Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Eternal Hypocrisy of the Obamian Mind

Just as the Occupy movement spurred a nervous Barack Obama to deliver his phony populist speech in Kansas in 2011, so too does the papal exhortation against capitalist greed and its continuing role in global human suffering now nudge the president to issue yet another Major Speech on income inequality.

Obama has always prided himself on his nonexistent transparency, but this time around, his usual well-cloaked hypocrisy couldn't be more glaringly transparent. After five long Wall Street-groveling years in office, the luster is definitely off the Obama Brand, probably for good.  The bulk of his remarks were, on the surface, a quasi-plagiarized pastiche of Pope Francis, Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.

Tellingly, the talk was delivered at the Center for American Progress, that "liberal" think tank founded by Clintonite lobbyist John Podesta, who recently rolled out a tanklet dealing primarily with income inequality -- primarily, some suspect, to grease the skids for the candidacy of fellow Clintonite and Wall Street "New Democrat" Hillary Clinton.

The speech was, in fact, yet another dog whistle to Obama's Wall Street paymasters. Because after reciting a long litany of how the scourge of wealth disparity is destroying Democracy, he recited a litany of the same neoliberal solutions guaranteed to make things a whole hell of a lot worse for the majority of people both here and around the world. As is his pattern, the Drone President droned on and on about the crappiness of the system of which he pretends not be an integral part. And then, just as the audience had reached its star-struck apogee, he stealth-struck with a vengeance:  
And many of the ideas that can make the biggest difference in expanding opportunity, I’ve presented before. But let me offer a few key principles, just a road map that I believe should guide us in both our legislative agenda and our administrative efforts.
To begin with, we have to continue to relentlessly push a growth agenda. And it may be true that in today’s economy, growth alone does not guarantee higher wages and incomes. We’ve seen that. But what’s also true is we can’t tackle inequality if the economic pie is shrinking or stagnant. The fact is if you’re a progressive and you want to help the middle class and the working poor, you’ve still got to be concerned about competitiveness and productivity and business confidence that spurs private sector investment.
This is pure obeisance to the debunked Reaganesque mantra of trickle-down economics, as well as a veiled threat to lefty purists to leave his poor billionaires alone. The rich are gonna have to get a whole lot richer before you peasants even have a prayer of catching a few crumbs. And that goes for you, Elizabeth Warren and your letter to the banksters demanding to know what they pay think tanks like Third Way to advance their inhumane agendas. Read Obama's lips: no new taxes on the plutocrats. It will be business as usual.

And despite right wing propaganda proclaiming that Obama is a big government welfare state Marxist, Wall Street openly adores him. Black Rock Chairman Larry Fink recently gushed that Obama had reached out to business "more than any White House in modern times." More corporate-friendly than Reagan and Bush and even Clinton? Oh, the humanity. But wait. It gets worse. Because Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett revealed at the same plutocratic confab that Obama has a lot more work to do to please the MOTU. Three more years of it, to be painfully exact.

