Thursday, April 30, 2009

First 100 Days comment

January 20 to April 30, 2009


How do you evaluate, comment, or just think about the first 100 days following 30 years of ultra-right Republican rule, with a slight respite of 8 years under the Clinton Administration? But, even there, the ultra-right Gingrich Congress, 1994-2000, trumped any moderate or decent policies the Clinton Administration sought. That this 30-year period of Reagan/ Bush and Bush carried with it a strong whiff of fascism is not a light description.

The affects of those 30 years most felt most strongly by the working class and nationally oppressed minorities in the US. That period unleashed economic and military weapons of imperialism in the broad Middle East area and around the world. It carried massive suffering and oppression.

Voters in the year 2008 elections sent a clear message to reverse that direction. The House of Representatives now has a massive Democratic Party majority. The U.S. Senate is also heavily Democratic. But, due to archaic Senate rules, a 60-vote majority is necessary for action on most controversial issues. The Democrats sit at 59. And, in the White House is the first African-American president in the history of the USA. For the first time in decades, these unique political ingredients are in place.

The Democratic Party platform and election promises by Barak Obama are now being put to the test in the traditional First 100 Days Assessment. Mass media, right wing, conservative and liberal/progressive circles are giving their spin to the new Administration. It is fitting that the Political Affairs of the CPUSA do the same.

This takes us back to the original premise. How do you evaluate/assess 100 days against 30 years of backwardness?

Our assessment of these first 100 days should avoid the liberal critiques, which push for traditional Democratic Party proposals. They should avoid also placing a screen on the activities of the administration, which are totally unrealistic.

We understand that large sections of Capital/Wall Street were very unhappy with the net results of the last 30 years. We know more importantly that workers, their families and communities were angry and are demanding a new economic and political course/plan.

A Unique Crisis?

The worldwide economic and financial crisis has struck at the heart of the capitalist system. Massive structural changes are taking place in regard to national and international economic development. Individual states in all of the US are reeling with massive budget deficits, each of them demanding concessions, in the main from working people and very little from the wealthy and powerful.

The goals of liberals and some progressives are to simply return the US to by gone years. There is talk about significant change, but in reality, that kind of change is not being sought. For the rest of the Congress, there is little or no desire for significant change.

Republicans, libertarians and other rights wingers demand more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations; and, massive anti-working class cutbacks.

For left and Communists, when they see current crisis, they think back to the crises of the 1890s, 1907, the 1930s and for those aware of Asia, the 1990s. They see the time for radical change, change that would finally put Capital in the back seat and the working class in the driving seat of history.

The Democratic Party Majority

For us, we understand that the Democratic Party is not a united, progressive party. That is why the Progressive Caucus, the Black and Latin Caucuses and others are organizing within the Democratic Party to move that party in a progressive direction.

We also understand that the Republican Party, what is left of it after the 2008 elections, is a super right wing, with the whiff of fascism, as it was under Reagan and the Bushes. They may be a little smaller, but not less dangerous. [Most moderate Republicans lost their elections in 2008.]

Progressive elements within the Democratic Party know that they cannot achieve their goals without the broader movement taking making actions.

The vital independent role of the CPUSA and the left in regard to the Democratic Party is crucial. Working both in and outside of the mainstream will be necessary to achieve radical changes that are clearly needed. Establishing a strong set of independent goals and activities, which have our sights on a Socialist solution, is on the agenda.

Our Movement

The peoples' movement must come out of this crisis stronger and able to continue to struggle for democracy and economic rights. The current individual struggles are not in and of themselves sufficient. This means that everyone's struggles are everybody's struggle. Certainly, there must be major advances in housing, education, health care and other socio-economic needs; but they must be seen as a whole or else they will be picked apart. The leaders of these progressive movements must remain in constant contact and work in coalitions when possible. The Party's role is crucial in making this happen.

By doing that, we can emerge stronger into the next stage.

