|Happy after lunch with the billionaires in SF|
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Afscme Local 444, retired
So President Obama was here in San Francisco this week meeting with his constituents, not the vast majority of people who vote for him, but the people who bankroll the party that represents their interests and that Obama leads.
He had two do’s Wednesday night, one at Tom Steyer’s house where 100 people turned up to hand over cash for the party and the other at the house of another billionaire, Gordon Getty. Steyer is a coupon clipper worth $1.4 billion according to Forbes.com. Getty, worth $2 billion, has his money by virtue of being the product of a union between two folks one of them the oil magnate J Paul Getty.
Steyer is looking to get in to Democratic Party politics more actively and has been suggested as a candidate for governor. The two events raised more than $3 million and part of this drive is to get more Democrats in to the House and Nancy Pelosi returned as speaker. Pelosi, from an established eastern bourgeois family is the poor one in the crowd worth anywhere from $26 to $58 million. Like all of them though, Pelosi’s wealth comes from investments, real estate, stuff like that.
It might have been a bit tense at the Steyer’s as Tom is a “…vociferous opponent of the Keystone Pipeline..”, according to the media. But Steyer won’t make too much fuss over that. With his eyes on political prizes, making an issue of the pipeline, by pointing out Obama’s hedging the issue, would not be useful. Like a lot of billionaires, Steyer likes to dabble in areas that are of concern to millions of people but not seriously; at 55 he has high hopes of playing a major role in the Democratic Party in the period ahead. “He (Obama) is doing everything he can on the issues that we care about.”, he is quoted in the media as saying, “He has political limitations ----so we really have an obligation to help him.”
Obama was not shy on climate change but never mentioned the Keystone Pipeline, he is among friends with the billionaires that finance the Democratic Party and wants unity. He pointed out that the issue of the temperature of the planet is not the main concern of most workers, workers main concern is “How do I feed my family” “The politics of this are tough.” Obama said. They are indeed, and keeping people in a state of debt bondage and in everlasting insecurity is one sure way of keeping people’s attention focused on the immediate, necessities food, shelter, health. His billionaire backers gave him the “most enthusiastic applause” when he pointed out the gains that have been made in LGBT rights.
This should come as no surprise, such advances in no way threaten the interests of the people he is talking to, the class whose interests the Democratic party represents. This is not to say this is not an important issue to those who are denied rights the rest of us have due to their sexual orientation, it is. But we have to clearly see that this and other issues are used by the parties to avoid the most important issues for all people regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation etc. and that is food, shelter, education, a job (including for the immigrant population) instead of prison, health care, homelessness.
It is comical to hear politicians and supporters of the other party of the 1% harangue Obama for being, “On billionaire’s row” as a Republican Party ad did. The Republican Party is funded by the same class that funds the Democrats. After the two SF billionaires, Obama headed over to the Peninsula to meet with another coupon clipper that loves the environment, investor Mark Heising. He topped it off with lunch with Levi Strauss heir, John Goldman, and his wife Marcia. Goldman is a “philanthropist” apparently. For billionaires this means giving away other people’s money. You don’t have too look far to see on whose backs Goldman’s wealth was made.
More often than not I have gotten in to some hot water with friends who vote Democratic because they are forced because they vote for this party to defend it. Actually, they shy away from defending it because it’s impossible to defend it without admitting it is hostile to workers’ interests and defends the interests of the 1% ; so they simply omit the party at all when they’re voicing opposition to the capitalist offensive. It is always the Republicans that are blamed for the offensive, for cuts in social services, wages, benefits etc.
This morning (I started this yesterday) I see that Obama has opened the door to cutting social security benefits if Republicans will agree to higher taxes. This horse trading is done under the cloak of shared sacrifice, us and Warren Buffet joining forces to save capitalism from the abyss. The White House assures us that, "This isn't about political horse trading……it's about reducing the deficit in a balanced way that economists say is best for the economy and job creation."
How nice of them. Their economic gurus limited to a perspective based entirely on capitalist economics want what’s best for the economy, for their economic interests that is. Their interest in jobs, or setting the Labor process in motion is only if they control it and reap the benefits of it in the form of profits.
“He who pays the piper names the tune” as the old adage goes. The Democratic Party heavyweights Obama spent the last few days with are not the friends of workers and the middle class. We won’t be hearing loud protests from them on the reducing of social security benefits which Obama is offering to do by reducing the program's cost of living increases. They talked about that with him this week in private and gave him the OK Our youth who are being driven deeper in to poverty, prison or the streets will not be dragged from the morass by these people. But it is also not about Obama as an individual.
A political party does not exist in a vacuum, it represents forces in society, it is financed by those same forces, inextricably linked to them and the Democratic Party, like its counterpart across what they call “the aisle” is a party of the capitalist class. The assault on workers and our living standards has continued under Democratic and Republican alike, the difference is a matter of degrees.
The 138 million or so eligible voters that opted out of the last election are not simply apathetic as many liberals claim. They have drawn the correct conclusion that neither party represents their interests.
Workers can only rely on our own strength, rely on it here and by linking with workers throughout the world under attack by the same forces. There is no way out relying on the generosity of billionaires, even the trendy ones. Building a united mass movement in our workplaces, streets and communities using direct action tactics is what will bring results; is what can drive the austerity agenda back and build an offensive of our own against capital. An independent political alternative arising out of such a movement is the answer to the betrayals and dead end of the Democrats.