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Obama is the Establishment

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Obama is the Establishment
By Brian Cooney

There is a disconnect, some might say an abyss, between Barack Obama the presidential candidate and President Obama. The great intelligence, articulateness and eloquence are still there -- we saw them in his state of the union address, and even more in his televised dialogue with House Republicans on Jan. 29. But something very big is missing.

He campaigned on a theme of "change," a vague word that stirred the emotions of Americans disgusted with the fraud and incompetence of the Bush administration. It invited everyone to indulge in hope. Adoring crowds shouted "Yes we can!"

Then he took office. His supporters remained jubilant despite a severe recession and mounting unemployment brought on by the near collapse of our financial system. They saw Obama's election as a huge step forward in America's weaving of many races and cultures into its national fabric.

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It was so good to have a president who could speak in grammatical sentences and would never give a surprise neck rub to a female head of state before a world-wide TV audience. Let the new era begin!

Then Obama began to govern. Signals multiplied about how small his "change" was going to be. Many of his supporters went into denial, while a sizable lunatic fringe on the right kept calling him a "socialist."

He is, in fact, the Establishment. In the name of compromise and bipartisanship, he (like most of Congress) serves a ruling class that wants to privatize as many government functions as possible in order to run them for their own profit.

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Obama's policies on health care, defense and finance all are examples of what Glen Greenwald describes as corporatism and James K. Galbraith succinctly analyzed in his book The Predator State. America's market fetishism has promoted a fusion of government and big business, a conflation of the public purpose of government with the private purposes of corporations.


An early red flag in Obama's administration was his tepid response to the financial panic caused by the reckless behavior of Wall Street tycoons and lax oversight by government regulators. He left in place most of the individuals responsible for this catastrophe.

According to its own documents, one of the major functions of the Federal Reserve is "maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets." That is exactly what the Fed failed to do in the last years of the Bush administration. Instead, it allowed financial markets to get choked up with phony assets based on irresponsible mortgage lending.

During those years, Ben Bernanke chaired the Federal Reserve System, and Tim Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the branch that interacts directly with Wall Street. President Obama reappointed Bernanke as Fed chairman, and made Geithner (an admitted tax cheat) his Treasury secretary.

The Wall Street financial giants needed trillions of dollars (in loans, loan guarantees and other forms of aid) from the government in order to survive the effects of their misconduct. The Bush and Obama administrations should have demanded the resignations of CEOs and other top management as a condition of the rescue.

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This did not happen. Instead, the same gang is in charge and planning to award itself huge bonuses as their share of profits from their use of bailout money.

In a recent Bloomberg interview, Obama had this reaction to the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon and the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein:

"I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system."

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I'm a retired philosophy professor at Centre College. I also am a regular columnist for The Danville Advocate-Messenger,the local paper in what was my home town (I now live in Connecticut. My last book was Posthumanity-Thinking Philosophically (more...)

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