The Real Obama: Why Supporters and Detractors Are Out of Touch

by Derek Scarlino/Love and Rage

Note on this re-publishing: I originally published this on the Utica Phoenix website in September of 2012, before the 2012 Presidential Elections (it is currently up on Daily Kos). It still contains a lot of relevant criticisms of Barack Obama as well as those who support this man and those who don’t. I am re-posting this to dispel any notions that not being a conservative or libertarian initiative somehow means that Love and Rage is a pro-Democrat, pro-liberal, pro-Obama one. These are false. In any case, the original article is re-posted, in full, below:

In trying to wrap my mind around the devolution of American politics over the last ten years, the coming 2012 presidential election deserves special designation. There certainly were aspects of Bush administration policy that conservatives and other Bush-supporters weren’t aware of, or possibly ignored out of convenience, but, in specific, the mythos surrounding Barack Obama is exceptional – on both (major) sides.

A site I visit often, and recommend to others who want to get a good grasp of their own political sympathies, and the politicians they vote for, is PoliticalCompass.org. They posted a laundry list of policies pursued by the Obama administration, so I decided to go through them one by one (some have been omitted by me on this list due to their correlation to other policies) to see if a solid critical case could be made.

In doing so, it has become very clear that both supporters and detractors alike haven’t an honest clue about what Obama’s policies have been in contrast to the non-stop rhetoric which emanates from pundits, other voters, and political opponents.

The reality is ignored in the mainstream media to a sickening degree as well. Distortion and a seemingly overabundance of information without clarification is employed to discourage the public from taking any active interest in any of it. However, when the most popular mainstream news source routinely boasts the most misinformed viewership (FOX News), it doesn’t lend much optimism to the rest of the spectrum.

The result, among other concerning trends, is a population that has very little clue on how it is governed, and in a society with limited democratic processes, this can be dangerous; deadly even. Not in some silly conspiracy-driven, FEMA concentration camp way, but rather a killing people with carpetbombing runs and supporting repressive regimes abroad kind of way.

The purpose of this article is to highlight and address exactly the points that those on both sides of the Obama aisle routinely miss.

It should be noted, and not dismissed at any point during any of the following, that these types of actions and policies are not exclusive to the Democratic Party or President Obama — and that’s the point.

Appointed several conservative advisors and key figures

Obama’s cabinet picks drew the ire of his most liberal supporters almost immediately, as did attempts by other supporters to defend those picks. The concerns were legitimate as some members of the Obama administration, which has been charged with righting the ship in the midst of a long, deep recession, played key roles in getting the US into its current position in the first place.

Of special interest is Larry Summers who played a key role in the developing and worrying trend of bad economics over the past twenty years and was appointed as director of the National Economic Council. Some may be quick to point out that Summers is a Democrat, but to prove a quick point about the closeness of the two major parties, Summers’ economic savvy is well in line with advocates of neoliberalism among Republicans. Besides, if you’re still convinced that Democrat means something vastly different than Republican, stop reading now. You’ve not only missed a major theme of this article, but a fundamental development of American politics over the last thirty years.

Summers has an established past as an economic advisor to President Reagan, former chief economist for the World Bank, both Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, President of Harvard University, and his previously mentioned post in the Obama cabinet. Larry Summers is no stranger to the economic policies of the United States, and despite his otherwise “impressive” resumé, his name is never far from plain bad economics.

“Democratically speaking”, you shouldn’t want him anywhere near the White House. The same applies to self-described liberals. In Republican terms, Larry Summers is your kind of Democrat. It should be understood that whatever notion there is about Democrats not harboring traditionally conservative stances is dubious. The Democrats, policy by policy, are to the Right of most European conservative-leaning parties. The Democratic Party of the United States is a conservative, Right wing party.

Summers, as an economist, is well-known for his stance against corporate and capital gains taxes. He was also very influential in the now controversial deregulation of the financial services industry since the first Reagan administration, though Summers’ most prominent role in this occurred in the 1990’s and 2000’s. He championed some of the more damaging repeals of Glass-Steagall provisions that many, including Obama, have included among the causes for the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007. This makes his appointment of Summers all the more peculiar for the more traditional liberals in Obama’s camp.