After 100 Days

There is no question that the new Administration hit the ground running on January 20th. It has been working at a fever pitch, which corresponds, to the general crisis. On the other hand, the Republican Party has been doing the opposite. Opposing practically all proposals, hoping for a repeat of the 1992-94 period, which this strategy netted them the 1994 Congress, and 6 years of fascistic kinds of proposals. It also set the stage for 8 years of the Bush Administration. This doomsday strategy by the right wing must and will fail.

Before making a few comments about the January 20 to April 30 periods; it must also be said that any assessment must also look to the future for greater and broader political action. Becoming discouraged or too optimistic over each of these issues or together is not an option.

Some issues/Some Thoughts:

The Financial Crisis

There is widespread understanding and agreement that the Administration needed to invest more public money in the economy. And, that more public money will invest in the near future. Putting all or far more public control of these taxpayers money in public hands was a demand that most progressive economists made and are still making.

The appointment of routine Wall Street operatives to key Treasury and related positions, while expected, is still worrisome. The decisions in this arena followed suit.

The Federal Budget

Health care – The federal budget put forward by the Administration put hundreds of millions of dollars aside for health care issues. This move was unprecedented. Clearly, the Administration set the course for a strong action on health care. The setback by having to remove Tom Daschle from the leader of the health care policy arena did not appear to set back actions to be taken. Daschle's ties to the medical/health industry may have hurt the Administration's goals. The health policy person appointed is worrisome; her track record with the Clinton Administration was not good. The new head of Health and Human Services, the governor of Kansas, has a strong pro-women record. She is untested on serious health policy issues.

The Administration made it clear during their campaign that it would not be seeking a "Single Payer" approach to the health care crisis. In response to that, the demand from the Progressive Caucus is that short of the "Single Payer" approach, it, "will support comprehensive health care reform legislation only if it includes a public plan option on a level playing field with private health insurance plans." This "Public Plan" means a government option that would mirror the Medicare Program. The Administration is silent on this option as we complete the first 100 days.

The Senate, lead by center/right Max Baucus of Montana and liberal Ted Kennedy, has made an announcement that it will be "marking up" a legislative proposal by the end of June, 2009. If accomplished, this will be a major feat; and, clearly set the stage for not repeating the 1993-94 fiasco.

If Baucus's proposals, as stated over the past 6 months, prevail there will be a public option, an option that will require expansion, but at least it will be on the table. The extent, to which Medicare will be the model for the public program, is the extent to which the proposals will work.

The Administration signed legislation to expand health care for children, SCHIP, which was vetoed by the Republicans. Stem cell research was also expanded, reversing years of anti-stem cell research actions by the Republicans.

Both within the United States and via its foreign policy, the new Administration has completely reversed the anti-women proposal of the Bush Administration, especially those involving reproductive rights.

Equal pay for woman, another decision of the Administration, while not seen as a health issue, is one.

Also, as of March 1, 2009, workers layed off will have 2/3rd of their continuation of benefits {COBRA] paid by the federal government, making health services, at least for one year affordable.

Also, the level of discussion on various public health care and health care delivery issues are on the highest level in decades. For example, community health centers are sure to get expanded financial support.

Also, an effort by some conservative Democrats to have veterans seek health care outside of the Veterans Health system was stopped. The President made a special presentation that VA health services would be expanded.

Education - Here the Administration is repeating its campaign promise of strong public education with an equally significant push for charter schools. The Administration rejected vouchers. Almost every education teacher, administrator and policy person rejects charter schools, especially with their increasingly disastrous record experiences. The Administration has promised close oversight over charter schools.

Social Spending - Issues like housing are crucial as the mortgage crisis deepens and homelessness increases. Public housing is not even on the agenda. That has to change. Housing is a public health and human decency issue.

Military Spending – Military spending is a health and other social services issue. Money for armaments takes money from social needs. It appears that the Pentagon military budget is increasing but at a less rate. Anti-war and peace loving people oppose this increase and want far bigger reductions in military spending.

