"My heart is filled with love for this country."
The first African-American president in U.S. history, he displayed his attitude towards his African heritage by destroying Libya, the most modern and democratic country on the African continent, which boasted an average life span of 77 years and a literacy rate of 90%.
This policy was carried out using air and naval bombardments, Special Forces advisers, a mercenary army and client ex-patriots (slated to be the "new leaders"), and a multi-lateral coalition of European empire builders and Gulf state petrol-oligarchs. With sustained and massive air attacks (14,000 bombing raids) taking the place of an occupying army, Obama absurdly claimed that the horrendous massacre wasn't even a war, as though that could somehow make the bloodletting more tolerable.
Despite a huge propaganda offensive designed to convince the unwary that mercenary "rebels" toppled Qaddafi, the fact is that Qaddafi loyalists were only defeated by the combined air power of NATO, with the usual dubious legal justification, in a yet another instance of imperial conquest of Africa. Meanwhile, the Libyan economy, from ports to irrigation systems to roads and hospitals, was utterly destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan African workers and North African professionals were forced to flee as Washington's mercenary crew of fundamentalist, tribal, gangster, and opportunistic clan and neo-liberal forces set about carving up rival fiefdoms.
Obama's gender sensitivity was revealed to be a fraud. Women had more freedom under Qaddafi rule in Libya than in other Arab countries, and thanks to equal education, they held high office as a matter of course. Nevertheless, Obama's Secretary of State and champion of Western feminism Hillary Clinton giggled as she celebrated the torture and murder of the man who helped bring such policies about: "We came. We saw. He (Qaddafi) died." The best rejoinder was delivered by capitalist critic James Petras, who wrote that, "Only a brainless and morally depraved Hillary Clinton could sing the praises and dance a jig celebrating the victory of a knife-wielding sodomist torturing a captured president as 'a victory for democracy.'" Indeed. And Obama happily stands behind her.
Elsewhere on the foreign policy front the pattern was much the same. In Pakistan, Obama's drone warfare alienated virtually the entire population, killing a few "insurgent" commanders while engendering widespread hatred with his mass killing of civilians. In Iraq, he continued the completely unjustified U.S. occupation, adding to an already appalling death toll and withdrawing only when Iraqi resistance forced his hand. U.S. foreign policy critic William Blum aptly summed up the results of the Bush-Obama policy for the only people who count: Iraqis.
"The people of that unhappy land have lost everything - their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives. More than half the population [is] either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile. The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium [are bringing] the most awful of birth defects . . .. A river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris, through a country that may never be put back together again."
The "sectarian violence" we hear of in Iraq is actually disguised imperial violence, even in the wake of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Extrajudicial executions and other crimes are being committed by Iraqi paramilitary forces recruited, trained, and armed by the United States. And should they fail to maintain Iraq in a mode of control Washington finds agreeable, Washington reserves the right to re-invade.
The Bush-Obama occupation represented a frontal assault on Iraqi civil society that ultimately killed at least 10% of the Sunni Arab population, driving about half of them into exile or internal displacement. While Washington consistently tried to portray the violence as driven by religious extremism, it was in fact a conflict primarily between secular nationalist forces and Washington's imperial forces, with the former striving to expel all U.S. influence. Foreign occupation of the country was the real problem, not religious extremism.
And it's still not over. Tens of thousands of CIA operatives remain in Iraq, special forces units, hunter-killer squads, and ruthless private security details. This is what passes for peace in the era of the "homeland," a term Obama uses as freely as Bush did.
Turning to Afghanistan, those dangerous radicals at the Wall Street Journal editorialized on June 5, 2009 that "one benefit of the Obama Presidency is that it is validating much of George W. Bush's security agenda and foreign policy . . . [with] artfully repackaged versions of themes President Bush sounded with his freedom agenda." No surprise, then, that Obama won the support of John McCain and Karl Rove, as well as many other Republicans with his Afghan policy, which quickly threw 30,000 more troops into the sausage-grinder.
When a suicide bombing killed seven CIA agents working in Afghanistan some months later (December 30, 2009), President Obama glorified the fallen, calling them "part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life." As though the U.S. killing hundreds of thousands of Afghans going back to the Carter years were on such a basis justifiable. Madness.
In his Nobel Peace prize speech Obama unconvincingly laid out his differences with Dr. King and Gandhi vis-a-vis war policy: "We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes." There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified." He said he was "mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem, it merely creates new and more complicated ones.'" Obama said he would not be able to use Dr. King or Gandhi as his sole guides to being a good Commander in Chief, however. Afghanistan, he insisted, was a truly just war . . . "I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people . . . Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."
But threats to the American people are greatly exaggerated, and the few that refer to anything real are a direct result of relentlessly abusive U.S. foreign and trade policies. And the plain fact is that Washington, not Al Qaeda, is the greatest threat to world peace, and by a wide margin. Nevertheless, Obama increased U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 100,000 (not counting mercenaries), where U.S. death squads are running rampant killing tens of thousands of civilians in the past decade. According to the C.I.A., the U.S. government spends $10 billion a month to fight an estimated "50-75 Al Qaeda types in Afghanistan." According to Obama, this is a "smart war."
As for civil liberties, Obama signed an extension of the Patriot Act without a single reform. The provisions let the government, with approval from a special secret court, seize records without the owner's knowledge, conduct secret surveillance of "suspicious" people, and obtain secret roving wiretaps on people. Not surprisingly, therefore, wiretaps for oral, electronic or wire communications are at an all-time high under Obama.
Under Obama administration efforts to criminalize dissent and militarize the police, local police have been turned into SWAT teams accompanied by sound-blasting vehicles, helicopters, and special tanks. Protesters routinely suffer broken bones and numerous other injuries as they are smashed with truncheons, sprayed with chemical agents, hit with tear gas canisters, and blasted with ear-splitting sound machines. Meanwhile, Muslims don't even need to protest in order to get abused. The Obama administration has criminalized their very speech, indicting them for "supporting terrorists" in online comments, even in cases where there is no advocacy of violence.
The Obama administration condemned Wikileaks - the publication of accurate government documents detailing the lies told by U.S. government officials, the killing of civilians, the policy of torture in Iraq, information about who is held at Guantanamo (Cuban territory), cover ups of drone strikes, abuse of children, and even more damaging revelations. These were deliberately and absurdly misconstrued as constituting an attack on the United States. Washington continues to try to find ways to prosecute the publishers of Wikileaks. Obama personally defended the conditions of Bradley Manning's (solitary) confinement, who leaked thousands of government documents to Wikileaks. The government is charging Manning with espionage, which can bring the death penalty.
Among other civil liberties outrages are the following:
(1) The Obama administration has taken no steps to cut back on the cruel and unusual practice of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, to which tens of thousands of U.S. prisoners are subject, nor the practice of confining supermax prisoners to their cells 23 out of every 24 hours.
(2) The CIA under Obama continues a longstanding policy of censorship of books published by former intelligence agents, the (partial) grounds being in one case (a memoir by former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan) that the book made the agency look bad.
(3) Obama has refused to release photos of U.S. soldiers cruelly abusing prisoners. There are hundreds of criminal investigations into such abuses by U.S. soldiers.
(4) Obama continues the Bush policy of calling for dismissal of cases brought against Washington on the part of tortured "detainees" on the grounds that a trial would disclose "state secrets."
(5) The Obama administration successfully requested that the Supreme Court allow the government to criminalize humanitarian aid and legal activities on the part of people giving advice or support to foreign organizations that are on the government list of terrorist organizations. The Obama administration's Solicitor General argued that, "When you help Hezbollah build homes, you are also helping Hezbollah build bombs." The court agreed that state security trumps the First Amendment. Of course, when U.S. taxpayers pay their taxes to help build roads, they are also helping the government build a vast array of weapons with which Washington commits acts of terrorism far greater in scale than anything attributable to Hizbollah, but that's not considered a crime.
