Why Can't Presidents and Media Tycoons Just 'Do the Right Thing'?

U.S. President Barack Obama suddenly takes hard-line stances against his Republican political adversaries after over two years of meek accommodation.

International media mogul Rupert Murdoch suddenly exhibits uncharacteristic humility when dealing with escalating scandals in England and America erupting from vicious and illegal activities by employees of his many media entities.

Do these unprecedented actions by these two extremely powerful men make them candidates for “Do the Right Thing” awards?

President Obama is publicly lashing GOP Capitol Hill leaders for being obstructionist.

Obama’s new strident rhetoric arises from his being stung by Republicans spurning his rather conservative compromise solutions to the impasse on increasing America’s debt ceiling, solutions that include the President’s shocking many in his Democratic base by embracing domestic spending cuts favored by conservatives—like slashing Social Security and Medicare.

Rupert Murdoch, a man not noted for demonstrating any capacity for contrition, has shocked many by offering apologies and even embracing investigations.

In seeking to staunch the spiraling governmental investigations and public dissatisfaction arising from illegal activities by some of his employees and top executives, Murdoch is even accepting resignations from some of his most trusted executives.

One of those executives is Wall Street Journal publisher Lee Hinton who worked with Murdoch for fifty-years. Hinton appears to have provided England’s Parliament with misleading information during a cover-up of a previous misconduct scandal by Murdoch’s English news employees.

The FBI is now reportedly investigating allegations of illegal acts by Murdoch employees including their trying to illegally obtain the telephone records of relatives of 9/11 victims. Evidence of telephone and email hacking scandals in England by Murdoch employees now include police investigations into their misdeeds against former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

On the surface, it might appear that Obama’s willingness to offer major spending cuts to achieve compromise with Republicans and Murdoch’s decision to close his most profitable newspaper in England plus shake-up his secretive empire are laudable examples of doing ‘The Right Thing.’

But looks are deceiving.
 It's not easy being (obsessed with) green (and power)Rupe Murdoch: It's not easy being (obsessed with) green (and power)

Neither of these two extremely powerful men deserves any credit, for their actions calculated to advance their respective personal agendas…agendas offering little good for regular people on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Obama’s suggested inclusion of Social Security cuts as a sweetener to obtain a deficit-reduction deal with his partisan adversaries is another act of abject selling-out of the people who elected this president.

Obama’s approach to ‘exercising political muscle’ — as exhibited since his historic 2009 inauguration — is bending over backwards to placate his Republican enemies and willingly sacrificing concerns important to the constituents who elected him.

Obama’s repeated stated willingness, as president, to reduce Social Security benefits, puts him at odds not just with the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters who strongly support Social Security, but with his own campaign rhetoric of “not touching” Social Security.

The odd thing is, sizeable numbers not just Democrats but independents and even Republicans support protecting Social Security. If he wanted to confront Capitol Hill Republicans, the people would be behind him.

The problem, though, is Obama either cannot find the strength to project that power for doing the right thing…or does not want to find such strength.

Social Security is the vital safety net keeping many elderly out of poverty. It also protects the disabled, and the dependents of those who die or become disabled.

Further, Social Security is the life-line that middle-aged people calculate as a core of the income they need during retirement to keep them out of poverty.

The Social Security safety net is particularly important now, with private retirement saving spiraling downward due to massive unemployment from the recession that won’t recede for regular folks, and due to the cutback in pensions paid by employers.

The right-wing, Tea Party aligned Republicans who now are holding the fiscal viability of the federal government hostage during debt ceiling deliberations howl about Social Security comprising a major contributor to the large federal deficit.

It is not, however, since Social Security is entirely funded by a separate payroll tax (FICA). That payroll tax is still running a surplus which will last until at least 2037. In fact, Republican and Democratic Congresses for years have been borrowing from that surplus to finance government operating deficits, and continue to do so. Why isn’t the president saying this?

The real driver of federal deficits are the tax cuts Republicans constantly lavish on the wealthy and corporations, and of course the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere which are being funded entirely through borrowing.

Numerous experts note that tax cuts/loopholes for corporations and the wealthy comprise nearly 50% of the federal deficit, with expenditures on defense and homeland security adding another 35%.

The lost tax revenue from those tax cuts and tax code loopholes documentably ratchet up the yearly deficits.

But Republicans who bitterly battle Obama to protect those upscale tax breaks duplicitously seize upon the resultant revenue shortfalls to justify massive reductions in domestic programs that benefit all Americans, particularly those who are not rich.

