President Addresses Kansas High School on the Economy

December 9, 2011

Ima Puma attended the President’s recent speech on the economy.  Applying her mad steno skills, she captured the actual text, which appears below.

Remarks by the President on the Economy in Owatanassami, Kansas

Owatanassami High School

Owatanassami, Kansas

12:59 P.M. CST:   Bell rings.

THE PRESIDENT: Class, be seated.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it is great to be back in the state of Texas. — (laughter) — Did I just say Texas?  I meant Kansas.  I’m from Kansas, as many of you know.  I got my Kansas accent — not the one I use with the CBC; the one I’m using now — from my mother, who moved to Washington at age three.  Her parents were from Texas, too. So my Kansas roots run deep.  Did I mention I’m also Irish?

My grandparents served during World War II. He either liberated Auschwitz, or served in the Navy, or was declared 4F; she posed for that Rosie the Riveter poster.  I got my biceps from my grandmother.  They believed in an America where hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried.  I got my moral compass from Rod Blagojevich.

My grandparent’s values gave rise to the largest middle class and the strongest economy that the world has ever known.  Today, for most Americans, hard work has stopped paying off.  Those at the very top grow wealthier from their investments.

We all know the story by now: bad mortgages, risky bets, regulators who looked the other way. And it plunged our economy into a crisis from which we’re still fighting to recover.  This all took place long before I became president, sometime during the middle of Season Two of Mad Men.

And ever since, there’s been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity.  It’s left a near-constant state of gridlock in Washington, which ignored my campaign promise to be a transformative light-bringer who will end politics as usual.

But, Owatanassami, this is not just the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for my reelection chances.  Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement — or one where Goldman Sachs owns my slutty ass.

Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess.  They want massive bailouts, slaps on the wrist for corrupt financial institutions, lobbyists visiting the White House to write bills.  They want endless, expensive wars, treaties that ship jobs oversees.  They want an ever-rising flood of corporate money influencing politics.  These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. We’re both in this scam together.

If you believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules, then vote for me.  I’m just as corrupt as my opponents, but I give better speeches.

You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, Theodore Roosevelt praised the titans of industry and the free market.  But he also busted up some monopolies.  Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a socialist  — (laughter) —  And today, I’m called a socialist, even though I’m actually the lap dog of the titans of industry.  The American people are starting to figure that out about me, which is why I’ve decided to be Teddy Roosevelt in the upcoming election.

Now, I know many of you thought I was Lincoln, or JFK, or Reagan, or maybe Jesus  — (laughter) — I know some of you wish I’d be like LBJ this year — (applause) —  But in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came to Owatanassami and he talked about wages, unemployment insurance, and reforms in taxes and politics.  I’m talking about these things here, too, which makes me Teddy Roosevelt.

Today, over 100 years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. It’s easy for businesses to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.  Which is why I recently signed a free trade bill that will send over 500,000 jobs to South Korea, Venezuela, and Panama.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas. Which is why I circumvented regulations to give start-ups like Solyndra billions of dollars.

Now, just as in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who say, let’s just cut more regulations and cut more taxes for the wealthy.  Do you get it, now?  I’m Teddy Roosevelt, and the Republicans are the bad guys.  Maybe I should grow a bristly mustache and wear spectacles to drive home the point.  I’m also the 99%.  I’m not Jesus anymore.  Just forget that whole 2008 Jesus thing.

Now it’s time to insert “rugged individualism” into a sentence.  (Applause.)

Now it’s time to blame Bush.  Remember the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history? What did it get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. I’ll need at least another term or two to clean up that mess. You can’t expect me to fix everything during my first 100 days in office — that’d be Franklin Roosevelt, and I’m Teddy.

Now it’s time to blame Congress.  The same folks who are now running Congress gave us weak regulation, insurance companies jacking up people’s premiums with impunity, mortgage lenders tricking families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, an irresponsible financial sector that nearly destroyed our entire economy.  I’ve tried to stop all this, but Congress refuses to pass my jobs bill. (Applause.)

