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John Passant

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January 2010



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Obama: making the Republicans look good

President Obama has lost Massachusetts for the Democrats. Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley to replace Ted Kennedy and in doing that gave the Republicans their 41 st Senate vote.

In the 100 seat Senate this means they can filibuster (talk to death) any Bill and the Democrats don’t  have the 60 votes required under Senate rules to stop it.

Massachusetts has not had a Republican Senator since 1972. 

Ted Kennedy was a lion of the Democratic Party. He had held that senate seat for almost 47 years until he died last year.

Kennedy championed health care reform. Massachusetts, one of the most pro-Democrat states, has elected a man to destroy Kennedy’s dream.

Let’s be clear. Obama is already doing that. Leading Democrat Howard Dean described Obama’s health care reform as worse than useless.

The current health care Bill is a trillion dollar handout to the insurance industry.

It is true that the current reform would help about two-thirds of the uninsured, but it does this at the expense of the insured and those in Medicare – the very successful and well supported single payer insurance scheme for people over 65.

The reforms pay for the trillion dollar subsidy by taxing those with decent health insurance, forcing people who cannot afford it to buy insurance, and diverting money from Medicare .

Not surprisingly those currently covered felt threatened by Obama’s health care changes.

Older people on Medicare and trade unionists who have won decent health insurance  – two of the groups most threatened by Obama’s health care package – were among his strongest supporters. Not any more.

It is not just health care.  The economic crisis saw people vote for change in 2008. They wanted an end to business as usual in Washington.

With unemployment over 10 percent and Wall St bringing back its obscene bonuses Obama has failed to deliver any real change. In fact on most major issues he is Mr Business as Usual. 

On Afghanistan he listened to the military leaders and increased troops by 34,000. Business as usual.

On Wall Street he continued the bail out of the banks and the other financial parasites. Business as usual.

On health care he will subsidise the insurance companies. Business as usual.

On poverty and unemployment he has done nothing. Business as usual.

The state of politics is such in the United States that the only apparent alternative to the business as usual Democrats is the business as usual Republicans. There is nothing exceptional in this.

Most countries around the world are the same; it’s just that in other countries some parties are labour or social democratic at least in name and history. In the US both parties are the parties of big business.

People weren’t voting for the Republicans in Massachusetts. They were voting against Obama’s business as usual administration.

Now the screaming will begin for Obama to shift to the middle.  He is already there.

Franklin Roosevelt was a fairly centrist President when he was first elected. He swung to the left under pressure from below. That pressure included sit downs strikes which began in 1933.  They grew across the country and by 1937 there were 477 sit-downs involving half a million workers.

Clearly Obama is not Roosevelt. He won’t move to the left unless he is forced there from below. He will in all probability move further to the right and give more credence to the Republicans.

American voters are angry. In Massachusetts they focused that anger on those in power, the Democrats; those who were delivering them more of the same.

The lack of a left wing alternative, let alone a socialist one, in US politics means that Obama’s failures will benefit the right. 

It is time for the millions who voted for Obama to take back their campaign, and begin the long hard slog of building a fighting organisation of the left, one committed to jobs and a living wage, to universal health care, to bringing the troops home and to making the rich pay for their economic crisis.



Pingback from En Passant » Obama: making the Republicans look good | Afghanistan Today
Time January 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm

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Comment from Marco
Time January 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I’m probably a fool, but I had hoped, against all hope, that Obama would be different.

Not that I was unaware that things would be difficult, if he really tried to do something better.

But he didn’t even try.

You know what scares the hell out of me? The beneficiary from Obama’s failure is the right. But in the US, “right” translates as “extreme right”.

Obama has just delayed the cause of racial integration by decades.

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Time January 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm

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Comment from John
Time January 22, 2010 at 7:42 am

From Michael via Facebook

Not sure that’s true John. Its a line run by Socialists whenever the tories win here in Australia. So Howard’s landslide in 1996 was presented as a rejection of Labor’s right wing policies. But then Howard went on to win three further elections.

