Obama 2012: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

by on July 9, 2012 · 5 comments

in American Empire, Election, Politics, Under the Perfect Sun

After a flurry of anxiety that Mitt Romney was surging it appears that the Obama campaign has righted the ship, leading handily in a recent Bloomberg poll and by narrower margins in other polls. More importantly, Obama appears to be doing quite well in most of the battleground states as his campaign hits Romney hard as the “outsourcer in chief.” Certainly, it doesn’t hurt Team Obama to be running against a guy who at times seems to be trying to mimic the cartoon capitalist in the board game Monopoly.

The bottom line is that Romney is a laughably terrible candidate, so distanced from the average Joe that he wouldn’t know what to do if he had to sit next to him during a game of “sport.” His presidency would be an unmitigated disaster for the country, a full-court press effort to further reward the plutocrats at the expense of everyone else while dishing out a few reactionary social policy moves to appease the rubes in the Tea Party and the Christian Right. But he will be the recipient of untold millions of dollars of help from the Koch brothers et al and stranger things have happened than Americans electing an unthinkably horrible President.

Thus Obama’s campaign has carefully crafted populist strategies such as the Bain Capital attacks, the cracks about outsourcing, the calls for action on jobs, and the Buffet Rule on taxes. While these rhetorical flourishes seem to be rallying the base back to Obama and will likely re-elect him, the reality of the Obama Presidency is that he has been no great economic populist. In fact, he is a classic neoliberal Democrat who talks populist and governs corporate.

You can see the evidence of this in the corporate giveaways in his health care reform, his leniency with the big banks and Wall Street, his secret sell-out to global capital on the Trans Pacific Trade deal, his missing in action role during the Wisconsin Recall and, most recently, his allies’ continued attacks on teachers in Chicago.

When Obama’s old chief of staff Rahm Emanuel bid adieu to the White House to move into the mayor’s office in Chicago, he took over where Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan left off and kept hammering unions in the windy city. Most recently, the assault has continued in a series of dishonest anti-union radio ads assailing the over 90% of Chicago teachers who had voted to strike rather than be intimidated by Emanuel’s bullying tactics.

What’s the Obama connection? It is that David Axlerod’s old firm AKPD is the architect of the campaign. And, as Mike Klonsky recently reported about the battle in Chicago :

According to the [Chicago Tribune’s] report, the big money behind the attacks on Chicago teachers and their union is the group Democrats For Education Reform (DFER), run by New York hedge-funders Whitney Tilson and Ravenel Boykin Curry IV. The group continues to be a big player in the Obama election campaign and is the main force for school privatization, vouchers and privately-run charter schools, within the Democratic Party. They are also major supporters of Rahm’s longer-school-day-with-no-pay-for-teachers initiative

More importantly, the Trib report shows that despite denials and evasions, the mayor has knowingly and unabashedly supported the anti-union campaign which is being run by his own political operatives like AKPD’s John Kupper. Kupper admits his firm is on retainer with Emanuel’s political organization, and state records show The Chicago Committee, one of Emanuel’s campaign fundraising organizations, paid Axelrod’s old firm more than $21,000 in the first quarter of 2012 for “professional services/consulting.”

Thus as Obama is campaigning against the “outsourcer in chief” and his Vice President is going to the AFSCME convention telling public workers in the wake of Wisconsin that “we owe you, ” the president’s money people are busy aiding the forces of privatization in their efforts to bust yet another public sector union with the help of Wall Street cash from the same folks that will help elect the face of hope.

The lesson here is an old one: money talks, bullshit walks. It would be nice if some union folks showed up to help on the Obama phone bank, but the Obama people aren’t breaking any nails fighting for the working man to convince them to show up. They’ve got some other friends with big pockets.

Apparently when Cory Booker called out Obama for picking on Bain capitol types because they were heroic job creators, he was committing a sin much worse than going against the party line. He was spilling the beans about where the contemporary Democratic Party really sees its bread being buttered and warning that criticism of the 1% should only go so far for fear they might decide to defund your campaign.