Summers was also included in a group of influential economic policy makers (SEC chairman Arthur Levitt, chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, and his mentor, former Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin) which outright subverted an effort to regulate the derivatives market that brought the economy down in 2007.

Next to Summers, Obama also appointed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, Geithner himself a known acolyte of Summers’ economic philosophy. Obama also sought out the advice of Robert Rubin during the crisis in the fall of 2008, before his election. Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and most Republicans are nearly synonymous with each other in their neoliberal economic outlook.

The mouthpieces of the Right (Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh), of course, have all along been selling the notion that Obama’s cabinet is dangerous, full of Leftists, and only about 8 percent have private sector experience. Put to scrutiny, however, this falls flat on its face as about 78 percent of Obama’s cabinet have experience in the private sector and it’s very pro-business.

For all of the tough talk that Obama laid down during his campaign, he has never been quick to act on his words when it comes to Wall Street. Then again, when financial services are your largest campaign contributors, you might be prone to batting a blind eye their way.

I’m compelled to say, once again, that the appearance of Obama’s cabinet may seem outwardly positive, and what voters wanted after the Bush administration, but party affiliation means nothing when the history of these men have them right there preaching the same voodoo economics as virtually all Republicans that have been cutting into our economy for decades.

Unprecedented administration posts to Trilateral Commission members

The Trilateral Commission is not a mainstream topic in the United States. Unfortunately so, too. This group of individuals from the post-industrial world (originally Japan, the EU, and US) have played an increasingly influential role in global economics since the 1970’s — to the detriment of labor power and worker’s rights throughout the globe.

This is not some conspiracy-born, secret society of global overlords. It’s intention of putting the like minds of post-industrial democracies together to establish a “new economic world order”might make some shudder, and it may make others laugh. I’d like to digress into why governments have to love conspiracy theorists because they make serious topics unapproachable when their wild, illogical claims become attached to certain words and phrases, but I’ll stop right here.

The Trilateral Commission is filled with members who have held key economic positions globally. EU heads of state, World Bank CEOs, and of course, top economic advisors in the United States. Obama has appointed eleven of them to his cabinet. A good article on what the Trilateral Commission is and who have been appointed by Obama can be found here.

Global domination schemes and de-population plots aside, these people do influence economic decisions that echo throughout several governments and industries.

Former Monsanto executive as Senior Advisor to the FDA

The appointment of “revolving door” specialist, Michael Taylor, to a post of special assistant to the FDA Commissioner for food safety is a thorn in the side of many anti-corporate crusaders, green activists, opponents of genetically modified food, and, of course, conspiracy theorists (they always show up to lessen the clout of more sane dissenters). Taylor is a controversial figure because of his history working for Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation that specializes in genetically modified foods.
Implied by “revolving door” is Taylor’s reputation for moving between the private sector, government, and lobbying positions several times throughout his career; a living, breathing epitome of government-corporate collusion known as corporatism.

Much of the organized opposition to Monsanto’s practices comes from its use of bovine growth hormone in milk production and the fact that many other post-industrial countries have yet to allow any animal products produced with artificial growth hormones to be sold in their markets. These countries include Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, and all member countries of the European Union.

When it comes to the reasons, they are health-based. Consumer advocate Jeffrey Smith has alleged that the FDA has completely dropped the ball on testing BGH. While Monsanto has made claims, later revealed to be false, that BGH is the most tested substance in the science world, many governments have noticed the lack of real research and raise concerns about the links between growth hormones, cancer rates in humans, and adverse health effects in the animals they’re applied to.

When it comes to the effects of bovine growth hormone, Monsanto has been quick to deny claims, lie, and even lash out at whistle-blowing journalists. Some “junk” about infected udders, pus in our milk, and increased antibiotics present in milk that were pumped into the cows to treat them – yum!. Oh, and the cancer thing. Don’t let that last bit worry you, though, the American Cancer Society has deemed the cancer link inconclusive at this time.

If betting your health on ambiguity makes you feel better, ignore Obama’s appointment of Michael Taylor to an influential position in the FDA.

