Reprinted from Reader Supported News
If Ronald Reagan were alive today, he would be one of Barack Obama's biggest fans. In the six years he's been president, Obama has managed to turn our country's economy, at its worst point since the Great Depression, into one booming along with the greatest quarterly GDP growth in 11 years. The Dow Jones closed above 18,000 this week -- the highest ever. And yet, despite an apparently surging economy, 95 percent of income gains since 2009 have gone to the richest 1 percent. Not even Ronald Reagan's economic policies created inequality on that scale.
Since his first inauguration, President Obama has masterfully steered the benefits of the recovery to only the wealthy, while the net worth of average working Americans has dropped by 40 percent since before the recession. Today's middle class is actually poorer than it was in 1989, when Reagan left the White House. Even though the most recent unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, most of the new jobs that have been created since the recession have been in low-paying sectors, like retail and fast food. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which most workers in those industries earn, has less buying power than the minimum wage in 1968.
According to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, if the minimum wage had kept up with worker productivity since then, it would be $16.54 an hour today. This means Americans are working harder than ever, but aren't getting a penny ahead. When you use that data to paint a picture with the most recent quarterly GDP growth surge and the new record-high closing on the Dow Jones, the image is actually quite ugly. The insane growth our economy is experiencing, combined with the fact that 99 percent of Americans aren't seeing 95 percent of the income gains from that rapid economic surge, means that our hard work is simply feathering the nest of the ownership class. Income inequality hasn't been this severe since right before the crash that caused the Great Depression.
President Obama could be pushing for the pitifully-low minimum wage for tipped workers to be increased from $2.13 an hour, where it has stayed since 1991. He could sign executive orders to pay all federal workers $15 an hour, to allow government contracts to go only to model employers who pay a living wage, and to allow all government workers to have the right to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. He could be investing billions of tax dollars into in creating public sector jobs aimed at rejuvenating American infrastructure -- which American engineers have given a D+ in their most recent assessment -- rather than lowering the deficit with cruel austerity like the continued budget sequester.
At the very least, President Obama could have vetoed the federal budget "cromnibus" bill that was recently passed, sparing low-income women, infants, and children from another $93 million in cuts to their food assistance. But we're talking about the president who already approved $8.7 billion in cuts to food stamps in the latest farm bill. Even the last lifelines of help for the most desperate Americans have been slashed to pieces and put on hold by the Obama administration.
Even if Republicans are singlehandedly holding social safety nets like food stamps and unemployment extensions for the long-term jobless hostage, the fact that President Obama hasn't even fought that hard for these programs speaks volumes. Republicans applauded Clinton when he cut welfare in the 1990s, but there's been nothing but silence from today's crop of Congressional Republicans for Obama's cuts to the welfare state.
Instead of fortifying his legacy with economic populism, Obama has presided over an economic "recovery" where only the rich have benefited -- the first "recovery" of its kind. If Obama were a Republican instead of a Democrat, Republicans would be singing his praises. Instead, liberals and partisan Democrats are celebrating the news of growth they don't benefit from, and are the first to shout from mountaintops about lower deficit numbers. In terms of economic policy, Obama and his most diehard supporters are Reagan Republicans. But despite their similarities in economic policy, Reagan would be even more proud of Obama for his foreign policy.
As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, President Obama has extended George W. Bush's War on Terror from just Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Libya, and even the Philippines. The U.S. military has more of a presence than ever in the Middle East since Obama took office, with the Iraq War alone costing as much as $4 trillion.
Obama has been just as steadfast a supporter of Israel as any of his predecessors -- standing by them even as they bombed civilian targets in Gaza earlier this year. He recently signed off on supplying the Israeli weapons stockpile with another $200 million infusion; this is the same stockpile that Israel used to bomb Gaza. And thanks to Obama's signature, Israel will now have the capability to refuel fighter jets in mid-air, which would be necessary if Israel wanted to launch airstrikes in Iran.
It speaks volumes that President Obama agreed to cut food stamps by $8.7 billion and WIC by $93 million, but committed to spending $1 trillion over the next 30 years to upgrade our nuclear weapons stockpile. Even while Obama has supported the idea of equipping police officers with body cameras, his defense department stands by the Pentagon's 1033 program that allows military equipment like grenade launchers, sniper rifles, and apache helicopters to flow to local and county police departments.
And despite his historic move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, Obama is still stuck in a cold war mentality of the U.S. having to command the widest array of nuclear weapons. Obama's record on foreign policy and the military-industrial complex puts Reagan's to shame. The ludicrous "Star Wars" program and the 1983 invasion of Grenada don't hold a candle to the current administration's imperialist worldview.
From a policy standpoint, it makes no logical sense for Republicans to hate Obama as much as they do. He's simultaneously expanded the worst economic policies we saw under Reagan and the worst foreign policy we saw under George W. Bush. The rich are richer than ever before, the middle class is becoming poorer, and the poor have had their already razor-thin social safety nets cut to the barest of margins.
On top of all of that, the U.S. military is engaged in permanent wars all over the Middle East, and the cold war mentality that drove Reagan and George H. Bush is still very much alive in the current White House. The only reasonable explanation left for Republicans' fervent opposition to everything Obama says and does is that he's black.
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