(6) The Obama administration has targeted peace and justice activists and labor union organizers for FBI raids and judicial harassment, including Grand Jury subpoenas, this for exercising their constitutional right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
(7) After promising to protect whistleblowers, Obama has prosecuted five whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than any other administration. He charged a National Security Agency advisor with 10 felonies under the Espionage Act for telling the press that the government was wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on ill-advised and failed projects. He also prosecuted former members of the CIA, the State Department, and the FBI.
(8) Obama continued Washington's longstanding support for torture. His much ballyhooed torture ban constitutes, at most, the elimination of a small minority of torture episodes carried out by Americans, while retaining the far more extensive torture operations carried out by foreigners under U.S. patronage. And by focusing only on torture in wartime (the dubious "war on terror") he diverts attention from the much vaster torture operations carried out by U.S. client states that are not at war, except with their own populations at the behest of Washington.
(9)Obama has endorsed and continued the most extremist Bush measures, including the "right" to torture anywhere except Guantanamo. Prisoners flown to Bagram Air Base can be imprisoned indefinitely without rights argues Obama. When a Bush appointed federal judge handed down a decision rejecting this stance, Obama administration announced that it would appeal the ruling.
(10) Obama claimed a unique right to jail people for life and execute U.S. citizens without formal charges or due process of law, and adopted Bush's secret military tribunals with minor modifications. And he invented new ways of denying habeas corpus.
(11) Secretary of State Clinton has determined that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and FARC (Colombia) "threaten U.S. national security, foreign policy, or economic interests," a finding not reviewable by the courts. And according to the Supreme Court, non-violent First Amendment advocacy "coordinated with" or "under the direction of" a foreign group listed by the Secretary of State as "terrorist" is a crime. A thought crime, to be exact. This goes on while Obama speaks with great reverence for Nelson Mandela, who was officially defined as a terrorist by the U.S. government for many years.
"I'm a pro-growth, free market guy. I love the market."
"My heart is filled with love for this country."
Even before his election, he rushed back to Washington to help rescue Bush's bailout. He helped salvage some of the most venal and corrupt enterprises on Wall Street, shielding their executives from prosecution, only to be later scorned by them.
Early in his career, Obama worked with Chicago slumlords on public housing initiatives that evicted the black poor in pursuit of profits via gentrification. Poor tenants in rat-infested apartments were left without heat. The audacity of hope, indeed.
In his book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama praised Ronald Reagan, whose policies demolished Central America, Southern Africa, and much of the Middle East, while attacking labor and the middle class at home.
Obama has sought to cripple teachers' unions in order to reduce teacher salaries, in order to cut real estate taxes, which in turn will raise land values.
Obama achieved "reform" to expand the profits of the Health Mafia Organizations, and extended the Bush tax cuts for the obscenely rich.
Forty-six million Americans are now living below the federal poverty level - an all time record.
Obama put Medicare and Social Security on the table to be cut, while passing more regressive tax cuts for the rich in order to advance the cause of what economist Edward Herman calls "the unelected dictatorship of money."
When Obama had a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in Congress, he expanded the bailout of Wall Street swindlers, implemented an auto bailout that raided union pension funds and rewarded capital flight, undermined carbon emission reduction efforts at the climate talks in Copenhagen, declined to advance public works programs to deal with soaring unemployment, escalated strip-mining and deep water oil drilling, ignored his promises to help labor, and appointed a Deficit Reduction Commission headed by sworn enemies of Social Security. He escalated war in South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan), attacked Yemen and Somalia, passed a record Pentagon spending budget, used "humanitarian relief" as a pretext to expand the U.S. occupation of Haiti, aided and abetted a coup government in Honduras, and expanded U.S. imperial reach in death-squad ridden Colombia. Non-Republicans who opposed such policies were labeled "fucking retards" by the White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emmanuel, an Israeli who accepted an avalanche of Wall Street cash when he was a member of the House during the second Bush Administration. All of this helped produce a right-wing rout in the 2010 elections. At a time of deep recession, Obama focused on deficit-reduction, not job creation. And his way of doing this was to attack working people and the poor, cutting services, not raising taxes on the obscenely rich.
"So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." - Obama, April 5, 2009
Obama stated in his Nobel acceptance speech that he wanted to make disarmament of the U.S. nuclear arsenal his foreign policy centerpiece.
In office, Obama has increased U.S. spending on nuclear weapons to record highs (over $7 billion for 2011). Obama has a history of weakening nuclear regulatory legislation during his time as senator of Illinois. Under Obama there has been an increase in permit and license requests for new uranium mines and nuclear power plants and an expansion of existing nuclear weapons facilities.
In 2006, as a Senator, Obama introduced the Nuclear Release Ntoice Act of 2006, which initially mandated that state and local officials be notified within 24 hours of unplanned radioactive discharge from a nuclear facility. This legislation came about because of an Exelon power plant in Braidwood Illinois, a town in Obama's district, was leaking tritium into the groundwater. Public outcry forced Obama to get the bill moving. But Obama made significant changes that took out much of the regulatory force of the bill. These changes were largely brought about by Exelron and the nuclear industry's strong opposition to the bill. Obama ultimately removed the language requiring the disclosure of leaks by the nuclear industry and the bill never got out of Congress. Exelron contributed $150,000 to Obama's 2008 campaign.
After promising the opposite, Obama ordered some of the largest spending increases on nuclear weapons production in history. He called for hundreds of billions of dollars of new investments in nuclear bombs. He refused to adopt a policy of nuclear deterrence. He proposed some $36 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees, this added to $18.5 billion set aside by the Bush administration. And while Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex was in triple-meltdown he went to Chile and called for more nuclear plant construction.
Obama selected the CEO of General Electric to be his jobs czar. GE has been offshoring jobs for decades to save on labor costs.
Obama assassinated an unarmed Osama bin Laden in a home invasion.
Obama and Secretary of Edcuation Arne Duncan have promoted charter over public schools while vilifying teachers and their unions. The promote boot camp style schools in Chicago and elsewhere. This makes a draft unnecessary, since a continual supply of war recruits can be "drafted" informally from the bottom tier of the public school system.
Obama's spending plan was hardly the massive public investment described in the business press. It was tepid and miniscule, loaded with business-friendly tax cuts and short on public works immediate jobs. Obama speaks in support of the anti-union, teacher-bashing, text-obsessed corporate education agenda, advocating "merit pay" for teachers and charter schools.
On the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made joining a union as easy as putting a check mark in a box, Obama handed the ball off to his Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, who offered concessions to business, and the bill was stillborn. He also appointed the anti-union Arne Duncan as Education Secretary, and remained silent about the right-wing assault on teachers. In spite of all the demonization of teachers' unions it turns out that (nationally) non-union teachers get fired at almost the same rate as union teachers. Although he agreed that being fired for striking was tantamount to having no right to strike, Obama issued no protest about permanent replacement workers taking the jobs of workers on strike.
The U.S. is characterized by a weak safety net, stagnant wages, large and growing inequality, and increased worker insecurity and loss of control. Obama, a "free trade" enthusiast, has no problem with any of this.
Candidate Obama said that he opposed cuts to Social Security, as well as privatization. He said the solution was to raise the cap on income subject to FICA taxation. And he said he was opposed to appointing a commission to find a solution. However, once in office he reversed course and said he was open to benefit cuts, and announced that he would appoint a deficit reduction Social Security commission. The administrative costs of Medicare are only four percent, while private insurers have administrative costs over 20%, and Medicare doesn't make money by denying people care. In public discussions of health care Obama deliberately excluded advocates of Medicare For All. Obama care is only a solution for the Health Mafia Organizations and their Profits of Doom. And Medicare was cut to finance Obama care.
