Naked Capitalism on “Shared Sacrifice”

I Can Has Shared Sacrifice?

By lambert strether of Corrente

The whole bloody mess — “shared sacrifice” (Obama; heh) / austerity / “Throw Grandma from the Fiscal Cliff” — is so appalling, and so dispiriting, that there’s only one way forward:

Do it for the lulz.

Because if there’s any form of infrastructure that America can still build, it’s the Internet meme. So, dear readers, do feel free to viralize this JPG of “shared sacrifice” on your social media of choice, including the mail that you send to hundreds of your family and friends, your elected representatives, your blogs, etc., or vote it up. (To be clear on the trope: The “sacrifice” is the hearts of the American people, ripped from their chests and “shared” by the priests of the political class, who lift them to the sky where the invisible austerity Gods live: the 1%. Then the priests throw the bodies down the steps of the pyramids which represent, I would think, the banks, the Fed, and any of the other large white buildings in Washington, DC.)

* * *

That’s really all I have to say, but since nobody else chewed Bernie Sanders’ ankles for drinking the “shared sacrifice” Kool-Aid and proving himself unworthy of the name “Socialist,” I will. It’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it. Here’s an excerpt from a highly praised speech that Sanders recently made; I’ve added some helpful interpretive material in brackets:

Everyone [who is anyone] understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit [except not]- a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies [unlike ObamaCare. Not]. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward [in the midst of a never-ending recession] with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts [so mild cuts are OK?] in desperately-needed programs [but other program are fair game?] for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor [even if Obama’s self-conceived mandate is for “the middle class”*, i.e., not working families, not millions of elders, not at least 25% of our children, and most certainly not millions of the poor or the the 17.4% of the working population that is disemployed] while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny [so cuts are OK if taxes on the wealthiest are raised? Yes. Such a deal!].

Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe [not] that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share [whatever that means]. At least 50 percent [why not 100 percent?] of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised [the United States, as the sovereign issuer of its own currnecy, is not revenue constrained and cannot be forced to default] by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts [yeah, let’s start by scuttling a few aircraft carriers] to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending [there’s some other kind?].

So, did you hear Bernie Sanders, Socialist firebrand, the second coming of Eugene V. Debs, calling for “Not one penny of cuts?” No, me neither.

In practice, in the world where sausage is made, the position crypto-Democrat Sanders has staked out is indistinguishable from Obama’s: The wealthy are to pay more in taxes and the rest of us will get even worse social insurance. But all the players know this deal is bogus; no matter that the wealthy are supposed to pay “a little more” (Obama) or some “pennies” (Saunders), their only real costs will be the accountants they hire to avoid or evade what isn’t even real money to them; but the costs will be very real to us, and will come out of our hides. The wealthy may suffer a twinge as they lose a little “self-actualization” at the tippy top of Maslow’s pyramid, but the rest of will suffer real pain at the base: Loss of health, loss of food, loss of resources. Luxuries at the margin are not a fair trade for necessities paid for by social insurance. The sacrifice may be shared, alright, but not equally, because it cannot be.**

Here is what the baseline should be: “Not one penny of cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other social insurance program, and any savings to be paid out as benefits.” Hear that from Bernie? Any Democrats? Didn’t think so.

We have already sacrificed, whether through the loss of our jobs, our health, our homes, our net worth, or from real wages being flattened for the last forty years, or from paying some well-fed smiling usury-stinking weasel their cut on the deal every time we turn around. The proper amount of additional sacrifice for us is, precisely and exactly, zero.

And while we’re at it, the age for Social Security eligibility should be lowered, to 60, so that some of us oldsters who are planning to work ’til we drop can get out of the work force, and maybe more young people can get jobs. And while we’re at it, Social Security benefits should be age neutral. None of this “I’ve got mine” stuff; that benefits get worse the younger you get is a sham and a travesty and a policy a political class with an smidgeon of human decency would never have put into place (even if the sainted Tip O’Neil and the sainted Ronald Reagan cut the first such deal, back in the day, and people of my age let him get away with it).

C’mon, Bernie. Socialist? As much a socialist as Obama’s a socialist. Or a Kenyan, for that matter. Go on. Prove me wrong!

NOTE * To be fair, Obama’s self-conceived mandate includes “families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class.” Never mind what “working hard” means — the Victorians, too, distinguished between the deserving and the undeserving poor, after all. But not all rational actors want to be “middle class,” since the passport to credentials involves massive debt. Others, “try” as they may, will not make it. Under the bus with them!

NOTE ** Everybody’s got to have skin in the game. So you can sell one of your kidneys, and I’ll sell one of my yachts!

One response to “Naked Capitalism on “Shared Sacrifice”

  1. This is a discussion we need to keep having. The idea of “shared sacrifice” is ludicrous in this current environment. We’ve done more than our share; now it’s time for the Top Dogs to kick in their share–with heavy interest, considering what they’ve put us through.

    Over at dagblog, we’re discussing this, too. We need to keep this conversation going together. (By way of doing this, I’ve added your site to my Ramona’s Voices)


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