By Isaiah Earhart
There is a common perception that the Obama Administration, and Obama himself, have not achieved the goals set by Democratic Party leadership. It is commonly communicated that the Obama Promises of hope and change are thwarted by a recalcitrant Republican Party, or that Obama’s willingness to negotiate with Republicans is cynically and brilliantly exploited by the mean and nasty conservatives. Other threads of thought among ‘liberal’ reasoning for the failure of deliverable change relies on the assessment of Obama’s personality, dismissing his uselessness in carrying out his campaign promises as having a weak resolve that gave in to the machinations of the corrupt elite in Washington. These narratives should be replaced by a realization of the extraordinary accomplishments, and strength of will, by the Obama Administration.
Obama is an incredible success at doing exactly what Democratic Presidents are supposed to do, and I think his success began from the very beginning of his presidency.
In the face of economic devastation brought by widespread fraud and abuse perpetrated by the criminal economic elite banking and lending class, 67 million people mobilized and voted for hope and change. The financial crisis that cost Americans about $14 trillion and precipitated the Great Recession causing the eviction of 10 million people as of August 2013- left people clamoring for justice. Obama responded to these calls for accountability by nominating Eric Holder as attorney general.
The move was as calculated as it was shrewd. Holder just got through cementing a “sweetheart deal” with the Bush Justice Department on behalf of Chiquita who was caught red handed funding and arming the terrorist group AUC with thousands of AK-47s so they could more effectively terrorize and execute laborers in Colombia. Holder’s deal with the Bush Justice Department kept all Chiquita executives out of jail in exchange for a monetary payout.
The takeaway should not be that Holder is a sociopath that helped top executives working for one of the world’s most awful, brutal, and reprehensible corporations get away with soliciting murder and terror on poor people, although it would help explain this, this, and this; the takeaway should be that Obama nominated a person to head the Justice Department that has a brilliant and exceptional record of protecting the most egregious elite criminal corporate functionaries and keeping them out of prison. It is no wonder why the rate of federal prosecution for financial crimes is lower under Obama than the rate of similar crimes under
Gonzo Ronald Reagan.
Some Holder apologists suggest that prosecuting bankers is just too complicated a task for the U.S. Justice Department; this former federal prosecutor and current U.S. District Judge.
It is not possible to blame Obama for having a weak personality; succumbing to the popular clamor of populism of hope and change would be a sign of a weak Democratic President. If I was president and I ran my winning campaign on hope and change, and I nominated someone who helped engineer the Great Recession with the creation and passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000 and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999, and that person went on to make $5 million a year managing a hedge fund exploiting OTC derivative market in 2006, and made almost $3 million in speaking fees for the nation’s largest banks- to be Director of the National Economic Council on the first days of my presidency, no-one would possibly believe I had a personality weak enough to be moved by any sort of populism whatsoever. Right?
But that is exactly what Obama did in his nomination of Larry Summers.
What kind of economic outcomes for the working poor would you expect from an administration that placed the CEO of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, as the active Chairperson of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness? After all, GE and Immelt had just finished the incredible accomplishment of laying off 20% of his American workforce while managing to become one of the largest tax cheats in U.S. history.
I do not have an excellent grasp on how
unicorn single payer got sold out. I think it died the death of silence and omission by the executive branch; it just was never mentioned or brought to the public as a policy option. Death by omission, especially considering the disaster that is U.S. healthcare, is an excellent accomplishment. Obama successfully employed the death by omission strategy with poverty as well. With about 25% of every child in the U.S. living in poverty, Obama managed to run for reelection in 2012 trying his best to not even mention the word ‘poverty.’
But a real test of a Democratic President’s success is not how the President can stifle moral social movements largely on the periphery of acceptable media discourse; Democratic Presidential success is measured by the willingness and effectiveness in killing off moral social movements that are very popular. Very popular democratic initiatives include breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks, prosecuting crime in the financial services industry, using the powers of the executive to reduce the largest prison population on the planet, closing Guantanamo, ending mass surveillance, getting
J Edgar Hoover John Brennan out of the intelligence community, ending NAFTA, rescheduling marijuana as NOT a Schedule 1 narcotic, and having the very popular public option to the sociopath health insurance industry.
I know it is very controversial to say that the executive can kill off the public option, since the ACA is ostensibly a creation of congress. I think the public option died far sooner than what most believe- in the summer of 2009.
With all of Obama’s success in killing off democracy and thwarting progress, I don’t think his achievements are as outstanding as Bill Clinton during his time as Democratic President. Clinton really accomplished some major cruelty with NAFTA, the Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, DOMA, Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act- which included gems like “three strikes” and money for many more prisons, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act – absolutely brutal for single mothers, the now infamous Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, and the Iraq Liberation Act- which was used to help justify the AUMF four years later.
Although it would be difficult to be as
horrible successful as Clinton, Obama does have some tangible achievements besides killing off moral and democratic social movements. Obama achieved a very hard fought victory on getting a “free trade” deal with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Obama had to fight very hard for the deal because there was significant backlash from working people and people who cared about human rights. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, wrote an impassioned letter to President Obama using candidate Obama’s own words opposing the “trade” deal with Colombia “because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements.” The letter from Trumka goes on to list, by name, the 22 union activists and the 6 Catholic priests murdered in 2011 alone because of “their courageous commitment… with the prophetic denunciation of injustice and the cause of the poorest in the country.” [original emphasis]
insidious bright side of Obama’s “free trade” deal, the agreement with Panama provided legal protection and codification for the 400,000 corporations and the extremely wealthy that use the Panamanian banking system to dodge taxes.
Obama’s “free trade” deal with South Korea was opposed by the Korean Union Movement, the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the International Association of Machinists, the Communication Workers of America, United Steelworkers, the IBEW, the Carpenters, Professional & Technical Engineers, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, National Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, Public Citizen, United Students Against Sweatshops, U.S. Chamber Watch, and 550 diverse organizations have joined together in opposition of the Korea FTA. But Obama was relentless in the pursuit of achieving policy in the face of such opposition. (Is relentless policy pursuit a personality trait?)
I think we should all take a moment to realize what an incredible accomplishment this trade deal actually was. In the face of democratic movements at home and abroad, with the NAFTA disaster still freshly despised and reaping havoc and punishment for the poor and working poor, Obama used the “fast track authority” fought for by the Bush Administration to force congress into an up or down vote on trade agreements designed under the Republican Administration. And it worked!
Although Obama has a significant achievement gap to reach the incredible conquests of hurting worker democracy and dignity destroying policies produced during the Clinton Presidency, one should not give up on the prospects of amazing Obama achievement. Obama is currently seeking fast track authority so his administration can ram the Trans Pacific Partnership “trade” agreement down the throats of union members, small farmers everywhere, poor people who need affordable medication, environmentalists, people who love internet freedom, and anyone that likes democracy.
If Obama can accomplish the Keystone XL Pipeline that will transverse the nation’s largest aquiferand if he can somehow get the greatly sought after TPP, he just might win one of these.