No nation other than the U.S. even has a debt ceiling. It's always been a contrivance to cut social spending.
Obama has long praised Clinton's "welfare reform" as a bipartisan policy triumph, though it plunged a million more American children into poverty and deprived the poor of $28 billion in food assistance.
Obama continued the trade embargo against Cuba, while lightening some travel restrictions on Cuban artists and intellectuals.
In 2009 Obama proposed a $787 billion "stimulus package" to counteract recession - supposedly. But it was packed with tax cuts for business and short on labor-intensive projects that would have put the unemployed to work right away. And it went unmentioned that corporate America has been living off stimulus packages since WWII, without being condemned for sucking at the tit of the "nanny state." Gee, I wonder why? These packages are laughably called "defense expenditures," always the largest item in the discretionary federal budget, and the national security state of which they are a part is now far and away the largest planned economy in the world, though none dare call it communism. These contracts come with guaranteed cost overruns and generate huge profits.
In the wake of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama didn't reverse his endorsement of deepwater drilling, and in the wake of Japan's triple nuclear meltdown he arrived in earthquake-prone Chile to continue promoting nuclear plant construction.
By 2011, Obama planned to deploy on U.S. soil a new kind of weapon capable of attacking any corner of the world in less than an hour. This was to deliver a conventional warhead of great explosive force with pinpoint accuracy and super high-speed, mimicking the destructive impact of a nuclear warhead, while reducing U.S. reliance on nukes.
Obama continued threatening a justifiably paranoid North Korea.
U.S. special operations forces were deployed in at least 75 countries by 2010, up from 60 the year prior.
As of 2011, Obama was seeking Congressional authority to compel internet service providers to make our internet records available to government investigators, so dissidents and protesters would be trackable at will, violating the 4th Amendment.
He hired the cream of the crop of Wall Street swindlers to be architects of his economic policy. Timothy Geithner as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank appears to have covered up massive fraud at Lehman Brothers, while as Treasury Secretary, he has given away trillions of dollars of public money to plundering banks deemed "too big to fail."
The leading members of his initial economic team were Bob Rubin and Lawrence Summers, both big fans of the deregulation that was a crucial factor in the economic crash of 2008. As treasury secretary, Rubin worked hard to abolish the Glass-Steagall Act, which had required that commercial banks be kept separate from investment banks that incurred high risks. Rubin had a personal interest in torpedoing Glass-Steagall. After leaving his position as treasury secretary, he became chair of Citigroup, which was facing the prospect of having to sell off its insurance underwriting subsidiary. The Clinton administration never brought charges against Rubin for violating the Ethics in Government Act.
Obama picked Eric H. Holder as attorney general, who had justified Bush's illegal program of spying on the private conversations of American citizens through warrantless wiretaps on the grounds of protecting state secrets. He affirmed impunity for Bush, Cheney, and their torture-raitonalizing lawyers. Also thanks to Holder's efforts, the Senate extended the Patriot Act for another year, allowing the president to, "treat . . . . human rights advocates as criminal terrorists, and threaten . . . them with 15 years in prison for advocating nonviolent means to resolve disputes."
The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain.
In any case, Rubin was replaced by Summers, who presided over legislation barring federal regulation of derivatives, thew "weapons of mass destruction" (Warren Buffet) that helped crash the financial markets into disaster. He ranks as a key villain in that drama. Economist Dean Baker, one of the few to predict of the impending crisis, says that placing financial policy in the hands of Summers and Rubin is "a bit like turning to Osama bin Laden for aid in the war on terrorism."
The business press reviewed the records of Obama's Transition Economic Advisory Board, which met on November 7, 2008, to determine how to handle the financial crisis. Jonathan Weil of Bloomberg News concluded that "many of them should be getting subpoenas as material witnesses right about now, not places in Obama's inner circle." About half "have held fiduciary positions at companies that, to one degree or another, either fried their financial statements, helped send the world into an economic tailspin, or both." Is it really believable that "they won't mistake the nation's needs for their own corporate interests?" Weil also pointed out that Obama's Chief of Staff Emmanuel "was a director at Freddie Mac in 2000 and 2001 while it was committing accounting fraud." When he was in the House, Emmanuel was described as one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street money in Congress, raking in $1.5 million from hte investment industry for his 2006 re-election campaign.
Former Bush advisor David Frum commented on Obama's financial All Star team: "I cannot recall the last time Republicans felt so positive towards a Democratic presidential figure."
Obama's picks to head up his foreign policy team similarly won GOP praise. Richard Perle felt "relieved . . . . Contrary to expectations, I don't think we would see a lot of change" from the Bush neocon policies. Retiring senior Republican senator John Warner, former chair of the Armed Services Committee, said "the triumvirate of Gates, Clinton and (James) Jones to head Obama's national security team instills great confidence at home and abroad and further strengthens the growing respect for the president-elect's courage and ability to exercise sound judgment in selecting the best and the brightest to implement our nation's security policies."
As his special assistant on the Middle East, Obama chose Dan Kurtzer, Clinton-Bush ambassador to Egypt and Israel, respectively. According to Israel's leading diplomatic correspondent, Akiva Eldar, Kurtzer played a role in writing Obama's speech to AIPAC in 2008, the content of which was even more disgustingly obsequious than Bush had ever been. "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," said Obama, repeatedly stressing "everything" to make it clear Washington was willing to initiate nuclear war on Israel's behalf. For good measure, he also declared Jerusalem would be the permanent capital of Israel. Kurtzer is close to Obama adviser Dennis Ross, whose position as a negotiator for the failed Camp David negotiations was that Israel has "needs" whereas Palestinians only have "wants," the latter inherently less significant.
His most important staff pick was his vice-president Joe Biden, one of the strongest supporters of the 2003 Iraq invasion among Senate Democrats. Biden brought smiles to Wall Street faces, too, as when he supported a measure to make it harder for hard-pressed individuals to erase debt by claiming bankruptcy.
Rahm Emmanuel was an "ex" Israeli soldier, a long-time Washington insider, and one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq invasion among House members. The leading Democratic party strategist in 2006, he purged anti-war Democrats in favor of pro-war candidates, much to the detriment of Democratic party election results that year.
Hillary Clinton was a leading Iraq war hawk who approved a Bush plan to attack Iraq in late 2007.
For attorney general Obama picked Eric Holder, who explained on CNN that the U.S. can't adhere to the Geneva Conventions banning torture because we are dealing with "terrorists," the usual infinitely elastic demon category used to justify everything.
Larry Summers, Rahm Emmanuel, Stuart Levey, Peter Orzag, Bob Gates, Tim Geithner and other Obama appointees responsible for the disastrous wars, economic catastrophes, grotesque maldistribution of wealth and attendant savaging of our living standards, have walked out or announced their "retirement," taking their leave so they won't be around to take the blame when even deeper catastrophes occur.
Appointing Henry Paulson straight from Goldman Sachs, one of the financial crisis producers, to manage the crisis, represented gross conflict of interest. Obama's picks were openly praised by Karl Rove, Joe Lieberman, Max Boot, John McCain, and David Brooks.
