Saturday, January 23, 2010

Obama's Cheap Words Signal Nothing

TIME Magazine reports that Obama is "signal[ing] a somewhat new approach to financial reform." The article sites the Obama administration's "plan for $117 billion worth of bank taxes to recoup the costs of bailouts."

Given that the Federal Reserve has given banks at least a trillion, and backed up bad gambles to the tune of several more trillion dollars, some of us are rolling our eyes at this pittance of $177 billion. We think we should effectively "own" these banks, receiving a cut of their profits for as long as it takes to offset the cost of the bailouts; it shouldn't be negotiable, no law should need to be passed.

We had these corrupting institutions over a barrel and could have extracted real reform. But Obama let them go, and now these institutions are back to their old ways of using their power and money to corrupt our legislative and executive branches... the US Supreme Court is no help with decisions that allow corporations to buy elections, and the fourth branch, the media, is owned by the corrupting corporate powers that be.

It's hard to believe the broader message TIME claims about Obama, citing this sound bite,

His uncharacteristically blunt message to financial giants and their political defenders said it all: "If these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have." [1]

That's a nice story concept by TIME, but is it real? Does it really "say it all?" Or is it just another case of cheap words?

Are Obama's advisors, like David Axelrod, simply telling the President to ratchet up the populist rhetoric to stem the public angst towards the administration's economic policies emanating from the likes of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner? I can see Obama's advisors on the phone with the financial giants, "Don't worry. The President needs to say these things to quell public sentiments. Our basic understandings with you are not going to change." This isn't empty speculation; we have numerous memoirs from the past to draw on in which similar things are documented.

History is rife with examples of leaders saying one thing and doing another... take George W. Bush and his "Healthy Forest Initiative" or his "Clear Skies Act," which were, in great part, environmental roll-backs.

The Democrats under Obama continued Bush's bailout policies and are now giving lip service to so-called financial reform; $117 Billion over a decade is chump change to the powerful financial sector; the four largest firms—Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase—took in $22.5 billion in profits through September [2]... that's profits for less than a year immediately after the "financial crisis."

Thinking people of both conservative and progressive leanings are reaching the same conclusion; the two major parties have been captured by a small powerful elite that use both parties to advance their interests, interests that reflect little allegiance to those of our Nation or the general well being of the average people.

Skeptical progressives are going to need a lot more than words before their hope in tangible outcomes translates into support of Obama and his policy initiatives. Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel damaged his credibility, as did his choice of Summers and Geithner, and his decision to keep on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

As I've said before, the elite is so powerful that Obama may be their prisoner. OK, so it might not be his fault, because he may be forced to push establishment-oriented policies. If that's the case, then we know his words are just that... words. We want to see Obama "signal" with deeds not just words.

1. TIME Magazine,
Wall Street: Obama's Bank Crackdown Signals Policy Shift
, January, 2010.

2. DemocracyNow! Headlines, November 18, 2009.


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