Decision 2012: Austerity vs. Austerity

November 6, 2012

As this year’s election finally reaches its conclusion, working-class people will soon know who will drive the agenda of austerity over the next four years. Whether it’s Obama or Romney, the underlying priorities remain the same, and at the center of those priorities is a commitment to cut the deficit on the backs of workers and the poor.

Up to this point, the campaigning on either side has sought to lead voters into a state of mind in which substance and style bleed together as one. Because beyond style, both Obama and Romney share more in common on policy than they disagree. Even if Democrats and Republicans differ on how to get there, the goal is the same: safeguard the dominance of corporate power and point to the deficit as reason enough to march forward with the assault on the working class. 

The article linked below offers a sharp and succinct analysis of this reality. As the article points out, “history shows that voting for the ‘lesser evil’ is no guarantee against the ‘greater evil.’ On the contrary, evil sometimes has a better shot if the ‘lesser’ paves the way and provides the façade.”

But while the politics of the lesser-evil prevails in the electoral realm, what counts the most for workers and the poor will be the politics of struggle on the shop floor and in the streets.

Cross-posted from Socialist Worker:

The Next President of Austerity

The presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is incredibly close.

It’s close in the way you read about every day in the media: Opinion polls show the two candidates are neck and neck, with just days to go. But it’s also close in ways you never hear about–not from the press, nor the candidates, nor their supporters. On important political questions, Obama and Romney stand so close to each other that their similarities outweigh their differences.

This isn’t what most people are talking about with less than a week to go before the election. But it’s what activists and people on the left have to consider as the call to vote for Obama in order to stop Romney reaches full volume.

The dynamic of the presidential race changed fundamentally with the first debate at the start of October, when the combination of Obama’s dismal performance and Romney’s image of seeming competence after a summer of missteps gave a burst of momentum to Republicans. Ever since, it has been a dead-even contest–according to the aggregation of opinion polls tracked at, Romney is barely ahead in the popular vote, while Obama has a slight advantage in the Electoral College.

But the broader dynamic of Election 2012 is mostly unchanged. The defining issue of American politics in the last four years has been the drive to impose austerity measures that make working people pay for the crisis, and on this question, Obama and Romney are closer to each other than their rhetoric suggests.

There are other issues, like abortion rights, where the differences between the candidates and especially their parties are clearer–though the hard truth is they aren’t as stark as they are usually portrayed. Moreover, the prospect of emboldened right-wingers gaining confidence from a Romney victory–and gloating over the defeat of the first African American president, who they have been heaping abuse on since day one–is stomach-turning.

But anyone who wants to vote for Obama as the lesser evil has to confront questions that have gone unasked during the campaign.

When it comes to “reforming” popular programs like Social Security and Medicare, to maintaining historically low tax rates on business, to continuing the teacher-bashing and the charterization of public schools, to cutting government programs that help the poor and vulnerable–on all these questions, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are fundamentally on the same side, though they may differ on the details.

Continue Reading at Socialist Worker


Stay tuned for my forthcoming article on labor’s big push for Obama in 2012 and what, if anything, it gets in return.  

About SubterraneanDispatcher

Brian Tierney is a longtime socialist activist who works as a communications specialist for a labor union in Washington, DC. After completing his undergraduate studies in International Affairs and Latin America Studies, he has been working in the labor movement and writing reports and analyses on various struggles for social and economic justice. In addition to reporting on protests in the DC area, he also writes about union struggles, immigrant rights, the fight to defend public education, and struggles of the poor and working class in general. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Nation, The Progressive, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Socialist Worker and The Neoprogressive. Brian can be reached via email at

Posted on November 7, 2012, in Austerity, Budget Cuts, Corporate Greed, Healthcare, Labor Movement, Plutocracy, Public Education, SubDisp Exclusive, Teachers Unions, U.S. Politics, Women's Rights, Workers Rights. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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