NYT political analyst David Sanger noted in December 2008 that OBama had included "two veteran Cold Warriors [National Security Adviser and former NATO commander James L. Jones and current and future Defense Secretary Robert Gates] and a political rival [Hillary Clinton - Secretary of State] whose records were all more right-wing than Obama's. Also appointed were vice-president Joe Biden, a major Senate facilitator of state propaganda to invade Iraq, UN Ambassador Susan Rice (an eager promoter of the myth that Saddam Hussein had WMD) and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel (a fierce opponent of anti-war sentiment in the Democratic Party, and a leading sponsor of Israeli militarism and apartheid.
Fiscal and monetary stimulus totals $12 trillion, according to Jack Rasmus.
In the audacity of hope Obama describes the profit system as "our greatest asset."
The $800 billion bailout package was a small fraction of the total bailout, which incorporated funds granted by a variety of federal agencies - the FDCI, the Department of the Treasury, and a host of others, Nomi Prins, veteran of 10 years at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs and the author of "It Takes a Pillage," says the total bailout cost $17.5 trillion.
The U.S. was uncommon among the developed nations in bailing out its banks without making any requirement that the bailed out banks make loans that would relieve the credit crisis. The very ingredients of the banking/speculation crisis that produced the 2008 collapse have been left in place: large volumes of speculative capital, securitized debt, and the expectation by banks "took big to fail" of a boundless bailout fund courtesy of the taxpayers.
The banks can pour the bailout funds into their own pockets for recapitalization or mergers, or make loans to government-guaranteed borrowers, thus undermining the alleged purpose of the bailout. Of course, we don't know exactly what was done with the bailout funds because the recipients of the money consider it an affront to be asked. No bank has provided even the most basic accounting of what it has done with the federal money, simply replying, "we're choosing not to disclose that."
The popping of the 8 trillion dollar housing bubble was foreseen by few (Dean Baker), regulators and economists whose job it was to see danger did not do so.
The semi-command and control economic system of the WWII years cured the Great Depression with deficit spending far beyond anything seen today, producing the greatest manufacturing growth rate in economic history (U.S. industrial production more than tripled during the war).
Banks profits are once again being driven largely by speculative investing, says Jack Rasmus. After taking trillions in bailout help the banks charged customers even high interest rates, instituted new penalties, and hoarded trillions in cash, wallowing in their "too big to fail" status. The banks don't refuse to lend to anyone, just to businesses in the U.S. that could expand and create jobs.
Bankers, insurance companies, big corporations and wealthy investors began giving themselves enormous bonuses again after receiving and hoarding trillions of dollars in public bailout money. The public money was used to speculate in foreign currencies, stocks, and properties abroad, while average Joes at home can't get their mortgage loans modified, can't get funding for college except at extortionate rates, and are increasingly denied bank loans to keep their businesses from collapsing. Credit card companies successfully thwarted timid Congressional efforts to place a cap of 34 percent on credit card charges and fees. Comnpanies like AIG and Goldman Sachs got reimbursed 100% by the U.S. Treasury for their speculative bets and loans while the working poor and middle class continued to lose their homes by the millions year after year, or were forced to watch the value of their homes plunge to less than the value they owed on their mortgages.
Obama tried the bait and switch of redefining economic recovery to mean having prevented a depression. But to have prevented further bank collapse is not the same as having produced economic recovery.
The big 19 banks are sitting on 2.5 trillion dollars in cash and liquid assets, which they refuse to loan to small and medium size businesses to prevent further layoffs. But they eagerly extend loans to professional speculators globally to finance quick capital gains in Chinese properties, Brazilian currency, short selling of Greek bonds, gold futures, and emerging market funds. S&P 500 corporations are also hoarding.
Obama's 812 billion dollar stimulus appears to have had almost no effect on lowering unemployment. The problem is insufficient aggregate demand. No business is going to invest and expand after a tax cut, or hire more workers, if there is no demand for the increased products and services produced by those additional workers.
A series of big banks went bust, including Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, and the insurance giant AIG. The stock market plummeted several thousand points. Credit markets froze up. Banks of all kinds and sizes were writing down and writing off hundreds of billions of dollars in losses due to collapsing housing markets and odd assets like CDOs, CLOs CDSs, and the like. Treasury Secretary Paulon said the solution to the problem was to buy up the bad assets. But the banks didn't want to sell those assets at their collapsed market prices, they wanted to public to be forced to buy them at the prices the banks had originally paid for them (but they had since lost about 90% of that value).
The Big 3 auto companies failed to develop fuel efficent vehicles, squandered vast profits acquired in the 1990s with SUV sales, and resisted mileage standards.
The financial services sector now far outweights all domestic manufacturing in both economic and political significance.
GM, along with Ford and Chrysler, enjoyed a massive boom in the 1990s while gas prices were low and they mass marketed SUVs. But rather than investing a large share of these profits in full pursuit of electric cars as well as developing other fuel-efficient alternatives to gass guzzlers, GM and the others squandered an estimated 10 billion dollars on executive bonuses and stock dividends. Now the reigning theory is that the auto firms will have to accept a substantially smaller market share, so that means lower pay, fewer workers, and plant closings. But we should be nationalizing the auto industry and converting it to high-speed rail production. The biggest advantage this would provide is delivering leverage to the public commensurate with its investment in these companies. We should be producing not only fuel-efficient cares, but also buses and ligh-rail cars. Why settle for a shell of an auto industry dependent on public bailouts but beyond the influence of the public?
Only $26 billion of the $180 billion of stimulus spending in 2009 went for job creation, according to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office. So it should have been clear from the beginning that the stimuls was not designed to create anywhere near the number of jobs that the Great Recession cost the U.S.
Paulson panicked Congress into extending him a check worth $700 billion in order to buy up the bad assets on the balance sheets of banks. Paulson was given the money and then he did nothing about purchasing the assets. He instead threw $125 billion at the nine biggest banks. Another $80 billion was shoveled to AIG. Tens of billions to Citigroup. Almost $20 billion to auto companies. Says Jack Rasmus: "Paulson faced the dilemma of buying the assets at their market price, which was virtually worthless. Since the banks were keeping the assets on their books at inflated, above market prices, they had no incentive to sell them at market prices and register even greater losses in doing so. They wanted Paulson to buy them at above market prices. If he did, however, he would be charged with providing a windfall profit to the banks. So he used TARP to purchase preferred stock in the banks, in the hope that it would at least partially close up the black hole on bank balance sheets that was ever-widening as the value of housing prices, mortgage bonds, and other securities continued to collapse." (Rasmus, Z Magazine, April 2009) This strategy addressed the symptom of collapsing bank balance sheets, but not the speculative cause.
"The shadow banking system, a network of non-bank financial institutions, was responsible for much of the speculation driving the subprime and other asset markets until they busted in the summer of 2007. It is thus ironic that the Fed and Treasury now pursue via TALF the resurrection of those same markets and that same system." (Rasmus, ibid)
Obama partially nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, giving them hundreds of billions of dollars to purchase home mortgages. But under the Obama Housing Plan, any homeowner that was delinquent, in default, or in foreclosure was not eligible for bailout aid. Those who needed it most were excluded.
"In the end housing price decline can only be contained by a nationalization of residential mortgage markets and a fundamental reset of both interest and principal for homeowners in stress, much as was done in the 1930s." (Rasmus, ibid)
GM defeated Toyota last year because the Japanese company's supply chain was devastated by a tsunami and triple-meltdown. In short, it wasn't an ordinary year.
All it took to bail out GM was a $50 billion taxpayer gift, plus a $20 billion tax break, plus enduring continued public losses as the company under-performed. Just for the public to break even GM share prices would have to rise to about $51. They are less than half that (check) Also, the White House's restructuring plan for the industry in 2009 included letting the company raid union pension funds to pay off rich Wall Street investors, and allowed GM to double its car production for the U.S. market in Mexico, South Korea, and China.