The financial shortfalls projected to hit Social Security nearly three decades from now can be easily eliminated by simply increasing the Social Security payroll withholding cap from the current $106,000 to a cap of $250,000, or perhaps even higher.

The White House and Capitol Hill know this simple fix would make Social Security solvent forever, but both sides are playing stupid to the peril of the overwhelming majority of Americans who didn’t profit from the cronyism and corruption that has, as Obama says, run the national economy into “a ditch.”

Interestingly, a large cog in the mind-dumbing machine maliciously spreading misinformation about Social Security and about America’s favor-the-wealthy tax policies is the FOX News Channel owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch’s FNC, for example, finds little news worthiness in the fact that many of the same GOP lawmakers opposed to raising the nation’s debt ceiling voted numerous times during the Bush presidency to push up the debt ceiling to cover borrowing for the tax cuts they enacted and the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq they forced on the American people.

This Republican recalcitrance, applauded by FNC, shows the GOP’s real target is not reducing deficits but destroying the Obama presidency…even if that destruction requires decimating the financial stature of the federal government through a default caused by not raising the debt ceiling.

Also interesting is the fact that FNC castigates Obama 24/7, targeting his presidency plus his person, even including his wife and children.

Murdoch’s closure of England’s 168-year-old News of the World newspaper craftily attempts to counter governmental investigations and public backlash in Britain arising from mushrooming revelations about World personnel hacking over 4,000 voicemail accounts, paying police for information and lying to legislators to cover up their misconduct.

This scandalous misconduct, which threatens to put some World personnel in prison, has scuttled an attempt by Murdoch to secure total ownership of a major television provider service in Britain. That buy-up bid, withdrawn by Murdoch, would have pumped more money into Murdoch’s empire, which is already worth mega-billions.

British police recently arrested Rebekah Brooks, one of Murdoch’s top executives who headed Murdoch’s news operations in England until her resignation days before the arrest. Brooks was News of the World editor during some of the alleged illegal hacking. She is now reportedly “cooperating” with police, which should cause Aussie-born press baron Murdoch to lose some sleep.

“As the News International scandal deepens it is becoming increasing clear that [British PM] David Cameron and others at the heart of government have been in thrall to Rupert Murdoch, shamelessly prioritizing the commercial interests of one powerful man over the British public,” Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of Britain’s National Union of Journalists, stated in a press release.

The need for doing the right thing is not limited to Obama’s Oval Office or Murdoch’s corporate suite.

Strained federal and state government budgets could be slashed through reductions in the current spending of billions of dollars to sustain prison systems stuffed with non-violent offenders (many of them falsely convicted).

The federal government spends over $6-billion annually on its prison system where over 2/3rds of the 216,709 federal prisoners are classified at low and medium risk levels according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. These are people who could more appropriately punished through far less expensive parole or probation.

The 50 states spent an estimated $51.7-billion on corrections in Fiscal Year 2008 according to a PEW study released in 2009. And that number has only grown in subsequent years.

America’s prisons systems are rife with brutality, torture and other deprivations and are excellent training grounds for future criminals and recidivists.

Thousands of inmates at 13 California prisons are presently conducting hunger strikes to protest conditions, particularly the intolerable conditions at that state’s Pelican Bay and Corcoran maximum security prisons. Prisoners report cell temperatures at Pelican Bay in excess of one hundred degrees.

Such scandalous conditions inside California’s prison system have cost that state over $1.5-billion in court orders and settlements during the past decades according to a 2009 study by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office.

California’s inmate population soared from 76,000 to over 171,000 in the past twenty years due largely to conservative tough-on-crime policies that were promoted by the same rigid Republican ideology now driving the current nationwide assault on public employee pensions and funding for things like public school education and Medicaid.

In Pennsylvania prisons torture is rampant, ranging from attacks on inmates at the infamously brutal Huntingdon Prison to retaliation against a jailhouse lawyer at the Houtzdale Prison, who was placed in solitary confinement shortly after he had filed a lawsuit against staff, according to documented reports from the prison monitoring Human Rights Coalition’s HRC-Fedup!

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General’s Office, which is charged with addressing prison abuses, is refusing to investigate cases involving attacks on inmates presented by HRC-Fedup! Pa’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who was the state’s AG until he ran for governor, has raised the prison budget while cutting funds for public schools and colleges.

Presidents, CEOs and other honchos need to do what they demand of others: Do the Right Thing.