Killing jobs with free trade agreements

Free trade agreements and treaties have always been contentious subjects. The lack of past free trade agreements, like NAFTA, to not add to job losses in the US, or decrease labor rights at home and abroad, have made them fit for some of the biggest bulls-eyes of actual Leftists in the United States, and even many liberals, when critiquing policy.
Obama’s proposed FTA’s with South Korea (where I am currently residing as an ESL teacher), Colombia, and Panama, not surprisingly, have evoked much concern in the context of killing more American jobs in the face of a dire jobs market in the US (the reason I left, again) and more degradation to labor rights as provisions to protect union rights have a historical tendency of being aggressively overlooked.

Not only will these agreements offshore more jobs, when Americans need them most, but they will likely have detrimental effects on the countries included in the agreements. Just like with NAFTA, which led to plummeting wages in Mexico, and forced migration as a result, the effects on labor rights have created an array of socio-economic problems throughout Central and South America.

In Colombia, over the past 25 years, over 2,850 trade unionists have been murdered by reactionary, Right wing paramilitary groups (funded by the United States in other parts of Central and South America). The problem with free trade agreements, aside from taking jobs away from Americans, is that they reinforce the gutting of worker’s rights, making the target country a prime choice for foreign investment. Consistent with the application of neoliberal economic policy in the developing world, strong-arm governments have typically been propped up to suppress not only labor organization, but other social movements which react to the damaging consequences.

In South Korea, labor activists and union leaders have been targeted with arrest and imprisonment for years. Labor uprisings in the relatively stable Korean economy are rare, but do happen. Employment in South Korea is high, in comparison to the US, so there is less for Koreans to protest at present. However, as free trade increases, history suggests that it will lead to job losses for Koreans in the future. From my own experiences living in Korea, inflation is starting to catch up to Korea as the global recession continues.

Social activism has a very dark, albeit hushed, history below the 38th parallel. The South Korean military dictatorship did not hesitate to kill pro-democracy protesters in the 1980s. Even after instituting a democratic form of government, Korea’s continued repression of union leaders and members will only grow as Korea’s looming struggle to remain economically viable approaches.

As with Korea, Obama’s FTA with Panama has no provisions to protect workers. One thing about capitalist/neoliberal economics, and free trade in general, is that the less organized a country’s workers are, the easier they are to exploit with low wages which increases the flow of jobs from the US to foreign outposts throughout the globe.
Multinational companies love this. Cheap labor costs plus an eager, near-compulsive consumer base back in the States equals a lot of profit — at the expense of the American worker twice over.

Wealth disparity is spiraling under his watch

While it is truly a global problem, and increasingly so, wealth disparity continues to rise in the United States — even under a president who is supposedly a “hardcore socialist”.

Let’s consider one thing outside of the realm of self-evidence or what can be called “Tea Party heuristics”. The likelihood of something happening based on the most shallow understanding of it does not yield very accurate results. Because it is believed that Obama is some radical Lefty doesn’t make it an ounce more true. If Obama was such a radical socialist, wealth disparity should have either mitigated or at least slowed. It hasn’t.

How big of a problem is it? Big.

As the graphs on the other side of that link show, since 1979, the top wage earners in the United States have seen increase in their incomes of nearly 300 percent. Wages for the middle class have largely remained stagnant. The overall share of wealth in the US is also discouraging as around 20 percent of the top wage earners in America own over 80 percent of the wealth. That doesn’t leave much for the rest of us. Taxes, too, for this upper, upper echelon of wage earners has been reduced by 37 percent from 1992 to 2007. Let’s not forget, the Bush Tax Cuts were extended by our current, out-of-control socialist president.

As per usual, Americans are quite out of touch with how things have transpired.

As dialogue in the United States plummets in sophistication and soars in worthless hyperbole, the very mention of trying to discuss wealth inequality instantly pegs one as a communist nanny-stater. It wasn’t always like this, however.

In 1916, the federal government published a report of income inequality in the US because, yes, politicians actually saw it as a threat to the democratic thread of the country. The hypothesis is nothing new, it actually dates back to fundamental, ancient Greek democratic philosophy (some guy named Socrates): the more evenly wealth is distributed, the higher the degree of democracy.