In the summer of 2009, Obama's transportation secretary was abroad pursuing contracts with European manufacturers for a handful of potential high-speed rail projects with federal funds appropriated by Congress for U.S. economic stimulus. U.S. funding for infrastructure development went to Spanish and other European corporations. Meanwhile, on the home front, Washington was dismantling leading sectors of U.S. industry (auto), destroying the lives of workers and their communities. Yes, some auto jobs have now come back, at lower wages and benefit levels, but what was irreparably lost far exceeds in measure what Obama is boasting about.
45 months after the start of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy was no larger in GDP than it had been in late 2007. The Obama "recovery" has been the weakest and most lopsided recovery vis-a-vis capital and labor than all prior recessions since 1947. Pre-tax corporate profits almost doubled in just over two years, from $971 billion in December 2008 to $1.876 trillion in March 2011. By early 2012 they surpassed $2 trillion. Meanwhile, profit margins surged to an 80-year high. This while cost cutting directly at the expense of workers reduced wages, eliminated jobs, slashed work hours and benefits, and channeled gains from rising productivity exclusively to corporations.
The two year extension of the Bush tax cuts in December 2010 added between $450 to $500 billion to the U.S. budget deficit for 2010-2011.
Obama has proven totally unwilling or unable to create jobs, stop foreclosures and spreading negative homeowner equity, and prevent chronic fiscal crises at the state and local levels.
Cutting deficits and the debt became Obama's policy centerpiece by late 2011. But no economy has ever recovered through austerity measures.
Obama's recovery strategy failed because the original stimulus was too small and not focused on immediate job creation, but rather, corporate subsidies. It also showed an over-reliance on business tax cuts that were hoarded rather than invested. Obama also failed to require bank lending as a pre-condition to receiving $9 plus trillion in bank bailouts. Obama simply disregarded the crisis in jobs, housing, and local budgets. He had a weak, ineffective traditional policy response to the first economic relapse in the summer of 2010. He eagerly surrendered to Republican focus on deficit cutting and austerity solutions in the face of the second economic relapse in 2011. There is no way the U.S. can recover as the world economy continues to slow. The much celebrated 200,000 a month in job creation recently largely reflects seasonal and other statistical adjustments.
Top U.S. executives' paychecks rose 23 percent to $10.8 million in 2010, and 36 percent according to most recent estimates for the S & P 500 largest companies (by the corporate research company, GMI). CEO pay was slated to increase another 36 percent in 2011. The average pay for the CEOs of the 15 largest banks increased by 36 percent in 2010. Seven of the 15 banks reported losses that year, but their CEOs still got bonuses. Actually, the 36 percent is an underestimate, as it doesn't include contributions to CEO retirement plans or stock accumulation. Meanwhile, more than 40 million U.S. workers have no full-time jobs and earn, on average 70% of full-time pay as temp and part-time workers; 47 million Americans are under the official poverty line; and 45 million now receive food stamps, including more than 15 million children.
Austerity is a maneuver by bondholders and bankers to buy time in hopes that somehow "market forces" can be brought under control, so they won't have to sell their bonds at a loss. The Obama administration's three recovery programs since 2009 also represent attempts to buy time. (Economic growth, reflation, liquidation, are the three programs). The subsidies to states, cities, the unemployed, schools, etc. were designed to halt the massive collapse of consumption that was occurring in '08-'09, but only for one year. After that year, the $300 plus billion in tax cuts passed in 2009 and the additional $802 billion in tax cuts in 2010, were supposed to kick in and produce business investment and job creation in the U.S. But corporations continued to sit on a $2.5 trillion cash hoard. U.S. multinationals are sitting on an additional $1.4 trillion in offshore tax havens, in order to avoid paying U.S. corporate income taxes. The global capitalist banking system is getting constant liquidity injections composed of zero interest loans and "quantitative easing" - the Fed printing up money to buy bad assets from banks and lenders. But the economy is not re-flating. The only result has been the Federal Reserve spoon-feeding speculators around the world and juicing up stock markets, real estate, currency speculation and volatility, oil and commodity prices, and financial securities in general.
The true jobless are between 23 and 25 million, not the much lower official figure. The true unemployment rate is between 18 and 19 percent. Trillions of dollars of bad assets remain on bank balance sheets. Between 30 and 40 percent of American homes are already under water.
Youth, minority, and high school educated workers have suffered depression level unemployment rates of 30 percent, 40 percent, and more in the Obama years. The true jobless figure is around 25 million. Average consumers today (2010) still owe 130 percent in debt of their real disposable income - and this real income continues to decline. Jobs, foreclosures, earnings decline, unavailability of credit - all have translated into a continuing drop in consumer demand, which comprises 71 percent of the economy.
Obama favors a discredited market-based approach to everything, backed up by a massive imperial military to enforce it. He has spread to war on terror to Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. After winning election, he watched nonchalantly while Israel mercilessly attacked hospitals, schools, mosques, homes, orphanages, UN facilities, while dropping white phosphorous on Gazan civilians.
Wall Street is currently enjoying spectacular profits and bonuses. 25 hedge fund managers raked in $25 billion in 2010, while worker wages have remained at 1973 levels when adjusted for inflation. The share of income claimed by the richest 1% is the highest share since 1928, just before the U.S. economy collapsed into the Great Depression. The CIA's annual World Factbook ranks nations on a "Ginit" formula which measures inequality; this places the U.S. in the company of the Philippines, Ecuador and Rwanda. Corporations are sitting on $1.9 trillion in liquid assets as of the first quarter of 2011, the largest such sum ever recorded. And they made a record 3.8 trillion dollars in the second quarter of 2011. And Obama's "jobs program" proposes "free trade" agreements which are what SHED U.S. jobs. An estimated 5.6 million U.S. jobs have been lost and 43,000 factories closed since NAFTA was passed.
25 million still unemployed or seriously underemployed. 10 million cumulative home foreclosures as of 2010. Foreclosures have continued to rise under Obama. The $787 billion in fiscal stimulus of 2009 resulted in almost no new job creation. Obama and the Democrats offer no resistance to cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, employer provided health insurance, Social Security, public employees wages and jobs at all levels of government, pensions, unemployment benefits, and the gutting of middle class tax cuts like the alternate minimum tax and the mortgage deduction.
Spending should have focused on direct job creation and on reducing homeowners' mortgages and payments, instead of subsidizing a few mortgage leaders and mortgage servicing banks.
30 major U.S.-based corporations paid no federal taxes in the last three years.
Even government policy-makers at the highest levels admit that the unemployment situation is bleak. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, for example, has predicted that it will take until 2016 to return to the level of jobs we had in 2007.
Also, all housing problems are not due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. In the third quarter of 2009, one third of foreclosures was on houses with prime loans. The owners had been in the homes for years, but were dislodged because of long-term unemployment.
Credit did not merely contract, it crashed. Most banks still refuse to loan at reasonable rates. This is a bankers' strike.
Jimmy Carter calls the American electoral system as "legalized bribery."
Obama is not really from the South Side of Chicago. He's from a highly-educated middle-class background in Hawaii, and he went to a number of elite private schools, including Columbia University and Harvard Law School.
He received more than $33 million from FIRE, the finance, real estate, and insurance sector, including $824,202 from Goldman Sachs.
During the '04 Democratic Convention, Obama admitted he might have cast a vote for Bush's Iraq invasion, had he been in the Senate at the time.
Peace and justice activists described Obama as a peace and justice candidate who wanted to end war and redistribute wealth. Obama bashed easy targets like Wall Mart and endorsed the right to unionize when talking to labor audiences, but extolled free trade, free markets, and entrepreneurial values when addressing "the business community." Obama is one of the parade of "New Democrats" who stand strong on abortion (maybe) and gun control, but cave in repeatedly on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation . . . They take pains to say they support business . . . .
