Paul Street: ‘Obama’s Resume of Betrayal’
Paul Street in “Power Served, Millions Betrayed” presents the reality of Obama’s conservative neoliberal ideology and takes on the personality-cultish, propaganda-spun good will so many progressives still cling to regarding Obama:
There is, of course, one group of Americans who have clearly not been thrown under the bus by Barack Obama: the very predominantly white corporate and financial elite.
Street quotes John Cassidy, economics writer for the New Yorker from November 2010:
Despite all the criticism that President Obama has received lately from Wall Street, the Administration has largely left the great money-making machine intact.
A couple of years ago, firms such as Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs faced the danger that the government would break them up, drive them out of some of their most lucrative business lines—such as dealing in derivatives—or force them to maintain so much capital that that their profits would be greatly diminished…
None of these things—all widely supported by irrelevant pubic opinion—materialized, reflecting the moneyed elite’s success in defining “realistic” policy options for a president who wanted a second term.
Catch Cassidy's reference to “irrelevant public opinion”?
Street cites a New Yorker essay “Super-Rich Irony” by business journalist Chrystia Freeland in October 2012.
Freeland observed the curious incongruity of “the growing antagonism of the super- wealthy toward Obama” when the president had “served the rich very well” by “support[ing] the seven hundred billion dollar TARP rescue package for Wall Street and resist[ing] calls from the Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman and others on the left, to nationalize the banks in exchange for that largesse."
Street turns to a 2011 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning Ron Suskind, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, “to really grasp the depth and degree of Obama’s commitment to protecting the super-wealthy elite that crashed the U.S. and global economy”:
...Ron Suskind tells a remarkable story from March 2009. Three months into Barack Obama’s supposedly progressive, left-leaning presidency, popular anger at Wall Street was intense and the nation’s leading financial institutions were weak and on the defensive in the wake of the financial collapse and recession they had created.
The new president called a meeting of the nation’s top 13 financial executives at the White House. The banking titans came into the meeting full of dread. As Suskind notes: “They were the CEOs of the thirteen largest banking institutions in the United States…. And they were nervous in ways that these men are never nervous. Many would have had to reach back to their college days, or even grade school, to remember a moment when they felt this sort of lump-in-the-throat tension.
As some of the most successful men in the country, they weren’t used to being pariahs... [and] they were indeed pariahs. The populist backlash against the financial sector—building steadily since September—was finally beginning to cause grave discomfort on Wall Street. As unemployment ballooned and credit tightened, the country began to look inward, toward the origins of the panic and its disastrous consequences.
In the end, however, the frightened captains of high finance left the meeting pleased to learn that Obama was firmly in their camp. For instead of standing up for those who had been harmed most by the crisis—workers, minorities, and the poor—Obama sided unequivocally with those who had caused the meltdown. “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Obama said. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem. And I want to help…I’m not here to go after you. I’m protecting you…. I’m going to shield you from congressional and public anger.”
For the banking elite who destroyed millions of jobs in their lust for profit, there was, as Suskind puts it, “Nothing to worry about. Whereas [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt had [during the Great Depression] pushed for tough, viciously opposed reforms of Wall Street and famously said ‘I welcome their hate,’ Obama was saying ‘How can I help?’
As one leading banker told Suskind, “The sense of everyone after the meeting was relief. The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability. At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t—he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.”
“When the bankers arrived in the State Dining Room, sitting under a portrait of a glowering Lincoln,” Suskind notes, “Obama had them scared and ready to do almost anything he said…. An hour later, they were upbeat, ready to fly home and commence business as usual".
Emboldened and reassured by Obama’s expressed desire to “protect” and “shield” them, the nation’s leading bankers had little difficulty preventing the president and Congress from making any serious effort to regulate them in response to the disaster they had generated.
“Once the [financial] hemorrhaging stopped and Congress sat down to write a new law to prevent a future collapse,” notes the veteran national correspondent Hedrick Smith, “Wall Street was back at lobbying full throttle, resisting almost every regulatory idea…. At the very moment when Wall Street’s credibility should have been in tatters” and “the political climate demanded action,” Smith notes, “the top bankers showed that they “still dominated political Washington despite the dangers [they posed] to the U.S. economy.” Endowed with 1,400 lobbyists and following a policy of “obstruct and delay,” they waited for the public to lose interest in the complexities of financial reform and the legislative process.
The result was the passage in mid-2010 of a financial regulatory law that was most remarkable for what it failed to contain....
Street points to economic statistics of savage inequality in America to underscore Obama’s “conservative neoliberal ideology" beholding to the "super-entitled corporate and financial ruling class”.
400 Americans possess more wealth than the bottom half of the population.
The 6 Walmart heirs together have as much net worth as the bottom 41.5% of the population.
Obama profoundly betrayed his own campaign promises. Street outlines Obama’s “Resume of Betrayal”:
The list of those Obama has thrown under the runaway buses of neoliberal capitalism, military empire, and white supremacy is impressive. His resume of betrayal includes:
1) the labor movement (betrayed and abandoned on global trade, labor law reform, the Wisconsin rebellion, and the wage- and job-slashing terms of the much-ballyhooed auto bailout)
2) environmentalists (abandoned and betrayed on offshore drilling, hydraulic fracturing, global carbon emission reduction-efforts and more—the final Keystone Pipeline approval is just a formality)
3) civil libertarians (abandoned and betrayed on Guantanamo, rendition, warrantless wiretaps, secret kills lists, whistleblower protection, domestic drones, the infiltration of protest organizations, and more)
4) the antiwar community (betrayed by Obama’s undeclared war on Libya, the escalating U.S. invasion of Africa, U.S. saber-rattling in relation to Iran, Syria, and East Asia and much more)
5) black America, which voted in record numbers for the first technically black president
In October 2012 in the NYT, Frederick C. Harris, historian, in “The Price of a Black President” wrote:
…for those who had seen in President Obama’s election the culmination of four centuries of black hopes and aspirations and the realization of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a ‘beloved community,’ the last four years must be reckoned a disappointment.