Even in those shady, socialist Scandinavian countries, the indexes of democracy are routinely higher than the United States. This brings up a whole mess of other issues, though, in the apparent re-birth of flimsy Objectivist outlooks catching on in the US.
Dare it be suggested that there are people who wake up each morning who feel that democracy is a threat to contrived notions of their personal liberty? Certainly. Again, though, this is another mess entirely.

A simple fact that both those who support Obama, and those who do not, consistently ignore is that wealth disparity in the United States has grown exponentially over the last thirty years and it has not slowed during Obama’s first term. It is moot to suggest that it would during a second should he be re-elected.

America’s ingrained system of corporate welfare and appeasement to the extremely wealthy will continue. Risks will be socialized and profit will continue to be privatized, which will continue the trend of gutting the middle class and their respective buying power — something that commodity-based, market economies rely on.

After all, just consider the federal government’s soft-handed approach to bank regulation during the Obama years (this will be elaborated on later).

Extended Bush Tax Cuts

This has been mentioned earlier, but it’s true.

Obama, though, likes to dance around the issue which makes this statement especially aggravating:

“Let’s agree to do what we agree on, right?” Obama said to laughter and applause in the East Room. “That’s what compromise is all about.”

The narrative of the issue being driven by his administration is that Republican unwillingness to compromise is postponing relief for the middle class. The old bait and switch, perhaps?

My personal reservations against buying into Obama’s statements on the matter arise from his insistence in reinforcing the fruitless supply-side rhetoric of A) the wealthy being the job creators, and B) that giving more breaks to the wealthy, by allowing them to retain more income, is supposed to somehow lead to prosperity despite the last three decades of the same magical thinking in economic policy.

It should be noted as well that the previous decade of cuts, known as the “Bush Tax Cuts”, *(needs a source)*resulted in zero net job growth.

Hasn’t worked since its implementation in the Reagan era. Let’s give it another shot!
Trying the same thing after repeated failures and expecting different results. A wise person once said that such behavior is tantamount to insanity.

Trade unions have eroded further

As alluded to before, Obama’s free-trade agreements raise a lot of issues, especially for labor organizers. If unionized workers are easier to bypass so as to get at the sweet nectar of desperate, unorganized workers in more undeveloped, tropical climes then there’s nothing else to conclude except that the attack on organized labor, dating back nearly 70 years, is still continuing under the current “socialist regime” in America.

More recent developments which highlight increased power for multinational companies make it an absolute certainty that prosperity for a few at the expense of the organized American worker will persist.

Another black eye on the Obama administration’s resumé is the fact that the Employee Free Choice Act continues to collect dust in Congress. This is needed legislation that will make it easier for American workers, already the most productive in the developed world, to unionize.

Unions continue to be the flowery parts of campaign speeches utilized to gather support from them, and not much more past that. They have declined so much in membership, that Democrats can afford to not take labor power seriously, gut it, and still get away with it, though the implications of the death of unions would be decidedly less flowery than any praise in a campaign speech could ever help.

As you read this, one of Obama’s alleged protégés, and fellow “hardcore socialist”, Rahm Emanuel, is attempting to break a 29,000 strong teacher’s union strike in Chicago. Quite a departure from the norm for someone accused to hold such Left-wing sentiments.

Expanded Bush defense spending

Yes. It’s true. And it’s very simple.

No surprise that Obama has come under attack in the past for his stance of defense, as Republicans typically are the guardians of that narrative, but yes, President Obama did extend Bush-era defense spending to the tune of $21 billion dollars in 2010 (follow the links, too).

As noted in the news, and in the linked article, Obama has reduced defense spending as his term has progressed, but the increases are still real. In any case, his opponents in government have pegged him as a defense-budget slasher who is weak on defense and foreign policy. It’s simply not true. US defense spending continues to outpace the rest of the world by a considerable margin. It’s not even close.

Even with recent cuts, the military spending in the US is quite a chunk of money that has grown considerably over the last decade. Isn’t it interesting though how Republican rhetoric about government spending and job creation hit a wall with defense spending? It seems government money is imperative to maintain and create jobs in that industry, despite their cries that the same method doesn’t work anywhere else.

