By Patrick Martin
25 February 2009
In his first presidential address to a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama defended the ongoing federal bailout of the banks and pledged that even greater sums would be funneled from the US Treasury to support Wall Street.
The nationally-televised speech Tuesday night had two main themes. Obama sought to defuse the enormous public hostility to the financial interests responsible for the deepening economic crisis, declaring that he could not “govern out of anger.”
And he advanced a reactionary nationalistic rationale for his major domestic policy initiatives on energy, health care and education, going so far as to suggest that young people who drop out of high school were committing a crime against the country.
The speech was suffused with patriotism and invocations of the supposed unique greatness of American society, a tone which contrasted sharply with the stark character of the economic crisis that he was compelled to acknowledge, and the failings in health care and education that he outlined.
Working people had neither the resources nor the demented drive for personal wealth accumulation required to participate in the looting spree conducted by the American financial elite over the past three decades. Any account of the crisis that equates bankrupt billionaire financiers and foreclosed working class homeowners as equally “irresponsible” is a travesty.
This was expressed in perhaps the most chilling passage of the speech, when he declared, “dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.” This was followed by a call for “a renewed spirit of national service” and the passage of legislation to expand programs that pay for college education for youth who join the military or enroll in other government service programs.
The real meaning of this extraordinary statement can be summarized as follows: Young people who drop out of school are not victims of a social crisis produced by the failure of the profit system. On the contrary, they are criminals who are undermining the viability of American capitalism by their refusal to be educated to the level required to become productive (i.e., to generate profits for the capitalist class). And they will pay for their “crime” by being drafted into the military to serve as cannon fodder in the imperialist which Obama, like Bush, will continue and escalate.
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