No Compromise by C.C. Ballou
I held my breath throughout the Bush years. If President Bush was not with simple mindedness screwing up a line in a speech, he was lying to the American people, manipulating facts, and making deals foreign and domestic only intended for his wealthy oil and Military Industrial Complex friends. (1, 2) Of course millions of people felt like I did, and happy was the day Bush stepped out of office and Barack Obama stepped in. Just as fans identify with a beloved sports figure, the American people identified with President Obama. His win was our win. And I personally took a big gulp of air and sighed with relief.
For the President’s party the past two years have been up and down. But after two years there is definitely a pattern of behavior we can count on from Mr. Obama. I call it “The Obama Doctrine”. It is “preemptive compromise”. (3) (Not to be confused with Obama’s foreign policy doctrine .) In fact, the Pulitzer Prize winning Blog Politifact.com counts 40 instances of compromise. (5)
I believe in compromise. In the hands of a skilled negotiator, all parties to a compromise can leave the table feeling they have made the best deal. But it is remarkable that it appears Obama begins each negotiation showing his hand and giving away the good stuff before being asked to. On April 13, 2011, President Obama gave a speech proposing how he would approach the massive budget deficit. Looking for signs of “preemptive compromise”, I have highlighted a few points:
“…I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. This a democracy; that’s not how things work. I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum. And though I’m sure the criticism of what I’ve said here today will be fierce in some quarters, and my critique of the House Republican approach has been strong, Americans deserve and will demand that we all make an effort to bridge our differences and find common ground.
… So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget.
…The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Now, here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer. Their plan essentially lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.
… We will change the way we pay for health care – not by the procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services that seniors need.
… As I said in the State of the Union, both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations”. (6) (Emphasis added.)
To sum up the points highlighted, President Obama does not expect the plan as he laid it out to be the end result, so don’t count on anything he has said. Nothing is sacred; everything is on the table, including Medicare and Social Security. The good news is benefits to Medicare won’t change, but if you’re a medical provider you’re compensation will be slashed. Which means your standard of living will decrease from upper middle class to, well, poor. However, if you are a medical provider the good news is you may be eligible for a bonus if you can prove you can crank out procedures, increase in-patient turnover, and manage to do all this without maiming or killing anyone. They’re forming a commission to make sure you can do this with the least amount of ethical and moral compliance possible. And “while Social Security is not the cause of our deficit” (7), they’re going to tinker with it anyway. I also wonder if President Obama’s invitation for comment, “I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum” is in fact sincere. He was responding to the Republican budget. Who else could he “hear” from? If he was in fact sincerely inviting other options, I would like to suggest The People’s Budget (8), which was presented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. You see, even though I was moved by Mr. Obama’s righteous indignation provoked by the Republican budget plan, I was not reassured. Instead of the last resort, compromise appeared to be the first! But buried in the middle of the speech, and to his credit, President Obama also made the following promise:
“…we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.” (9) Finally! Something I could hang my hat on. You see, there is an America I believe in. Or should I say there is an American character I deeply, fixedly and without reservation believe in. That character is the one who stands up without regard for hardship or for disapproval and states clearly “there is an ideal to be strived for, there is a higher purpose, there is plenty for all, no one is to be left behind”. When the President embodies that character he becomes the representation of our highest self and that is the President that can be unreservedly followed. That is the President with the strength to carry us through Augean trials to more favorable destinies. And make no mistake, from a historical perspective America thankfully has been blessed with several such American Characters. George Washington knew there was no place for compromise in the necessity of the unity of the States. When George Washington wrote his farewell address, he was President of 16 States. As Commander-in-chief to the Continental Army he had witnessed what that unity had cost, and he gave dire warning against those who would destroy it:
“The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main Pillar in the Edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home; your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual and immoveable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our Country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.” (10)
President Obama’s duty is to be a “jealous preservationist” worthy of Washington’s commendation. He has formidable foes, but these are not unknown to us. The billionaire Koch Brothers (11, 12), have secretly herded an uneducated population of fearful and angry Americans into a political force known as the Tea Party. The Tea Party has managed to change the meaning of “entitlement” to “welfare” in the American mind (13), and it is Tea Party leaders who speak of secession. (14)
The Tea Party Americans are perpetually agitated like a nest of angry hornets. It is against the puppet master Koch Brothers and Tea Party drones President Obama stands up to when criticizing the Paul Ryan budget proposal (15), and rightly stating “This plan…would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known certainly in my lifetime”. (16) America envisioned by the Koch Brothers is not the America the Tea Party wants (they just don’t know it yet ), and might well be a return to an America pre-Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Washington demonstrated great prescience regarding destructive influences such as those exerted by the Koch Brothers, but exhorted Americans to look to the Constitution, the very document used disingenuously by the Tea Party, for strength and encouragement: “By the adoption of a Constitution of Government, better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns
…This government, the offspring of our own choice uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its Laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the People to establish Government presupposes the duty of every Individual to obey the established Government.” (18) (Emphasis added.) Washington warned that a “small but artful and criticizing minority”, “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled” (19), could effectively destroy the happiness of the citizens of the newly founded United States. I can think of no other “small” but “enterprising” group, “ambitious” and “unprincipled” as the Tea Party backed by the Koch Brothers.