Droned civilians

It’s curious that Obama has taken flak from the Right in the US for his aggressive counter-terrorism strategy. On one hand, yes, it’s all part of the show to make him seem soft on defense and score points with their base, on the other, he’s kept intact virtually everything that he once criticized the Bush administration for.

Torture, rendition, drone strikes, and spreading a contrived, expensive ‘War on Terror’ into non-aggressor nations like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Again, things that Obama’s supporters would probably like to see end, and what conservative types applauded under the Bush administration.

Just as the linked article alludes to, Obama’s embrace of extrajudicial execution is a worrying trend forward for what was formerly lambasted as hawkish, Republican foreign policy. Put simply, he most likely would have never gotten to the current point he has without such a strong trend of precedents in the previous administration.

It seems Obama has taken advantage of the extent to which the Bush administration pushed America and the world’s tolerance for their ballsy approach to fighting “terrorism” in spite of the Geneva Convention’s policy on aggression. Obama has ran with it, though somehow his administration has done so very quietly depending on your mainstream news source.

While the administration’s claims vary, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that anywhere between 400 and 800 people have been targeted and killed by US drones — including nearly 150 children. Other estimates bring the number as high as 3,000, though that figure lacks substantive backing.

Did not close Guantanamo

Included in criticisms of Obama’s counterterrorism policies is the fact that he, despite an ardent campaign promise, has yet to close the extrajudicial prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Before the excuses of time-consuming, political wrangling with Republicans start up, think for a minute about Obama’s handle of the War on Terrorism. He’s expanded it. This undercuts his very loud calls to close it down considerably. There’s still a use for the facility, as controversial as that may be.

If you’re following the trends here, Obama has been establishing a very poor track record on reversing the status quo he inherited. As such, Guantanamo’s continued use should not surprise anyone.

If wrestling with Republicans is the go-to excuse, then forget considering him a compromiser, Obama has been a massive pushover when it has come to some major policy issues that helped to put him in office. With so many positions pursued that would have also been had under a third Bush term, or perhaps a first Romney term, it’s too hard to swallow that there’s some deadlock on behalf of a powerful monolithic Republican bloc which is not just halting the advancements of Obama’s key campaign promises, but turning them into decidedly Republican-esque policy instead.

Make peace with Occam’s Razor: Obama probably did intend to close Guantanamo, but found it far more convenient to keep it open upon taking office and escalating the War on Terror.

Supported NDAA, which included near-martial law provision

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) kicked up a lot of dust throughout the American political arena, and it’s one of the few things that’s been so sharply, and rightfully, criticized by many. Members of both major parties, and focal points of populist rage, the Tea Party and Occupy movement, all let their concerns be known over some very key, very controversial provisions in the NDAA about indefinite detention for US citizens.

Once again, though, a Republican/Right wing stench comes with this. There’s really nothing new in the provisions which indicate moves toward martial law and indefinite detention that weren’t in Bush’s Military Commissions Act of 2006 or his PATRIOT Act of 2001.

Suspensions of habeas corpus are not new to American policy. Lincoln did it during the Civil War. Bush did it with the PATRIOT Act, and former VP Dick Cheney’s fight to pass PATRIOT II would have eroded the Constitution even further. The provisions in the NDAA, which a new version is voted on every fiscal year, simply tow that line of former attempts to inhibit how Americans can redress their grievances.

Even the Clinton administration’s Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 can be regarded as another step in advancing reduction to basic American liberties. And that legislation fed off of the Drug War policies which granted increasing power to law enforcement.

It’s not that Obama is seeking to single-handedly bring down the US Constitution, he’s simply riding a wave with considerable bipartisan history behind it. As long as the Super Bowl happens each year, though, Americans have remained blissfully unaware and uninterested. Though, the recent cancellation of Jersey Shore might cause a ripple or two as people accidentally click there way to a news story or blog.

It is without ego that I suggest many of the above pieces of legislation are being brought to some people’s attention for the very first time.

