American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Before the nation and the world, President Obama pledges to take “action” against “economic inequality,” while simultaneously holding secret negotiations on a Trans Pacific Partnership trade scheme that will quicken the pace of the global Race to the Bottom, deepening economic inequalities. “Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide.”


American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

When you say ‘jobs,’ he says tax cuts – just like the Republicans, only Obama first cites the pain of the unemployed, so that you know he cares.”

“Believe it,” said the current Prevaricator-in-Chief, in the conclusion to his annual litany lies. President Obama’s specialty, honed to theatrical near-perfection over five disastrous years, is in crafting the sympathetic lie, designed to suspend disbelief among those targeted for oblivion, through displays of empathy for the victims. In contrast to the aggressive insults and bluster employed by Republican political actors, whose goal is to incite racist passions against the Other, the sympathetic Democratic liar disarms those who are about to be sacrificed by pretending to feel their pain.

Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have “deepened” the gap between the rich and the rest of us and “stalled” upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be “a year of action” in the opposite direction. “Believe it.” And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century.

Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide. The potentially most devastating Obama contribution to economic inequality is being crafted in secret by hundreds of corporate lobbyists and lawyers and their revolving-door counterparts in government. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, described as “NAFTA on steroids,” would accelerate the global Race to the Bottom that has made a wasteland of American manufacturing, plunging the working class into levels of poverty and insecurity without parallel in most people’s lifetimes, and totally eviscerating the meager gains of three generations of African Americans. Yet, the closest Obama came to even an oblique allusion to his great crime-in-the-making, was to announce that “new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help [small businesses] create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’" Like NAFTA twenty years ago – only far bigger and more diabolically destructive – TPP will have the opposite effect, destroying millions more jobs and further deepening worker insecurity. The Trans Pacific Partnership expands the legal basis for global economic inequalities – which is why the negotiations are secret, and why the treaty’s name could not be spoken in the State of the Union address. It is a lie of omission of global proportions. Give Obama his crown.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, described as ‘NAFTA on steroids,’ would accelerate the global Race to the Bottom.”

The president who promised in his 2008 campaign to support a hike in the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011, and then did nothing at all to make it happen, says this is the “year of action” when he’ll move heaven and earth to get a $10.10 minimum. He will start, Obama told the Congress and the nation, by issuing “an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.” Obama neglected to mention that only new hires – a small fraction, beginning with zero, of the two million federal contract workers – will get the wage boost; a huge and conscious lie of omission. The fact that the president does not even propose a gradual, mandated increase for the rest of the two million shows he has no intention of using his full powers to ameliorate taxpayer-financed poverty. We can also expect Obama to issue waivers to every firm that claims a hardship, as is always his practice.

What is Obama’s jobs program? It is the same as laid out at last year’s State of the Union, and elaborated on last summer: lower business taxes and higher business subsidies. When you say “jobs,” he says tax cuts – just like the Republicans, only Obama first cites the pain of the unemployed, so that you know he cares. “Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let's flip that equation. Let's work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home.” Actually, Obama wants to lower tax rates for all corporations to 28 percent, from 35 percent, as part of his ongoing quest for a Grand Bargain with Republicans. For Obama, the way to bring jobs back to the U.S. is to make American taxes and wages more “competitive” in the “global marketplace” – the Race to the Bottom.

In the final analysis, the sympathetic corporate Democrat and the arrogant corporate Republican offer only small variations on the same menu: ever increasing austerity. Obama bragged about reducing the deficit, never acknowledging that this has been accomplished on the backs of the poor, contributing mightily to economic inequality and social insecurity.

Obama offers nothing of substance, because he is not authorized by his corporate masters to do so. He takes his general orders from the same people as do the Republicans. That’s why Obama only speaks of minimum wage hikes while Republicans are in power, rather than when his own party controlled both houses of Congress. Grand Bargains are preferred, because they are the result of consensus between the two corporate parties. In effect, the Grand Bargain is the distilled political will of Wall Street, which feeds the donkey and the elephant. Wall Street – the 1 percent – believes the world is theirs for the taking, and they want all of it. Given this overarching truth, Obama has no choice but to stage a festival of lies.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]


More on the Minimum Wage

Excellent Article Glen

The Minimum Wage Analysis needs to go a bit further. You are correct to point out that Obama welched on the $9.50/hr minimum wage promise. And his chacanery was going further. In 2012 he had whittled down his promise to $9.20/hr. Yes that's right a reduction in his Minimum Wage proposal after Occupy. So why did Obama hawk Harkin's $10.10/hr proposal last night ? Because out of the remnants Occupy and Worker World Party came the initiative in Several Big Cities for a $15/hr. This proposal took off like wildfire amongst Fast Food Workers who SEIU is trying to organize. SEIU decided to take up the issue inorder to push WWP aside. Why is this significant ? Because Ralph Nader had been needling Richard Trumka to get on board with a campaign to boost the minimum wage since Trumka came to power of the AFL-CIO. At the time Nader was proposing $10.30/hr. Trumka had always responded with "we support a hike in the minimum wage...just check our website". Trumka's other dodge was "we need Card Check first". That was another election promise Obama tennis shoed.

