Law and Disorder Radio – Rick Wolff on Austerity in the US – Two-Year Evaluation of the Obama Administration – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio

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 Economic Recovery? Austerity in the US and Abroad

In our previous interview with Professor of Economics Rick Wolff, we talked about austerity, that is imposing on society a severe regimen of rising taxes, or cutting government spending to please and satisfy creditors. Massive protests erupt against austerity in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and soon maybe Spain, as governments raise college tuition, taxes, retirement ages plus cutting worker benefits and wages. These austerity measures are about to hit the United States. Veiled in the recent tax deal with the Republicans is a decision Americans will need to make. Higher taxes or cut services? With growing debts made worse by Obama’s tax deal, the US moves quickly toward austerity while the political establishment and the media mostly pretend all is well, says Rick Wolff.

Professor Rick Wolff:

In order to get anything through, the President had to accommodate the richest people in the United States and the biggest corporations. I’m going to allow you to pass even more wealth to your children or the people who inherit your estate. Here’s an extra gift, the estate tax.

These are the people who did the best over the last 30 years. Wage earners and salary earners went nowhere, but people rich enough to own shares in the stock market made out like bandits.

Estate tax: you can earn money for the state to run services we all need by taxing the super-rich so they’re not quite so far ahead. What this last bill does–rich people in America were already allowed to leave $3.5 million for each person (husband/wife) to their children or anyone else and the federal government wouldn’t touch it.

Less than one half of one percent of Americans who even have this amount of money.

This new law raises the amount from $7 million per couple to $10 million per couple. The new tax law also reduces the amount to pay from 45 to 35 percent. A gift in the millions for the super-rich.

Translating into billions of dollars that are now going to be saved by the richest people in the United States. We’re going to be talking about the difficulties the government has in doing things because it doesn’t have money. The government just gave away the store to richest one half of one percent.

What the rich do when they get a break like this, and when you turn to Wall Street, the hottest investments are in other parts of the world. Funding economic development in other parts of the world.

Unemployment is as high as it was a year ago. Foreclosures are running at a multi-million dollar clip per year.

Last month the Federal Reserve decided to print another 600 million dollars. My view is we’ve got years of unemployment ahead of us, years of a disastrous housing market, very few signs of recovery.

The worst has yet to hit. It takes time for states to crumble.

The municipal bond market, the debts of cities and towns are going to see significant default.

You need organization to act in historic moments that moments where people need action.

The flow of jobs from the United States to other parts of the world is continuing. American corporations don’t see the US as a “growth area.” They’re focused elsewhere.

We’re becoming a society where large numbers of people are living on the margins. It’s a new experience in this country after a century of being a little different from that.

Guest – Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.

Two-Year Evaluation of the Obama Administration







There is a long list of items progressive Americans had hoped to accomplish through the Obama administration. In our interview with Roger Hodge, author of The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism, Hodge says Obama didn’t fight for anything worth fighting for. With corporate backers such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citi-Group, the Obama administration has been severely compromised. These corporations expect something in return. The Obama administration has been criticized for expanding the wars abroad from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, criticized for continuing the Guantanamo detention policies, the Wall Street bailouts and bargaining with the healthcare bill as a bailout for insurance companies.

Nellie Hester Bailey:

A browner hue of imperialism. The policy of the US government at home and abroad would remain the same. When we look at the platform of then presidential candidate Barack Obama, he made very clear that he was a centrist candidate. In many instances to the right of Hillary Clinton, if one can imagine that.

We were never taken in, mesmerized, blinded . . we knew very well who he was.

He has proven to be much worse than anticipated. Not for me but for my colleagues who were cautiously optimistic.


On January 20th, President Obama is going to deliver his State of the Union address. Everyone expects this is going to be the prelude for another deadly compromise for the working class.

There was a study done in the Guardian newspaper and amazingly African-Americans were more optimistic about their economic situation and felt much more secure under Barack Obama’s administration than ever before. When in fact just the opposite is true.

African-Americans have lost trillions of dollars in the housing crisis, the mortgage scam.

We have to remember it was President Barack Obama that gave the banks a free ride.

We have added $9 billion to the deficit with this tax cut deal, that is extending the tax cuts to the 2 percent of the wealthy. We are supposed to believe that he did this for us? The poor and the working class?

Unlike the right wing, I believe he will be a one term president.

What we need for the working poor and African-Americans is the blinders to be pulled off, so people can see what it is that we are dealing with. When you look at the report from the CDC where have a 50 percent increase in the number of people that are uninsured.

The work force is being reduced, we are expected to work longer hours, we are expected to retire later in life, we are being worked to death.  These are the undeniable realities.

You can no longer herd the people like sheep into this nightmare of compromise.

After 2 years, I think progressives for Obama need to step back and realize their responsibility for building a working-class, multi-racial movement.

You have to commit to a movement, you don’t do that as an individual.

Open letter to encourage self-proclaimed left leaders such as Bill Fletcher, Tom Hayden and Barbara Ehrenreich to move from critical support into active opposition of the administrations agenda.

I co-host a program with Glen Ford who is the Executive editor of Black Agenda Report.

Black Agenda Report, we air on Mondays at 5 PM.

Guest – Nellie Hester Bailey, human rights activist who has worked in peace and justice movements for over forty years. From her early organizing with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to tenants’ rights and anti-war struggles, to advocacy on behalf of women, Bailey has been at the forefront of social justice and social change organizing. Bailey co-founded the Harlem Tenants Council (HTC) in 1994. She currently serves as Director of the tenant-led grassroots organization based on the self-determination tradition of radical activism that provides anti-displacement organizing for poor and working class families primarily in Central Harlem.

Bailey is co-founder of Blacks in Solidarity Against the War that in 2005 helped stage the largest anti-war demonstration in Harlem since the invasion of Iraq. A founding member of Cuba Solidarity New York, Bailey traveled to Cuba on three separate occasions.