For decades, we have been subjected to an incremental increase in the ability for the federal government to curb our civil liberties. More excitable pundits might have some believing in FEMA concentration camps and black helicopters, but there’s really nothing more to it than being allowed enough freedoms to the limit of actually incurring any change in our economic policy.

As the abuses of state and corporate collusion have increased, our liberties have decreased. The process by which business is conducted is simply being streamlined to avoid the annoyance of democracy. The Obama administration is just playing their part in the unfolding policy measures to restrict any ability to enact meaningful change through things like protests or measures of direct action: hence the threat of suspending the rights of citizens to things like habeas corpus or introducing martial law at the president’s discretion (as ceded to the Executive branch via the Military Commission’s Act of 2006).

Obama’s supporters have, in the past, brought up how Obama held reservations in signing off on the NDAA, but those reservations were, in actuality, quite vague — much like anti-terrorism legislation before it.

Allowed drilling

In yet another piece of action that was peddled as a compromise, Obama did open the southeastern coast of the US to offshore drilling. Critics once again have long been chastising the president over a hardline stance about drilling in the US, and they’re once again off-base as another “compromise” has given them what they wanted, despite their refusal to acknowledge it as Republican policy:

The Obama administration’s plan adopts some drilling proposals floated by President George W. Bush near the end of his tenure, including opening much of the Atlantic and Arctic Coasts. Those proposals were challenged in court on environmental grounds and set aside by President Obama shortly after he took office.

Need there be more said?

Took a soft approach to banks

Despite any rhetoric we might have heard during Obama’s first presidential campaign, it really comes as no surprise that for all of his tough talk about Wall Street and big banks, the results have been paltry. Why? Because the financial services industry was Barack Obama’s largest campaign contributor, to the tune of $36.7 million. Another tale of trading cash for political favors.

The approaches (Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Agency) taken were laden with intent, but when put into action did very little to address the long-standing problems in the banking world that helped create the mess of 2008. Some of the harshest criticisms come from Neil Barofsky, who was a former special inspector general in charge of oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program known as TARP.

The intent behind actions like Dodd-Frank was to address the phenomenon of too-big-to-fail banks and bailouts. This game, in state capitalism, results in the privatization of profit, and there’s lots of it these days. Along with this, the risks are even greater — as we have seen in our not-too-distant past. These risks, though, are hung on taxpayers. This is not unique to Democrats or Obama. Again, this is not unique to the Obama administration or the Democratic Party.

Regardless, as it was even more solidified with the LIBOR scandal, massive risk is the name of the global banking game. It has been for years. The answer to this doesn’t come from the other side (Republicans), either as they were instrumental in deregulating the financial services industry over the last 30 years.

Again, when it comes to big banks, Obama is not straying from the path forged before him by several bi-partisan administrations. When it comes to reigning in banks, party lines fade with worrying quickness.

A $4.4 billion hedging loss by JP Morgan (plus LIBOR) and the many, continuing sins of Bank of America, which among other things, includes a risky venture so big, the taxpayers of the US are on the hook for FDIC-insured derivatives to the tune of $75 trillion. It’s concerning that the banks and companies bailed out by the government in 2008 were not FDIC-insured, thus there was no onus whatsoever on the US government to bail them out. It remains popular sentiment among voters of all political persuasions that these banks should have been allowed to fail — their assets liquidated.

The results are well noted at this point. Attempts to break up banking conglomerates have also amounted to nothing. Big banks still exist. They still act with impunity. They perform at record rates, take the same risks as before, get to keep their profits if they fail, and have continued to pass their folly to taxpayers. The same as it was before Barack Obama is how it remains.

While championing universal health care, his first choice for Secretary of Health was a pharmaceuticals lobbyist

Was Tom Daschle a lobbyist or not? That depends on how much one allows their opinions to be affected by semantics and legal definitions. For the purpose of calling a spade a spade, Tom Daschle has been, for all intents and purposes, a lobbyist for the health care industry since 2007, though his official, legal title is something to the effect of “special adviser”.

Where going after Daschle is a bit tricky lies in the fact that he’s a proponent of a single-payer healthcare system, yet sells his time (for pretty nice sums of cash) to healthcare companies that strongly, and routinely, oppose such government-run systems (UnitedHealtcare) that Daschle as advocated and even written books on. Though, is it truly surprising, or hard to fathom, that a career politician can be bent in any direction if the money is right? The money is pretty damn good, too.

