The Sorry State of the Union

The state of the union is just miserable,
no matter how President Obama sugarcoats it. He will claim that
progress has been made in stabilizing the markets, increasing national
security and advancing toward meaningful health care reform, but he
will be wrong on all three counts.

What he will be right about is that none
of these problems were originally of his creation, and that the
opposition party wants to exacerbate rather than solve any of them -
believing, as they do, in that destructive maxim of desperate losers
who find their salvation in the stumbles of the winners.

There is no doubt that Obama and his party
represent the lesser evil, but it is deeply disturbing to have to
defend the leaders of our nation in those terms. They were supposed to
lead us to peace, but as the cables from the U.S. ambassador to
Afghanistan to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, printed in The New
York Times on Monday
, make absolutely clear, the escalation in
Afghanistan is tantamount to a disaster without end. Ambassador Karl W.
Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general who was previously the top
American commander in Afghanistan, warned: "Sending additional forces
will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult,
if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable."

Obama distracted progressives with a grand
crusade for health care reform that reasserted the fundamental fallacy
of the previous health reform effort of the Clinton years: Give the
insurance companies a captive universal market under the absurd
illusion that we can control costs without undermining their greed with
a competitive government-run option.

The same is the case with the collapse of
the economy, as Obama shamefully continued the Bush administration's
mugging of U.S. taxpayers by throwing trillions of dollars at the Wall
Street bandits who caused the financial meltdown. Meanwhile, 7 million
Americans have lost their jobs and 15 million families owe more on
their homes than they are worth.

Someday our president, whom I still regard as a decent and
well-intentioned politician, will have to confront the demons of that
fatal opportunism that led him to turn over the economy to the likes of
Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, who can most charitably be
described as hugely successful Wall Street pimps. Obama knows of
Summers' devilish role, during his time in the Clinton administration,
in pushing the radical deregulation of the markets that the president
blamed last week for our economic debacle. And he is aware that the
TARP inspector general is hot on Geithner's heels for his role, as head
of the New York Fed, in the funneling of $62 billion dollars through
AIG to Goldman Sachs and the other bonus payout alchemists.

But there is no indication from the
carefully orchestrated leaks of his State of the Union speech that
Obama is truly set to reverse course. Rhetoric about the "fat cat"
bankers aside, his policies represent more of the same. There will be
some hokey gestures of support for the disappearing middle class, but
at the heart of his new budget proposal are cuts in needed domestic
spending for education, nutrition, air traffic control and just about
every other worthwhile domestic program. But there are no cuts for the
military budget that already makes up 60% of the federal government's
discretionary spending and is comparable to the total military budget
for the rest of the world's nations combined.

Budget director Peter Orszag, who is
overseeing those cuts, is, like Summers and Geithner, a disciple of
former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, whose radical
deregulatory policies brought us to this point. Orszag's freeze on
domestic spending, projected for the rest of Obama's term, will reduce
the domestic budget to its lowest percentage in 50 years. That portion
of the discretionary budget is already so small that the proposed cuts
will save a scant $10 billion to $15 billion next year-chump change
compared to the $145 billion in bonuses for Wall Street's high rollers
dispensed after a year of massive national suffering that they

Shame on Obama for now telling us after
wasting many trillions on Wall Street and the Pentagon, that he will
now seek to balance the biggest indebtedness in U.S. history not by
cutting from that greasy pork but rather into the bone of our civic
life, found in funding for schools and other desperately needed social
services. That is the opposite of a New Deal for ordinary folks in need
of their government's assistance more than at any other time since the
days of that last great Democratic president, Franklin Delano
Roosevelt. Will we ever have another?

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