Whether it ends in 2013 or 2017, the Obama presidency has already marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality…. Mr. Obama has had little to say on concerns specific to blacks.
Harris points out that Obama's State of the Union address in 2011 was the first by any president since 1948 not to mention poverty or the poor. The political scientist Daniel Q. Gillion found that Mr. Obama, in his first two years in office, talked about race less than any Democratic president had since 1961. "From racial profiling to mass incarceration to affirmative action, his comments have been sparse and halting.”
Street points out that according to Harris 37% of black children are poor comparied to 13% of white children, 13% of blacks are unemployed comparied to 7% of whites, 900,000 black men are in prison.
But blacks are not the only victims of the Obama regime declares Street. He writes that Obama is “leading the charge to roll back Social Security and Medicare, the crown jewel liberal programs of the 1930s and 1960s—in the name of “deficit reduction.”
Street explains that the budget calling for a $400 billion cut to Medicare and other health care will require seniors to increase payments or face reduced coverage. Obama cravenly supports “means testing” of Medicare, which is a manipulation to limit benefits “to the non-affluent.”
Obama’s “chained CPI” method to determine a cost-of-living framework for Social Security benefits, asserts Street, will cost retirees more than 2% of their incomes. According to Jill Stein says Street this is more than three times the burden Obama’s “nominal tax increase on the rich last year”!
In February 2013, a Pew survey showed that only 1 in 10 Americans want to cut Social Security. More than 4 in 10 want Social Security benefits INCREASED! Street calls out Obama as being SHAMELESS, defiant “of his own repeated and core re-election campaign promises to protect the program. He is doing so despite the modesty of U.S. Social Security payment levels (an average of just $1,234 per month per retiree)....”.
Street lays out the facts about Social Security:
Nearly two thirds (65 percent) of U.S. seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their cash income.
More than a third (36 percent) of U.S. seniors rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their income.
More than 40 percent of elderly Americans would have incomes below the federal poverty line without Social Security.
Social Security is particularly critical to the income security of older minorities and older women. (....Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (11/2012) notes that “Because women tend to earn less than men, take more time out of the paid workforce, live longer, accumulate less savings, and receive smaller pensions, Social Security is especially important for them. Women constitute 56 percent of Social Security beneficiaries aged 62 and older and 67 percent of beneficiaries aged 85 and older.”)
Street stresses how Social Security is well-managed and in no way contributes to the deficit situation.
The president has nothing to say about the most simple and obvious way to call the bluff of those who claim that Social Security is in a spending-induced crisis—removing the regressive cap on the payroll taxing of incomes over $113,000 and adding a Social Security tax on capital gains.
What Obama should be advocating maintains Street is a program suggested by Hedrick Smith in “Who Stole the American Dream?”:
a freestanding financial services protection agency headed by a serious consumer advocate
measures to shrink the biggest bank to deal with the “too-big-to-[be allowed to]-fail” problem
the revival of “Glass-Stegal” protections that had separated commercial banking from investment banking between the mid 1930s and the late 1990s
a significant “bank tax” to help meet the expense of future bank failures
a ban on banks marketing risky derivates (including the toxic credit default swaps that had so critically fueled the mortgage meltdown)
a serious and substantive barring of banks from proprietary trading on their own accounts
Street maintains that a serious antidote to Obama's “gruesome Great Betrayal” has been proposed by the “officially invisible” Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein. Stein and the Green New Deal offer solutions to the job crisis, the health care crisis, the environmental crisis, the budget deficit. According to Stein in “Obama Budget Throws American People Under the Bus,” www.jillstein.org, April 11, 2013:
This approach would end both the economic crisis and the climate crisis in one fell swoop. It would create 25 million jobs in green energy, sustainable agriculture, public transportation and infrastructure improvements—as well as jobs that meet our social needs, including teachers, nurses, day care, affordable housing, drug abuse and violence prevention and rehabilitation.
It would be funded by scaling back the oversized military budget to year 2000 levels, adopting a Medicare-for-All insurance system that would save trillions of dollars, requiring Wall Street gamblers to pay a small (0.5 percent) sales tax, taxing capital gains as income, and taxing income more progressively. These key provisions of the Green New Deal enjoy majority public support in poll after poll.
The Green New Deal addresses the concocted deficit/debt problems by solving the bigger, underlying crises of an unraveling economy and accelerating climate catastrophe.
As should surprise nobody familiar with business-rule-as-usual in the U.S., Stein’s proposal has been thoroughly ignored in the nation’s dominant corporate mass media. This is no small part of what it means to live under the unelected dictatorship of money.
Street praises the true liberals who have been churning out grim evidence and truths about Obama since before his election.
The warnings were not heeded and seem to matter little now that Obama has nothing left to run for except Mount Rushmore. (A second Nobel Peace Prize seems unlikely).
Mt. Rushmore? Would a delusional citizen majority support and celebrate such an Orwellian reward for Obama's mass betrayal? Anything seems possible in America's current ethical freakshow, especially regarding the charismatic and mendacious Barack Obama.
[cross-posted on open salon]