Pam Martens in February 2008 on "Obama's Money Cartel":
Seven of the Obama campaign's top 14 donors consiste of officers and employees of the same Wall Street firms charged time and again with looting the public and newly implicated in originating and/or bundling fraudulently made mortgages. These latest frauds have left thousands of children in some of our largest minority communities coming home from school to see eviction notices and foreclosure signs nailed to their front doors. Those scars will last a lifetime.
These seven Wall Street firms are (in order of money given): Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. There is also a large hedge fund, Citadel Investment Group, which is a major source of fee income to Wall Street.
Obama also received $13.2 million from "lawyers and law firms" between 1/1/07 and 1/31/08, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Obama received just 32 percent of his campaign funding in increments of $25 to $50, the small donors he claimed were his financial base. Not true.
During his 2004 Senate campaign he argued for "more deals such as NAFTA," claimed that higher, job-protecting tariffs (like those an opponent had called for) would "spark a trade war," and spoke repeatedly of the "enormous benefits" that "accrued to his state from NAFTA."
Some of Bush's top fund raisers contributed to Obama's 2004 campaign - Obama got 40% of the Republican vote in his 2004 Senate victory.
Outflanking Hillary on the right, Obama didn't call for a moratorium on home foreclosures or a freeze on mortgage interest rates, and remained silent on financial regulations.
During his seven years in the Illinois Senate between 1997 and 2004, Obama earned a strong reputation for being intensely ambitious, for working closely with Republicans, for engaging in "pragmatic" compromise, and for staying close to corporate money.
He agrees that "conservatives and Bill Clinton were right about welfare."
At a South Side Church in Chicago on Father's Day 2005, Obama preached personal responsibility to young black men, actually questioning whether they WERE men "There are a lot of folks, a lot of brothers who are walking around looking like men . . . They've got whiskers, they might even have SIRED a child, but it's not clear to me that they are full-grown men." He continued in a boostrapist neo-liberal mode, blaming lower-class blacks for lacking discipline and fortitude, losers in the Great American Dream struggle.
Former civil rights lawyer Obama voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act in July 2005, "easily the worst attack on civil liberties in the last half-century," in the words of Matt Gonzalez. As Gonzalez noted, "It allows for wholesale eavesdropping on American citizens under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts."
Obama was named "Advertising Age's" marketer of the year for his 2008 campaign, which reduced many people who should have known better to fawning acolytes. As foreign policy critic William Blum observed of the Obama camp: "It's 1964; the Beatles have just arrived; and everyone is a teenage girl."
Only 26 percent of the $745 million raised for Obama in 2008 was from people donating less than $200 (the same proportion Bush got in 2004); almost half of Obama's donors gave $1000 or more.
In his campaign speeches, Obama threatened to invade Iran if they didn't behave the way he wanted them to. He also promised to increase armed forces in Afghanistan. He didn't hide a thing.
Obama campaign won Advertising Age's marketer of the year honors for 2008. The industry's task is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices, thus undermining markets as conceptualized by the "rationalist" free traders. The Financial Times reported the enthusiasm of the PR industry over "brand Obama."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "the 2008 election will go down in U.S. history as an election of firsts, but this was far from the first time that money was overwhelmingly victorious on election day." Obama's funding was concentrated among financial institutions and law firms (including lobbyists), which favored him by a substantial margin.
"In November 2008 President-elect Obama promised to “raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 and index it to inflation to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing, things so many people take for granted.” It was a pledge to low-paid workers to give them a 30 percent pay hike. Of all Obama’s betrayals, this was one of the bitterest. He never really tried, skittish with fear that he’d be nailed by the Big Business lobbies and their creatures in Congress as an inflationeer." -Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch Diary, Weekend Edition, April 6-8, 2012
Obama promised a return to the rule of law, openness in policy deciion-making, and a transformative change in government. Once in office, he continued the occupation of Iraq, ordered the largest ever escalation of ground forces and aerial assassination in Afghanistan. He also escalated covert operations by U.S. Special Forces and CIA personnel inside Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. He condoned torture-by-proxy and personally ordered assassinations - a war crime under both international and domestic U.S. law. He defended his serial "surges" in Afghanistan on the false claim that the war is just, lawful, defensive in nature, and endorsed by the UN Security Council. . . . The Obama administration secretly contracted with the government of Colombia to use seven military bases for Pentagon operations throughout South America. It sided with the coup regime in Honduras and increased the Pentagon's presence in Mexico.
In 2008, Obama out-fundraised Senator McCain by more than two to one, $748 million to $354 million. Less than 10 percent of Obama's money came from trade unions and only 24 percent came from donors giving $200 or less. George Bush raised 26 percent of his funds from small donors. Obama raised $134 million from corporations compared to McCain's $72 million. He got $25 million to McCain's $5 million from media and communications companies, as the propaganda industry eagerly embraced Brand Obama. Obama got $20 million to $7 million for McCain from "health care" companies. Financial firms gave $40 million to Obama and $29 million to McCain. The weapons industry gave more of its $25.4 million to the Democrats than to the Republicans.
Obama ardently backed Jewish supremacy in Palestine. He hopes for a "two-state" solution that will leave Palestinians demilitarized, depoliticized, and deferential. Unlike Bush, Obama sold refueling planes and GBU-28 bombs to Israel, which intelligence estimates show are intended for an attack on Iran.
The Obama White House relies strongly on Islamophobic, Israel-forever fanatics for its foreign policy. Like all his predecessors going back to Harry Truman, Obama stands for Jewish supremacy in Palestine, even if it costs the world a nuclear war, which it has come dangerously close to doing a number of times.
U.S. support for Israel violates the Fourth Geneva Convention on a daily basis, ignores International Court opinion on matters like the separation wall, which has locked the Palestinians in a giant outdoor cage, continually steals land and water from them, in order to give it to Jewish settlers, and freely attacks across international borders in illegal raids, wars, and assassination programs.
General David Petraeus is a lone realist voice among the Obamakins, having stated that Washington's commitment to Israel damages U.S. national security interests: "This conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of U.S. favoritism to Israel." However, it's no mere perception, but an iron-clad reality. Vice-President Joe Biden publicly declared himself "a Zionist," even as the Jewish state openly insulted him, and Hillary Clinton asserts with religious conviction that we have an "absolute commitment to Israel's security," since the U.S. and Israel, chosen peoples both, have shared values that transcend the bonds of time.
Obama enthusiastically supported Israel's 2008 invasion of Lebanon, Israel's fifth, which killed over 1000 Lebanese people and desroyed Beirut and much of the south of the country. He has uncritically and enthusiastically supported Israel's crimes in both Lebanon and Gaza, carried out using U.S. jets and helicopters. He called Iraq a "strategic blunder," not an immense and shameful crime prompted by Jewish fantasies of a Greater Israel. In spite of its supposed "withdrawal," the U.S. still has huge military bases and thousands of mercenaries in Iraq, along with an "embassy" that is a virtual city unto itself within Baghdad - all dutifully funded by Congressional Democrats. Not to mention the millions of Iraqis killed and brutally displaced since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, for which Obama feels no regrets.
Obama has expressed no objection to Israel stealing more and more Palestinian land and resources, and constructing what Ariel Sharon shamelessly called bantustans for the Palestinians. He has also had nothing to say about the settlement and infrastructure developments in the West Bank, particularly the illegal separation wall, nor the blanket police state tactics designed to control every aspect of Palestinian lives. He celebrates the toppling of Jim Crow by the American civil rights movement, but praises Jewish apartheid in Palestine.