But let's get on with the bullshit he's shoveling at the rest of us:
And that’s why from day one, we’ve worked to get the economy growing and help our businesses hire. And thanks to their resilience and innovation, they’ve created nearly 8 million new jobs over the past 44 months. And now we’ve got to grow the economy even faster, and we got to keep working to make America a magnet for good middle- class jobs to replace the ones that we’ve lost in recent decades, jobs in manufacturing and energy and infrastructure and technology.
Are we vomiting yet? From Day One, he surrounded himself with the architects of the meltdown, rewarding Wall Street and ignoring Main Street. The jobs created have been low-wage and part-time. And when he says we need to make America a "magnet" for jobs, he means that we need to keep those wages just low enough to make his suggested belated measly uptick in the minimum wage (which hasn't a snowball's chance of getting through the GOP House) sound like a good deal.
And that means simplifying our corporate tax code in a way that closes wasteful loopholes and ends incentives to ship jobs overseas. (Applause.) We can -- by broadening the base, we can actually lower rates to encourage more companies to hire here and use some of the money we save to create good jobs rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports and all the infrastructure our businesses need.
Corporate welfare and backdoor bailouts will continue unabated. G.E., for example, will continue to receive handouts at the Fed window after having its lawyers write the tax code for its own benefit. The gains that continue to be sucked up by those at the very top will continue to be hoarded. And since the gains will not be taxed, Obama's claim that those "savings" would be used for the public good is laughable on its face. This politician is really slipping in the rhetoric department, big-time.
It means a trade agenda that grows exports and works for the middle class.
This claim is so monstrously ugly and mendacious that he had to slip it in in just one sentence. Because of course he is talking about the ultra-secretive corporate coups ensconced in both the Transatlantic and Transpacific "partnerships" whose sole purpose is to divert what little wealth and resources the common people still own to those at the very top of the heap. These trade deals, if passed, would make wealth disparity even worse. Barack Obama truly has no shame. If anything, he is worse than the Republicans, because they, at least, are open in their disdain for common people.
It means streamlining regulations that are outdated or unnecessary or too costly. And it means coming together around a responsible budget, one that grows our economy faster right now and shrinks our long-term deficits, one that unwinds the harmful sequester cuts that haven’t made a lot of sense -- (applause) -- and then frees -- frees up resources to invest in things like the scientific research that’s always unleashed new innovation and new industries.
This is pure Third Way centrist drivel, albeit cloaked in the usual Obamian Newspeak. Chained CPI is still on the table. The Grand Bargain of safety net cuts (shrinks our long term deficits) is still simmering on the back burner. Glass-Steagall will not be making a comeback if Obama has anything to say about it, because it involves regulations that would be "too costly" to his Wall Street backers.
Step two is making sure we empower more Americans with the skills and education they need to compete in a highly competitive global economy. We know that education is the most important predictor of income today, so we launched a Race to the Top in our schools, we’re supporting states that have raised standards in teaching and learning, we’re pushing for redesigned high schools that graduate more kids with the technical training and apprenticeships, the in-demand high-tech skills that can lead directly to a good job and a middle-class life.
This paragraph reads like it was lifted from a Thomas Friedman column, doesn't it? Let's see... public schools in poor neighborhoods will continue to be closed in order to make room for privatized for-profit charters. Standardized testing will still be the excuse to get rid of unionized teachers whose students don't perform up to snuff because they are hungry and poor. Priority will be given to tech skills in order to provide private businesses with cheap labor trained on the public dime. Courses in the arts and the humanities will not be prioritized, because they tend to develop independent thinking skills. Literature and civics courses might actually empower the masses. And that is a very dangerous thing in an unequal society on the verge of fascism. 
We know it’s harder to find a job today without some higher education, so we’ve helped more students go to college with grants and loans that go farther than before, we’ve made it more practical to repay those loans and today, more students are graduating from college than ever before.
We’re also pursuing an aggressive strategy to promote innovation that reins in tuition costs.
We’ve got to lower costs so that young people are not burdened by enormous debt when they make the right decision to get higher education. And next week, Michelle and I will bring together college presidents and nonprofits to lead a campaign to help more low-income students attend and succeed in college.
The federal government and the financiers who run it will continue to unconscionably profit from the student loan program. Costs will be reined in for institutions still charging high tuition for internet courses (the neoliberal catch-phrase for this theft is innovation.) Michelle, whose own political capital is still relatively robust compared to hubby's, will be joining the campaign to get more poor kids into college. And by the time the poor kids graduate as debt slaves, the Obamas will be out in the world, cashing in.
And as we empower our young people for future success, the third part of this middle-class economics is empowering our workers. It’s time to ensure our collective bargaining laws function as they’re supposed to -- (applause) -- so unions have a level playing field to organize -- to organize for a better deal for workers and better wages for the middle class.
It’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so that women will have more tools to fight pay discrimination. (Applause.) It’s time to pass the non -- Employment Non-Discrimination Act so workers can’t be fired for who they are or who they love. (Applause.)
This is fine as far as it goes, which is about one inch in the grand scheme of things. Obama could, with an executive order, immediately stop workplace discrimination by federal contractors, and raise the pay of both workers employed directly by the federal government, and for low-wage McWorkers used by federal contractors. (federal workers are the lowest paid in the country, on average.) But he has chosen not to do so. He again suggests minimally raising the minimum wage and praises companies who are voluntarily doing right by their employees. Remember.... as a free market guy, he will never force CEOs to act against their will. 
Number four, as I alluded to earlier, we still need targeted programs for the communities and workers that have been hit hardest by economic change in the Great Recession. These communities are no longer limited to the inner city. They’re found in neighborhoods hammered by the housing crisis, manufacturing towns hit hard by years of plants packing up, land-locked rural areas where young folks oftentimes feel like they’ve got to leave just to find a job. There are communities that just aren’t generating enough jobs anymore. 
So we’ve put new forward new plans to help these communities and their residents because we’ve watched cities like Pittsburgh or my hometown of Chicago revamp themselves, and if we give more cities the tools to do it -- not handouts, but a hand up -- cities like Detroit can do it too.
So in a few weeks we’ll announce the first of these Promise Zones, urban and rural communities where we’re going to support local efforts focused on a national goal, and that is a child’s course in life should not be determined by the ZIP code he’s born in but by the strength of his work ethic and the scope of his (dreams ?). (Applause.)
Privatize, privatize, privatize. Public-private partnerships, here we come. More profits for the obscenely rich, here we come. That's a Promise. Using Chicago, whose public labor force has been crushed and infrastructure sold out under the iron heel of former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel (Mayor One Percent), is hardly a great example of progress. And thanks, too, Mr. Prez, for throwing Detroit under the bus. No federal bailouts like we gave the auto industry. Their public pensions may be kaput, but Obama will offer a "ladder of opportunity" to retired cops and teachers to work till they drop (with Bronze Obamacare to replace the lifetime health benefits they were promised in exchange for working for below-market rates all those years.)
And we’re also going to have to do more for the long-term unemployed. You know, for people who’ve been out of work for more than six months, often through no fault of their own, life is a Catch- 22. Companies won’t give their resume an honest look because they’ve been laid off so long, but they’ve been laid off so long because companies won’t give their resume an honest look. And that’s why earlier this year I challenged CEOs from some of America’s best companies to give these Americans a fair shot. And next month, many of them will join us at the White House for an announcement about this.
There will be no legislation protecting the rights of the abused labor force. However, the very same miscreants who destroyed the economy in the first place will again be invited back to the White House for their umpteenth photo op and a tacit  guarantee that not only will the Obama administration never prosecute them, they will be allowed to continue their marathon theft of the American people unimpeded.   
Fifth, we’ve got to revamp retirement to protect Americans in their golden years, to make sure another housing collapse doesn’t steal the savings in their homes.
We’ve also got to strengthen our safety net for a new age so it doesn’t just protect people who hit a run of bad luck from falling into poverty, but also propels them back out of poverty.
Today nearly half of full-time workers and 80 percent of part- time workers don’t have a pension or a retirement account at their job. About half of all households don’t have any retirement savings. So we’re going to have to do more to encourage private savings and shore up the promise of Social Security for future generations. And remember, these are promises we make to one another. We -- we don’t do it to replace the free market, but we do it reduce risk in our society by giving people the ability to take a chance and catch them if they fall.
This is a definite dog whistle to Pete Peterson and the Third Way Wall Street Democrats. By weasel-wording the phrase "strengthen the safety net for a new age," Obama buys into the generational theft canard which states that the old are stealing from the young, rather than the truth that the One Percent is stealing from everybody. He still wants to cut Social Security. He even cracks open the door to privatization. He has not changed his tune one single bit -- Pope or no Pope. 
  One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives. Think about that. This is not an isolated situation. More than half of Americans at some point in their lives will experience poverty. That’s why we have nutrition assistance, or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who’s working but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids.
He does not mention that even Democrats have agreed to cuts in the SNAP program, and that he "borrowed" stimulus funds to the tune of $5 billion from food stamps to help fund Michelle's healthy school lunches -- resulting in the current loss of a week's worth of meals to the average client. But credit where due -- he does tepidly ask Congress to extend federal unemployment assistance to the more than one million people being kicked off the program come January.
Now, progressives should be open to reforms that’s actually strengthen these programs and make them more responsive to a 21st- century economy. For example, we should be willing to look at fresh ideas to revamp unemployment disability programs, to encourage faster and higher rates of reemployment without cutting benefits. We shouldn’t weaken fundamental protections built over generations because given the constant churn in today’s economy, and the disabilities that many of our friends and neighbors live with, they’re needed more than ever. We should strengthen and adapt them to new circumstances so they work even better. But understand that these programs of social insurance benefit all of us, because we don’t know when we might have a run of bad luck. (Applause.) We don’t know when we might lose a job.
Beware the words "reform," "strengthen," "fresh ideas," "revamp," and "adapt." It's neoliberal doublespeak for cuts, for the sole benefit of the billionaire rent-seekers. He even wants to cut disabled people off at the knees. SSDI cuts are Obama's hoped-for next stage in Clinton's welfare reform package. The odious 60 Minutes set the propaganda stage recently with a piece insinuating that most disabled people are malingering cheats. So they'd better adapt.

