Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?

From the New York Times, former chief theater critic and current culture and politics columnist Frank Rich explains the apparent failure of the Obama administration:

PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered. For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.

The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.

No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.


Obama's failure was preordained.

Indeed, the Democratic Party's failure was preordained, if you take it all the way back to the party's embrace of Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council's decision to abandon the liberal base by staking out slightly more moderate Republican positions in order to secure big business campaign donations. From that moment on, the Democrats became, in practice, virtual clones of the GOP on almost everything except the so-called social issues, effectively neutering them when it comes to taking on entrenched economic domination of the nation's democratic process. From that moment on, it became impossible for the Democrats to elect to office, let alone nominate, a liberal for president.

And only a liberal has the intestinal fortitude to take on those entrenched economic forces.

Yeah yeah, I know, Obama was "the most liberal senator," and now, in the White House, the wild-eyed socialist who's spent hundreds of billions of your tax dollars. Surely he's a liberal, right? Well, no, he's not. That "most liberal" moniker was based on a study that looked at Democratic voting records in the Senate. The study decided that voting with Democrats most of the time means "liberal," which is fucked up because it assumes that the majority of Democrats are voting liberal most of the time, which they do not--remember, the DLC long ago turned the party into Republican Lite; sure, they still support abortion and gay rights and all that, but on the important issues, on the economy, there's just not much of a difference between the two parties. And Obama's spending as president has been mostly a continuation of Bush administration policies, you know, stuff aimed at keeping the current Washington-dominating corporate and financial structure from falling apart--yeah, Republicans bitch heavily about it now, but did the same thing when they were in power, and will continue to do the same thing when they regain power.

Obama is not a liberal, and only a liberal has the point of view necessary to actually change the game.

Indeed, Obama, who, while conservative, is not so zealously doctrinaire as his 2008 opponent John McCain, was essentially anointed by the American corporate and Wall Street elite to be the savior of the "free market" system that had been ravaged by koo-koo far right extremism during the Bush years. And he's actually done amazingly well in his capacity as corporate savior. Unemployment continues to decimate the nation's rank-and-file citizenry, but corporate profits are up, the economy expands again, and the rich are taking sighs of relief. Obama is the business and finance sector's savior.

Unfortunately for Obama, and the nation as a whole, the system our President valiantly saved is unstable, and cannot continue to provide economic benefits to most Americans. Indeed, the system is now fueled in large part by preying on the economic fortunes of most Americans. If you define "middle class" by the ability for a family with a single bread winner to be able to send their kids to college and go to Florida on vacation every other summer, which is what "middle class" meant back in the 50s and 60s, then the middle class is very close to being a memory. The neoliberal, right-wing, "free market" system has literally eaten up the middle class, fattening the wealthy, forcing everybody else to max out their credit cards, which also fattens the wealthy.

This is the system Obama has saved.

That's why he gets no credit for his many legislative accomplishments. They're not even window dressing: Obama has shored up, for the moment, the very system that has put hundreds of thousands out of work, the very system that ran up the housing market to absurd bubble-highs, offered easy and often fraudulent credit to unsuspecting home buyers, and then used its profound political influence to secure gargantuan masses of bailout money while foreclosing on countless individuals who were simply pursuing the American dream. Obama saved that system. He doesn't deserve thanks; he owes us an explanation.

All of this is bad enough. But when you consider the fact that Obama's political alternative in the 2012 elections will be a psycho Republican who will soak the nation in gasoline and start playing with matches, it becomes clear that the American political system is utterly incapable of changing the nation's economic trajectory. That is, no one can save us. Not the Democrats, and certainly not the Republicans. We're on a one way ride to pathetic and painful third world status, a fast-track with the GOP, but only slightly slower under Democratic leadership.

Either way, I don't wish our future on anyone.