By Matthew Rothschild on January 25, 2010

I’m worried that President Obama is going to focus too much on the deficit in his State of the Union speech this week and in his actions throughout this year.

I’m worried because such a focus will make it less likely that he’ll be able, or even inclined to, pass the kind of massive jobs bill we need to bring down unemployment.

Not to push such a bill through would be a moral failing of the highest order: We can’t let 15 million people languish on the unemployment lines. And it would also be a political failing: He’s setting a trap for himself here because if he doesn’t solve the jobs problem, Democrats will face a debacle in November.

I’m also worried because the obsession with the deficit will give ammunition to those who want to shoot holes in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—the programs that largely make up what remains of our safety net, especially for the aged and the disabled.

Obama himself is in favor of a Congressional bill establishing a bipartisan commission to study—and all but order--ways to cut costs in these so-called entitlement programs.

But I can’t stand that word “entitlement.” It makes us sound like we’re spoiled little brats to want the retirement funds we’ve already paid for, and the health care that should be our right to have.

There’s always trillions for war and bank bailouts, but when we come to claim what is ours, all of a sudden the cupboards are bare. If you’re concerned about the budget deficit, stop averting your eyes at the pricetags dangling from the Pentagon and Wall Street.

Also, the idea that Obama is still tilting at the bipartisan windmill is not a good sign at all.

Nor is it a good sign that the Democratic bill would fast-track any recommendations that this commission comes up with—providing no ability to amend or filibuster it. (See Dean Baker’s excellent commentary here: www.huffingtonpost.com.)

During his presidential campaign, Obama accused his opponent, John McCain, of wanting to cut Social Security.

If Obama and Congressional Democrats empower such a commission to justify that cut and then ram it through, this would be a huge double cross.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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