It seems Americans are in for more of the same legislative gridlock as before the election. How Congress deals with the looming fiscal cliff will be telling.
If you look at the exit polls, the vote split along America’s fault lines: income gap, religion, and race. Mitt Romney won amongst white males (especially Protestants), but Obama won women voters, blacks and Hispanics. Race still matters in America.
It matters so much that Republican governments in several states tried to suppress the black and Hispanic vote by purging voter lists and by passing laws reducing early-voting hours or requiring voter ID. And now, to their credit, some Republicans are admitting the intention of those laws was not to reduce voter fraud but to reduce votes for Democrats.
No matter how you look at it, Americans rebuked the GOP for its money politics, its race-based electoral tricks and its policies that favour the 1%. To their credit some Republicans have heard the messenger.
Their advice? Cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, reduce corporate taxes (to zero preferably), and don’t touch George Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthy.
On the CEO Council are some of the guys who threw the world into financial chaos just a few years ago: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Bruce Heyman from Goldman Sachs, and Bryan Moynihan from Bank of America—all of whom received billions of dollars of bailout money from the federal government.
Other companies rely on government contracts. Three—GE, Boeing and Honeywell—received $28 billion last year, mostly from the military. This year they are actively lobbying Congress to forestall cuts to military spending.
Incredibly, one of the CEOs’ arguments for cutting social services is to get people off their sense of entitlement. As Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein put it, it’s a matter of teaching people to expect less.
This coming from a guy who pulled in $16 million last year. To put that in some perspective, Mark Carney, Canada’s respected Governor of the Bank of Canada will get less than a million dollars to quarterback the British economy when he takes over the Bank of England next year.
Clearly the old paradigm is broken. A cavernous fiscal gap divides America, but its corporate leaders are stuck in their old ways. Their solutions will not address the kinds of deficits that lead to debt—deficits in health, education and income. They all erode equal opportunity—the bed-rock of the American Dream itself.
And in case you doubt that, check out the current series in the New York Times on the $80.4 billion corporations extract from states and municipalities every year. That’s $80.4 billion that could go to infrastructure, public health and (for goodness sake) teachers. It’s a shakedown and it being done by the same guys who want to Fix the Debt.
Some Americans are not waiting for capital to do the right thing. But you have to dig deep to find their experiments with another way of doing business. The Occupy movement was the first to mobilize help for those stranded by Hurricane Sandy, simply by showing up with food and supplies. Wall Street Occupiers are now occupying homes and stopping sheriffs from evicting people whose homes are under foreclosure notice.
It’s grass-roots, church basement, hands-on people work. It’s hard work. It’s the kind of bottom-up work that the media ignores. It’s work that doesn’t wait for government handouts or corporate blessings. And it’s catching on.