Sadly, in Massachusetts it seems that antipathy to Obama’s healthcare reform was a factor. It seems that in America there is a fear of big government. Reagan ran effectively on this in 1980.

Comment from John
Time January 22, 2010 at 7:46 am

From Jonathan via facebook:

John & Michael – I think the key is always a lack of an alternative. By which I mean: if there’s a lack of struggle – which is the lifeblood of political awareness and participation – then politics is reduced to a choice between right wing Liberals and right wing Labor (here in Australia).

Where there is a vibrant union movement combined with struggles against oppression, people will angrily vote against the Right (e.g. vote Labor) but not give up the fight.

In the USA I find the situation more difficult to interpret because voter turnout is just so low – even the last full Federal election hailed for its queues of voters only got a typical 50 – 60% turnout – and there are two Conservative parties (it always amuses me that the orthdoxy in the USA is that the Democrats are ‘liberal’).

At least in Australia the ALP is actually put under some pressure by the interests of the union movement through its links to the union leadership.

Comment from John
Time January 22, 2010 at 7:47 am

From Michael via facebook:

Well the lack of an alternative argument is a bit of a cop out as well. The question to ask is why is there no alternative.
Of course two things are happening in the US at the moment. The left liberal supporters of Obama are simply staying home having become disillusioned as evidenced by the low turn out but the right wing conservative opposition has become energised around issues like Healthcare higher taxes etc.

I would have thought there was some pressure on the Democrats as well because of its dependence on the working class/ african american vote.

Just going back to the original premise. If we cccept John’s premise that the Labor Party/Democrats are thrown out of office because of their right wing policies then a party with even more right wing policies shouldn’t be re-elected at subsequent elections.

Comment from John
Time January 22, 2010 at 7:48 am

From Michael via facebook:

Just a few quick thoughts on the current situation in the US. I see a 1994 style debacle looming for the Democrats at the mid term elections at the end of the year. Clinton managed to be re-elected in 1996 by tacking to the right and adopting much of the right wing Republican agenda.

I see strong parallels between the Obama presidency and that of Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. Carter was a weak ineffectual President who couldn’t get much of his agenda passed even though his party enjoyed large majorities in both houses of Congress. Carter was elected in 1976 after the Republicans had been discredited by Watergate, the Democrats won large majorities in both houses of Congress and the Republicans looked down and out.

If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to drag on I can foresee Obama being challenged for the Democratic nomination by an anti-war candidate in much the same way as Lyndon Johnson was challenged by Eugene McCarthy and then Robert Kennedy in 1968.

Comment from Marco
Time January 22, 2010 at 11:24 am

The best analysis about the Australian electoral situation, in my opinion, came from Peter Hartcher. I’ll check the reference.

According to Hartcher, there is a 40%/40% more or less stable Lab/Lib vote base: basically, a stalemate situation, where only an extreme failure of one of the parties can decide it.

Lacking such failure, the parties need to appeal to the remaining 20% of the voters, who are perceived to be undecided and mid of the road.

For the Coalition to appeal to this middle-ground it means to adopt demagogic positions: when One Nation was raising, for instance, anti-foreigner posturing.

While for Labor, to appeal to these supposedly middle-grounders it means to turn its policies to the right.

And, always according to Hartcher, Labor can do this, without fear of losing support from its left wing, because their leftist voters are left with no alternative: the Greens, that could be considered an alternative, maintain preference agreements with Labor.

I’m not sure about the numbers (if anyone has concrete figures, by all means), but Hartcher’s theory seems to explain a lot of things, to me.

Pingback from Wealth Distribution in the United States (Infographic) |
Time January 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

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Comment from Arjay
Time January 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

When you all realise that both the Democrats and the Republicans are owned by Wall Street and the Bankers. They decide who the next president will be,where the next illegal war will be fought and how the money will be created and distributed.There is very little democracy both in the USA and Australia.

Comment from Chav
Time January 25, 2010 at 11:23 am

Well I realise that Arjay. I’d be interested to know what conclusions the Democrats are coming to from the Massachusetts debacle, whether the leadership feel they need to shift to the Left or to the Right.

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