Returning to the Minimum Wage the "Fight for $15" Campaign is growing in leaps and bounds. It is high visible in numerous major cities including New York, Chicago and Oakland. The City Council of San Jose passed a Local Ordinance mandating a $15/hr minimum wage. And last fall a Socialist, Kshama Sawant, was elected to the Seattle City Council based in large part a platform plank of raising the minimum wage in that municipality to $15/hr. You can bet that scared the ever loving crap out of the centers of Capitalist Power. So Obama got on his horse, reversed direction and threw in for Harkin's proposal even though it proposed a minimum wage higher than his own proposals. Obama and his Captialist Master saw the fire sweeping across the prairie and decided they had to light a back fire in order to stop the initiative.

The are a number of lessons we should take away from this episode.

1) The Democrat Party is every bit a hand maiden to Capital as their Republican Brothers. Remember that the next time and everytime you see a floor fight in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

2) The Leadership levels of Organized Labor are thorughly corrupt and in the hip pocket of the Democrat Party. Read carefully what I just wrote. I did NOT say labor is corrupt or unneeded. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the Rank and File has to get active and reclaim their unions. They need to tell their leaders this Union is run for our benefit not theat of the Democrat Party.

3) The Grassroots needs to be poked and praised for what they did. It needs to be pointed out what they can do when the stop listening to Democrats and Union Leaders who admonshed them "You can't get that through", or "That's not Politically Feasible". That kind of garbage is a not so subtle form of training. Training them to lower their expectations.


Your analysis is Exactly IMO why Obama had to commit to $10/hr

Obama's pretending to be a leader RE a min wage of $10/hr when he's actually a follower or even a reactionary to pressure from a broad-base of rank & file workers' demands for a $15/hr min wage. And ss you say Nader [& others] have been on Obama's case for at-least a $10 - $10.50 /hr min wage since at-least before the 2012 POTUS race.

IMO the min wage should be at-least $11 - $12 /hr- but a hike in the min wage ain't enough unless it's pegged to increases in cost of living & also to increases in productivity. Also IMO the min wage should be linked to a max wage for CEOs. In the 1980s before neo-liberalism & Reaganomics took off, the average CEO's salary was just 25Xs - 40Xs that of the average worker. Now average CEO salary is +250Xs  - 300+Xs that of the average worker. IMO CEO salary should be pegged to between 25Xs - 50Xs that of the minimum wage. That way the only way CEOs, CFOs & their ilk can hike their salaries is they'd have to also hike the lowest paid & rank & file workers' pay across the board. And if they cut rank & file workers' salaries they'd be required to also cut their own salaries to maintain the mandated max to min wage ratio.


PS: The Dims have NEVER been a truly progressive party. They started off circa 1828 as a Dixie-crat party w that infamous slave-owning / 'Injun Killer' Andrew Jackson as its original standard bearer. The Dims continued to be heavily influenced by southern 'Good Ole Boy' Dixie-crats [far more so than progressives] up till the LBJ era- which LBJ & HS.Truman themselves were [quasi?] Dixie-crats. This fact is why Blacks faithfully voted for the GOP 'Party of Lincoln' from 1868 till the FDR New Deal era circa 1932. At best the Dims have been a Centrist party w some-what 'liberal' tendencies during the tenures of FDR, JFK & Carter. Then came Slick Willy's & Al Gore's  DLC / DNC ['ironically' Clinton, Gore & Carter are all from traditional Dixie-crat states of AR, TN & GA]- which had the Dims competing head to head w the Repugs for Corp $$$. Thus the Billary. Gore, Obama Dims talk disingenuous ['I feel your pain'] rhetoric to their tradition Black, Brown, labor & progressive base- all while continually stabbing them in the back. Or sometimes even outright thumbing their noses at their base- as Obama has done to Blacks ['I'm not the Black Pres. I'm the Pres for everybody {'else'}.'] & progressives ['F--king Retards']. 