I’d like to mention how I killed Osama bin Laden with a bowie knife, but this is a speech about the economy.

Now, I’m going to talk for the next several minutes about how economic inequality is really bad and hurts us all.  If I go on and on for about seven, eight, nine minutes about how bad economic inequality is and how it hurts us all, just keep repeating for nine whole minutes how really bad economic inequality is and how it hurts us all, sort of like Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s Restaurant, you just might, after nine minutes, completely forget that I’ve done nothing at all about economic inequality, and I have no real plan to do anything about economic inequality, except for my jobs bill, which Congress refuses to pass.  (Applause.)

But this isn’t a speech about economic inequality.  It’s about my reelection.

Now, America has a choice.  It can back the Republicans, which is a race to the bottom, or it can back me, Teddy Roosevelt, which is a race to the top.  Bottom:Top, get it?  I’m top.

AUDIENCE:  Top!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, I’m going to mention some hook phrases like: everyone getting a fair shot, middle class, working moms, so David Gergen can call me a populist.  But I’m also going to say some vague things about embracing new technology, not punishing anyone for becoming wealthy, getting competitive, so independents won’t think I’m a populist.

Now, I’m going to list several reasons why America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)  Americans have always been way better than other people, which is why we can win this race to the top.  I’m top.

I should also mention I now support reducing college tuition and some sort of student debt fixing thingie.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the recent Occupy protests on campuses.  As I see all of you sitting here today at Owatanassami High, I realize I’ll need your votes for my 2016 re-reelection campaign.  (Applause.)

We need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.  Historically, that hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, did it, as did Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican and — like me — a proud son of Kansas and a chain smoker.  (Applause.)  Even though I’m Teddy Roosevelt, I’m also a little bit FDR and Ike, meaning I’m a little bit Democrat and a little bit Republican.  So, if you’re an independent, you should vote for me.

Let me point to the many wonderful things I’ve already accomplished that are both Democratish and Republicanish:

1. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law and I’ve proposed trillions more, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. (Applause.)

2. We need to extend my payroll tax cut that’s really a gutting of Social Security. It’s about to expire. (Applause.)

3. We have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. That one you don’t get until my next term.  (Laughter and applause.)

Now, independents loved Bill Clinton.  If you remember, Republicans opposed Clinton when he tried to raise taxes on the rich.  They predicted it would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. (Applause.)  The only thing Bill Clinton ever did as president was raise taxes on the rich, and it created a booming economy.  The only thing I’ve done so far for the economy — aside from my jobs bill, which Congress refuses to pass (applause) — is to raise taxes on the rich.  OK, no, I didn’t actually raise taxes on the rich when I had the chance.  But I’ve given speeches on raising taxes on the rich.  Now, the Democrats suffered a terrible midterm defeat in 1994, but then America reelected Bill Clinton two years later.  I suffered a terrible midterm defeat, but if I promise to raise taxes on the rich, will you reelect me, too?

Did I mention Warren Buffett agrees with me on the tax thing?  (Laughter.) So do most Americans — Democrats, independents and Republicans.  So most Americans should vote for me, Barack Clinton.  Did I just say Clinton?  I meant Kansas.  Please don’t vote for any Clintons.

I really like the middle class, I do. (Applause.)  I only rescued the big banks to protect the middle class from a second Depression.  It had absolutely nothing to do with the millions of dollars the financial sector donated to my 2008 campaign.  Part of the deal was we put in place new regulations for the financial sector.  And you can all see how well that’s worked out.

But Republicans in Congress are fighting against any regulations on banks.  Is there anybody here who thinks Republicans really like the middle class?

AUDIENCE: No!

THE PRESIDENT: Of course not.  But I’m Teddy Roosevelt;  I’m Kansas, which is a state in the MIDDLE and I promise to fight for the MIDDLE class in my second term, to fight against Republicans who hate the middle class, and to use my BIG STICK to force Congress to pass my jobs bill.

