by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Why does the Congressional Black Caucus, forty of the most senior members of the House of Representatives, pretend that touring the country with a phony, embarrassing “job fair” is a substitute for the massive jobs and poverty-reduction programs they should have fought for during the four years they held an overwhelming majority in the Congress, two of them with a black Democrat in the White House? What kind of Colt 45 bottle has the CBC and the black political class crawled into? And is there a way out?
CBC: Impotent, Irrelevant, and Tied to the President in 2012, Even If Obama is the Black Herbert Hoover
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
“Is Barack Obama the new Herbert Hoover? Like Hoover, Obama believes that government cannot create jobs...”
The Congressional Black Caucus is in a terrible bind. What do you do at the beginning of a new Great Depression, when congressional Republicans are the evil crackers they've always been and your First Black President, a Democrat, is Herbert Hoover?
For those who skipped that 1930s US history class, the original Herbert Hoover was a Republican, and president at the beginning of the Great Depression, while depressions are what we nowadays call “recessions” with “jobless recoveries.” That Hoover's solution to record joblessness and widespread hunger was to cut federal spending to the bone, to deny the need for social security or unemployment compensation, and to hold wages down by keeping unions practically illegal.
Is Barack Obama the new Herbert Hoover? Like Hoover, Obama believes that government cannot create jobs. Social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and unemployment compensation didn't exist in the original Hoover administration and HH was determined to keep it that way.
Barack Obama rolled into office embracing the elite bipartisan consensus that “entitlements” had to be “fixed,” code words for rolling back the last vestiges of the New Deal. By his first April in the White House Obama had rammed a bill through Congress creating a bipartisan commission on “fiscal reform” stacked with Republicans and Democrats long committed to undoing the New Deal, and equipped with fast track authority to do the deed just after the 2010 midterm election. Sure enough, to the deafening applause of corporate media, Barack's commission endorsed the raising of Medicare eligibility to 67, along with drastic cuts in Medicaid and social security, education, public works, and aid to local government of all kinds --- an absolute prescription for massively increasing unemployment, poverty and hunger. But when the commission could not achieve the near unanimous vote its own rules required, that “fix” failed.
“Barack Obama opened “negotiations” with Republicans by throwing Medicaid, Medicare, social security on the table...”
Debt ceilings, limits on how much the federal government could borrow had been routinely raised more than seventy times since the Nixon administration. In 2011, congressional Republicans decided to pretend that the government would go broke if they didn't pass another one by August 3, and president Barack Hoover Obama decided to pretend along with them. Corporate media, owned by billionaires obligingly flogged the phony “debt ceiling crisis.” Banksters, whom the government had given more than $16 trillion under the Obama administration alone, which then borrowed much of it back, pretended to fear they would not be repaid, and their sock puppet credit rating agencies threatened to lower the government's credit rating.
This was the contrived emergency the new Herbert Hoover needed. Barack Obama opened “negotiations” with Republicans by throwing Medicaid, Medicare, social security on the table along with hundreds of billions in immediate spending cuts. Since not even this Congress dared directly vote to kill these programs, Obama allowed them to circumvent congressional authority by creating an un-elected “super committee” of 12 to simply de-fund them. Unlike his earlier fiscal reform commission, unanimity would not be required, only a majority vote, and the “super-committee's proposals would be fast-tracked, i.e., voted up or down with minimal discussion and no amendment and sent to the president to sign. And just in case the “super committee” was deadlocked, automatic funding cuts would ensue.
All Barack Obama had to do was pooh-pooh the threat to downgrade the government's credit rating and tell everybody to get back to work, invoking the 14th Amendment that says the pensions and other debts incurred by the federal government are not to be questioned. That part of the 14th amendment was passed to ensure that congresses full of ex-Confederates couldn't kill the pensions of union soldiers. But he didn't, apparently not because he lacked purpose or the nerve to fight, but because this was precisely the “fix” he'd fought for.