It’s a sad tale, but one that is the pure product of our current historic level of economic inequality. It seems that, after a brief Occupy-inspired interest, the media narrative has moved off of these issues to the usual superficial horserace coverage of the campaigns, but Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has not. His new book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, is on the perils of inequality for our democracy and society.

Recently, in Politico, Stiglitz observes that our present level of inequality has reached the point where we are much like those “other countries” we used to bemoan where “one dollar, one vote” best describes the political process. The result of this is a crisis of confidence in the system itself:

Our democracy is put in peril, as confidence in the political system erodes. This was demonstrated so strongly in the 2010 elections, in which only 20 percent of the young bothered to vote. Too many thought the system is so stacked against them that the outcome would make no difference.

Economic inequality feeds into inequalities of political power, leading to still more economic inequality. The U.S. is headed down the path that so many dysfunctional societies have traveled — divided societies in which the rich and poor live in different worlds. The rich residing in gated communities, with their own parks and schools.

We know what happens to these societies. It’s not something to which we should aspire.

There is an alternative. But will our politics allow it? Will those at the top come to realize that a house divided against itself cannot stand — that this level of inequality is not in their enlightened self-interest?

Or will the vast majority of Americans finally realize that they have been sold a bill of goods — trickle-down economics has never worked and is especially not working today.

In other periods of our history, when inequalities and injustices grew to the breaking point, America changed course. The question is: Will we do so again?

Indeed, that is the real political question of the day–not whether or not we can re-elect plutocracy lite but whether we have the knowledge, will, and courage to challenge the system itself after the election. This will take a lot more than false hope.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

RB July 9, 2012 at 11:56 am

How awkward, when a progress, liberal, California, Democrat finally realizes not all Democrats in the rest of the country are union socialists. Some Democrats believe schools are for the benefit of the children and not the unions.

If the President is re-elected, I expect him to approve the pipeline, approve the Bush tax cuts and reform the public schools. The only reason he is waiting is to collect money and votes from those with extreme views.


Bearded OBcean July 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Wait, so the President will not be the recipient of untold millions of dollars et al from wealthy liberals, just Romney from conservatives?


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Yesterday’s NYTimes Magazine says that Obama is definitely playing in the Citizen’s United big leagues of campaign fundraising, but with hundreds of millions of dollars less than Romney. According to the story, Democrats plan to be strategic not profligate, in the way they use the money, and to win by being clever.

I don’t know about that, but I am glad to know that Obama (finally) will not vacation on Martha’s Vineyard this summer, to try to distinguish himself from Richie Rich Romney. A nice woman from D.C. called yesterday asking me to “stand with us to take back the House of Representatives” from the Republicans and I told her no, but that I was supporting one Democrat locally who stands a real chance to take a GOP seat in a Congressional race. That is Scott Peters. And I told her that I’m supporting a Democrat who is running for Mayor of San Diego. That is Bob Filner.

Beyond that, I will help register people to vote and I will vote for Obama again. If Jim Miller comes up with an idea about how to save us from ourselves after Obama is re-elected, I will be thrilled to hear it. Meanwhile, we too probably should be strategic by not voicing our darkest thoughts right now about Obama and his friends like Rahm Emmanuel and Bill (NAFTA/Bank Deregulation) Clinton. Given the truly terrible alternative of the Republican Tea Party, we need our undecided and apolitical neighbors to vote Democratic in November. For that to happen, we need to stifle the critical voices, no matter how right-on they are.


Roger July 25, 2012 at 12:08 am

Don’t like Obama, can’t stand Romney (rich kid if there ever was one.) Heck! I’d take Nixon back, he got us out of a war we never declared or won, then told the Oil Companies where to go. But he got caught. I’d take tricky Dick any day over either candidate!


Roger July 25, 2012 at 12:09 am

Sadly, though, Tricky Dick is on the bottom side of the grass, some six feet down…


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