A bit of conjecture, sure. Still, it is warranted as Daschle is quite deceptive about the disclosure of his activities as an adviser. One thing is certain, Daschle has contacts in Washington. He’s well-known. He most certainly carries influence, despite denying any direct contact with public officials since his departure from Congress. Direct contact with a government official on behalf of a client would leave him with little choice but to disclose the details of such correspondence.

As mentioned before, it’s hard to peg Daschle’s actual intent due to the lack of true detail available, but it is curious. Decide for yourself.

Corporate-friendly health care plan for US

I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008, but one of the primary factors, if not the only factor, that would have swayed my vote his way was health care reform. Three years ago, I was involved in a panel discussion hosted by WKTV when the president was unveiling his comprehensive plan after the tumultuous summer of 2009. Tumultuous because it was a summer rife with contested town hall meetings, and of course, the emergence of the death panel myth and the Tea Party.

My sentiments on his plan were accurate enough. I did not feel that the president went as far as he could have, and just a few months later, the United States was introduced to what the late US historian and activist Howard Zinn called “a compromise of a compromise.”

What happened? It has already been pointed out early in this article how similar the president’s plan is to the Republican plan of the early 1990’s.

The popular belief is that the health care industry rallied against the Obama administration for what was seen as massive government intrusion into the private sector. It may seem so just at the mention of Obama’s name and any reference to health care, given his undeserved reputation as a Leftist crusader, but despite what insurance companies will have to pay initially, they can look forward to years of billions in profits in the future.

To be clear, there are some progressive reforms, like limits on premiums, but it boils down to a very disappointing, and overlooked, truth: the US’s solution to health care was to simply coerce the uninsured to take part in a mildly altered for-profit system.
Over 40 million new customers to choose from. This is bad for insurance companies?
Makes populist references to economic justice, while simultaneously appointing as his new Chief of Staff a former Citigroup executive concerned with hedge funds that bet on the housing market to collapse

More revolving doors. It’s true. It’s as true as any other administration’s past dealings with the same kind of individuals.

More shiny rhetoric tossed to those who wanted to hear it, while the administration put the opposite into motion by appointing Jacob Lew.

Lew is another curious move by the administration, however. Despite overseeing a unit at Citigroup that did bet against hedge funds, he’s also not quite the biggest threat in the room. Perhaps. If that is taken as an endorsement, it shouldn’t. Lew just seems like another guy who swings both ways when the situation compels him to. He has, in the past, championed policies that did have vulnerable, lower-income Americans in mind, but is that enough to put Obama supporters to sleep at night given the enormous weight and consequences of the 2008 crash?

Some noble pursuits pitted against a cardinal sin of economic ethics when so many people’s livelihoods hang in the balance. This last one is in the air for Obama’s supporters to squabble over.

Civil libertarians and human rights advocates may have fared better under a Republican administration

Admittedly, this seems like a very interesting accusation. These same groups of people saw a tremendous amount of abuse during the Bush administration, so this deserves some dissection.

It’s no small secret that the Obama administration has continued domestic spying programs enacted during the Bush-era. It’s also no secret that newer, even bolder attempts to stifle civil rights have been pursued by the administration. Where things may have fared better under a Republican administration is hard to determine and perhaps based on assumptions about the public’s dissatisfaction with the Bush administration near the end of its lifespan.

Still, civil and human rights have been much maligned during Obama’s term.

It has been exactly one year since the Occupy movement erupted in Lower Manhattan, and the response to it has been dark. For all of the myopic denigration of the movement itself, and its nigh constant stigma as Obama supporters, the administration’s response to the movement itself has been anything but friendly. In fact, the Occupy movement has given a perfect case study on the exact nature of the Obama administration’s approach to protest suppression.

UN inquiry, in December 2011, into the administration’s stance on protesting rights in the United States has yet to be answered.