War and Peace

Candidate Obama is, unfortunately, fulfilling his campaign promises in regard to Iraq and Afghanistan. Stopping increases in these wars and ending them will be necessary to achieve every other program in Congress. The pursuing of the Vietnam War destroyed the successes of Lyndon Johnson's years, i.e., Medicare/Medicaid, Civil Rights legislation, etc.

Open opposition to water boarding and other acts of U. S interrogation that were terror acts themselves was very good And, the closing of Guantanemo were welcome policy decisions.

The appointment of routine foreign policy people to all key State and Defense Department positions does not auger well.

Climate Change and Global Warming

Signing the Kyoto Agreements and pushing strong environmental controls, the Administration seems on the right track. The appointment of decent scientist to key environmental position looks good.

The Working Class and Labor

The appointment of decent to pro-labor people to key labor department positions is very good. This is the first time in 30 years that such appointments were made. Hilda Solis as head of Labor and Jordan Barab in job safety and health could not be better. Also, the lead labor lawyer for the Department has a strong record of being pro-worker.

Signing the equal pay for women was a major action in the first days of the Administration. It was the "Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act." The act will allow for much longer times periods for workers to sue their employers.

The most important legislative action that the Administration can do to support the working class and labor is to make sure the Employee Free Choice Act is passed. The Administration still seems to support this, but there is deep worry that he will not use his power over Congressional Democrats and wavering Republicans to win passage.

The passage of EFCA will bring unionization to hospital workers, autoworkers and every other worker in the South, southwest and all across the country where the hope to join a union had been very dim, if not nonexistent.

Corporate fears that EFCA will change the landscape of labor and management relations are absolutely true. That is why they are fighting tooth and nail against EFCA.

This is the first time in 30 years that labor law reform is possible. Getting will hard, but the table is set for the victory.

Women's Issues/Gender Issues

Reproductive Rights are being restored from the ultra-right wing. Important strides are being made here.

The Fights Against Racism; Xenophobia

President Obama's trips to Europe, Latin America [Trinidad-Tobago] and Mexico are rubbing out the harsh ultra right memories of Reagan/Bush. The next steps will follow with the substance of the Administration's policies.

Changing the Role of US Imperialism

Foreign Policy and Interests – So far the Administration is saying all the right things at the International meetings and bi-laterals meetings. In Europe and in Latin America, the Administration is turning away from the Reagan and Bush years of Xenophobia. The next steps will be closely watched.

Nuclear weapons/Star Wars

Signing the non-proliferation treaty and other statements are a very good sign. This is a great public health measure.

Middle East/engagement/dialogue

Assigning George Mitchell for Middle East negotiations was a good step. His experience in Northern Ireland and England should be useful. Outreach to Syria, Lebanon and Iran are all-important steps. Events seem to be moving away from the ultra right Bush years.


There is a new engagement underway, which seems quite refreshing. What actually happens will be closely watched. The activities of the movement will be instrumental in influencing the direction of the Administration in the next period of time.

Shifts in the Mainstream Parties

The move of Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party is a sign that the ultra right policies of the Republican Party are wearing thin on mainstream Republicans. It is also a sign that the new Administration is winning over centrist's elements. Just what this means for major policy issues, such as, health, labor, education, housing and environment will again have more to with the peoples' movements than these shifts. But, the shifts are important to watch and evaluate.

The Socialist World

How the Administration deals with Cuba, China, Vietnam and other Socialist and workers lead countries is yet to be seen. The Administration engagement in South America, i.e., Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ecuador and less so countries like Brasil, Argentina, Chile and other countries; will be closely watched over the next period. There are strong signals that the Administration is moving in a good direction. Of course, the other side is that the decades of imperialism by the USA over all other countries in the Western Hemisphere is still very much alive and potentially aggressive. That tension will respond to the pressure of peace and democracy; that pressure must be applied.