Their affront to the Constitution, the Presidency, the Congress, Equal Rights, Worker’s Rights, Human Rights, Women’s Rights, Child Labor Protections, and more, when viewed under the shadow of American Unity, the “main Pillar in the Edifice of your real independence” (20), is nothing short of treason. Abraham Lincoln knew there was no place for compromise in maintaining the unity of the United States and this meant the abolishment of slavery.
President Lincoln would be so amazed if he were alive today to find a black man now occupying the highest office in the land. President Lincoln would rejoice. Although there may remain today ambivalence in the minds of some with regard to Lincoln’s true beliefs on the subject of slavery, it is not in my mind. What Lincoln said in his first debate with Sen. Stephen Douglass August 25, 1858 was: “The spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world — enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites — causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty — c riticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, — to their own native land.
But a moment’s reflection would convince me, that whatever of high hope, (as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible.” (21) (Emphasis added.) The remnants of the Civil War Southern mentality must be washed off like the muck it is with the cleansing spirit of an enlightened change in consciousness. It must be reinforced again and again American freedom is not just State’s Rights, or freedom from taxes, or freedom from government.
Freedom is a mental construct that springs from liberal generosity toward all humankind. The taint of the mentality that there exists any people who are inferior based solely on the color of their skin must be fully and finally educated that this is just not so. It is a regressive mind that has yet to accept the South lost. (22, 23, 24) President Obama must stand up to this crowd and argue, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (25). Their economic interests are the very same as all other Americans. If for no other reason than economic recovery and security, there must be an end to their bigoted and racist ambushes of the President’s agenda.
Mr. Obama must impress upon them that without the end of their divisiveness and contentiousness regarding the issue of his race, an issue unrelated to their economic needs, America cannot move forward out of insecurity into prosperity. Franklin D. Roosevelt, stepping up to take the Presidential Oath of Office in 1933, knew American prosperity could not survive compromise with the “unscrupulous money changers”. (26) America was in the depths of the Great Depression, and in 1933 more than 40% of American banks had failed after the stock market crash of 1929. (27) FDR was a champion. With sleeves rolled up he was ready to fight off the institutionalized opportunists not by pulling his punches, but by speaking “the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly”. (28) He made it clear he would not “shrink from” nor shirk his responsibility to his fellow Americans.
FDR called for “an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing” and, “an end to speculation with other people’s money.” (29) The Reader’s Digest Condensed version reads that under FDR’s leadership the Glass Steagall Act of 1933 was enacted providing solid protections for the American people against the Banksters. In 1999 the Republican Party finally accomplished the repeal of the Glass Steagall act. In 2007 the crash of the American economy begins. (30) And so, on April 22, 2010 President Obama addressed Wall Street and Wall Street reform.
One of the protections Obama asked for specifically in his speech was the Volcker Rule putting limitations on the size of banks and the risks banks could take. (31) The Volcker Rule did not make it into the final bill. Instead, what was eventually signed into law was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. (32) The full impact of the bill won’t be known for several years. Meanwhile, there remains deep skepticism. (33, 34) President Obama should take a lesson from President Roosevelt. When FDR spoke it was in no uncertain terms there was only one acceptable outcome in his America: “We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.
They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.” (35) (Emphasis added.)