(Obama then goes on to defend the Affordable Care Act. Enough has been written about that kludge sludge already, so I'll desist for now.)
So let me end by addressing the elephant in the room here, which is the seeming inability to get anything done in Washington these days. I realize we are not going to resolve all of our political debates over the best ways to reduce inequality and increase upward mobility this year or next year or in the next five years.
But it is important that we have a serious debate about these issues, for the longer that current trends are allowed to continue, the more it will feed the cynicism and fear that many Americans are feeling right now that they’ll never be able to repay the debt they took on to go to college, they’ll never be able to save enough to retire, they’ll never see their own children land a good job that supports a family.
Obama assures Wall Street that he will not even bother. In lieu of leading, he again suggests a debate. Which, judging from the "debate" he suggested over the illegal American spy campaign against the people of the world, will consist of appointing billionaires to think up even more ways to rob, cheat, lie and steal their way to ever greater prosperity. Until, of course, the fetid bubble bursts and the Obamas are safely out of town. 
And that’s why, even as I will keep on offering my own ideas for expanding opportunity, I’ll also keep challenging and welcoming those who oppose my ideas to offer their own. If Republicans have concrete plans that will actually reduce inequality, build the middle class, provide moral ladders of opportunity to the poor, let’s hear them. I want to know what they are. If you don’t think we should raise the minimum wage, let’s hear your idea to increase people’s earnings. If you don’t think every child should have access to preschool, tell us what you’d do differently to give them a better shot.
As a hardcore conservative himself, he will continue offering us up on the free market altar, continue trying to lick Republican boots even as they pretend to kick him in the teeth, all part of the never-ending saga that is "Leave Poor Obama Alone" status quo tribalistic kabuki. 
Look, I’ve never believed that government can solve every problem, or should, and neither have you. We know that ultimately, our strength is grounded in our people, individuals out there striving, working, making things happen.
It depends on community, a rich and generous sense of community. That’s at the core of what happens at the THEARC here every day. You understand that turning back rising inequality and expanding opportunity requires parents taking responsibility for their kids, kids taking responsibility to work hard. It requires religious leaders who mobilize their congregations to rebuild neighborhoods block by block, requires civic organizations that can help train the unemployed, link them with businesses for the jobs of the future. It requires companies and CEOs to set an example by providing decent wages and salaries and benefits for their workers and a shot for somebody who’s down on his or her luck. We know that’s our strength: our people, our communities, our businesses.
As a hardcore conservative in liberal identity politics clothing, he echoes the conservative communitarian mantra of inviting faith-based entities and charities to solve an overwhelming humanitarian crisis. Those many millions down on their luck in the here and now will only be "linked to the jobs of the future." He echoes the hardcore conservative dogma of personal responsibility, agrees that government is not the solution. He relies on the sociopathic, criminal financial class to magically and suddenly grow a conscience and lead by example. There will be no massive federal jobs program, and no New New Deal. There will, however, be a lot of pie in the sky. Remember the Obama administration's "Win the Future" PR campaign? It's simply been rebranded.

He is Ronald Reagan with a D after his name. As they say over at Black Agenda Report, he is the more effective evil

Oh, and I almost forgot:
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.) Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

P.S. New York Times pieces, here and here; you can scroll down a-ways under "reader picks" to read my comments, which pretty much echo what I wrote here. I was happy to note that Obama's speech went over like a lead balloon with most of the hoi polloi.


James F Traynor said...

Great blog, Karen, and good comments in the NYT. But I'm still gagging from Charlie Rose; I haven't been able to stand the miserable bastard for years. I've seen and listened to him mug decent people time and again in living color, to their amazed but silent (no doubt from shock) surprise. Slimy, slimy, miserable, plutocrat loving bastard. There. I said it and I'm glad. Though I'd much rather kick him in the balls.

