The Obama Economic Braintrust?

To all my liberal friends who support Obama unconditionally and consider him the smartest guy in the class and always in control, the following is a primary reason why I believe you’ve bought into the image and not the man.

In early 2008, Obama was considered virtually ignorant on economic policy by those in the know. His only econ advisor was Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago econ professor who stands maybe just to the Left of Milton Friedman and far to the right of Paul Krugman.  Obama linked up with Goolsbee in 2004 when Harvard econ dept. wouldn’t give him the time of day.

Since Obama knew what he didn’t know about econ, he did what he usually does in those situations: he went conservative. He went with the tried and true and raided the Clinton economic braintrust because they had whipped inflation and several economic crises, or so they would have you believe.  Obama brought in Larry Summers, the man who gave you the Wall St. meltdown when he lobbied Congress to not regulate derivatives, and he also gave you the repeal of Glass-Stegall, another leg which was kicked out from under Wall St. that led to its collapse.  He brought in Robert Rubin,  who was with Goldman Sachs for 26 years before going to work for Clinton.  Both Summers and Rubin never met a Wall St. brokerage firm or bank they didn’t like—a lot. The only Clinton econ alum Obama didn’t  enlist was Robert Reich, the only liberal of the entire bunch. Imagine that.

A 1991 quote by Summers, who was then Chief Economist of the World Bank: “There are no… limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind any time in the foreseeable future. There isn’t a risk of an apocalypse due to global warming or anything else. The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit, is a profound error and one that, were it ever to prove influential, would have staggering social costs.”  This is the guy who advised Obama on economics.

So, with Clinton’s braintrust firmly in place within the Obama campaign, what four names out of all available economists did they throw into the hat for Secretary of Treasury?  Not Robert Reich. Not Pulitzer Prize-winning and liberal economist Paul Krugman.  Nope, they went with:  1) the aforementioned Larry Summers, who had been forced out of the presidency of Harvard University under a cloud of scandal and a no-confidence vote by the faculty.  2) Timothy Geithner, who worked for Henry Kissinger,  Ronald Reagan, and Clinton, and headed the Fed Reserve Bank of NY.  He took over guidance of Bush’s proposed TARP for Obama. The program allowed Wall St. and banks to recoup all the money they lost or stole without being required to pay back one penny or make any operational or ethical changes to their business practices. 3) Jon Corzine, another Chicago School econ and ex-Goldman Sachs who later ran MF Global into bankruptcy.  Hundreds of millions of customer-invested money are unaccounted for to this day—and Corzine maintains he doesn’t know where the heck it went.  4) Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, who just lost $3 billion of customer-invested funds by gambling on derivates (thanks to Larry Summers) and just had the Senate jostling and elbowing each other out of the way to kiss his ring.

After Obama was elected President,  he chose to retain George W. Bush’s man, Ben Bernanke, as the chairman of the Fed Reserve, opting to not be concerned with the fact that it was on Bernanke’s watch that Wall St. and the banks melted down.

So, my point is this. Even if Obama hadn’t had Repugs and Blue Dogs obstructing his economic recovery plans, they were doomed to modest success anyway. The guys he goes to for advice are on the side of Goldman Sachs, Wall St., and the banks because that’s where they spent most of their entire careers.  The only exception is Geithner, who spent his governmental career catering to the will and whims of Wall St. and the banks.  Obama is great at speechifying, but he clearly doesn’t have the best interests of the middle and poverty classes at heart.  If he did, Robert Reich would be Treasury Secretary and Paul Krugman would be running the Fed Reserve.

The ultimate irony is that despite all the Milton Friedman disciples who populate the Obama Economic Braintrust, the Jobs Bill they developed with its emphasis on national infrastructure repair is pure John Maynard Keynes.  And high speed rail is just a modern day update of Dwight D. Eisenhower implementing  Keynesian economic principles to build the U.S. interstate highway system.

Obama is not as smart as you give him credit to be.  Or maybe he’s not really who you think he is at all.  Being right on a few social issues doesn’t make him a good guy.  He can propose all the reforms of mortgage loan modification and student loan programs he wants all the while knowing the Repugs will block every one.  The one best thing about Obama, the primary reason to vote for him in November is that he is not Mitt Romney.


