The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 18      May 9, 2011

Obama: ‘Ordinary
folks don’t pay attention’
(front page)
President Barack Obama once again displayed his class contempt for working people in remarks to an exclusive gathering of wealthy backers in Brentwood, California, April 21. Attendees included Hollywood figures George Clooney, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, and others.

Acknowledging that his 2012 race will be tougher than in 2008, the president denied that the reason is mounting capitalist economic assaults on working people and spreading wars under his administration. No, the problem, he says, is that workers just don’t understand.

“When I talk to ordinary folks, they are not always paying attention,” Obama scolded. “If you ask them about Medicare, they’ll say, ‘I love that program but I wish government wouldn’t get involved in it.’”

Apparently, workers’ attention deficit disorder kicks in whenever we express suspicion of the government and its bureaucratic intrusion into our lives.

Right now, Obama tells us, he is fighting to “save” Medicare. His plan? First, the White House aims to slash spending on prescription drugs and calls for $136 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over 10 years. Tens of millions of workers and farmers strongly oppose this assault on our access to health care.

Second, Obama says he will authorize the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, set up under the administration’s 2010 health-care “reform” law, to “make additional savings by further improving Medicare.” Translation: more red tape and a further reduction of services. Something millions of working people also oppose. So, who’s not paying attention?

As workers, we’re forced to wait in long lines time and again for everything from food stamps and unemployment compensation to getting a driver’s license or mailing a package. The privileged middle-class professionals, academics, foundation officials, and other “meritocratic” social layers Obama represents aren’t subjected to these repeated indignities.

Nor do they have to worry about what Medicare will be like when they turn 65. Their health and pension benefits will be many times more secure.

Why shouldn’t working people distrust a board appointed by the capitalist government deciding how much health care we can receive, and under what conditions? Why shouldn’t we, as Obama put it, “wish government wouldn’t get involved”?

Opposition to big government and to capitalist bureaucracy of all kinds—far from being reactionary, as often presented by liberals and left radicals—represents a step forward in class consciousness. Likewise, popular antipathy toward liberals with social engineering schemes such as taxes on high-fat foods.

It’s a recognition that working people need to defend ourselves against the government. Not depend on it more and more.

This is not the first time Obama has obliviously put his disdain for the working class on display for all to see. At another campaign fund-raiser in California prior to the 2008 election, Obama said that in traveling through the recession-stricken Midwest, he found a lot of working people who “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment.” But that’s “not surprising,” Obama added.

When Obama lectured an African American church congregation in Chicago on Father’s Day that year he told people they shouldn’t “just sit in the house and watch ‘Sports Center.’… [R]eplace the video game or the remote control with a book once in awhile.”

Targeting Black males, he said, “We need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn’t just end at conception… . Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father.”

The stratum of bourgeois-minded professionals and upper middle-class individuals Obama emerged from and represents is accurately described in the book Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party.

“While the existence and expansion of these strata are largely divorced from the production process, they are very much bound up with the production and reproduction of capitalist social relations,” Barnes says.

“They have a parasitic existence… . Many of them pursue careers—in the universities, the media, ‘think tanks,’ and elsewhere—that generate ideological rationalizations for class exploitation and inequality (as they strive to ‘reform’ it, of course)….

“Their attitudes toward those who produce society’s wealth—the foundation of all culture—extend from saccharine condescension to occasional and unscripted open contempt, as they lecture us on our manners and mores.” That’s why the president is perturbed that we “ordinary folks” aren’t always “paying attention.”  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home