Big Banks, crisis, mortgage abuse, big banks, 99%, follow rules, financial crisis, middle class, the economy.  (Applause.)

Fair share, investing in education, grow, fair shot, follow rules, responsibility, middle class, transform our economy. (Applause.)

Getting parents involved, education, study harder — (laughter) — greater responsibility, mortgages.

Government more efficient, people’s needs (applause), cutting programs, consumer-friendly, save businesses billions, challenging schools, innovative, obligations, results.

And that’s my promise.  Americans need to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“We are all Americans,” Teddy Roosevelt said that day in 1910, “we shall go bottom or top together.”  I’m Teddy Roosevelt.  I’m Kansas.  I’m the middle. I’m top.  So, judge me not on my record these past four years, but on my speeches, Owatanassami!

END

(c) 2011 by True Liberal Nexus.  All rights reserved.

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Why Occupy Failed

December 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street has failed.

No doubt many will protest  this judgement, noting that the unconventional movement did much to raise awareness or change the public discussion.  Others will insist that Occupy has yet begun to fight, and will be back in the Spring, pitching tents and drumming on drums in a city plaza near you.

Yet by its own measure, the movement is a failure.  “We will continue to occupy” the several Occupys assured us, “until our demands are met.”  With the dispersal of the OLA camp, the last of the 24/7 presences are gone.  The occupii exited with barely a whimper.  The many homeless, who’d swelled the occupii ranks, simply returned to their usual places of encampment.  The rest sought the refuge of that room above the garage their parents always keep ready for them.

Even had the physical occupations continued, the movement remained stalled so long as it was incapable formulating any specific goals to “occupy” for.  Three months of Working Groups and twice-daily General Assemblies could not come up with a uniform list of demands, or even a “consensus” on whether to have any demands at all.


Occupying for Occupying’s Sake

The insistance on physically holding public spaces was based on a false reading of the “Arab Spring” and Tahrir Square protests.  In Tunisia, Egypt, or Syria, where anti-government protests are quickly and brutally broken up, it was necessary to maintain a continuous presence.  In America, where the government allows its citizens to protest quite freely, a 24/7 presence is neither required nor justified.

By protesting ’round the clock, the occupii acted like cargo cultists, blindly aping the Egyptians’ tactics, treating “occupation” as some magic talisman that brings about revolution.

Before very long, the occupations became about little more than the right to occupy.  The First Amendment’s protection of free speech and peacable assembly was twisted into the right to commandeer public property indefinitely.  In places like Oakland, factions of anti-police, anti-city hall malcontents hijacked the protests.  The original bogeymen, bankers and politicians, were forgotten as the occupii directed their rage at cops, mayors and college deans.


Occupussy

How quickly it’s forgotten that the successful revolution in Tunisia was sparked by the death of a fruit vendor at the hands of the police.  That the protestors in Tahrir Square endured beatings and stabbings by mounted pro-Mubarek thugs.  That protesters in Syria are murdered daily, yet more keep coming out.

Here in the US, the occupii found it intolerable when Oakland restricted their protests to the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., rejected as insulting Los Angeles’ offer of free office space and farmland, cried ‘tyranny’ when New York asked for a few hours to clean Zucotti park.  If the occupii want to know real tyranny, they should visit Argentina, and speak to the relatives of the 30,000 anti-government protesters who “disappeared” during the 1970s.  They should visit the streets of Berlin, Budapest, or Prague, and imagine ‘occupying’ while a 36 ton T-54 trundles down at you.  They should google the words “tiananmen square.”

Despite their vow to “fight like an Egyptian”, the occupii couldn’t stand up to some “nudging and bumping” by police horses.  The entire movement seemed to melt when hit with a few ounces of pepper spray.  These protesters aren’t tough like the Egyptians — they’re a bunch of occupussies.


