less economic security every day for the poor and middle class. The real powers of the country are effectively slicing away at health care, education, employee rights, safety protection for workers.

But, gee, “Shut up and give the man a chance.”

Meanwhile, let's see if you can find the pea under one of the three cups I will place on this little table....