Friday, November 06, 2009

Unhappy Obama Anniversary

It's Obama's one-year birthday as president and I like many others am not celebrating this week.  Afghanistan escalation, Guantanamo closure, the ongoing fiasco in Honduras,  non-existent financial reform, health care with no public option, you name it.   The middle-classes are shrinking and falling as before.  Obamanomics has split Main Street off from Wall Street in order to protect Wall Street, which is busy reinflating various bubbles and is back paying its people like an aristocracy superior to everyone else on earth.  Public higher education is sinking fast.  As Avery put it, what in practice is better after a year of Obama than before?

There are no doubt federal institutions that are better because they are no longer being run by sworn enemies of government.  There are many many fewer appearances by George W. Bush. There are no doubt improvements in the judiciary.  But the top-level decisions have been uniformly disappointing.

This impression is beginning to circulate in Europe as well.  The American economist Jeff Madrick had an interview published in Le Monde on November 4 in which he deplored Obama's reflexive attempt to find the middle way even if it is a dead end.   The problem is not that Obama compromises too easily, but that he is what Cass Sunstein a while ago called a "Chicago Democrat." He wants government to set some rules for a "market" that he conceives to be the source of all economic value and which therefore must be as free as possible. In practice this means as unregulated and as unaccountable as possible.  This is exactly what we are getting.

See Paul Krugman's mournful description of Obama's strategy, which might be called "one bridge too few."  "The Democratic base, so energized last year, has lost much of its passion, at least partly because the administration’s soft-touch approach to Wall Street has seemed to many like a betrayal of their ideals." discusses statistically visible "democratic disgruntlement" -
Current data showing strong disapproval of the Democratic-led Congress by rank-and-file Democrats could be given voice as follows: I realize that when Democrats first took control of Congress, Bush was still President, and Congress, even though dominated by Democratic partisans, had their hands tied. But now, with Obama as president and increased majorities in Congress, you're still not getting stuff done that I care about? And, when are you guys (expletive deleted) gonna focus on what we need most—jobs! You wanted complete control, and that's what you finally have. And this is what we get?!
I stick to my description one year ago of Obama One, a near-reincarnation of Bill Clinton.  The proposed gutting of Sarbanes-Oxley this week - by Democrats - may become a fitting monument.  When we face this fact, we may really get back to working on something better.  Grace Lee Boggs had a nice passage on this.
I think that the only answer to the counterrevolution . . .  is to begin creating a new concept of hope, not to talk about recovery. We don’t need to go back to a society that is concentrated on economic growth, that dehumanizes us, that makes us consumers only and is threatening all life on this planet. We need to be thinking about something new.

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