Let Them Eat Symbols

Obama’s Plan for the Long-Term Unemployed

It is a point of historical controversy whether or not when told that French peasants did not have bread to eat, Marie Antoinette uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake,” an even more inaccessible and scarce food for poor people. But what is certain and should be beyond controversy is that in response to the capitalist implosion that shattered so many lives, Obama and the corporate democrats have demonstrated a policy attitude as cavalier as the French queen. Over the last five years, they have offered neither bread nor cake or anything other than false hope and empty symbols.

 

On the Friday after Obama’s tepid State of the Union Speech – a speech in which he pledged his concern for the long-term unemployed and low-wage workers – the Administration brought members of the corporate and financial elite to the white house to discuss strategies for addressing the plight of the long-term unemployed. Not surprisingly since this meeting was nothing more than one of many events planned as part of the democrats’ media strategy to better position the party for the mid-term elections, the only thing that emerged from this gathering was photo ops and diversionary rhetoric.

 

Notwithstanding the predictable outcome of this meeting, it did graphically demonstrate once again the incredible cynicism of the Obama administration.

 

Obama and the corporate democrats have only one primary objective – holding on to power so that they can continue to enjoy the state banquets, media attention and campaign dollars that derive from the benefits of being the “party in charge.” The fact that they are playing with the lives and hopes of millions of people who are desperately looking for some relief from the material and psychological insecurities of life on the edge are of little real concern for these party operatives.

 

The Obama – Clinton centrists who make-up the dominant core of the democratic party, along with a subordinate sliver of liberal reformers, have no substantive policy prescriptions to offer the long-term unemployed or the general U.S. public beyond inchoate policy recommendations framed as representing the elements of an “opportunity agenda.”

 

The references to creating opportunities is an ideological mystification meant to suggest that reversing the decades of economic restructuring, stagnant and declining wages, unemployment and expanding poverty can be easily corrected by simple will and the right mixture of incentives for private sector capital. It is as though these realities are just the result of incorrect policies and not the inherent logic of capitalist processes.

 

This was the underlining implication of Obama’s business summit on Friday – that the specific issue of the long-term unemployed can be solved by a more focused determination on the part of the private sector to hire those workers.

The shameless appeal to opportunity agendas by Obama and the democrats in the midst of a global capitalist meltdown is even more dishonest than their counterparts on the more extreme right. Because for traditional conservatism, there has never been any pretense toward believing in relatively equal outcomes in the capitalist market. Inequality, and by extension income inequality, unemployment, and “winners and losers” in the market, are all expressions of a natural social order when people are “free” to pursue their self-interests.

 

Democrats and reform liberalism, in contrast, claim to be committed to the rights of labor, social justice, legal equality and a progressive role for the state. Yet, in the era of neoliberalism, which has an ideological component as well as representing conscious policy decisions in the economic sphere, the philosophical and policy differences of those two approaches have almost been obliterated, reduced now to policy differences that are more tactical than substantial, notwithstanding the tea-party critique of the democrat party and Obama.

 

Obama and the democrats understand and accept that the contemporary logic of global neoliberalism means that the U.S. economy is being restructured and that millions of workers are being shifted into low-wage service sector jobs, for those lucky enough to be employed. Low wages, unequal regional economic development, extreme income inequality, disproportionately high unemployment rates for African Americans and other racialized national groups with astronomical unemployment rates among the youth sector of these groups, are all a structurally determined consequence of neoliberal social policies, and liberals understand this.

 

Obama knows and understands, like his more conservative counterparts, that capitalist production processes and the market will produce “winners and losers” and that for the most part the financial and corporate elite will always be on the winning side. But as a neoliberal market fundamentalist, he accepts those outcomes as an inevitable outcome of the market that, in the end, benefits enough people to be morally justifiable. That is why at the meeting at the white house on Friday he could praise CEOs for creating 8 million jobs over the last five years while knowing that most of those jobs were low-wage, service sector jobs.

 

Here, however, is where the historical task of radical intellectuals and activists come in. It should not be surprising that the administration would engage in the kind of vacuous antics we witnessed at the White House’s business summit last week. The ruling elite seems to understand even more clearly than radicals that the contradictions of neoliberal capitalism are creating potentially explosive social conditions and are intentionally attempting to divert attention away from capitalism’s contradictions.

 

Obama’s feel good rhetoric and his Administration’s minimalist program of “promise zones,” corporate funded jobs programs that don’t actually employ anyone and rhetorical concern for income inequality, are preemptive moves geared to mitigate any demands that might emerge for fundamental reforms or radical change.

 

Today the principle strategic challenge for U.S. radicalism is grounded in the question of whether or not the left can overcome its’ ideological and organizational fragmentation in order to develop a counter-narrative and a minimum program of opposition to neoliberalism.

 

It is clear that without uncompromisingly radical organizations and a language of opposition that pierces the ideological fog that obscures the class bias of the state and state policies, working people and the poor will continue to be marginalized, ignored and eventually disappeared as they fall through the gaping holes in the social safety net. This is already happening to African Americans in places like Detroit, the South Side of Chicago and other parts of the country as a result of their new status as an economically “redundant” population.

 

Therefore, giving voice and organized institutional expression to what the system would prefer to be experienced as private, individualized suffering, has to be seen as one of the main tasks of an oppositional movement in the U.S. Until a new movement is developed that gives national expression to the plight of workers and the poor, the millions of people who are struggling to survive without jobs or income support from the government will continue to be silenced. And the Obama Administration and the administrations that follow will content themselves with governing with crude propaganda and symbolism for as long as they can get away with it.

