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Obama versus Progressives

By       Message Michael Byron     Permalink
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Why has Obama's Presidency proven to be such an utter disappointment to progressives? Given all of the vitriol hurled his way from regressives, such as Beck, Palin, Bachman, Faux News in general, why has Obama time and again chosen to lash out at progressives? He excoriated us for being "purists", for example, during his December 7th press conference. Why the anger? Indeed why the anger on both sides?

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well here are two "pictures"--graphs, actually:

Source: Executive Excess 2006 , the 13th Annual CEO Compensation Survey from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.


Taken together, these graphs tell a story of ever greater concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. This miniscule group-- mainly corporate CEO's and Wall Street financiers--increasingly is accumulating wealth, not by producing it, but rather by means of exploiting opportunities created by the sequential dismantlement of the New Deal regulatory system.

This has been very much a bipartisan sellout of working class Americans. It began tenuously with Carter, accelerated dramatically under Reagan and G.H.W. Bush, and then accelerated still more under Clinton and G.W. Bush. Obama is merely continuing this process.

Often Democratic presidents have led the charge. Bill Clinton's elimination of the Glass Steagal Act, on behalf of his paymasters at Goldman Sachs, for example, led directly to the recent global financial meltdown. However, the feeding frenzy which preceded it led to the immense enrichment of our parasitic ruling class. Then under G.W. Bush and Obama, we get bailouts for reckless Wall Street firms because they are "too big to fail."

The big picture is a very simple one: rapidly increasing concentration of wealth in the US leads inexorably to the subordination of elected politicians to the interests of the plutocracy. Republicans went into political enslavement, for the most part willingly. Unions were progressively undermined--remember PATCO for example--beginning with Reagan. This undercut a critical element of the New Deal coalition. Democrats increasingly began to accept large contributions from large corporations and from Wall Street financiers. The golden rule of politics is simple "who has the gold makes the rules." Now even a Democratic president, with a Democratic Congress including a 60 vote supermajority, was unable to pass "card check" legislation which would have offered some hope of reversing this trend.

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Of course larger forces were operating as well. The end of the Cold War established market capitalism as the sole economic paradigm for the planet. This led to global managed trade under rules specifically negotiated to benefit powerful multinational corporations at the expense of workers and the planetary biosphere. This led to the universalization of the practice of labor arbitrage wherein massive wage differences between richer and poorer nations were amorally exploited to maximize financial return to the corporate stock owning class--primarily, the ruling corporate and financial elite.

The US was deindustrialized. Concomitantly, as high paying unionized manufacturing jobs were exported to the third world, the unionized sector of the US economy shrank precipitously and this vital pillar of support for governmental policies which truly seek to benefit all citizens--as opposed to only the elite few--eroded away. It collapsed during Bill Clinton's presidency. From NAFTA to the WTO, through the repeal of Glass-Steagal, the Clinton administration eviscerated what remained of the New Deal coalition with respect to the Democratic Party actually representing the interests of organized labor in the American political system.

Obama is merely the inheritor, and willing continuer of this betrayal. For example, his health care legislation was designed from the outset to maximize the financial benefits of our existing predatory health care industry elites. Obama assured these folks that business as usual would prevail. And it did. Now for the first time Americans are required, under penalty of law to pay a "tax" directly to corporations. This is what the health care "mandate" amounts to.

More precisely, this mandated tax that we will pay to profit-making corporations amounts to the difference between the cost of a mandatory private policy and the cost of a government administered plan (the public option that Obama ensured was not made available to us): Consider the cost of a government run plan to be "X"; then the cost of a corresponding private plan is "X + Y" where "Y" is the profit overhead which Americans are now compelled by Obama and the Democrats, under penalty of law, to pay.

The Democrats' massive 2010 Financial Services Reform Bill spans several thousand pages, yet carefully manages to not reinstate Glass-Steagal.

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I could go on and on and on. However, the facts are clear: The Republican Party, the Democratic Party, President Obama, are all in thrall to our ever more powerful elite class. So for that matter is the US Supreme Court, as has just been documented in a study released recently by the Constitutional Accountability Center. Of course, anyone who is aware of the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizen's United vs. F.E.C. case already knows this.

Taken together, the rapid concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, the disintegration of organized labor as a core element of the Democratic party, the now near total capture of the electoral process and hence Congress and the Presidency, by these elites in conjunction with their indirect capture of the UC Supreme Court (corporatist Justices are put in office by previously bought politicians), these variables produce a positive feedback effect which leads to the transformation of the US into a pure oligarchy. We are no longer a Democracy. We were never a perfect democracy, however, now the last vestiges of popular rule have been extinguished.

Still, Obama has his appointed role, which is to channel the vast discontent which emerged in 2008 as a consequence of the financial crisis away from the elites who rule this country and towards a nebulous "change" which somehow, never really amounts to real change. However, already Obama has fulfilled his initial mission. We have forgotten our rage against our rapacious financial elites--as was intended.

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Michael P Byron is the author of The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide to Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation in a World Gone Mad. This book is a manual for taking effective action to deal with the crises of our age including (more...)

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