Palestinians are commanded to not just recognize Israel, but to validate the Jewish character of the state, that is, a state in which Palestinian Arabs reside as a permanently unwanted presence, subject to Jewish military control. Such "recognition" is nothing less than an overt insistence that they ratify their racist treatment and subordinate status.
Israel refused even to consider peaceful means to resolve its conflict with Hizbollah in Lebanon, as required by international law. Israel also refused even to consider accepting a cease fire, making its justification for its 2008 invasion of Lebanon - to stop Hizbollah rocket attacks - laughably irrelevant. Meanwhile, Hizbollah repeatedly offered a cease fire. As in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon in 2008 to eliminate the dreaded threat of a political settlement.
Consensus favoring a two-state solution now includes the Arab League, Iran, Hamas, nearly everyone except Israel and the U.S.
Almost all of the arms Israel used in its attack on Gaza were from the United States. Many Palestinian parliament members have been kidnapped by Israel and are held without credible charge or without any charge in Israeli prisons. Obama rejects the elected government of Hamas. "To be a genuine party to peace," Obama has said, "the Quartet [United States, EU, Russia, UN] has made it clear that Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel's right to exist; renounce violence; and abide by past agreements." He didn't mention the fact that the U.S. and Israel themselves refuse to recognize an independent Palestine, won't renounce violence, and routinely violate past agreements. And no mention of the fact that Hamas has called for a two-state settlement in accordance with international consensus publicly and repeatedly.
Obama aims to keep Gaza under siege as an outdoor prison and periodic shooting gallery. More broadly, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama is constructing "embassies" like the city-within-a-city in Baghdad, demonstrating Obama's imperial intentions.
Netanyahu and virtually the entire Israeli spectrum of opinion insists on allowing "natural growth" of Jewish settlements within the areas that Israel is in the process of annexing. Obama accepts the vast existing Jewish settlement and infrastructure projects, as well as the maze of racist bureaucratic regulations that sustain them.
Netanyahu's losses at the UN cannot be dismissed as 193 "anti-Semitic" countries.
Obama caved completely on pushing for a just solution in Palestine, ending with a crude attack on the UN Goldstone Report, which stated that Israel's military invasion of the Gaza Strip was "carefully planned . . . to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability." He and his party proudly serve as an arm of the Israel lobby.
Washington under Obama continues to fund Israel's programs of settlement and development in the West Bank. This violates international law, not that anyone cares. Israel has taken over the territory within the illegal "separation wall" along with the Jordan Valley, thus imprisoning what is left, which is fragmented into unviable cantons. Israel also controls Greater Jerusalem, continuing to drive out Arabs. Israel is in control of the most valuable West Bank land, and Palestinians are consigned to unviable fragments. The "separation wall" also grants Israel control of the West Bank aquifier, which allows each Jew to receive roughly four times as much water as each Arab does. Obama supports all of this, and even called for substantially increasing military aid to Israel for an unprecedented ten years.
The U.S. and the West have allowed Israel to become a major nuclear weapons state, outside the reach of the International Atomic Energy Agency, while hypocritically condemning Iran over developing nuclear energy, not bombs. The usual double standard. Israel's Mossad has been working with the Iranian terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization in carrying out assassinations and bombing attacks. A string of Iranian scientists have been assassinated, facilities and military personnel have been bombed, and cyber warfare has been practiced to damage Iranian nuclear energy programs. And of course, Israel has the right to invade Lebanon, drop hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs, ethnically cleans Palestinians and Bedouins, terrorize Iran, and threaten to bomb and invade Iran. Obama goes along without protest.
On May 6, 2009, Obama released the details of his 2010 budget for Global Health and a new 6-year health initiative. The only new element was a proposed $6.6 billion CUT in funding for programs to address HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, with little left over for maternal and child health and health system strengthening. At several junctures during his presidential campaign, Obama had committed to do significantly more on global AIDS, TB, and malaria, and had specifically promised to fully fund PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) (Jennifer Flynn, www.healthgap.org)
To get Obama's philosophy on this issue, consider his administration's cost-saving proposal to force veterans to use private health insurance for their combat injuries. This created such a firestorm of negative publicity that the proposal was killed. But it shows why Obama would never permit a genuine "public option." If even his imperial mercenaries should have to pay their own way, you KNOW he'll have no sympathy for the rest of us!
Insurers stand to receive $465 billion in subsidies. Perhaps 25 million Americans will remain uninsured.
The best estimates demonstrate that for-profit health care in the U.S. costs us an additional $400 billion annually in unnecessary administrative costs and overhead.
The favorability ratings of the health insurance industry are beneath those of the tobacco industry. A 2009 USA Today survey revealed that only 4 percent regarded the insurers as "honest and trustworthy."
Obama's argument is that we need to take the current terribly wasteful privatized system and throw more money at it, rather than extend Medicare to all citizens, on the pretext of avoiding "disruption."
In exchange for issuing policies to sick people, insurers will be allowed to jack up premiums for older people.
Health insurers increase their staffing in order to more effectively analyze patient claims so they can see where to withhold payments and authorization - and thereby maximize profits. Administrative costs consume 31 percent of America's private health care spending. By comparison, administrative costs under Medicare are just 3 percent. Being uninsured results in an estimated 45,000 preventable deaths each year.
Obama care features an individual mandate, high premiums, fines for those who don't buy insurance, and a lack of cost controls on insurers and providers.
Most Americans wanted the government to move to a single-payer system or, failing that, at the very least a "public option" or some form of Medicare for all.
Nothing in the health care bill spells out what benefits must be offered for insurance plans to qualify for the government-run health insurance exchanges that will be set up in 2014. But everyone must buy insurance, which will mean a swarm of cut rate policies that provide coverage without care.
45,000 Americans die every year from lack of access to health care. Americans could be required to pay up to 9.5 percent of their income on insurance that will only cover an average of 70 percent of their medical expenses. Also, insurance companies are allowed to deny care with no court review of such decisions. Private insurers must cover people with pre-existing conditions, but they can charge people who don't meet their wellness guidelines double what they charge others. They can charge triple if you are older. Medicaid was expanded - with 16 million more people covered. But Medicaid is so underfunded that many doctors - paid such poor reimbursements, refuse to treat Medicaid patients. States are already stretched thin trying to pay for Medicaid, causing more cuts to services and less reimbursement to doctors. The federal government's financial assistance ends in 2016.
Obama quickly abandoned the popular and common-sensical single-payer (basically, Medicare for all) health plan that he previously favored, in order to keep the Health Mafia Organizations in business, which they would not be if they had to compete against a more efficient government insurance plan. He also made a secret bargain with pharmaceutical companies that the government would not "negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers," under pressure from lobbyists and in opposition to 85 percent of the irrelevant public. The public option was ultimately tossed out along with a related "Medicare buy-in" that would have allowed people 55 and older to join the national health care system. There was growing public anger at all this, because people did not like the limited nature of Obama care.
Obamacare has devolved into another big giveaway to the private insurance companies and Big Pharma, in violation of the public will, and without the obvious measures to reduce gouging in the manner taken by other industrial countries. The new law does not make health care universal, or more cost-effective, efficient, and affordable for millions of middle-income Americans. It guarantees hundreds of billions of dollars in windfall profits for pharmaceutical companies charging extortionate prices for drugs because the government refuses to negotiate costs with them.
Democratic leaders shelved the public option in the original health care reform plan, in the process overruling support for it on the part of a majority of the population.
Obama supports cuts to Medicare through the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is charged with keeping per capita Medicare spending below a target level below the current rate of health care cost inflation. The GOP openly advocates a voucher "Medicare" system; Obama favors slowly strangling the system with cuts, leaving seniors struggling to find doctors willing to take on their medical problems.
