As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, October 29, 2007

From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

Barack Obama's getting beat up in the online community today, and with good reason. His latest attempt to "get tough" with Hillary Clinton - and let me say I've seen 6 articles quoting him as saying "I'm going to get tough," why not just say what you want to say? This guy has quite a windup - is to draw differences on Social Security, of all things. This is ridiculous.

In the clip above, you'll watch Obama's attack on Clinton over Social Security be dismantled by Paul Krugman. Obama is arguing that there is a fiscal crisis Clinton is ignoring, and this is a big problem for a few reasons. One, there is no crisis with Social Security, which is something progressives understand. There are many crises around the world, including fiscal ones in this country. But Social Security is fine. Two, politically speaking, Social Security was the issue upon which Bush's momentum in 2005 crumbled because of a large progressive organizing effort. That Obama is using the need to shore up Social Security as an attack on Clinton, well, this makes me want to say that I'm disappointed that Obama is abandoning the politics of hope.

There's nothing to shore up with Social Security, it's one of the most well-funded and successful government programs in American history, and it's becoming more vital as Americans lose their retirement security through employer pensions. Just today, Robert Ball excoriated the Washington Post editorial board for thinking anything different.

Social Security benefits are modest by any measure and are already being cut -- by raising the age of eligibility for full benefits and by deducting ever-rising Medicare premiums from benefit checks. So the benefits provided for under present law will replace, on average, a lower percentage of prior earnings than in the past. To cut them further would undermine all that Social Security has achieved -- exposing millions of vulnerable people, both elderly and disabled, to needless economic hardship.

Social Security is the nation's most effective anti-poverty program. But it's much more than that. For every worker it provides a solid base on which to try to build an adequate level of retirement income. To weaken that foundation would be grossly irresponsible.

The good news is that there's no need to weaken it. We can shore up Social Security for the future without cutting benefits -- or raising contribution rates.

There are some simple fixes you can make to tinker around the edges and bring about solvency, but it doesn't require anything you'd need to address in a political ad. And furthermore, the Republicans are fearmongering that Social Security is in crisis, even after Bush crashed and burned with his initial privatization plan, to ring the bell for private accounts, which would be a disaster. Why play on their turf?

People are justifiably disheartened by Obama's performance the past couple weeks. He has made some bad choices and seems like he's flailing around to find his voice. But there's already someone out there in the top tier who has a voice which is strong, consistent, and unyielding. And outside of some media-created drama over a haircut, he hasn't made a misstep and has pursued a populist, progressive course throughout the primary season. Today's speech was indicative. Instead of pandering to homophobia with antigay preachers as a way to connect with religious voters, John Edwards reframes faith and values.

I am not holier than thou. I am not perfect by any means. But there are events in life that you learn from, and which remind you what this is really all about. Maybe I have been freed from the system and the fear that holds back politicians because I have learned there are much more important things in life than winning elections at the cost of selling your soul.

Especially right now, when our country requires so much more of us, and needs to hear the truth from its leaders.

It's time to tell the truth. And the truth is the system in Washington is corrupt. It is rigged by the powerful special interests to benefit they very few at the expense of the many. And as a result, the American people have lost faith in our broken system in Washington, and believe it no longer works for ordinary Americans. They're right.

As I look across the political landscape of both parties today — what I see are politicians too afraid to tell the truth — good people caught in a bad system that overwhelms their good intentions and requires them to chase millions of dollars in campaign contributions in order to perpetuate their careers and continue their climb to higher office [...]

Because Washington may not see it, but we are facing a moral crisis as great as any that has ever challenged us. And, it is this test — this moral test — that I have come to understand is at the heart of this campaign.

Read it all, it's inspiring. It's why I participate in politics.

There's no need for true progressives to look at anyone but John Edwards and Chris Dodd as we move into the primary season. They have both exhibited leadership on the issues that define America, and have driven the conversation on the policies we need to restore. In an age where the Republican brand is completely trashed, there's no need to compromise on things like the Constitution or core values. Edwards and Dodd are the only two, then, who have any credibility left on these subjects.

UPDATE: Obama, trying to work his way back to me, will not support Michael Mukasey for Attorney General. That would have been a better thing to say yesterday, instead of the Social Security nonsense.

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