After a decades-long drumbeat led by the Peterson Foundation, corporate media, Wall Street and their minions of both parties, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are under attack. The current raid is being led by nobody less than Barack Obama himself. Only Nixon could go to China, only Clinton could end welfare, and only a black Democrat can undermine Social Security. But where is black leadership? Why are they silent? We think we know...
Top Ten Reasons Why Black Leaders Are Ignoring President Obama's Good Cop-Bad Cop Attack on Social Security
by BAR Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon
In the full week following the November 10 release of draft proposals by President Obama's Commission on fiscal Responsibility, also known as the Cat Food Commission, the silence of black leadership has been deafening. Among other things, the president's commission would cut Social Security benefits and exacerbate unemployment by raising the retirement age, would lower taxes still further for corporations and wealthy individuals, while instituting co-payments for all veterans medical services, all in the name of austerity and stabilizing the national deficit.
The president's political strategy, as Glen Ford pointed out last month, is clear. Obama's commission and its draconian cuts will be the bad cop. President Obama will then play the part of “good cop” offering some “compromise,” a point between actual hell, and just a very, very hot and uncomfortable place. When Bill Clinton did this, it was called “triangulation.”
But the burning question is this: Why is there no visible opposition among black leadership to these awful economic measures, measures which penalize every working and poor person in the United States? Since an outsize number of these are African Americans, that ought to make it a black issue. Nevertheless, black advocacy organizations, the black churches, who, to hear them tell it, were the sole authors and inventors of the Freedom Movement, along with virtually all the black politicians, journalists, academics and opinion leaders, are silent. Why?
We think we know. Hence and herewith, we offer the top ten reasons black leaders are silent on Obama's campaign to cut Medicaid, Medicare and social security.
Quite a few black “leaders” have no idea the Cat Food Commission even exists.
This kind of radical cluelessness says a lot about the content and style of their “leadership.” Let's just say their eyes are elsewhere. Watching God, maybe, in some cases. Lots of prominent black preachers, for instance, are busy campaigning against gays and vying for faith-based funding for their ministries. Both these pursuits consume copious amounts of time and energy, and the latter can be quite lucrative
Some black leaders with a vague idea that the Cat Food Commission exists haven't read its recommendations or just aren't paying attention.
Like the ones who have no idea at all, these are busy and important people. You can't expect such folks to spare the time to read a 50 page report, or even talk to anybody that has. There are just so many more important things to do.
Some others are silent because they DO KNOW the Cat Food Commission exists.
Black leadership these days, such as it is, is dependent on corporate and foundation largesse. SCLC's Atlanta headquarters was paid for by a major utility company. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is run by corporate execs and puts on its annual CBC Week with funds from Wells fargo, Lockheed, Bank of America and Wal-Mart. Telecom, insurance and other corporate execs on the “business roundtables” of everyplace from the NAACP to the National Association of Black State Legislators fund the activities, provide the “research” and literally set the organizational priorities. Even the black church, once financed solely by contributions from the faithful, has become shamefully dependent on faith-based taxpayer dollars. The corporate sector which bankrolls them all has unalterably opposed Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare since their inception. None of these “leaders” will bite the hands that feed them.
Some of what are called “black leadership” actually believe the corporate okie-doke about Social Security already being insolvent, a Ponzi scheme, or immoral.
For a significant share of “black leadership” being a leader means getting your opinions from the Washington Post or CNN or the New York Times. These established “leaders” value being accepted by the folks they regard as their peers, their donors, their party leaders, their professional colleagues, golfing buddies and the people that fly them to conferences and endow their departments. Not foolish enough to bite the hands that feed them, many black leaders regard it as their job to take the cues of the business world and corporate media, rather than to respond to the multiple crises of debt, incarceration, housing and joblessness experienced by the great mass of ordinary black families. Corporate media and their peers say the deficit and “entitlements” are the problem, and plenty of “black leaders” actually buy this crap.
Many black leaders imagine the cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are a done deal.