To return to our beloved president. I'm waiting to hear him to do a job on Elizabeth Warren. If his skillful defense of plutocratic perfidy is any example, it will be a doozy. Thank you, again, for your well argued opposition to his, oh so clever, crap. And, I agree with you, people are beginning to see through it.

Pearl said...

All I can say is I am glad I missed his speech you quoted from. Every time I see Obama's lips moving in a speech I tune out. There is just so much the human psyche can absorb. And thank you for guiding us to your remarkable comments to a NYTimes editorial and a Blow column, in your P.S. final sentence. It is obvious how your hard hitting comments are affecting readers as we are seeing more and more responses of merit happening. As a reader suggested, please print all your
comments on your website as we sometimes miss them.

Also read Norman Pollak's response a few down from yours to the editorial
about The President and Inequality in the opinion section.

I hope Bernie Sanders runs for President - I don't care whether or not he affects other runner's chances or his own but I would like to once more feel the joy of voting for someone I genuinely respected, before I expire. Voting for Clinton or Obama don't count as a result of the results that followed.

And Jay, read the referenced article Karen posted about Privatization and
the Affordable Care Act. It answers some of your comments about heads rolling for the failure of Obamacare via the computer.

Noodge said...

Just very, very sad to hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela. He was a big reason why I found it possible not to despair for humanity.

Jay - Ottawa said...

"And Jay, read the referenced article Karen posted about Privatization and the Affordable Care Act. It answers some of your comments about heads rolling for the failure of Obamacare via the computer."

Oh, Pearl! How could you confuse me with Zee?

Cirze said...

Welcome aboard, sister!

I've been viewed askance I fear for the last four years as I'd changed my mind rapidly after the election about Obama's representation of my interests in light of his financial advisor choices and words of praise for them.

Seems to me that we may not survive even one more year of Obama's leadership.

As you mention, the ConservaDems led by Obama's program of T&TP, Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid/Disability cuts, privatization of just about every public utility, rich-only bailouts, and a Detroit future for the rest of us has moved me into action to replace this guy ASAP.

And I won't let anyone scare me about being called a Rethug supporter when I do.

It's time to call a spade a spade.

And that's not a racist term in my book. I just want to see everyone wake up to what "our" leadership has led us to after the fraudulent promises of hope of the campaign following the financial disaster of 2007-8.

And I think you do too.

(The NY Times has got to be considering bringing you on to replace one if not all of those neocon chumps!)

Sir Chasm said...

Obama cares about Income Inequality? Then why have there been so many Wall Street lobbyists and apologists in his administration?? Summers, Geithner, Bernanke, Orszag, etc., etc., the list goes on and on.

Pearl said...

A few comments from worldlyJoe Biden's visit to China.

"BEIJING -- Vice President Joe Biden opened a two-day visit to China
Wednesday by urging young Chinese students to challenge their government, teachers and religious leaders. Thanking a group of mostly young people for wanting to visit the U.S., Biden said he hoped they would learn during their visit that "innovation can only occur where you can breathe free."

"Children in America are rewarded — not punished — for challenging the
status quo," Biden said. "The only way you make something totally new is to break the mold of what was old."
The vice president seemed to be alluding to the authoritarian rule of
China's government as he described a liberal and permissive intellectual
culture in the United States."

Isn't he one of the officials who called Snowden a traitor and should face trial in the U.S. ????? Joe must not be following the reports too closely.

David said...

But..."this time it's different."

[cue: eye roll]

Jay - Ottawa said...

Barf Bag Alert!

From today’s NY Times:
“President Obama recalled that his public career began at an anti-apartheid rally in 1979, imbued with the hope Nelson Mandela had generated.”

Yesterday, Obama was channeling Pope Francis, today he’s horning in on all the warm thoughts about Mandela. Maybe we should send a heads-up to the Dalai Lama.

Will said...

Here are some interesting & lesser-known Mandela quotes from BuzzFeed. You think hard-hitting journalist David Gregory will bring them up for discussion on Sunday morning?

Zee said...


I presume that this is the link to which you are referring, but I was unable to make it work: via
> @sharethis

Please let me know if there's a typo in the link.

Zee said...

@Pearl and @Jay--

Off topic, but I'm curious to know if either of you can shed light on whether or not this story is true:

'Ellen Richardson went to Pearson airport on Monday full of joy about flying to New York City and from there going on a 10-day Caribbean cruise for which she’d paid about $6,000.

But a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent with the Department of Homeland Security killed that dream when he denied her entry.

“I was turned away, I was told, because I had a hospitalization in the summer of 2012 for clinical depression,’’ said Richardson, who is a paraplegic and set up her cruise in collaboration with a March of Dimes group of about 12 others.

The Weston woman was told by the U.S. agent she would have to get “medical clearance’’ and be examined by one of only three doctors in Toronto whose assessments are accepted by Homeland Security. She was given their names and told a call to her psychiatrist “would not suffice.’’

At the time, Richardson said, she was so shocked and devastated by what was going on, she wasn’t thinking about how U.S. authorities could access her supposedly private medical rmation.

It's not as if this lady was trying to enter the United States to purchase a firearm. Her airline and cruise reservations would have easily been checked with the airlines to ensure that she was just "passing through" the U.S.

Big Brother is not only here, but he has no powers of judgement, either.

Pearl said...


