Feb 2, 2015
President Obama’s State of the Union was filled with promises for working people and the poor. To parents with children struggling to make ends meet, Obama said he wanted to make “quality” universal child care more affordable. For the 44 million workers who don’t get any sick pay or maternity leave on the job, Obama said he wanted laws providing guaranteed sick days, recognizing the fact that the U.S. is the “only advanced country on earth” that doesn’t have this basic right. And for the millions of students from the working class, who finished high school and are struggling to pay for more education and job training, Obama called for making community college free.
Obama even proposed a few small increases in the taxes paid by the very wealthiest people, who today pay taxes at a lower rate than workers do.
There is zero chance that any of these measures will pass. And not just because the Republicans oppose them. So do the Democrats. When Obama and the Democrats swept into office in 2008 in a landslide, with big majorities in both houses of Congress, the Democrats had the votes to push through social programs for childcare, sick leave and maternity leave, and making community colleges free. But not only didn’t the Democrats try to get them passed, no one even proposed them.
Instead, Obama and the Democrats continued the same policies of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, to further enrich the capitalist class. Obama and the Democrats pushed through massive bailouts. They shoveled trillions of dollars to every sector of corporate enterprise, including banks, auto companies, military contractors, airlines, and insurance companies. They made permanent almost all the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the rich.
To pay for all this, Obama slashed programs vital for the working class and poor, and he carried out massive cuts to public sector jobs. Obama even justified these cuts in the same way as Bush had, by citing the huge budget deficits that their own policies in defense of the capitalist class had caused. In other words, Obama, like Bush, did at the governmental level what the capitalists themselves had been doing in the private sector. Together, they imposed an enormous transfer of wealth from the working class and poor to the capitalist class.
No wonder it’s been great times for the capitalists, with their record profits and record accumulation of wealth. It was all paid for by the working class, whose standard of living has been pushed lower and lower again.
All those promises Obama made will go nowhere in the Republican-controlled Congress – and he knows it. But – he can hope – that his promises will create some illusions in the population for the Democrats, the same Democrats who never passed those measures when they could have.
It is the same old politician’s game that has been played countless times. All those great sounding promises are meant to make us forget how the politicians just stabbed us in the back.
Both parties play this game. The Democrats and Republicans sound different only because they appeal to different parts of the population for their votes.
Yes, working people need the things that Obama promised in his State of the Union, and lots more. And that starts with a job for everyone that pays decent wages and benefits.
But working people will get these things only when we push the politicians aside and fight for them on our own. Until then, we can forget it!