By Matthew Rothschild on November 12, 2010

Barack Obama keeps pushing a Republican agenda.

Since day one, he’s been exaggerating the problem of the debt and the deficit. As the terrific economist James Galbraith noted more than a year ago, “So long as the economy is placed on a path to recovery, even a massive increase in public debt poses no risk.”

And today, with massive unemployment and undercapacity, focusing on reducing the debt is precisely the wrong strategy, as Dean Baker at the Center for Economic Policy Research notes.

But Obama has chosen to go where no Republican President has dared to tread: to prepare the public for the slashing of Social Security.

Since day one, he’s been fueling irrational fears about the bankruptcy of Social Security. These fears are unfounded, as Dean Baker has been pointing out for years, most recently in this paper.

No one made Obama empanel this commission on deficit reduction in the first place.

No one made him appoint Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to head it up. Simpson has a long record of hostility toward the social safety net, and Bowles, yet another Clinton retread, is a triangulator from way back.

It’s not a surprise, then, that Simpson and Bowles have come up with some drastic proposals to slash that social safety net.

If those proposals, or anything like them, become law, and you’re on Social Security today, you’ll end up getting less. And if you’re not yet at retirement age, you’ll be working longer before you can get Social Security, and if you manage to live long enough to qualify for Social Security, you’ll be receiving punier benefits than your parents did.

Meantime, the income tax rate on the richest Americans would go down by one-third, and corporate income taxes by a quarter.

We didn’t need a Democratic President to flatten the progressive income tax in America.

We didn’t need a Democratic President to go after domestic spending.

And we didn’t need a Democratic President to go after Social Security.

But we sure got one.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story " Rand Paul’s Lack of Class."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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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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