It’s hard to give up on an ideal. But the “Change We Can Believe In” has faded, even as the illusion we had hoped it was not. The American electorate has always had a problem with distinguishing rhetoric from action. Of course, Obama’s efforts, such as they have been, have also been thwarted at every turn by the blatantly racist Republican congress. Great speeches, but regular capitulation prior to negotiation became his modus operandi where tough negotiations were called for.
The old Liberal Class of politicians who fought for human values and the rights of hard working Americans of all colors in a dynamic congress, is dead. The dominant politicos of the Democratic Party are agents of their corporate benefactors, even if slightly less so than their Republican colleagues. They vote to stay elected and the corporations pay to see that happen.
But many progressively minded people with good will and the desire to see a better America just can’t let go of the idea that if we can just get more Democrats elected, then liberty and kindness will prevail across the land. They want to believe in Obama’s ‘liberal agenda’ and they want to have good reason to fight for Hillary so they will not have wasted their hard political work and resources. But it is just not working.
Most claims about what President Obama has achieved miss the point when it comes to what really matters to the nation and planet at this point in history.
Illusions of Accomplishment
It’s all about political misconceptions of success and failure. A blogger recently posted 14 “objective facts” that he offered as proof that the country is doing well under Obama’s leadership. (See “14 Facts About the Obama Presidency that Most People Don’t Know,” jeff61b.hubpages.com ) Each one cites a source and appears quite descriptive. But wait; there’s more. Let me briefly explain each one.
1. “63 straight months of economic expansion.” The Fed buying up hundreds of billions of dollars in bad debt from the Big Banks has driven up stock prices and mergers, since little of those vast sums has trickled down into the real economy. Most “economic expansion” is in the pockets of the 1% of the 1%. It is not being invested in economic production.
2. “the longest period of private sector job creation in American History.” Sure it’s taken a long time to create any jobs; the corporations have sat on their huge stash of cash because weak demand due to unemployment and underemployment made them afraid to invest that cash in production. So, most of the job creation that has happened is minimum wage service jobs below the poverty line.
3. “Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% in October of 2009 to 5.9%” Despite the fact that the government statistics have way underestimated unemployment for decades, look at the quality of the jobs — most new jobs do not carry a living wage. The real level of unemployment has been at least double that reported by the government. See ShadowStats.com
4. “The stock market continues to set new records…” Well, the ‘funny money’ has to be put somewhere. Instead of investing the vast sums of bailout money and no-interest loans from the Fed, the Big Banks have busily bought up each other and continued their derivative Ponzi schemes. The inflated valuation of stocks has resulted from new money, not new productivity. It’s not a good indicator of a healthy economy under these conditions.
5. “The federal budget deficit is shrinking…” Of course. The government is shrinking, except for spending non-existent money on military adventures. Since the Fed has brought down interest rates so low, the interest on the debt is much smaller. And since the Congress-of-No continues to cut expenditures on desperately needed infrastructure repairs and conversion to renewable energy systems, spending has come down to match the reductions in tax on the most wealthy persons and corporations. The nation and earth systems are collapsing together.
6. “Under President Obama, spending has increased only 1.4% annually…” Certainly, the Congress-of-No has prevented some of the necessary investments in renewable energy and other infrastructure that would have created many jobs. But I fail to see that as an accomplishment for Obama. It’s an achievement for the neo-liberal economists who want to do away with the public sector entirely. He keeps diddling with whether to approve the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline to accelerate carbon emissions even further while failing to push hard to replace fossil-fueled energy production with renewable systems.
7. For most Americans “income taxes are lower…” Basically, since incomes are down, so are taxes. But whatever the rates [kinda complicated; some up, some down, but from what base?] the rich and the corporations are still stealing the nation blind with the tax dodges congress has allowed them. We need to return to the progressive tax system that accompanied the prosperity of the 1950s.
8. “Our dependence on foreign oil has shrunk due to record domestic oil production…” Another faux accomplishment. Fracking is destroying water supplies all around the country while it generates a short-term surge of production. So, like excess coal, it is exported, adding to the carbon available for emission, further exacerbating global warming. We need to reduce our dependence on ALL oil.. Obama has been on the wrong side of that one.
9.; 10; 11. The Affordable Care Act: “…more Americans have health insurance…” “added years to the life of Medicare.” “slowest rate of increase in healthcare costs since 1960…” Obama’s signature accomplishment may have been the elimination of pre-existing conditions dodge by the insurance companies. But, despite the fact that the majority of Americans wanted it, he cut off any discussion of single-payor universal health care from the start. Real reform would have made Medicare permanently solvent. The U.S. is the only modern industrial nation without universal national health care. We spend much more and get worse outcomes..
12. “‘..we have fewer people in war zones…than any time since 2002” Well, looks like not for long… The use of drones and assassination programs belies such arbitrary claims.
13. “Zero successful attacks by al Qaeda on U.S. soil since Obama became president.” Neither Cheney nor Obama can claim victory in the “war on terror.” The U.S. fossil-fueled empire has created far more “terrorists” (most of whom see themselves as freedom fighters defending against invaders) than our military has killed — not counting innocent civilians. In any case, the scattering of al Qaeda occurred across administrations. Obama can, however, claim bin Laden’s assassination. The lack of attacks on U.S. Soil is mostly due to lack of capability or interest — still a danger, however.
14. “We…deport more illegal immigrants than ever before.” Yes, and with reckless disregard for human rights, even of those children seeking asylum from murderous thugs in Honduras and elsewhere. Has Obama done anything to mitigate the forcing of Mexican farmers off their land by flooding Mexico with cheap subsidized GMO corn? No, but he’s busy working on trade agreements worse than NAFTA in Asia, which will further damage the environment as well as worker safety and rights.
Eyes Wide Open
So, would the Republicans do worse? Of course. But that does not make bad good. And Hillary? Another servant of the financial elite, just like Barack and the rest of the gang in Washington. Lipstick on a pig does not make bacon. And its very hard to find organic bacon.