Now NYC's got so-called 'progressive' Dim Bill DeBlasio who won NYC mayor's chair by running against 'Stop & Frisk' & Wall St Bansterism, but then picks Repug Rude Fooliani's architect of 'Stop & Frisk' Bill Bratton as his NYPD Chief [over 2 qualified Black & Hispanic candidates to boot]. And then he picks an ex-Goldman & Sachs Gal [but perhaps lame-stream feminists are pleased] as one of his key deputy mayors. Then he picks Slick Willy [& wife Billary] to swear [yeah it's enough to make one swear alright] him in as NYC mayor. IMO DeBlasio has all the hallmarks of a Slick Willy, Gore, Obama style Corp DLC Dim. 

Michael Moore and the pseudo Left.

I  quickly  exited    the  link   when  I saw  Michael   Moore's  face.  Back  in   1989,  I  was  a  big  fan  of  Michael  &   his   movie  Roger  and  Me.  I  subsequently    read  his   book  Stupid  White  Men  and   closely   followed  his   association   with  Ralph  Nader's  2000  independent   campaign   for  President.

     During   this  period,   I   finally  realized   Michael  Moore is  a very   wealthy gatekeeper  operative.  He  will  criticize   democrats,  sometimes  very  strongly, but   when  its  time    to  vote,  he  will  ALWAYS  lead  you  right  back  into  the   democratic  party,   regardless   of   how   repulsive  the  candidate.  He is  a  white  version  of   Cornell  West.

Michael   is  a  prominent   member  of  the   pseudo  Left  and  is   just  as  quilty  of  perserving  the  status   quo  as   those  he   critcize.  A  quote  from  the  web  about    Michael   is  on  point:

"With phony radicals like Michael Moore around, the ruling elites have nothing to worry about."


"he will ALWAYS lead you

"he will ALWAYS lead you right back into the democratic party, regardless of how repulsive the candidate. He is a white version of Cornell West."

Sooooooo true.  A few years ago, Moore also made dismissive comments about Nader pretty much calling the guy a has been and a nuisance to Democrat candidates.  He and fellow gatekeeper Bill Maher got on knees and begged Nader not to run when Nader was a guest on Maher's empire propaganda show - so much for democracy.

contradictions within neo-liberalism

I read Firing Back: against the tyranny of the market by Pierre Bourdieu (translated by Loïc Wacquant) a couple of months ago. (I think BAR readers who haven't read Bourdieu would probably really appreciate him.)

He discusses the contradictions within neo-liberalism quite a bit in this book. As I watched the SOTU address last week (and many other times that I've listened to our presiden't speeches) the contradictions inbedded in the language always stagger me. The way in which the "hard work" meme is blended into the more recent (past year or so) suppposed concern for income inequality are deliberate rhetorical devices to influence (and confuse, I believe) an audience who really wants to believe in this president.

He has crafted an identity that is the embodiment of neo-liberal contradictions more effectively than any other U.S. president I can think of. How do we get out of this mess?





Indigenous Peoples Against Trans Pacific Partnersip Agreement

ABYA YALA: Indigenous Peoples Against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement


That we as Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala have resisted and will continue to resist with dignity and in peace, in accord with our paradigm of Living with Wellness, taking collective actions to fight against the violation of our rights brought about by the historical and systematic exclusion by the states and the dominant society.  Given this, we reaffirm the validity of our own laws, of international treaties such as the ILO Convention 169, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and of relevant national laws, and thus we reject all forms of exclusion and discrimination by the States who have a moral obligation to implement our recognized rights.

That the neoliberal economic model which currently is the only paradigm under which the majority of governments are implementing, and which the others cannot escape, has imposed policies of theft and looting of the commons in our territories (land, water, forests, biodiversity, oceans, air and our traditional knowledge) through legal mechanisms such as Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), legal contracts with multinational companies such as for example the recent threat against the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples under negotiations known as the “Agreement of the Alliance of the Pacific”.

The Big Lie

of course, the most egregious of the lies that the negro president posits, as well as his handlers, as well as the rest of the oligarchs workers, is that gov't spending is restricted by revenue, i.e. taxing and borrowing.  we, the u.s., are a monterarily sovereign country. we print our money.  unlike the states, unlike your household, unlike greece or italy or germany, the US govt is the issuer of the currency. what does this mean you ask? it means that the US govt can never default, unless the morons in office, either because they are ignorant, or because they are bought off (obama?), want there to be an issue (debt level laws, accounting requirements).  the rationale they argue from, is a relic of the gold standard, when your spending was dependent upon the amount of gold reserves you had (or so they say.... the U.S. was off the "gold standard" in 1913 but had no spending issues)......