Put in: Jerry Mazza, the Privatization of the Affordable Care Act into your Search set up. It should be listed about the third down for access. It is an important article for naming names of who has been behind the fiasco of this latest attempt for Obamacare and how I believe it is destined for failure as a result. I am sorry you couldn't access it by the information Karen listed -
it worked for me but I have to send it to myself and then send it out until the information turns blue to retrieve the information and it worked.

And Jay: I apologize for substituting your name for Zee about this issue. I
had several e-mails I was rushing to answer at the same time and only
realized the error when Karen published my comment. However, although you both come from
different approaches and/or points of view on many issues, which are very
clear to me, I know you are equally interested in the information regarding the truly shadowy people and organizations behind Obamacare which I have not seen anywhere else.

I would be interested in hearing both of your reactions to this article. And let there be peace between our different contributors (Mandela has inspired me to say this!).

Zee said...


Thanks for guiding me to the story. I think that I actually read the same one someplace else recently, but I can't recall if Karen first pointed me to it.

You asked me what I think about the story.

Well, in principle, I have no problem with the government (federal, state or local) contracting work out in areas where it doesn't have the expertise or resources to achieve a specific objective. In the long run this can save the taxpayer money when those resources or expertise are no longer required by the government.

Highway contracts represent a good example. These are limited-term objectives that are easier to have completed by “outside firms,” rather than the government having always on hand—but not often fully utilizing—a complete department capable of repairing twenty miles of Interstate, replacing a bridge, or constructing a new highway interchange. When the outside firm has completed its task(s), the contract is paid off, and the outside company goes looking for new work instead of the government paying a raft of now-idle highway design and construction personnel 'til the next project comes along.

But I'm sure that you knew this already. Where I have a problem with government contracting is when the objectives are not altogether clear—more in the line of a Research and Development project— where there are no clear “progress metrics,” and no penalties for not achieving the various milestones.

Where I used to work, we called this “being paid for by the mistake.” That is, rather than an outside company being penalized when it fails to meet the agreed-upon milestones—if there are any—when the budget's all spent and the product still has not been realized, well, then, the company holds out its hands and says “May I have some more, please?” And the government complies.

It's this way with most of the advanced R&D programs in the Pentagon. If the F-35 is still not flying by some totally flexible date, well, the Pentagon simply hands out more dough. And more dough, and yet more dough.

These are the types of contracts to which I really do object, for more reasons than I can put in a single comment. Principally, there are no penalties for failing to meet agree-upon milestones, and poor performance on any particular project never seems to have any long-term effect on the failing company to garner yet more work from the Pentagon at a later date.

As the article on the privatization of the ACA reveals, the federal government let the taxpayer down on both these counts, and then rubbed salt in the wound (before the fact) by letting this HUGE contract on a sole-source basis.

Jeez! Can you spell “recipe for an epic fail,” with the taxpayer picking up the entire tab?

Has anyone heard what their initial cost-estimate was? Has anybody heard that CGI is working for free to fix the mess that it created, which is how it should have been had the contract been properly let? (Somehow, I suspect that they are—true to form—being paid by the mistake, rather than footing the bill for the their failure to meet their deadline “on-time and on-budget.”)

(To be continued...)

Zee said...

(The Privatization of the ACA, cont'd...)

The article suggests that:

“Had HHS used internal web site design and IT support, the process had greater potential for success. A team would have been put together for the task with constant contact between the Affordable Care Act implementation team, which had responsibility for the site requirements and the IT experts putting the site together. The team would have had a goal of ensuring that the website worked, not of maximizing company profits.”

Well, this may or may not have been true. First, did HHS really have the internal expertise to undertake such a job in a timely way? And, if it didn't, could it have been able to hire that expertise directly, when the new employees would have known that once the job was done, they'd likely be let go? Unless, of course, they were offered permanent positions, in which case, once the job was done, the federal government would be paying them to work on other projects that may or may not have required their expensive expertise?

As I said, there is nothing wrong—in principle—for the Feds to have contracted out the ObamaCare “front end.” Where the Feds really did the taxpayer in the eye was in (1) failing to let prior performance be a gauge as to whom the contract should be let, (2) giving the contract away as a sole-source item shrouded in secrecy, (3) not having agreed-upon milestones for which CGI would have been penalized—or, at least, lost incentives—for failure to meet, (4) and complete and utter failure at any attempt at oversight as to what the hell CGI was really doing with taxpayer dollars. The last of these suggests that HHS didn't have the “in-house” expertise to either supervise the project or do the project itself. So a disastrous contract was a foregone conclusion.

If the contract had been written in the harsh terms that a contract presupposes, CGI might have though twice about taking on the project. But these day, government contracts are “soft-ball” stuff, because the folks who let the contracts today may well be working in a cushy job for the contractor tomorrow.

The Washington "revolving door" is quite real.

PS: Jay, I'm honored that Pearl could confuse two such brilliant intellects.

The Black Swan said...

I have finished my essay on a Basic Income Guarantee, and seemingly at the right time! I am not sure how to get it to you; I couldn't find an e-mail address on the site.

thanks again for all the work you do, shedding light on the modern world.

Zee said...

And on the topic of the passing of Nelson Mandela, what more can one say than that he was truly a giant of a man and an even more towering leader.

Compare the success of free South Africa with that of Zimbabwe, and its "President for Life, " Robert Mugabe.

And for Obama to dare to bask in the sunlight that will be Mandela's place in history is disgraceful.

Jay - Ottawa said...


Not sure what link you were referring to, so I googled the subject you mentioned and read the following link as well as comments above.

Part 1

A great deal of fanciful imagination is needed to assign blame –– either/or style –– to “the government sector” versus “the private sector.” Ideologues-of-the-right revel in repeating the time-worn arguments over and over ––yawn ––, predictably casting that abstraction called “the government” as bloated and dull. “The private sector,” of course, is always capable and efficient. Give me a break.