We Are Our Demands

Although several regional groups did issue lists of demands, these all proved vague and overbroad.  What started as a singular message  — end corruption on Wall Street — was diffused until every pet cause, every simmering resentment, every inchoate dream, made the roster.

For the occupi cadre, the very concept of issuing specific demands was anathema:

[N]o single person or group has the authority to make demands on behalf of general assemblies around the world.  We are our demands. This #ows movement is about empowering communities to form their own general assemblies…. Our collective struggles cannot be co-opted.

The demand for demands is an attempt to shoehorn the Occupy gatherings into conventional politics, to force the energy of these gatherings into a form that people in power recognize, so that they can … divert, co-opt, buy off, or … squash any challenge to business as usual.

The unwillingness to articulate concrete demands so frustrated sympathetic observers, they felt obliged to pitch in by drawing up suggested demands for Occupy to adopt.  In the October 12th issue of Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi offered five, narrowly-targeted goals:

  1. Break up the “Too Big to Fail” monopolies
  2. Pay for your own bailouts via a miniscule tax on stocks trades
  3. No public money for private lobbying
  4. Repeal the carried-interest tax break
  5. Ban upfront bonuses for bankers

In a December 4th editorial, the L.A. Times offered its own list of five demands for OLA:

  1. Sweeping financial reform
  2. Makes taxes more fair
  3. Combat corporate influence in politics
  4. Address rising tuition and student debt
  5. Downgrade marijuana from Schedule I status

[h/t Fionnchu]

While the last two objectives might necessitate spin-off movements (Occupy UC & Occupy Humboldt County) the Times’ list was at least a step in the right direction.


The One, Real Occupy Demand

What Taibbi, the L.A. Times, and most of America failed to realize is that, for the occupii, formal demands are moot.  For the occupii reject our present system of government as unworkable.  Occupy was envisioned not as a protest or rally, rather a revolution.  It’s one goal, one demand: to replace our current system of government with an anarchist, direct democracy.  They truly intended to camp-out in public until the rest of the world agreed to scrap our current civilization and replace it with the occupii’ vision of utopia.

David Graeber, a prominent anarchist, and one of the original organizers of #OWS, explains:

Anarchism is a revolutionary political philosophy, theory, and way of living that strives toward a more free and equal society without government, authority, domination, capitalism, or oppression. Key to the anarchist analysis is its unflinching criticism of authority, or of some people holding established power over others.  Anarchism considers government in any form … unnecessary, harmful, and undesirable…. The General Assemblies and committees within Occupy are experiments in this kind of self-management.

The occupii reject as futile any attempt at working within a system that is “absolutely and irredeemably corrupt.”  What’s the point of asking the government to reinstate Glass-Steagall or reverse Citizens United, when we’re on the verge of abolishing government entirely?  Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants.”

Graeber proudly points to occupi’s adherence to five anarchist principles:

1)    The refusal to recognise the legitimacy of existing political institutions — “acting as if the existing structure of power does not even exist.”  Just as Ghandi urged the Indian people to flaunt British regulations on trade, the occupii flaunted city curfews.

2)   The refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal order — “[O]rganisers knowingly ignored local ordinances … simply on the grounds that such laws should not exist.”

3)   The refusal to create an internal hierarchy, but instead to create a form of consensus-based direct democracy — “From the very beginning … organisers made the audacious decision to operate not only by direct democracy, without leaders, but by consensus.”  To avoid either the co-opting of a “formal leadership structure” or a majority “bend[ing] a minority to its will”,”all decisions will, of necessity, have to be made by general consent.”

4)   The embrace of prefigurative politics

“Zuccotti Park, and all subsequent encampments, became spaces of experiment with creating the institutions of a new society – not only democratic General Assemblies but kitchens, libraries, clinics, media centres and a host of other institutions, all operating on anarchist principles of mutual aid and self-organisation – a genuine attempt to create the institutions of a new society in the shell of the old.”