The Drowning Liberal

After having read “The Shock Doctrine” and now plowing my way through “The Wrecking Crew” by Thomas Frank, I find my sunny progressive enthusiasm sinking slowly in the Left into a sea of cynical disillusionment.  I’m like a drowning swimmer slowly being pushed underwater by a heavy hand upon my head.  The game is rigged so that liberals no longer truly get to play.  The conservatives control the 3 M’s: money, the media, and the military (which explains the militarization of city police departments).

GOP conservatives attempt to paint President Obama as a liberal for two reasons: 1. to convince liberals they actually elected a liberal president. 2. to convince conservatives that the liberals actually elected a liberal president so that they fall back into line and elected an actual conservative president next time.  You see, while Obama does do the bidding of the Right by getting “free trade” agreements that only free up trade for a few multinational conglomerates and enslave poor workers passed, by keeping the banksters and Wall St. securities traders who knowingly melted the financial industry in 2008 out of prison and in power, by going even further than Dubya did in using the PATRIOT Act to trample over the Constitution, he also has a recurring nasty habit of doing good for the American people.  Installing fairly liberal justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, favoring the repeal of The Defense of Marriage Act, supporting choice if not exactly favoring abortion, and all that nastiness of creating public works jobs and raising taxes on corporate and wealthy Americans (corporations are people, too, my friend). Redistribution of wealth, some would call it. Obama has made some half-hearted attempts to mollify his sponsors—I mean, the conservatives, by raising trial balloons about budget cuts in Social Security and Medicare, but no one thinks he really means it anymore. He issues executive orders to expand mortgage loan modification programs but made sure to keep lender participation in them voluntary. Remember, Obama is supposed to appear liberal, not actually be one.

What adds to my cynical disillusionment is that here we are 4 years into the Obama administration and nothing has really changed in Washington. Why in the first two years of their administrations, both Reagan and Dubya decimated entire federal agencies and de-fanged hordes of liberal, consumer protection laws. Reagan alone drove the first stake in the heart of the labor movement by firing the striking PATCO workers. Seems to me the least Obama could have done during his first two years is to bounce any lingering Reagan and Bush I & II appointees and staffers out of D.C. and install his own guys. This is exactly how the conservatives took control of the federal government. Unless in actuality the old guys ARE Obama’s guys.

So, there’s Occupy Wall Street camped out, well, no longer camped out in parks and around city halls because the Obama administration FBI hooked up a conference call to all the city mayors and gave them identical battle plans for getting rid of the insurgents—I mean, protesters. They even coughed up a few free on-site advisors, similar to the American advisors once dispatched to South Vietnam, Indonesia, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Nicaragua, in fact, all over the globe. But still OWS is singing the “We Can Change The World” chant of the 60’s, which was silenced by a hail of bullets at Kent State and Jackson State universities. We were shown who was boss then and all the parents and grandparents of the OWS protesters still remember that lesson.

The futility of it all kept them away from the ballot boxes for over 40 years, and kept them from running for public office in majority numbers for the same length of time. Along the way, some of them defected to the other side and saw their personal and financial fortunes significantly improve. Another lesson learned. The last great liberal wave crested in 2008 to land what was perceived as the Great Liberal Hope in the White House.  Three years later, it’s the liberals who feel like the wave crashed on top of them and now there’s that heavy hand pushing them underwater.

So, does OWS march from the streets into the ballot boxes next November, joined by the 63% of Americans who support them, the over 75% of American who want taxes to go up on the rich and the corporations, and the 16% of Americans who are out of work (I know, they’re kind of all the same group)?

Make no mistake—the guys we’re up against are all professionals. They not only brought down the liberal movement in this country—these guys have brought down whole countries. They’re very good at what they do and they have the wealth of this nation—including the Federal Reserve—and, thanks to Citizens United, the wealth of nations worldwide to fund their war.  Make no mistake again—it IS a war, class warfare or whatever you want to call it—call it a war game where we’re forced to play by the rules while the other side can do what it wants. It’s like the centuries-old Bill Cosby Revolutionary War joke where the colonists can dress in camouflage and hide behind trees and bushes while the British have to wear redcoats and march in a straight line.  Anyway, if I squint real hard, I think I can see the waterline up there above my head. But with OWS there’s hope and where there’s hope there’s enthusiasm. With enthusiasm comes buoyancy so perhaps I can break the surface again. If I’m too be pushed underwater again, please let it not be by the Hand. Please make it the Monty Python Giant Foot.  At least I can laugh on the way down.