On another day, the same ideologues might be heard praising industrial giants and management generally, while excoriating labor on the front line as sloppy in their work, lazy and often drugged up, especially if they are members of a union. Managerial types are, of course, drug free, capable and efficient.

Back to the supposed chasm between public and private sectors. Since the founding of the republic, those two sectors have been as intertwined as the two strands of nucleic acid in the double helix. The links between the two strands are countless and strong. Now tell me, given this structure, which of the two strands shall we blame for the screw up in HHS’s rollout of the ACA –– or the inefficiency of any other department?

Take your pick of government agency (Pentagon, Department of Interior, the Federal Reserve). Tease apart the private from the public if you can. Lots of luck. Hints: campaign money, revolving doors, kabuki theater, mythology and outright lies.

Ever since I’ve been aware of the medical establishment in the US, the story goes somewhat like this. At first it was all private. If you had money, you got medical attention, such as it was back then. The government eventually funded med schools heavily (rarely acknowledged) to improve the quality of care. As the middle class grew, more people could afford medical attention. The system was far from efficient and universal. The young, the old and the poor continued to be badly served. More government agencies were created and funded, the result being better care, more widely distributed. Unlike today, national health began to improve markedly.

The private sector was deeply involved at every step. In our time, Private Insurance became the gatekeeper for medical attention. And it was and remains the work elephant when it came to detailed, person by person, administration of benefits, approved or disapproved. Many private insurers across the land, each with a different set of forms and procedures, led to bewildering complexity in paperwork. The paperwork war –– between MDs and private insurers, and between hospitals and private insurers –– is needless and wastes tens of billions of dollars every year. To put it more bluntly, private insurance has gummed up the health care system until it has become insurmountably inefficient and unjust.

Do you really understand the paperwork that’s sent to you from private insurers, whether for supplementary insurance or mainline government programs like Medicare? Correct me if I’m wrong, but those Medicare forms are calculated, printed and mailed to you by private insurance divisions that have contracts from the government for such detail work. That’s a pity because Private Sector boils down Profit Sector. Public need regularly comes in second when the foxes of private industry are contracted to run the well-intentioned programs fostered by legislation. Top management and stockholders do have their private sector needs.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Part 2

Obama’s ACA, as everyone should realize by now, is nothing more than an expansion of the messed up private health insurance system that existed, coast to coast, before 2009. Nothing changed. The maze just got bigger.

No IT group anywhere, public or private, is capable of ever writing code to manage the ACA properly. MBAs (employed) may find their way to the best deal across the spectrum of insurance plans, and they can afford it. The rest of us have been forced into this bigger bad system, way over our heads and way beyond our means to afford adequate medical attention. Thank you Private Sector. Thank you, Mr. President. They were both there at the moment of creation for ACA, and they, not HHS, are running the show.

Single tier, single payer insurance is/was the answer. Mr. President himself explained why and promised during his first campaign to deliver it to you. Medicare for all should have been phased in gradually for each age group (say, 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, etc.) starting with children. After a few years of trial and error with a much simpler single-payer system, the entire population would eventually join the 65+ crowd already on Medicare, which is an astoundingly successful program with low overhead. Of course, lobbyists and Congress are attempting to do with Medicare what they did to the once great US Postal System: starve it into debility and death. The problem is not the government, it’s the influence and control of the private sector over everything in the land, to include the government.

When will the preening private sector ever take responsibility for the mess it’s made of government, to include the ACA? The private sector today does, after all, own the whole damn machinery of government. And that little it cannot control, it will sabotage.

In conclusion, my fellow Americans, I’m really bored by trolls’ wasting our time with the same old backward-facing arguments about private vs public, management vs unions, etc., etc. debates. You should be glazing over when these red herrings are dragged into the path, yet again. If you haven’t figured out where the con is by now, you never will.

What is useful is know is what’s happening today and tomorrow. THAT is what Karen is writing about and THAT is the red meat we should be chewing –– not the tired red meat with which trolls keep teasing progressives to their everlasting distraction. Keep up with the news, get savvy, get active, even if it can only be within the family or around the water cooler. There’s a revolution coming.

Will said...

Excellent breakdown of the whole sordid ACA mess, Jay. And you're absolutely right about a revolution, but first things first: we gotta warm up for the big event with some good old-fashioned social unrest. Fortunately for us, the never-know-when-to-say-when austerians are doing their level best to get this party started.

Jay - Ottawa said...


The social scientists you referred us to in that link say that financial hard times AND imposed austerity lead to more riots. Seems reasonable. If you kick someone once (Wall Street’s gift of 2008), the generous spirit assumes the hurt was accidental. But if you kick that same person a second time (with willful austerity), forgiveness converts to reactions of resentment and anger. And so, riots. And then, maybe, we proceed through the countless steps to lasting revolution, velvet or otherwise.

I.F. Stone used to say you cannot have a revolution if at least 3/5 of the population is content. Lord, don’t we have a belly full of those content folks, the smug, the narcissists who have it quite good enough, thank you. “There, there,” they say in so many ways. “Don’t get unreasonable and overexcited.” Followed by another sprinkle of sympathetic crumbs that melt in the light of day. Like Our Leader’s words just reported by Karen.

Still, as Pearl and others have noted, the tone of reader comments to editors and bloggers has become much more critical and impatient with the PTB . Recession plus continued austerity plus the grand bargains to come next year may be helping us down to the tipping point.