Who can blame them? The same disaster capitalists who created the mess, who orchestrate the drumbeat against Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security do offer a solution. Since their class owns the media, they make certain their twisted picture and disastrous remedies are the only items on the table, they really DO look inevitable. It's no coincidence, for example that transnational disaster capitalists coined the term “globalism” for submission to their system of latter day debt slavery. The very name makes it sound like those fighting for the interest of ordinary human beings are nothing but morons railing against the fact that the world is round.
Quite a few of this black misleadership class think that they don't need Social Security.
Maybe they don't. Maybe a lot of them imagine themselves that well off. Some certainly are, but no working populace in any country on earth since the dawn of the industrial age has been able to save or invest enough to pay for its own retirement without some kind of guaranteed retirement income program. Without these programs, the elderly are a drain on younger family members, and many go hungry and live their last years in poverty and want. It's never happened any other way.
A few delusional black leaders sincerely believe President Obama is playing on the side of the people. Many more stake their standing as “leaders” on selling this delusion to their people for as long as possible.
Admittedly, it's a stretch at this point for actual leaders of any sort to believe this. The only way to explain it is that some shepherds are sheep themselves, and really, really want to believe it. For them, reality is too terrible a place to dwell for long. In any case, what BAR's Glen Ford has called the “Obama Delusional Effect” among African Americans is widespread and debilitating to the prospects for any kind of democratic struggle. Although black incarceration and unemployment are at record levels, although health disparities and the gaps between black and white wealth have never been greater, blacks are more, not less optimistic about the nation's economic and social prospects. Go figger.
Some black leaders are keeping their mouths shut because they imagine Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are not black issues
Don't laugh. “Black issues,” if we go by the list of workshop topics at the CBC's Annual Legislative Conference, the gathering of our alleged best and brightest, don't include opposition to imperial wars or gentrification, either. They are mostly about government subcontracting, securing personal wealth, getting mortgages, voting rights, HBCU funding, black history, finding love and hanging out with celebrities. Leutisha Stills of CBC Monitor was viciously scolded a few years ago by Rep. Mel Watt for claiming that digital redlining and minority access to broadband were “black issues.” In fact, the relatively low incomes of black workers, and their relative lack of access to private pensions, make them more dependent on Social Security than other elderly.
Almost none of the current crop of “black leaders” have any actual experience of a people's movement.
Some understand all too well that a vicious raid on the living standards of all Americans is in progress, a raid led by the president and leaders of his party. But they've never seen the American people, or any segment thereof successfully stand up, fight the power, and win. They wonder if it can be done, and have little idea what such a fight might even look like. Sad, but true.
Some black leaders and their organizations aren't clueless. They're disciplined. They're waiting for the Obama White House to tell them what their position ought to be, so they can fall in line.
The heads of the biggest shops, like the NAACP and the Urban League, and some others we won't mention, are not about to serve their constituents on this one. They see their duty not as standing up for millions of ordinary black families, but worshipfully covering the president's behind. When the White House tells them their position on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, then they'll have one. Till then, they remain silent.
Is there still a place for black leadership? If so, what would it look like?
As long as black people are separate and unequal, and that looks like some distance into the future, there will be a need for black leadership, a need which is currently unfulfilled.
If we had real black political leaders they would be ignoring the president's call to calmly assess his cat food commission's recommendations. Real black leaders would stand up for the interest of real black families, real American families, millions of whom are hurting. Real black leadership would be orchestrating meetings, daily conference calls, heading raucous and disrespectful demonstrations of elderly and not-so-elderly. Real black leadership would be marshalling youth and elders against mass incarceration and against gutting Social Security. Real black leadership would be throwing shoes.
If some of these leaders were preachers they would be thundering the word from their pulpits and calling prayer meetings at rush hour in the middle of busy intersections. If some of these leaders were creative artists, the heirs of Fela, they would have us all dancing to poems and songs that heaped hilarious scorn and disapproval on suggestions to raise the retirement age instead of creating new jobs. If they were academics and researchers they would be countering every TV and radio and print voice in our community that tells us this is all we can expect, this is as good as it gets.
If there was ever a time for black leadership to begin to emerge, this is it.
Bruce Dixon is managing editor of Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA. Dixon is on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.