President Obama is a Corporate Stooge
Obama is the best President Wall Street ever bought.
In the months after Obama’s election, my friend was fond of saying President Obama was a Trojan horse. “A Trojan horse for whom, exactly?” I asked. I was inclined to the same line of thought, but the horse’s owner could have been anyone, I reasoned.
It wasn’t immediately apparent to me whose horse Obama was because I asked, “Who benefits?” for it seemed that neither Wall Street nor the military were exactly pleased with his ascension to office.
My friend was convinced Obama was not only a corporate Trojan horse, but a military one as well. The President came into office spouting the rhetoric of change, of democratic renewal, of a resistance to the influence of corporations, banks and the military-industrial complex (which are just different names for a many-tentacled leviathan). He burst onto our television sets in waves of light like some avenging prophet–like Fighting Bob LaFollette reincarnate, or Bobby Kennedy.
It was intoxicating for people who felt that the greed of America’s financial elite (corporations, wealthy families, banks, etc) and the lust for imperial power from neo-conservatives to globalization advocates (irrespective of party) might actually reap the whirlwind.
And that was Obama the man and his handlers’s greatest coup: casting Obama the politician as a man cut from Bobby’s mold–a reluctant anti-politician who had the moral and ethical conviction to fight the established order.
But as the months drew on, and the economic crisis deepened, we saw Obama for what he really was: a corporate stooge. He was, after all, a Trojan horse.
We stood by as Obama’s Treasury department and stable of economic advisors were populated with alumni of Wall Street banking firms. The narrative is well known and was covered brilliantly by Matt Taibbi and other journalists.
We watched as the Great Hope took counsel from Larry Summer, the very same man who paved the way for the deregulation of derivatives, which led to the mortgage-backed securities and credit default swap crisis that brought down Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and AIG.
We all know that Wall Street was bailed out (most notably Goldman Sachs), enriching executives and investors while left and right average people lost their homes, their jobs and their future financial security. Summers became Obama’s boy for economic policy: a part of the connective tissue between our government and Wall Street.
We stood by as Obama nominated Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury, a protege of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Robin, himself a Goldman Sachs executive, who–in his eight years at Citigroup–made $126 million in cash and stock before his 2009 dismissal. Rubin was also instrumental along with Summers in the deregulation of derivatives.
We stood by as Obama appointed Gary Gensler, another former Goldman Sachs executive, to head the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission–an agency once tasked with regulating derivatives markets. According to a Reuters article, there were no negative votes. Let that sink in. The same article had this to day of Gensler:
“During his February confirmation hearing, lawmakers grilled Gensler on his involvement as a high-level Treasury official in a 2000 law that exempted the $58 trillion credit default swap market from oversight… “
Gensler replied that he and other officials “should have done more to protect the American public through aggressive regulation, comprehensive regulation.”
How is it that Obama installs a host of multi-millionaire ex-bankers and financial advisors in top government positions, calls this financial regulation, and Americans give him a free pass? Are we still that naive, that dazzled by the illusion of hope? These men and women are like the foxes guarding the hen house. They are robbers given the keys to the vault, a getaway car and smiles as they loot the place.
Beyond these obvious affronts to the American people, there is the the lesser known fact that Obama received nearly $1 million (according to OpenSecrets.org) from Goldman Sachs executives and employees.
In the 2008 election cycle, sensing that the political winds had shifted, Goldman Sachs contributed nearly $2.5 million to Democratic candidates compared to $795,771 for Republican candidates. In the same cycle, Rahm Emanuel received $42,350 while then Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton was the recipient of $401,950 Goldman dollars.
Does anyone remember hearing the press report on this information? Perhaps it was permissible since it went on to defeat the McCain/Palin ticket. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that all the money spent on the executive branch (Obama, Clinton, Emanuel) allowed Goldman Sachs to come out of the mortgage privy smelling like a rose while its competitors, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, disintegrated.
In April of this year, the SEC formerly charged the investment bank in a $1 billion fraud case–but to more completely rid the government of their influence, Obama should have canned Geithner, Summers and any other Goldman alumni. He didn’t. And for that inaction Obama must remain suspect.
But that is just Obama’s financial malfeasance. What of his militarism?
As Obama pulls out of Iraq, he is ramping up in Afghanistan for a war that has no end in sight. On December 22nd, Congress passed a Department of Defense budget of $725 billion, the largest since World War II (adjusted for inflation). This number doesn’t even include the taxpayer dollars that fund covert operations–that is, paramilitary and clandestine operations that are off the books, so to speak, in the interest of national security. Operations carried out by the CIA and NSA.
The Protecting Cyberspace as National Asset Act (“Internet Kill Switch” bill) championed by Senator Joe Lieberman would give Obama broad powers to shut off parts of the internet in the event of a national emergency.
The bill still has to make its way through the Senate, but Obama would most likely sign it into law. And while Lieberman claims the bill is part of a broader effort to fight cyber-terrorism (since Islamic terrorists are obviously keen on attacking the cloud), Obama hasn’t come out and said the bill is a mistake. It has great potential for abuse–maybe not by Obama or the next president, but down the line it could be used beyond the mere shutting down of the Pentagon’s servers.
It could be used by some autocratic President to cripple communications among Americans and control information in the event Americans decide not to take the shit our government continuously dishes out.
This is part of a larger pattern in Obama’s presidential behavior of enhancing state secrecy–a reversal on his part of what he’d promised on the campaign trail in 2008. As Glenn Greenwald’s article in ‘Salon‘ pointed out, Obama has invoked the state secrets privilege more than former President Bush.
The states’ secret privilege was meant to be invoked to withhold secrets in the dismissal of a case or a claim. Bush set the precedent of having entire cases thrown out on the privilege: a tradition that Obama is now following with some degree of zeal.
Continuing with the secrecy theme, Obama has remained relatively silent on the issue of WikiLeaks, knowing full well the dimension of the cases against the ‘New York Times’ and Daniel Ellsberg after the publication of the Pentagon Papers.
Obama, as a Harvard Law graduate, certainly knows that both were vindicated in court and that it is not illegal to publish secret documents as a result. And yet he hasn’t come out against the various idiots like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee who have been calling for Julian Assange’s head and the destruction of WikiLeaks as a source of free information.
More recently, President Obama decided to extend the Bush tax cuts. In the current state of economic affairs, it would seem that giving a larger tax cut to the middle class might be the more sensible decision, but that is not the case with these tax cuts. The greater benefit will be going (surprise) to the wealthiest citizens of America. All of this despite an expanding budget that will require more expenditures and thus more taxes to fund the government.
And while Obama’s health care bill was trumpeted as a benefit to all Americans while simultaneously taking some stress off of the federal budget, it seems that the only real beneficiaries of the legislation will be the insurers and the pharmaceutical corporations. They will all be making a great deal of money off of this law with a combination of rate hikes and more patients yielding more drug revenue. Obama’s public option vanished in a haze of compromise that came about through good old corporate lobbying.
These are but a few of the issues Americans should have with President Obama, the corporate Trojan horse who has also metamorphosed into a military hawk.
Every single person who voted for Barack Obama should be asking themselves, “Where is the hope now?”
Now that is change.