Joseph Stiglitz, a few months ago in Vanity Fair:
The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security — they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had.
Invoking Stiglitz, Dee Dee Myers recently made the point that a significant majority of Americans want higher taxes on the rich, and that Barack Obama must insist on these increases “to ensure that any deal he may be able to strike [on the debt ceiling] moves us back toward a society where the burdens are shared equally — by all our people.”
But Obama hasn’t insisted on anything. Instead, we’ve heard him offer to cut a deal with Republicans that would chip away at the programs that form the foundation for America’s social safety net. As a Dem official said yesterday, Obama “wants the largest deal possible – with tough spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, and savings from the tax code.”
Lost in speculation over whether Obama or the Republicans will be perceived as the winner of the debt ceiling fight is the fact that the rest of us lose, regardless. It needs to be repeated: Obama long ago showed his true nature by bailing out the banksters, going along with extension of the Bush-era bonus tax cuts, and taking pathetic half-measures to stimulate jobs growth.
The debt ceiling will be raised. Obama will prevail over the Tea Party freaks — Wall Street has told both major parties no default on the debt! — but ending the drama won’t change the parties’ indifference to the plight of the unemployed, homeless and bankrupt. We’ll see nothing like the FDR-era Works Progress Administration (WPA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) National Youth Administration (NYA), or National Housing Act of 1934.
High-profile Dem politicians will continue to buy state-of-the-art citadels, maybe with drawbridges, often in the same neighborhoods as corporation owners, Wall Street banksters and elected Republicans. Many Americans who aren’t wealthy, D or R, will continue to slide into the ditch, usually without a peep, because there is no way to register dissatisfaction through our existing electoral system.
This will change someday, of course, but not in an orderly, civilized fashion, because the mechanisms of orderly change have been broken — i.e., almost all office holders and their challengers are beholden to wealthy backers — and it’s in the interest of the people who own and run both major parties to keep them broken.