The end of “don’t ask/don’t tell,” some help for “9-11,” responders, and the START treaty were bright spots in the otherwise miserable year of 2010. These three very decent and overdue legislative actions suggest that Americans can be fair, empathetic, and generous – in spite of the potent, ideological, right-wing, meanness that has been so influential for at least the past three decades.
It is gratifying to see the beginning of the end of de jure discrimination against gay people. No doubt, de facto discrimination in many forms will continue against gays, just as it has against African-Americans, women, the elderly and other groups. Anti-gay acts have been, and will probably continue to be, particularly vicious and often violent. The struggle against this form of hate will need to go on for some time.
Although we saw some “socially liberal” progress in 2010, it was an economically conservative and miserable year for middle and low income Americans. Earners and wealth holders in the top 10% can thank their lucky stars that the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration have decided to maintain a favorable tax status for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of all other income classes.
The $3.5 billion spent on lobbying congress did not come from median income, struggling households. Consequently, Wall Street is back in business as usual. The incestuous relationship between the financial services sector, the congress, and the Obama Administration along with various industrial-you-name-it complexes, such as the medical-industrial complex, present a very dark cloud on the horizon for the masses. The Citizens United case and the massive corporate campaign spending it unleashed make that cloud ever so much darker.
The revolving door between congress, the administration, and Wall Street is spinning faster than ever. A case in point is the recent move by Peter Orszag to Citigroup for some really big bucks in salary. This happened after he helped engineer a $10 billion U.S. Treasury deal/benefit for Citigroup.
In fact, the perfect economic storm is shaping up and is headed right for the working classes. As one who visited the staffs of several members of the President’s “deficit reduction commission,” I believe that things don’t look too good for the last remnants of the New Deal and the Great Society. A seemingly liberal Democrat like Senator Durbin of Illinois is signaling that he is supportive of proposals that would reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits. This is not surprising. Of all the offices we visited, it seemed to me that his was the one where we were confronted with the vaguest, most platitudinous, and even mealy mouthed verbiage.
In the meantime, employment, pension funds, college opportunities, and economic opportunities in general are going south. The states are in really sad shape. Any stimulus derived from raiding the Social Security Trust Fund, as happened in the deal between the President and the Republicans, will be offset by failure to provide massive stimulus dollars to the states for infrastructure building and other forms of employment.
Corporate profits are better than ever and the middle class situation is continuing to deteriorate. If the working classes remain passive or locked in a heated political fight with each other (think Tea Party and us), then the corporate juggernaut will continue to roll over us. On a positive note, however, I do believe that as economic conditions worsen, groups that are now shouting at each other will begin to discern the real culprits and will learn to talk to each other. In fact, I have had some success with that lately.