President Harry S. Truman knew there must be no compromise on the issue of medical care and health benefits for the American people as it was a direct threat to national security. President Truman presented to Congress the following facts on November 19, 1945: “The people of the United States received a shock when the medical examinations conducted by the Selective Service System revealed the widespread physical and mental incapacity among the young people of our nation. We had had prior warnings from eminent medical authorities and from investigating committees. The statistics of the last war had shown the same condition.
But the Selective Service System has brought it forcibly to our attention recently—in terms which all of us can understand. As of April 1, 1945, nearly 5,000,000 male registrants between the ages of 18 and 37 had been examined and classified as unfit for military service. The number of those rejected for military service was about 30 percent of all those examined. The percentage of rejection was lower in the younger age groups, and higher in the higher age groups, reaching as high as 49 percent for registrants between the ages of 34 and 37. In addition, after actual induction, about a million and a half men had to be discharged from the Army and Navy for physical or mental disability, exclusive of wounds; and an equal number had to be treated in the Armed Forces for diseases or defects which existed before induction.” (36)
As remedy, Truman proposed an “Economic Bill of Rights” which unfortunately for America, was defeated by the efforts of the AMA who characterized Truman’s proposal as “creeping socialism”. (37) Here is the lesson: there is no magic pill for health. Good medical care with primary and secondary intervention programs are the only way to maintain our present healthy populace. Any effort to decrease medical care for women and children will result in the problems experienced in 1945. The average lifespan will once again be short. Vibrant, healthy young adulthood will be fleeting. And we will have relative numbers of men and women unfit for military service. Lyndon B. Johnson was honored to realize the power of “no compromise” and be the President to sign the Independence of the Medicare Bill on July 30, 1965, with President Truman in attendance.
President Johnson gratefully acknowledged President Truman’s tireless efforts with the following remarks: “And fewer still have the courage to stake reputation, and position, and the effort of a lifetime upon such a cause when there are so few that share it. But it is just such men who illuminate the life and the history of a nation. And so, President Harry Truman, it is in tribute not to you, but to the America that you represent, that we have come here to pay our love and our respects to you today. For a country can be known by the quality of the men it honors. By praising you, and by carrying forward your dreams, we really reaffirm the greatness of America.” (38)
We won’t know until the end of June 2011 what President Obama’s Budget Reduction Plan is going to actually look like. But what we do know is Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as we know them today are on the table for revision or for expiration. These are the programs that from their inception have lifted our elderly and disabled out of poverty. These are the bedrock social programs that have helped Americans define themselves as culturally moral and ethical. Putting any one of these programs on the table is not acceptable. We can and must recognize that sickness, disability and death are unavoidable human conditions and instead of treating the economic needs that arise from these conditions as things apart from our collective economy, they must be assumed and automatically be built in to our collective economic remedies, no matter how high the cost.
And we must do this without making health care a profit jackpot. We must put defense spending on the table and revisit our war expenditures. Wars are not time limited, and the costs can never be accurately estimated. As Americans we have generous and patriotic hearts that can be easily manipulated into committing American blood before we demand the truth of the facts from our leaders. Nevertheless, we should only march our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, off to “righteous” conflicts.
Warring for the sake of war with no other purpose but profit has been lost before it begins. We can and must raise taxes on the wealthy and on the corporations. We must not give in or capitulate to the whining and crying, the begging and temper tantrums one can expect. Like two-year-old children who have two toys refusing to share one toy with another child, the extremely wealthy are predictable and at this point, well versed in what to say to scare Americans into thinking only they hold the keys to American prosperity. No! to their propaganda and lies! No! to their threats and arm-twisting stratagems! Prosperity is available to all if we have in place mechanisms to give equal opportunity to all. We can and must recognize the thieves who would from our cradle to our grave rob us daily by preventing our realization of the American Dream.
The American people are not stepchildren to Wall Street and Big Business. We sit at the same table and are entitled to a piece of the same pie. From the founding of America extraordinarily difficult conditions have been overcome. From the Revolution, to the Civil War, to The New Deal, personal freedoms, civil rights, defending the rights of others, and caring for the poor and disenfranchised have been part of our American evolution. Progress should be ever forward. Gains should not, must not, be returned. Compromise that in effect returns our people to the conditions suffered before relief was achieved, is not satisfactory.