Occupy = Anarchy

And now we understand.  Occupy was never about something as mundane as ending corruption on Wall Street — it was about transforming society from the bottom up. The little occupy camps were demos of the future anarchist utopia to come.  Once the American people saw anarchy in action, they’d realize that “if we are to live in any sort of genuinely [i.e. direct] democratic society, we’re going to have to start from scratch….”

Graeber admits that

We may never be able to prove, through logic, that direct democracy [is] possible. We can only demonstrate it through action. In parks and squares across America, people have begun to witness it as they have started to participate.

The occupii expected to transform society by showing everyone the wisdom & beauty of things like “Positive Speech,” a “less aggressive and more conciliatory type of communication” that avoids “negative statements which close the door to constructive debate.”  Example: “‘Don’t touch that dog or it will bite you’ could be phrased as ‘Be careful with that dog because it could bite you and neither of us would like that.'”

Leaders would be replaced by “Moderators” whose job was to “bring together the general sense of the Assembly rather than follow a protocol, Ideally, this figure should not need to exist. (everybody should respect everybody).”

In fact, all the quirks of Occupy — the GAs, the hand jive, etc. — have long been hallmarks of the heretofore pathetically inconsequential anarchist movement.  These “new forms of organization” are the anarchists’ very ideology, Graeber emphasized in a 2002 New Left Review article. “It is about creating and enacting horizontal networks instead of top-down structures like states, parties or corporations; networks based on principles of decentralized, non-hierarchical consensus democracy. Ultimately … it aspires to reinvent daily life as whole.  (Emphasis added.)

Offering a trial sample of anarchy in action is not the worst strategy, as good historical examples are hard to come by.  Tenuous claims are made to assisting the civil rights movement, Vietnam protests, women’s ERA, and the downfall of Miloslovec. The disastrous Paris Commune of 1871 (see excursus below) is sometimes mentioned, but occupii tend to omit anarchy’s crowning achievement: its crippling, via obtuseness and intransigence, of the Republican coalition in the Spanish Civil War, ushering in nearly four decades of Franco’s fascist tyranny.


Time’s Up

This article began with a declaration of Occupy’s failure.  Its founders are convinced Occupy has already succeeded far in excess of their wildest dreams.  ‘We’ve only just begun’, the occupii insist, ‘just give us more time, and we can change the world.’

Perpetual irrelevance breeds habitual indolence.  Having puttered away for decades in obscure organic co-ops & peace centers, having attended innumerable & fruitless gripe sessions in UU community halls, the anarchists who started Occupy never learned how to act decisively or effectively.  This September, they went virtually unnoticed, as usual, while engaged in their latest, futile fist-shake at society: a tiny protest near Wall St.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, OWS made the headlines — courtesy of one cop’s injudicious use of pepper spray — and ignited a dense duff of accumulated resentment among the general population.

The occupii interpreted this spontaneous public outcry as an acceptance of their radical philosophy.  “[I]f any significant number of Americans do find out what anarchism really is, they might well decide that rulers of any sort are unnecessary.”  In that, they are mistaken.  Ordinary people want direct, concrete action taken now, by leaders using the existing political and societal system.  Ordinary people are not willing to wait until an alternate utopia grows “organically” at the speed of mildew.  Ordinary people are certainly not ever going to join experimental tent communes.  Not in a million years.

The clock has run out for Occupy.  Media attention is an evanescent thing.  In this game, dirty laundry is always trumps.  Kim Kardassian and Ginger White did more do sink Occupy than any mayor or police force.

We can only hope that the radicalism and sheer idiocy of the occupii experiment did not overly tarnish the broader, sane movement to end corruption on Wall Street and in Washington.  Now that Occupy has failed, ordinary people can take over, applying the sound principles of hierarchy, leadership, focus, and working within the system.  The occupii should follow the army adage: either lead, follow, or get out of the way.  Since you’ve proven you can’t lead, and refuse to follow, y’all know what to do.


(c) 2011 by True Liberal Nexus.  All rights reserved.


Excursus — Occupy Paris, 1871  (after the jump)

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