 

Ajamu Baraka is a long-time human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity Movements in the United States. Read other articles by Ajamu, or visit Ajamu's website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins

 

AFRICAN AMERICA IS AT WAR

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICA

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICANS

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

AMERICA'S RACISTS HAVE INFILTRATED AMERICAN POLICE FORCES TO WAGE A RACE WAR AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

THE BLACK RACE IS AT WAR

FIRST WORLD WAR:  THE APPROXIMATELY 6,000 YEAR WORLD WAR ON AFRICA AND THE BLACK RACE

Original Post

       

He speaks of giving voice and organized institutional expression to  the plight of the poor, no argument but what then, workers of the world unite? My take is that time has passed us by. What’s happening is bigger than and not under the control of Obama and his corporate democrats.  As he more or less says, there is a world-wide historical force, quite simply, of the super-rich through their multinational corporations that now rule and control many governments to a substantial degree. How does the US end up  legally stating that Corporations are people, or its Supreme Court allow lobbying and unknown foreign money to determine the outcome of elections through unattributed paid advertising?  This is at odds with democracy, one vote per alive, flesh and blood human being. To place blame with Obama misses the big picture. The rulers – international pirates - are in charge, not us. As for jobs, create your own, no fooling, your own business too. There are not going to be jobs out there. That’s over to a large extent. We’ve been economically defeated.No one, whites too, knows what to do. We need to create our own economy, our own jobs and go where the human benefits and money are. That means everyone needs to be a committed entrepreneur or work with someone who is vigorously working to launch a business. Next to no jobs. It's an economic war.

Originally Posted by DennisKalita:

       

He speaks of giving voice and organized institutional expression to  the plight of the poor, no argument but what then, workers of the world unite?

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Then use the power of the VOTE to rid our government of all the politicians and corporate puppets getting their palms greased to sellout our the American workforce, American production, and our country right along with it.   

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My take is that time has passed us by. What’s happening is bigger than and not under the control of Obama and his corporate democrats.  As he more or less says, there is a world-wide historical force, quite simply, of the super-rich through their multinational corporations that now rule and control many governments to a substantial degree. How does the US end up  legally stating that Corporations are people, or its Supreme Court allow lobbying and unknown foreign money to determine the outcome of elections through unattributed paid advertising?  This is at odds with democracy, one vote per alive, flesh and blood human being.

 

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My take on it is that there is more than one phenomenon taking place all at the same time, and the masses are not organized and do not posses the vital determination to change the game mid-stream, or are only organized in small groups whose agendas are too splintered and stratified. First, you really have a global assault on the masses happening, then you have within that framework, that global assault compartmentalized by country, then by region, then by state, etc., etc.  Second, many of the people within the masses that are actually banning together to in an effort to combat this War On The 98%, unfortunately are banning together only within the very groups that the 1% needs them to be compartmentalized and stratified into in order to carry it out, and that is by Race, Class, Religion, even minute differences in ideology, Region, and by Nation, when the masses should be standing together in solidarity regardless to such difference; which is the ONLY way to put a stop to this assault on the masses in the first place.  

 

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To place blame with Obama misses the big picture.

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Of course ALL the Blame cannot be put on President Obama, especially considering that this phenomenon began long before he was ever president, or even a U.S. Senator. But, President Obama wasted too much time trying to "compromise", left all of the Bush-Cheney policies in tack, and/or signed off on the same very damaging policies.

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The rulers – international pirates - are in charge, not us. As for jobs, create your own, no fooling, your own business too. There are not going to be jobs out there. That’s over to a large extent. We’ve been economically defeated.No one, whites too, knows what to do.

 

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That is exactly what is happening, however, there is something we can do, as I stated above, it would take ALL or the majority of the masses to stand in solidarity against it regardless of Race, Religion, Class, Region, Country, but, unfortunately, therein lies the problem, too many within the masses continue to be conned by the very Oligarchs and corporate puppet politicians that are putting the masses in the position they are in, by continuing to allow them to use Race, Religion, Class, Region, Country to keep the masses divided against itself to it's own eventual detriment.  

**********************************************************  

 

We need to create our own economy, our own jobs and go where the human benefits and money are. That means everyone needs to be a committed entrepreneur or work with someone who is vigorously working to launch a business. Next to no jobs. It's an economic war.

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Since, the masses as a whole, and the White majority in general, globally, and as it relates to America, continue to allow them to use Race, Religion, Class, Region, and Country to keep the masses divided against itself to it's own eventual detriment, the only way that African America/Black people, the Black Diaspora, the entire Black Race [in Africa and globally], is going to either fair or survive the inevitable oncoming FULL ASSAULT, on the masses, and since we have no ALLIES to speak of, is to do exactly what you've said in that last paragraph; But, . . . I'm sure we both know how that's going to turn out.  

 

Last edited by sunnubian
The article is compelling. I'm still digesting it. Truthfully we had to have known that someone who praised Reagan for curbing the excesses of the 60's was not gonna govern in a true left liberal populist way...didn't wE?

I'm excited about the 2 free years of college proposal though and I hope that extends to trade school and technical schools. We need more black plumbers,electricians, graphic designers, house builders, welders, hygienists, Lpn and folks with skills who can work for themselves and hire each other.

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