Riots are not enough. Look at the Arab Spring, from Tunisia to Syria. What’s changed? I look for two more pressure points to break in favor of true populism in the US. The university class, professors and students, has to speak up. The way they did during the Vietnam War, year after year, with teach-ins by important scholars and street protests in volume. Second – this is very important – police must begin to say ‘no,’ to the plutocracy they protect (at our expense). Haven’t seen anything like that yet.

But it’s coming. I just hope (oops) I’m still around to see the eventual, modified-limited return to economic fair play and democracy.

Then there's me who has to change. Each time I tank up the car or buy unnecessary junk I give the corporate titans my implicit endorsement. I should walk more, bus more and boycott more, even if it's only a boycott of one.

Pearl said...

Dear Jay and Zee (yes, you are both brilliant gentlemen and I am not
joking); I want to thank you for taking the time to outline in detail what is truly happening behind Obamacare and the ACA. This is especially important for me since I am always commenting in the numerous articles and columns regarding health care issues, using my Canadian experiences as a comparison, and have to be sure that when I criticize the American system I know what I am talking about.
Your ability to decipher the articles about the privatization of ACA is of a
high order and makes me feel sure when I comment that the current set up
involving the private sector is not viable, it is the truth. It is amazing to realize how well run the Health care system works in Canada and that the U.S. cannot seem to find the key to that result. Unfortunately, when the unworkableness of Obamacare becomes more evident, the right wingers will
blame the government run by that socialist in the White House but then
hopefully, more citizens will begin to pressure their representatives to
think about single payer choices which is already beginning to happen.

And Jay, your last comment in reply to Will's, is very well articulated with food for thought. We owe so much to Karen, who continually opens the doors to truth and has the courage to challenge the current white washed thinking of
the so called liberal establishment. She also inspires us to dig into our
core and come up with our deepest concerns and share them with each other. I can't tell you how eagerly I look forward to her columns and responses from our group and occasional visitors that chime in with their praise of her
fine work. It is an antidote to having to try and read between the lines of anything appearing in the mainstream media which seem to echo each other.

This year's Congressional elections will give us a feeling for which way we are heading. But unfortunately, the reports that the economy is improving, unemployment is down, (which reports I take with many grains of salt), may deter people from taking things seriously enough to get that real fire in
the belly. Change if coming, will be slow unless more critical issues begin
to erupt to accelerate the movement forward. So we have to continue to
advocate, speak up, write comments when required, engage everyone we know in conversation using Mandela's methods of listening to other points of view to create a human bond, while articulating our own informed views. It is needed now more than ever.

David R. Gleason said...

David R. Gleason said: President Obama must have learned his public speaking skills from Professor Irwin Corey. Problem is, the late professor was a professional comic and he pontificated nonsensically just for laughs. Obama obfuscates artfully but it's not funny.
P.S. Can one pontificate about the Pope?

Pearl said...

I just viewed a Bill Moyers interview with Mark Leibovitch, the author of
"This Town" and the NYTimes chief correspondent for the magazine section. His book has become a best seller and is a most disheartening report of the inside activities of the people running the country and whom they owe allegiance
to. Most depressing is learning that many so called Liberal Congressmen, who seemed to represent the middle class and working people of the nation, have now joined the Lobby organizations for obscene salaries and perks. (Evan Bayh who resigned because he couldn't stand the goings on in Washington, is now a wealthy Lobbyist for some scurrilous people.)

Even Moyers seemed shocked by all the revelations as everyone in political
life seems to be beholden to the money interests with all the names of the people who have enriched themselves as a result of their ties to office. It covers those assistants to important advisers in the White House among others. Many of us sense the corruption but to be spelled out so clearly is still a shock to the system.

The fact that his book is a best seller is even a surprise to Leibovitch who thought the roof would fall on him after his revelations. But to those of us who hope for better things to come, it indicates a monumental job is ahead to clean out the stable. No wonder decent people don't have a chance in Hell
to run for office unless they belong to a third party, and then are ignored.

I recommend this book if you care to buy it, but take an antidepressant
before. Has anyone read it or seen Moyers' interview? It may be at different times in the U.S. This is the first I have learned about Leibovitch and his
current and previous books and reports.There are lots of articles and information about him if you put his name in Search.

All that money that Lobbyists have access to while fast food workers or
Walmart employees cannot subsist on the wages they earn.
Something is very wrong with this picture.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

part 1:

@Karen (and @all):

You've authored a really great deconstruction of a "major" Obama speech, and I've already passed it on to several people. Now if only the Obamabots everywhere would, short term, internalize what you've written. Long term, of course, everyone, Democrat or Republican or of any political inclination, should themselves learn to deconstruct the sophisticated obfuscation and propaganda that have become the central methodologies of modern politics. (For all the educational interest in a "common core" curriculum, is anyone even talking about — let alone really planning — to intensively teach students at the American high school level how to critically evaluate the words and action of contemporary politicians? I doubt it.)

And unfortunately, more than that will be required. As I've said before, the deteriorations in American infrastructure and economic and social justice, and the increases in our national paranoia and militarism both here and abroad, have been occurring for more than three decades. Unless they have spent considerable time in a progressively-operating foreign country, or are much better informed than the average citizen, young Americans know nothing other than what they see around them, and that contemporary situation seems "normal" to them, as it did to the serfs in the Middle Ages.

Even a considerable portion of organized religion has joined right-wing and neo-liberals and ConsevaDems politicians and become apologists for, and often outright defenders of, an unjust status-quo — again, as religion did during the Middle Ages.

So in addition to better knowledge and critical thinking, this country is in serious need of a moral-philosophical improvement.

@Zee and @Jay - Ottawa and @Pearl (and @all):

Thought-provoking comments, from everyone.

