With regard to ongoing federal budget-negotiations, the criminal Obama administration has professed its commitment to “to do something big.” As the head of state has it, “We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, for 15 years, or 20 years, if we’re willing to seize the moment.” Articulating precisely what he means by this, Obama envisioned the following: “I am willing to take down domestic spending to the lowest percentage of our overall economy since Dwight Eisenhower.”
Obama means, then, to enact a reactionary social overhaul about which the likes of Ronald Reagan would fantasize—a return to the past before the revolutionary social movements of the 1960s. This means precisely cuts in funding for public-programs for highly indigent and elderly U.S. citizens, one of the few decent realities of U.S. society. The president has reportedly endorsed raising the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67 years, up from its present 65, and advocates a “chaining” of the totality of Social Security benefits to the Consumer Price Index (CPI)—a move that could well imply reductions in benefits amounting to some $110 billion in the next ten years. Obama is additionally said to have discussed $353 billion in cuts to Medicare as well as committed himself to $100 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the coming decade.
This brutally overt exercise in class power and social exclusion comes a month after the publication in the American Journal of Public Health of a Columbia University study entitled “Estimated Deaths Attributable to Social Factors in the United States,” which concludes the following:
“approximately 245,000 deaths in the United States in the year 2000 were attributable to low levels of education, 176,000 to racial segregation, 162,000 to low social support, 133,000 to individual-level poverty, 119,000 to income inequality, and 39,000 to area-level poverty.”
In eastern Africa as well, social catastrophe continues. An estimated 1500 individuals fleeing famine and hunger are reaching the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya each day; Dadaab’s resident population-size is now 440,000. The Kenyan government is reportedly opening a fourth camp at Dadaab so as to accommodate the starving. According to Guardian journalist Mike Tran, “[l]arge areas of south east Ethiopia, southern Somalia and north east Kenya are already in phase four” of the classification-criteria used by the World Food Programme (WFP) to judge food emergencies, with five being “catastrophe/famine” and four the “emergency” phase. In the words of a medical doctor interviewed by Democracy Now:
“In the last few weeks, we’ve been seeing increasing cases of children with severe malnutrition. Of these children, most of them come with complications resulting from acute malnutrition. The children that we have seen in the wards, most of them are very sick, and most of them come here with an inability to feed, and we have to feed them through the nasal-gastric tube.”
The U.S. government has committed itself to providing $68 million in food aid and relief. It is to be imagined that demotic control of governance could yield a far more humane commitment, one less radically dismissive of generalized human suffering.