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.
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.