Freedom Rider: Black Reagan

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By BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley  

Wednesday, 19 January 2009 | [print_link]



When Barack Obama started praising Ronald Reagan the candidate’s apologists claimed he was just paying respect to a dead president. Now it’s clear that Obama’s affection for the raging old reactionary was heartfelt. With his latest pronouncements on cutting “entitlements,” Obama “has proven himself to be a true believer in the Reagan revolution.” The almost-president “is repeating the Reagan mantra about ‘reforming’ Social Security and Medicare or cutting their rate of growth” – music to Republican ears. If Obama starts slashing at Social Security, those “progressives” that have excused his rightward lunges will bear responsibility.

“Obama is repeating the Reagan mantra about ‘reforming’ Social Security and Medicare.”

Barack Obama just loves Ronald Reagan, the late president but still idolized leader of the American right wing. During his campaign for the presidency Obama famously said that unlike Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton didn’t transform the country in a fundamental way. At the time he was in the thick of his primary battle against Hillary Clinton and the remark was perceived mainly as a dig against his opponent and her husband. When he later said that he would have a foreign policy like Ronald Reagan, it was seen as an attempt to get the votes of rural “Reagan Democrats” in the Pennsylvania primary. It is now clear that Obama’s paeans to Reagan were not mere vote getting efforts or jabs at the Clintons. Barack Obama has proven himself to be a true believer in the Reagan revolution.

Even when Obama announced that his stimulus plan will include a $3,000 tax cut for businesses, his cultists say that we should just give him a chance, a chance to back up the bus and roll over us again. Hopefully Democrats like Senator Tom Harkin will remain vigilant and keep speaking up for the common good. Harkin and a few other democrats were actually paying attention to the Obama economic proposals and weren’t pleased by what they witnessed. “I am a little concerned by the way that Mr. Summers and others are going at this in that, to me, it still looks like a little more of this trickle-down, if we just put it in at the top, it’s going to trickle down.”

“Trickle down” was a Reagan era buzzword that meant theft of public resources. The concept was that if those who already have a lot were to get even more, some of the lucre would trickle down upon the rest of us. It worked fine for the wealthy but thirty years later, working people have not recovered from the effects of the Reagan era.

“To me, it still looks like a little more of this trickle-down.”

Ronald Reagan successfully dismantled government programs that no other president dared to touch. He was called the great communicator because of his ability to convince white Americans to act against their own economic interests. His apocryphal tales of black “welfare queens” led an already racist nation to decide that government was the problem in their lives when it is actually the only means of protection from larceny committed by wealthy individuals and big corporations.

Not only is Obama promising tax cuts for businesses, but he is repeating the Reagan mantra about “reforming” Social Security and Medicare or cutting their rate of growth. Proposals to cut back on entitlements are dangerous and ought to be vehemently opposed. Entitlements are the only safety net that Americans have. Pension plans are available to an ever smaller group of workers, health benefits are lost when jobs are lost, and 401K accounts shrink along with the stock market.

Despite being ignorant about so much that effects their lives, Americans know that entitlements are their last hope for a decent life in old age. The only significant defeat for the Bush administration was the failure to privatize Social Security. It was the moment when Americans spoke up and forced Congress to prevent a Bush initiative from coming to fruition. If Barack Obama successfully tampers with Social Security and Medicare, which Bush was unable to do, then progressives who excuse Obama are worse than useless. They are traitors too. 

“Reagan was called the great communicator because of his ability to convince white Americans to act against their own economic interests.”

When Obama says that time is of the essence and warns against “partisan wrangling” in Congress, alarm bells ought to ring in every ear. Partisan wrangling is nothing but the democratic process in action. Focus group tested bogey words should not be allowed to prevent Congress from playing its constitutionally mandated role of keeping the president in check. 

Once again when Obama ought to hear howls of protest, he only hears words of praise. He makes nonsensical statements about sacrifice for working people, announcing that “everybody’s going to have some skin in the game” when his wealthy benefactors are never asked to give up anything, ever.

Obama is indeed a cynical politician who was willing to say or do anything that would get his hand on the bible on January 20th. Yet he is also a true believer in the system of white ruling class superiority and power. That is why he loves Reagan so much. Reagan was popular even as he ruined the country and much of the world. That is the Obama philosophy too. He wants to fool people into happily stabbing themselves in the back and he wants politicians to do what he says. He wants to be the second “great communicator” and he wants an armor of protective teflon. Sadly, he seems to be succeeding in reaching those goals and he hasn’t even taken office yet. 

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com. Ms. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at  More of her work is also available at her Black Agenda Report archive page.

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