(Article changed on April 5, 2013 at 23:07)
" It's our own fault. We are still falling for the liberal gloss Obama
applies to, not conservative, but outright reactionary policies."
1. The experimental query. Wall Street's "Nixon-goes-to-China" candidate for purposes of appropriating the last remnants of the New Deal safety net and eroding civil liberties as necessary to secure their plutocratic gains was, at the margin, elected by liberals and even progressives who in principle oppose nearly everything Obama actually does. Obama's speeches pay lip-service to the political boundaries staked out by liberals to define their minimal lesser of two evils (LOTE) standard. But it is unlikely that any Republican could deliver the deeds for Wall Street that Obama will during his second term, after he helped "the top 1% capture 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the [Obama, 2009-11] recovery," thereby growing incomes of the 1% "by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%."
Democrat Robert Reich summarizes Obama's economic results:
"Corporate profits constitute the largest share of the economy since 1929. Yet the real median wage continues to fall -- wages now claim the lowest share of the economy on record -- and inequality is still widening.... If there was ever a time for the Democratic Party to champion working Americans and reverse these troubling trends, it is now.... But the modern Democratic Party can't bring itself to do this. It's too dependent on the short-term, insular demands of Wall Street, corporate executives, and the wealthy.... Barack Obama ... continued George W. Bush's Wall Street bailout with no strings attached; [failed to] renew Glass-Steagall; failed to prosecute a single Wall Street executive or bank ...; and permanently enshrined the Bush tax cuts for all but the top 2 percent."
On this issue of extreme inequality, as on nearly every other issue, Obama suggests intentions by word directly contrary to the natural results of his deeds. He stated the options in his 2012 State of the Union address:
"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."
Few penetrate Obama's verbal fog. While his words suggest he would support the latter option, Obama's deeds inexorably accomplish the former. Ralph Nader and Glen Ford provide chapter and verse on the high contrast between the sparkling words of his second Inaugural address and Obama's darker deeds that belie those words. The contrast shows Obama to be an accomplished traveler "to China."
An anti-communist zealot, by going to communist China as President in 1972, famously initiated a thaw in the cold war against the predilections of his own party. Making a comparable "trip," it took Clinton to marginalize his party's industrial labor union base and weaken the middle class by financializing (e.g. Glass-Steagall repeal, derivitives deregulation) and globalizing (e.g. NAFTA, WTO, China Trade) the US economy. Obama is extending Clinton's accomplishments in these two areas with Wall Street bailouts that Matt Taibbi labels "as purely bipartisan a program as we've had," and the even more ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. But it is the more effective Obama's particular mission to finish off the New Deal by managing the unpopular -- outside of Wall Street -- dismantling of the iconic progressive program, Social Security.
Obama can better sell to his constituency the fraudulent idea that Social Security Trust Fund spending is related to the unbalanced federal budget, although FDR deliberately separated the two in order to protect the Fund from the likes of an Obama. The budget is actually off balance due to decades of unnecessary and borrowed "defense" and "security" costs and other corporate give-aways that Obama sought to take off the cutting table -- not the prepaid safety-net benefits of his constituents that Obama has single-handedly put on the table. "Only a Democratic President can make it politically safe to inflict the Grand Betrayal of the Nation's most popular and desirable federal programs."
Better results cannot be expected from an ideological Republican who calls himself a Democrat than from the real deal. Left little room by Obama for maneuver on his right, Republicans now occasionally take more progressive positions than Obama, such as: their defeat of the appointment of a new Rice, same as the old Rice; their attempt -- frustrated by Chief Justice Roberts eleventh-hour defection -- to deny the originally Republican "welfare for health industry" concept of mandating purchase of over-priced corporate services; their investigation of an Obama-appointed U.S Attorney's overzealous prosecution of Aaron Swartz' act of free-speech civil disobedience; filibuster of Obama's claimed assassination powers; opposition to NDAA at the state level; and apparent reluctance, so far, to rush to take responsibility for Obama's plan to cut Social Security, contrary to what most Republican voters seek.
The principle benefit that Obama's second term holds for progressives1 is avoiding the depressing prospect of living with right-wing triumphalism for four years. Just because those hibernating from reality in the Fox News cocoon are persuaded that Obama is not one of them, progressives should not fool themselves into thinking that by helping elect Obama they avoided the neoliberal economic policies the right seeks and, indeed, could not obtain over popular opposition without a Democratic trickster to smooth their way. Possible Supreme Court appointments during Obama's second-term may or may not bring joy to liberals. Policies on issues of money and power will not likely be much different under Obama than under a Romney, and may very likely be worse. As a former lobbyist reports: "the "hope and change" administration is, for the most part, letting Wall Street have its way in Washington."
A Reagan Republican who was ostracized from his party for remaining consistent while his party tipped off the right end of the pre-Obama political spectrum observed: "I see Obama as actually being on the center-right." Obama himself has admitted as much, at least by Reagan-era standards. Obama may be merely center right on many issues (extending Bush tax cuts; adopting industry-friendly Romney-care; appointing the likes of Lew, Emanuel, Geithner, Summers, Gates and other recycled Bush or triangulated Clinton associates and Rubinites; immunizing Bush (and Obama) era war criminals; maintaining the Guantanamo and Bagram gulags; dragging out the increasingly unpopular war on drugs; fighting wars of aggression; ignoring climate change, etc.). But Obama has also pushed many policies to the right of Bush (indefinite detention of citizens; expanded drone wars; overt executive "kill list" assassinations, including US citizens; useless Afghan surge; record military spending; nuclear power boondoggle; phoney fiscal cliff and debt ceiling crises; "tabling" social security cuts; expanded deportations and criminalizing of immigrants; dogged prosecution of whistleblowers and war against the press; further erosion of civil liberties), which defines the former far right.