I agree with Zee's comments about the broken contracting and contract-administration system, particularly with the perverse "incentives" that derive from the modern successors to cost-plus contracts, that is, further contracts to fix what didn't get done properly under the original one, and not holding contract recipients accountable.

But I disagree with his description about the problems and cost inefficiencies that might flow from government having permanent staff to address fundamental problems. "Permanent" workers, treated correctly, usually have a high loyalty to the enterprise that employs them, and that used to be particularly true when applied to governmental civil service. Contrary to Romney's assertion, corporations are not people, and neither they nor their employees can be expected to have any great "loyalty" to their government employers. (In fact, given the employment insecurity of the private sector, it's not surprising that government's indirectly-contracted workers often don't even care much about their direct private employers). Whether that problem can be controlled by proper contracting and administration is by no means clear. And when you add in the extra costs from the contract profits, and contracted failures, government might have actually succeeded cheaper and better by performing such work in-house. That is particularly true for health care. Medicare is more cost-efficient, and produces higher satisfaction, than the insurance-run programs that have tried to compete. (And the right-wing grass rooters, despite their dislike of "big gubmint", scream "Don't take away my Medicare!").

Fred Drumlevitch said...

part 2:

Jay – Ottawa is certainly correct when he says "Many private insurers across the land, each with a different set of forms and procedures, led to bewildering complexity in paperwork. The paperwork war –– between MDs and private insurers, and between hospitals and private insurers –– is needless and wastes tens of billions of dollars every year." A few years ago, regrettably I don't have the reference at hand, but I think it was in a Time magazine article about the health care wars during Clinton's term, compared two medical practices, one in Canada and one in the U.S., with approximately equal numbers of patients and doctors. The Canadian practice employed two people to handle paperwork, the U.S. one something like fifteen or twenty! Add the administrative and sales costs at the insurance companies, and the insurers' profits, and I wouldn't be surprised if that accounted for at least one-third of U.S. health care costs. Plus remember: The more services denied, the higher the short-term profits at the insurers. And the short-term balance sheet is what drives most corporate decisions nowadays.

The further profits — sometimes, obscenely large profits — within the various other parts of the "health care" industry (doctors, hospitals, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, nursing and rehabilitation care) probably account for at least another third or more of medical costs. The NYT has been running a series on different aspects of medical costs; definitely worth a read. Part 5 in this series:

Activate the drop-down arrow towards the top-right of this article to access previous ones, on colonoscopy, pregnancy, joint replacement, and prescriptions.

@Pearl (and @all):

I saw the Bill Moyers interview with Mark Leibovich, not this time but when it originally ran a while back. Yes, great interview. But these corrupt politicians and ex-politicians are simply opportunistic, immoral servants to the self-interested corporations and the wealthy. All three groups deserve condemnation, and all three need regulation.

The NYT today ran an article and photo about Ukrainian protestors tearing down, decapitating, and pulverizing a statue of Lenin.

When will U.S. protestors do the same to the "Charging Bull" statue on Wall Street? Or at least, cut off its testicles?!

Interesting Bill Domhoff article, particularly if any readers need a good summation of the underlying statistics, and many references:

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks everyone, I will be back to blogging this week after a three day break. @Black Swan (and anyone wishing to email me privately) I am at

Jay - Ottawa said...

Not that I’m invoking the spirit of Senator Joseph McCarthy or the world view of the NSA, but there is something to be said for guilt by association. I too saw the Moyers interview of Mark Leibovich closer to when it first aired and was impressed. I thought of buying the book (“This Town”), but first looked for reviews.

According to some reviewers, Leibovich is very much an insider of the clique he critiques (one way to get wind of the gossip and the connections). So he’s never seen as stoking a fire in his belly about the corruption in Washington. Very few of those he limns are seriously hurt in the exercise of being outed. The celebrity of the sleasy may in fact have been furthered by the book. Are we being groomed to settle for corruption as the new normal?

For every revelation by Leibovich there is a softening anecdote to follow. And did I mention that he never faults the White House and its connections to the connected? Was it Leibovich’s own inclinations or those of his employer (NYTimes) that held him to the jokey tone and sighing, give-up despair about the sordid business he describes in “This Town”? We’re shocked and outraged, but is he?

For a deeply principled journalist who does report without fear or favor on matters that count, there’s always the confrontational Glenn Greenwald. He stepped away from day-to-day commentary at the Guardian last October to join a few others of his kind in starting up a no-holds-barred web journal (soon) with a $250 million starter fund provided by billionaire Pierre Omidyar. (I’d rather see Karen exercise her typing fingers there than in a pinched corner of the NY Times.)

While we’re waiting for Greenwald’s baby, Rolling Stone just did a twin profile on Greenwald and Edward Snowden. Hurraay, hurraay, read all about it.

Noodge said...

In today's response to Krugman you wrote, "If I were G-d seeing them pray, I think I would lost my faith."


Perhaps your best line ever.

But, of course, the people of whom you wrote don't believe in the G-d to whom they ostensibly pray, no matter how many times they show up to church. They believe in a different G-d.

MAMMON, n. The god of the world's leading religion. The chief temple is in the holy city of New York. - Ambrose Bierce

Pearl said...

Jay: It is obvious that Leibovich wants to be "respectable" as he had to
speak to his Rabbi before writing his book (the Rabbi told him to speak the
truth), and as well keeping a good image at the NYTimes. However, it may be effective that a member of the more elite class is spilling the beans and more people may accept the information from someone who is not a political threat to them. At any rate, what he is writing about is vital to know about and adds to our views on the situation. But sometimes it is painful to havethe facts which verify our worst fears about what is really going on. And also the information about the people in Congress and connected to the White House will now be permanently in the archives for future reference.