By Jay Hansen
I won’t hesitate a second to burst everyone’s post-election bubble. Campaigning can make you forget a man’s flaws.
These aren’t my words, of course, they’re the words of Neil Barofsky, former Inspector General of TARP, and Christina Romer, former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. These two economic experts agree; Obama has done nothing to fix the economic instability in the system that caused the crash in the first place. Given how weakly the Obama administration is barley propping up most of the financial sector and the general economy, another crash is inevitable, and almost certainly in the next four years. Obama did “financial reform” that was an absolute joke that did nothing to regulate or prevent the same risky behavior that caused the crash, and yet Obama hangs the “mission accomplished” banner and walks away from the issue (and the financial sector still hates him for even trying to regulate them a teeny, tiny bit). Here’s Barofsky on Obama’s “historic” financial reform;
“The incentives are all still in place for the too big to fail banks to accumulate dangerous amounts of risk in the quest for short-term profits with the assurance that if their bets do not pay off, they (and most importantly from the perspective of market discipline) and their counterparties / creditors) will be bailed out by the government. Combine that with a lack of accountability for bad/fraudulent behavior, and you have a toxic cocktail that will bring about another crisis. Regulatory reform did nothing to change those incentives.”
Romney criticized Obama for this during the first debate, which made my blood boil, as it was inarguably Republicans in Congress (specifically Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts) that watered-down financial regulation to prevent the abolishment of the policy of too big to fail. Given that, it’s impossible to say that Romney would have done any better, or done any more to stop this exact risky behavior. At least Obama faked trying to do something about it. A Romney Presidency would have not only done nothing to stop these problems or regulate and stabilize the financial sector, but he’d have undone what tiny little regulations Obama did create. So really, we were fucked either way, with either candidate; now we just now how we’re gonna’ get fucked.
The consequences of an Obama fucking, however, are far more damning. I’ve frequently drawn connections between this election and the one in 2004, but with the shoe on the other foot. Democrats are stuck with an incumbent they’re really not too keen on, while Republicans ended up with the vacillating, plastic-looking, flip-flop machine from Massachusetts. Because of this, it’s likely that come 2016 we’re going to see a repeat of 2008, but once again with the parties switched. Unless Obama really cleans up his act, which so far we’ve heard no promises of, it’s going to be a landslide election in 2016 for whoever the Republican candidate is. Even worse than that is that Obama has been branded by Republicans and the media as some left-wing liberal with a liberal ideology and liberal policies. In reality, almost nothing could be further from the truth. Obama identifies as a conservative, and is, at best, center-right on the traditional American political spectrum when talking about economic policy. Obama has great disdain for progressives and progressive ideology, accuses them of being overly critical and ungrateful for what little progressive policies and pocket change he’s given them, and surrounds himself with members of the establishment that are even further right-wing and think liberals are fucking retarded. Does this sound like a “progressive” politician to you? If you really looked at Obama’s core ideology, combined with the end results of his actual legislation and policies, it’s clear that he is far from a progressive, and much more deeply entrenched in conservative ideology. When his economic policies ultimately and inevitably fail, though, who do you think is going to get the blame ideological wise?
Of course; progressives. The media will go on and on about how Obama is a progressive, conservatives will distance themselves by running even further right and continuing the same baseless mud-slinging at the President that they always have, and both will agree that it was because of Obama’s PROGRESSIVE principles that everything fell to shit, even though he doesn’t have any progressive principles. Progressives will get blamed. I will get blamed. So when I restate the phrase “we’re pretty darned fucked,” I don’t just mean the American people, but progressives around the country. We have someone in office who is supposed to be officially representing our ideology that just isn’t, but the media doesn’t care. It’s too obsessed with maintaining the facade of false equivalency. Obama is a Democrat, therefore, he must be a progressive. That’s the fundamental assumption of the entire American media, and that’s exactly how they’ll report it when Obama and his plans go to hell in a hand basket.
I know, I know, I need to calm down the apocalyptic, end-of-days talk, but Romney’s finally left the room and it’s just me and Obama again. I’ve never been a fan of his economic policy, but it’s the only one offered that’s even remotely close to sane and mathematically sound. So, as someone who… believes in math, I had no choice but to vote for him, not to mention how disgusted I was at Romney’s stance on social and women’s issues.
Hope does spring eternal, however. The eternal optimist in me just keeps thinking there’s a teeny, tiny, microscopic chance that Obama will be better in his second term. Just typing that and I hear laughter in the back of my head, but nonetheless hope remains. If Obama doesn’t want to crash and burn, and sink his entire party’s future in 2014 and 2016, then there are a lot of things he must do and, more importantly, that he must realize. First and foremost, Mr. President, the Republicans are going to obstruct everything you do, now and forever. Why? Because they’re the FUCKING OPPOSITION; it’s literally THEIR JOB as they’ve stated it to oppose you. Yes, they’re going to block absolutely everything you do, from legislation to appointments… so? MAN THE HELL UP and DEAL WITH IT. Bush did it, and he was hardly the sharpest tool in the shed; I’m sure you can figure it out too. Bush got almost everything passed that he wanted despite not having a super majority, the right polling on his side, or in some cases not even controlling a branch of Congress. You’ve got more than the necessary tools at your disposal to get it done without surrendering to or excessively compromising with Republicans. The only reason you would is because you want to compromise with them, or your own advisors that you appointed pressured you to do so and you’re just a weak, weak, pitiful man. Both of which would be failures on your part, Mr. President, not the Republicans or your advisors.
Which leads me to my next point; you’re not just the leader of the American people, you’re the leader of the Democratic Party. There’s time for sticks and there’s time for carrots, and now it’s definitely time for sticks. Get one out and beat your party in line (figuratively speaking, of course). Remember when you first came into office? You had crushing majorities in both the House and Senate and controlled the White House, and yet you still got bullied by corrupt, sellout politicians; primarily those within your own party! Mark Twain had no idea how right he was when he said “I do not belong to any organized political party. That is why I’m a registered Democrat.” The next time a party member decides to sell out to Republicans or special interest and vote against key Democratic legislation, you need to tell them that they do so at the risk of their seat. Tell them if they vote against it to not expect any help from the Democratic Party in their next election, financial or otherwise, or even threaten to kick them out of the party if they’ve been an annoying prick for too long. What are they going to do; become a Republican? They’re so radical that if you support gay rights, rape exceptions for abortion, or taxes just as a concept you’re not welcome. If the Republican Party got smart they’d be willing to take in these refuges, but that would involve actually diversifying their party slightly by tolerating new ideas. Besides, if someone in your own party is going to be persistent enough to vote against you every single time, they may as well be Republicans anyway!
I’m wishing, I’m waiting, I’m hoping against hope that Obama will change in his second term. It’s our only hope. It’s progressives’ only hope. Its Democrats’ only hope. It’s America’s only hope.
“Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future.” – James Russell Lowell