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Forum Post: The progressive case against Obama - By Matt Stoller

Posted 1 year ago on Oct. 29, 2012, 5:34 p.m. EST by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

A few days ago, I participated in a debate with the legendary antiwar dissident Daniel Ellsberg on Huffington Post live on the merits of the Obama administration, and what progressives should do on Election Day. Ellsberg had written a blog post arguing that, though Obama deserves tremendous criticism, voters in swing states ought to vote for him, lest they operate as dupes for a far more malevolent Republican Party. This attitude is relatively pervasive among Democrats, and it deserves a genuine response. As the election is fast approaching, this piece is an attempt at laying out the progressive case for why one should not vote for Barack Obama for reelection, even if you are in a swing state.

There are many good arguments against Obama, even if the Republicans cannot seem to muster any. The civil liberties/antiwar case was made eloquently a few weeks ago by libertarian Conor Friedersdorf, who wrote a well-cited blog post on why he could not, in good conscience, vote for Obama. While his arguments have tremendous merit, there is an equally powerful case against Obama on the grounds of economic and social equity. That case needs to be made. For those who don’t know me, here is a brief, relevant background: I have a long history in Democratic and liberal politics. I have worked for several Democratic candidates and affiliated groups, I have personally raised millions of dollars for Democrats online, I was an early advisor to Actblue (which has processed over $300 million to Democratic candidates). I have worked in Congress (mostly on the Dodd-Frank financial reform package), and I was a producer at MSNBC. Furthermore, I aggressively opposed Nader-style challenges until 2008.

So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he’s a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he’s a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it’s just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it’s important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.

The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings — home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama’s policies severed this link, completely.

This split represents more than money. It represents a new kind of politics, one where Obama, and yes, he did this, officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else (see “The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship” in the Fordham Urban Law Journal for a more complete discussion of the problem). The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side. Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful. The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama’s oligarchy.

The policy continuity with Bush is a stark contrast to what Obama offered as a candidate. Look at the broken promises from the 2008 Democratic platform: a higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill. Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn’t fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision. For sure, Obama believes he is doing the right thing, that his policies are what’s best for society. He is a conservative technocrat, running a policy architecture to ensure that conservative technocrats like him run the complex machinery of the state and reap private rewards from doing so. Radical political and economic inequality is the result. None of these policy shifts, with the exception of TARP, is that important in and of themselves, but together they add up to declining living standards.

See the complete story with chart and working links here:

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/27/the_progressive_case_against_obama/

14 Comments

14 Comments


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[-] 2 points by gsw (2697) 1 year ago

The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings — home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama’s policies severed this link, completely.

This split represents more than money. It represents a new kind of politics, one where Obama, and yes, he did this, officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else (see “The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship” in the Fordham Urban Law Journal for a more complete discussion of the problem). The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side. Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful. The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama’s oligarchy."

Thanks for showing some numbers to my feelings-- home equity is at 1999 levels in 13 years, but corporate wealth and wealth of 1 percent at never before seen rates.

This makes case for not dems or repubs. We need new parties with new ideas in USA now.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (26228) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

In the past aid went to the people - yeah much of it was building infrastructure - but the pay was getting to the people and was being spent in the wide economy.

This economic disaster was dealt with by throwing money at the wealthy that caused the meltdown - and that money has been hoarded into the machine that wrecked us - it is not going out into the wide economy - it has gone out into smoke and mirrors.

[-] 1 points by gsw (2697) 1 year ago

Absolutely.

And we haven't seen a raise in 5 years, because we are made to feel fortunate to even have a job, at which we work harder at.

The old parties have no new ideas to offer.

New parties, green, justice, at least propose new jobs and better wages, and end to ileagle wars now.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (26228) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Mostly it is not new parties - but good people who have not sold their soul to the CorpoRATions. People who can actually still see and think and recognize that what is going on right now is taking everything down the toilet.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 1 year ago

We haven't seen a raise in 40 years. Inflation has obscured that fact from the masses.

http://stateofworkingamerica.org/who-gains/#/?start=1968&end=2008

Don't forget the Independents which now make up 40% of the voters. We outnumber either major party.

[-] 1 points by Weaver (60) 1 year ago

Occupy the election. Vote for anybody but a Republican or Democrat.

[-] 1 points by frogmanofborneo (602) from New York, NY 1 year ago

There is a much better progressive case against Mitt Romney- that he is spearheading a coalition of the nastiest and that they have to get their asses whipped before anything else good can happen.

[-] 2 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 1 year ago

Your logic is exactly the same as as the Republicans. My brother is voting for Romney because he despises Obama more, not because he endorses Romney.

[-] 1 points by frogmanofborneo (602) from New York, NY 1 year ago

Nu? And so? And it's Romney's coalition partners- the white supremacists, the ones who say rape is a gift from their god, the gay bashers, the wall street gangsters, the zionist fanatics-- they should get their asses whipped and that would improve the climate in which OWS must function.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 1 year ago

OWS opposes corporate money in politics. Obama and Romney take that corporate money. So OWS should oppose both Romney and Obama. That is logic.

[-] 1 points by Weaver (60) 1 year ago

Now we just have to act logically. Vote for somebody who doesn't oppose OWS. Consider write-ins. Consider the Green Party.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 1 year ago

Consider the candidate first and not the party. Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Gary Johnson among others.

[-] 2 points by Weaver (60) 1 year ago

Yes. Thank you for correcting that.
My intent was to move people to action by presenting alternatives to Obama and Romney.

[-] 0 points by frogmanofborneo (602) from New York, NY 1 year ago

And it's also logic I suppose that OWS demands and protests for fair transparent elections in Russia and Mexico and Iran but not in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. I would not want OWS to endorse anyone as the way things stand that would be a harmful endorsement, maybe even a kiss of death, but individuals who are pro OWS- they ought to be able to understand the situation and act decently.