Obama, however, isn't your great-grandma's Herbert Hoover. He's slicker, new and improved. Hoover was, after all, a white Republican, and faced noisy, persistent and often unlawful opposition in the streets, like the hunger marches of 1930, 31 and 32, along with organized groups that reversed evictions. Thousands were beaten and jailed, some killed, tens of thousands risked arrest, and hundreds of thousands more peacefully protested Hoover's policies in that first Great Depression. But Barack Obama's party affiliation and black face earn him an automatic pass from the corporate sponsored black political class, who would vigorously protest the same policies pursued by a white Republican. Blacks who demand action from the First Black President on record black joblessness and child poverty can be branded ungrateful Uncle Toms. The antiwar movement, which put millions in the street to protest Bush's wars has virtually silenced itself to free the hands of the new Herbert Hoover.
Faced with a black Herbert Hoover, what can the Congressional Black Caucus do? Their whole careers are tied into the hopelessly corrupt Democratic party, the machinery that uses rich people's money and poor peoples' votes to elect corporate-friendly candidates. Like the rest of the black political class, they supported Obama absolutely while silencing any who would make substantive demands on him, thus rendering themselves and their constituencies irrelevant. The CBC enabled Barack Obama to ignore mushrooming black poverty and soaring black unemployment.
“Los Angeles congresswoman Maxine Waters tried to tell an angry crowd in Detroit that the CBC's own constituents were to blame for its failure...”
Embarrassed by their president, the CBC took to the road in August, holding a series of shameful “job fairs” in Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami and soon, Los Angeles. The job fairs are shameful because the CBC are more than 40 strong, have more seniority than most Democrats. They ran the Congress from the beginning of 2007 to the end of 2010 while foreclosures and unemployment reached their present record levels. When Democrats won the Congress during the Great Depression they and their Democratic president enacted the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, which directly employed hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans, building dams and roads and schools and parks. They built projects like the Red Line subway under Chicago's State Street which is still producing wealth today. The WPA even hired unemployed writers to create plays, and jobless journalists to interview the last elderly living survivors of slavery, preserving their histories for all time in their own words. But by refusing to demand anything from Candidate Obama or criticize President Obama, or even teach the history of what has been done, the caucus made itself impotent and irrelevant.
The CBC is reduced to whining, futile efforts to distance itself from the White House, and blame anyone but themselves....
“I’m frustrated with the president, but I’m frustrated with me,” Cleaver said in an interview Monday. “I’m frustrated with the tea party. Maybe I should have used my communications skills better to try to convince some of them to work with us. I’m frustrated with the Democratic leadership. The Republican leadership. The president. I think all of us bear some responsibility, some more than others, however.”
Thus we see the shameful spectacle of senior members of Congress, whose Depression-era predecessors under their Democratic president created millions of jobs with the strokes of their pens, holding degrading “job fairs” in black communities. In Atlanta to name just one instance, thousands of jobless camped out overnight, many in high heels and business suits. They backed up traffic for miles and stood for hours in line in the 90 degree heat. At the end of those lines they found workshops on preparing resumes, and that government agencies didn't pass paper applications any more. They were told to go home and fill out online forms.
We don’t put pressure on the president. Let me tell you why. We don’t put pressure on the president because y’all love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud . . . to have a black man [in the White House] . . . First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us. . . . When you tell us it’s all right and you unleash us, and you tell us you're ready for us to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation. . . . All I’m saying to you is, we’re politicians. We’re elected officials. We are trying to do the right thing and the best thing. When you let us know it is time to let go, we’ll let go.
Maxine knows this is BS. What keeps her and the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus from doing their jobs isn't somebody else's blind love for the president. It's the very nature of the Colt 45 bottle the CBC and the rest of the black political class have crawled into. The black masses never told their so-called leaders to shut down, to shut up or to shut them up. The leaders thought that one up themselves. If the CBC had held Bush and Obama accountable the last several years, they'd be bringing back actual jobs to their communities, not long lines for resume-writing workshops and empty promises.
No mater what the First Black President does between now and November 2012, the CBC will support his re-election, even if he does absolutely nothing on jobs, foreclosures and growing black poverty. He knows it. They know it. He knows they know it. Which is a great reason for the black Herbert Hoover to do for the CBC and its constituents pretty much what he has up till now. Nothing.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA where he is a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.