Compromise that is devolutionary must not be tolerated. No compromise. There must be no compromise. C.C. Ballou comments occasionally on thehuffingtonpost.com as Cheryl12345, and tweets quit frequently as @OneLiberalGirl on twitter.
(1) The United States of Oil: No administration has ever been more in bed with the energy industry – but does that mean Big Oil is calling Bush’s shots? Caveli, Damien. Salon.com, 11/19/01 http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CAV111A.html
(2) Bush Family Values: War, Wealth, Oil: Four generations have created an unsavory web of links that could prove an election-year Achilles’ heel for the president. Phillips, Kevin, 4/2/08. http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0208-05.htm
(3) The Debt-Ceiling Doomsday Device. Waldman, Paul. http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_debt_ceiling_doomsday_device#
(4) Obama Doctrine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obama_Doctrine
(5) Compromise rulings on the The Obameter. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/rulings/compromise/?page=1
(6) Obama’s Speech on Reducing the Budget (Text). NewYorkTimes, 4/13/11. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/us/politics/14obama-text.html
(8) The People’s Budget. http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=70
(9) Obama’s Speech on Reducing the Budget (Text). NewYorkTimes, 4/13/11. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/us/politics/14obama-text.html
(10) The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Volume: 35. (1931) Editor: Fitzpatrick, John C. U.S. Government Printing Office:Washington. P. 218, 219.
(11) The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party. Rich, Frank. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29rich.html
(12) Covert Operations. Mayer, Jane. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?printable=true
(13) Entitlement Mentality. Brooks, Connie. http://www.centralvalleyteaparty.com/profiles/blogs/entitlement-mentality
(14) Secession Is In The Air. Buchanan, Patrick J. (2011) http://buchanan.org/blog/secession-in-the-air-3584
(15) Cagey Obama Sets an Election Trap for Paul Ryan and the Koch Bros. Stan, Adele M. http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/150753/cagey_obama_sets_an_election_trap_for_paul_ryan_and_the_koch_bros./
(16) Obama’s Speech on Reducing the Budget (Text). NewYorkTimes, 4/13/11. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/us/politics/14obama-text.html
(17) Keep Your Goddamn Government Hands Off My Medicare! (2009) Cesca, Bob. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/get-your-goddamn-governme_b_252326.html
(18) The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Volume: 35. (1931) Editor: Fitzpatrick, John C. U.S. Government Printing Office:Washington. P. 224
19) Ibid, p. 225
(20) Ibid, p. 218
(21) Ottawa, August 21, 1958. http://www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=22&subjectID=2
(22) 150 years after the Civil War, race still haunts us. Aguilar, Orson. http://www.progressive.org/mpaguilar041111.html
(23) Birthers and the persistence of racial paranoia. Tomasky, Michael. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2011/apr/27/barack-obama-obama-administration
(24) Racism and the Tea Party Movement. Robinson, Eugene. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/11/02/race_and_the_tea_partys_ire_107805.html
(25) Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2934t.html
(26) FDR first inaugural speech. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrfirstinaugural.html
(27) Great Depression: What happened and how it compares with today. http://www.thegreatdepressioncauses.com/effects.html
(28) FDR first inaugural speech. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrfirstinaugural.html
(30) It’s Official: The Crash of the U.S. Economy has begun. Cook, Richard C. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=5964
(31) Text: Obama’s Speech on Wall Street Reform. (2010) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/politics/jan-june10/obamatext_04-22.html
(32) Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection – The SEC. www.sec.gov/about/laws/wallstreetreform-cpa.pdf
(33) Dodd-Frank Does Not Solve Too Big To Fail. Alden, William. (2010) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/26/robert-shiller-dodd-frank-too-big-to-fail_n_774302.html
(34) Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodd%E2%80%93Frank_Wall_Street_Reform_and_Consumer_Protection_Act
(35) Our Documents: Franklin Roosevelt’s Address Announcing the Second New Deal October 31, 1936. http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od2ndst.html
(36) Public Papers of the Presidents Harry S. Truman 1945-1953 192. Special Message to the Congress Recommending a Comprehensive Health Program. http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=483
(37) Health Care as a Human Right By Rudi Batzell Published February 10, 2009. http://www.columbiaspectator.com/2009/02/10/health-care-human-right
(38) President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Remarks With President Truman at the Signing in Independence of the Medicare Bill July 30, 1965. http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/speeches.hom/650730.asp © 2011.