It’s concerning on a lot of levels. Where the Occupy movement differentiated from the Tea Party was that it avoided being co-opted, en masse, by one of the major political parties. Turns out that, no, George Soros was not the bankrolling hand behind the movement as David and George Koch were to the Tea Party. The Occupy movement were not pawns of Obama, nor were they supporters. The Occupy movement still is quite critical, if not outright opposed, to capitalism — which puts it at odds with the monolithic economic reality of the party dyad in the US.

Where the Tea Party was “anti-government”, the Occupy movement was “anti-state”. And, say for a few sympathizers, the Occupy movement has not rallied behind throngs of political candidates or pushed any into office only to play politics as usual. The Tea Party is a nuisance where the Occupy movement is a threat promoting ideas and concepts that had not received attention in a generation or better, hence the harsher reaction.

In fact, the Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law) and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice (Fordham Law School) compiled a detailed report of the NYPD’s handling of the Occupy protesters with concern that their human and civil rights were indeed violated.

This is from the report’s own executive summary:

This report follows a review of thousands of news reports and hundreds of hours of video, extensive firsthand observation, and detailed witness interviews. In New York City, some of the worst practices documented include:
• Aggressive, unnecessary and excessive police force against peaceful protesters,
bystanders, legal observers, and journalists
• Obstruction of press freedoms and independent legal monitoring
• Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity
• Violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments
• Unjustified closure of public space, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and kettling
(corralling and trapping) of protesters
• Arbitrary and selective rule enforcement and baseless arrests
• Failures to ensure transparency about applicable government policies
• Failures to ensure accountability for those allegedly responsible for abuses
These practices violate assembly and expression rights and breach the U.S. government’s international legal obligations to respect those rights. In New York City, protest policing concerns are extensive and exist against a backdrop of disproportionate and well-documented abusive policing practices in poor and minority communities outside of the protest context.

Governments—including U.S. federal, state, and local authorities—are obliged by international law to uphold the rights of individuals to peacefully assemble and to seek to reform their governments. The freedoms of assembly and expression are essential pillars for democratic participation, the exchange and development of grievances and reforms, and securing positive social change. This report provides extensive analysis of the U.S. government’s international legal obligations with respect to protests. The abusive practices documented in this report violate international law and suppress and chill protest rights, not only by undermining individual liberty, but also by causing both minor and serious physical injuries, inhibiting collective debate and the capacity to effectively press for social and economic change, and making people afraid to attend otherwise peaceful assemblies.

This is happening in “Obama’s America”.

Some conservative readers might be on edge, their Coor’s Light about to spill out of their mouths, but should yield their outrage to history. It wasn’t very long ago that they were championing the security over liberty kitsch that paved the way for abuses like the ones listed above to occur, and it should not be overlooked that when Occupy protesters took very frequent beatings, the ilk of former Bush voters were cheering the police on.

Conclusion

While the meat of this column was surely inspired by PoliticalCompass.org, the very idea came about over the summer as the “lesser of two evils” talk began to heat up in direct reference to the upcoming election in November.

I argue that there’s no such thing as a lesser of two evils. If there ever was, such a situation exists no longer. Republican and Democratic administrations pursue a very well-defined, established set of economic policies while distracting one voting base with family and religion, and the other with gay rights and health care.

In all of this, it may seem that government isn’t to be trusted at all, and I certainly lack faith in the institution itself, but it’s only worthy of 1/3 of the blame. Corporations do game the system for their direct benefit, that’s another third of it. The final piece here, is the complacent, hoodwinked population of the United States.

The historical memory of the people in the United States is embarrassingly short. With so many clamoring to their ideological assumptions that things are terrible now, I offer this, things in the US are proceeding much the same way they have for the last 30 years. It’s just that the shiny paint job of trickle-down, neoliberal policies is more faded, exposing for all to see the matured realities of our own misled decisions and apathy over that span.

Elections are not the only way to enact change. How many great leaps in social and economic justice came instead from people’s movements? When has it ever been consistent for government to cede more liberty to the people without a large, angry, disenchanted voice behind the decision?

Movements enact change. Not the backroom deals, kickbacks, and revolving door politics which have long been the reality. Obama is not the lesser of two evils, he’s just the most recent incarnation of an established bipartisan evil which preys on our inaction.

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