by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
This year’s “State of the Dream” report is wholly inadequate to the task of resisting the Right’s attacks under the umbrella of “austerity.” The report’s authors appear to believe that only Republicans are out to gut the government. “By largely leaving the Democrats out of the austerity equation, United for a Fair Economy contributes to the blindsiding of Blacks and others targeted for pain by corporate servants of both parties.”
“State of the Dream” Report Fails to Describe the Real Nightmare
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“The report utterly fails to identify the forces arrayed against Blacks and browns in this austerity offensive.”
The annual “State of the Dream” report by United for a Fair Economy has become a staple for gauging Black economic and political fortunes in the United States. Produced by political activists, the Boston-based outfit’s documentation of comparative racial economic realities is clearly designed as a tool in the work of social change. “State of the Dream” has been eminently useful over the years precisely because it seeks to arm Black, browns and progressives with hard facts and good analysis with which to wage struggle.
This year’s theme is “Austerity for Whom?” and is intended to inform and buttress the arguments of those who are resisting – or should be resisting – efforts to further shrink the public sector and destroy government’s ability to act as a counterweight to corporate power, all in the name of saving the nation from looming bankruptcy. The 2011 edition suffers, however, from a great flaw, one that is rooted in the deep Black political crisis that has become grotesquely acute with the rise of Barack Obama.
The report arrays the facts necessary to show the racial impact of so-called austerity measures: the assaults on government employees, who are disproportionately Black; deepening insecurity for all workers, with devastating consequences to communities of color; undermining of Social Security and the whole range of “entitlement” programs, on which Blacks and Latinos are far more dependent than whites; income and wealth transfers to the rich through regressive tax policies that further aggravate vast racial disparities. “Austerity for Whom” effectively answers the question: Who benefits and who suffers from the feverish attacks on government? However, the report utterly fails – for the same reason that Black politics has so completely collapsed since the advent of the Obama Phenomenon – to identify the forces arrayed against Blacks and browns in this austerity offensive.
“The 2011 edition suffers from a great flaw, one that is rooted in the deep Black political crisis that has become grotesquely acute with the rise of Barack Obama.”
“State of the Dream 2011” places all the blame on “the Republicans” as the architects and engines of austerity, ignoring corporate Democrats – most notably, the First Black President. For example: “The GOP hostility toward government and government employees will, if translated into policy, have a devastating effect on Black and Latino workers, while eroding our nation’s capacity to carry out the important work of the public sector.” But Barack Obama is kicking federal workers in the groin as only a president can, with an executive order freezing their pay. Obama’s arbitrary thuggery – nobody forced him to do it – is grossly disproportionate in racial impact, since Blacks are 1.7 times more represented than whites in federal employment.
In scapegoating public employees for budget deficits, Obama endorses the “Republican” line – that government spending is a mortal danger to the economy – which is nothing but the prevailing corporate narrative on what’s wrong with the U.S. Obama is joined by New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose attacks on public employees and the social safety net are as rhetorically vicious as any Republican’s. The same pattern emerges across the nation in what is clearly the result of a policy decision within the corporate wing of the Democratic Party to erase what little political space separated them from the GOP on core economic issues. By largely leaving the Democrats out of the austerity equation, United for a Fair Economy contributes to the blindsiding of Blacks and others targeted for pain by corporate servants of both parties, reducing the current conflict to a Democrat vs. Republican cartoon. You can’t win an epoch battle against the Lords of Capital with a comic book as a guide.
“Obama endorses the ‘Republican’ line – that government spending is a mortal danger to the economy.”
Appallingly, “State of the Dream” mostly limits culpability to the GOP for attacks on Social Security and other entitlements. “Republican opposition to these programs,” says the report, “pushes people of color who are struggling — and other low-wealth households — further down the economic ladder.” Yet it was Barack Obama who kept the assault on Social Security alive and active after the Republicans, the minority in Congress, were evicted from the White House. Less than two weeks before taking the oath of office, Obama definitively put Social Security “on the table” for butchering, and kept it there for two years while Republicans were out in the cold, ultimately appointing a deficit reduction commission that set the template for the austerity regime that “State of the Dream” bemoans. Barack Obama is the man most responsible for resurrecting the campaign against Social Security that progressives thought had been soundly defeated during George Bush’s first term.
The Right’s amazing advances in recent years have been made possible by the wholesale capture by Wall Street of much of the Democratic Party, most dramatically in the person of Barack Obama, whose Black presence has neutralized African Americans as an effective political force, including most of what used to pass as the Black Left. The enemy advances without effective opposition all along the unguarded flanks and rear of progressive politics, dressed in Democratic clothing and with a brown complexion, while organizations like United for a Fair Economy instruct us to keep our eyeballs focused solely on the Republican bogeymen. It is the equivalent of wearing blinders in a battle, a guarantee of defeat.
I am exceedingly sad to conclude that the annual “State of the Dream” report, designed to arm us for struggle, is a fatally flawed weapon in the face of the Obama Phenomenon.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.