Obama Care worsens our health care crisis by further privatizing health care. The HMOs do not want the full law repealed. A large part of the increase in coverage under the law was based on an expansion of Medicaid. The number of uninsured Americans continues to grow, and soaring health-care costs (price gouging) are destroying U.S. families and businesses. The most cost effective way of dealing with this crisis would be to expand and improve Medicare, putting all Americans on Medicare, instead of using hundreds of different health care companies that make profits from throwing sick people off their rolls, as we do now. Medicare and Medicaid have been effective at improving the health of the population and lifting people out of poverty, while the same obviously cannot be said of private HMOs.
Obama made a deal with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to avoid challenging their dominant role in any health care reform.
Obama essentially accused Bush of dropping the ball on maintaining U.S. world supremacy. "The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew," said Obama in a 2007 article in Foreign Affairs, adding that "we must lead the world by deed and by example," and "must not rule out using military force" in pursuit of "our vital interests," which means resources and markets in other lands. "We must also become better prepared to put boots on the ground . . . on a global scale," said Obama. Also: "I will not hesitate to use force unilaterally, if necessary . . ."
Obama has made it clear that the permanent war system is unshakeable and unquestionable. He strongly endorsed the Bush policy of attacking suspected Al Qaeda leaders in countries not yet invaded by Washington - like killing an unarmed Osama Bin Laden himself in Pakistan. Obama clearly accepts the Bush doctrine that the U.S. has the right to invade any country it chooses, except in the case of a "dumb war," i.e. one that is too costly for the U.S.. And Obama has relied more heavily on pilotless drone "warfare," killing hundreds of civilians amid a handful of "terrorists," achieving a kill ratio of roughly two percent.
Most of the thousands of victims of U.S. "targeted killings" are civilians, killed in cold blood, with no chance to cooperate or surrender. Even President Bush's State Department Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, warned that there is no legal basis for most of these strikes. They are extra-judicial executions, nothing less.
Obama expressed admiration of Reagan as a "transformative figure," as he surely was, if not in Obama's sense of the term. Rather Obama was referring to the semi-divine image of Reagan crafted by the PR industry, which anointed Reagan the High Priest of free markets and small government, the farce "culminating in a reverential commemoration of the Great Man that was reminiscent of the veneration of Kim Il-Sung," according to Washington foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky.
"We will not apologize for our way of life," said Obama belligerently in his Inaugural Address. This is a way of life that includes torture, mass murder, and on occasion, genocide.
Most American people according to poll results supported immediate withdrawal from Iraq. The public continues to support and enlightened and democratic internationalism (not isolationism) that honors international law and shows respect for public opinion in every country.
Obama has no problem with the foundational principle of corporate law - limited liability - which allows corporations to commit serious crimes while shareholders remain largely immune to damages. The courts have determined that corporations are real persons under the law, with rights far beyond those of biological persons. CEO's are allowed to select the panels that fix their salaries and bonuses without shareholder interference.
80% of Americans believe that the government is "run by a few big interests looking out for themselves," not "for the benefit of all the people," as called for by the (irrelevant) U.S. Constitution.
90% of transnational corporations are headquartered in the Northern Hemisphere. More than half of federal jobs have been outsourced to private companies. One fourth of current U.S. jobs pay less than a poverty-level income. The average CEO makes 350-400 times the salary of the average U.S. worker. Nearly one-third of all large U.S. corporations pay no annual taxes.
Obama has spent (check) more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president since WWII (in a single term of office). And this is apart from additional billions requested for Afghanistan and Iraq slaughters. Obama makes Bush look like a lightweight in Pentagon spending. The Pentagon accounts for almost half the military spending of the entire planet, and maintains more than 800 military bases scattered across 130 "sovereign" nations.
The Pentagon budget and its military-related expenditures in other agencies are now costing over $1 trillion a year. This is a giant public subsidy to leading high-tech and energy corporations like Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and the oil companies, which have enjoyed record profits during the recent and continuing "wartime" period.
Obama has maintained the largest U.S. military budget since WWII, surpassing both the Vietnam War budget and Reagan's massive arms build-up by more than 25% in real terms. Not bad for the recipient of a Nobel Peace prize.
When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya raised the minimum wage, the U.S.-trained military kidnapped him in his pajamas, put him on a plane, and flew him out of the country.
Washington joined the OAS in criticizing the Honduran coup in the classic banana republic state (and the launching pad for Washington's terrorist wars of the 1980s), but it did not withdraw its ambassador in protest, as did Latin American and European countries. Meanwhile, Washington continued to train Honduran officers, and the largely U.S. controlled IMF provided a $150 million loan to the coup regime, this after having withdrawn loans to the democratically elected Zelaya government because of disagreement with his economic policies. Obama separated the U.S. from virtually all of Latin America and Europe by accepting the military coup, which he refused to describe as such. Washington recognized the subsequent elections held under military rule. Obama's ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, called the elections "a great celebration of democracy." Following the election, Arturo Valenzuela, Obama's State Department official in charge of Western hemisphere affairs, told the press that "the issue is not who is going to be the next president . . . The Honduran people decided that" - by choosing between two coup supporters while the elected president Zelaya was holed up in the British Embassy. Adding sting to the insult Obama's representative to the OAS instructed the Latin American simpletons that they should abandon their "world of magical realism" and accept the legitimacy of the coup. Whatever is, is right.
Manuel Zelaya had raised the minimum wage and carried out other unwelcome reforms, also declaring that U.S. aid did not "make us vassals" or give Washington a unique right to humiliate the country. Zelaya also began to improve relations with Venezuela, joining the Venezuelan-subsidized oil program Petrocaribe, and then ALBA as well. In June 2009 came the coup, and Zelaya was expelled to Costa Rica. Economist Mark Weisbrot, an experienced analyst of Latin American affairs, commented that the social structure of the coup was "a recurrent story in Latin America," pitting "a reform president who is supported by labor unions and social organizations against a mafia-like, drug-ridden, corrupt political elite who is accustomed to choosing not only the Supreme Court and the Congress, but also the president."
One of the reasons for Obama's indirect support for the Honduran coup was Zelaya's moves toward "alliance with liberation-theologian priests and other environmental activists protesting mining and biofuel-induced deforestation."
Ed Herman says: "Obama's support of the June 28, 2009 military coup that ousted a democratically elected president is a throwback to the National Security State years . . . it is clear that the Administration knew the coup was going to happen and did nothing to stop it. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was actually shipped out of his country through the U.S. base in Honduras. It is also clear that while there have been occasional verbal criticisms of the coup, and even penalties, the United States has stood alone, supported only by a few reliable Latin American clients - Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia - in accepting the coup. . . . The [subsequent] election was a coup-ratification effort with no alternative candidates, under conditions of state terrorism." Amnesty International reported that after Zelaya was overthrown thousands were arrested, hundreds beaten and hospitalized, dozens charged with sedition. Even more were kidnapped, raped, tortured, 'disappeared' and assassinated. (Edward S. Herman, "Liberals and Military Dictatorships: From Johnson to Obama," Z Magazine, January 2010)
Key members of the Honduran military involved in the coup were trained at the U.S. School of the Americas [Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), including Generals Romeo Vasquez and Luis Javier Prince. Even after the coup, the Pentagon continued training members of the Honduran military at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Said idiot Obama at the Summit of North American Leaders in Mexico in August 2009: "The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we're always intervening . . . If these critics think that it's appropriate for us to suddenly act in ways that in every other context they consider inappropriate, then I think what that indicates is that maybe there's some hypocrisy involved in their approach to U.S.-Latin American relations that certainly is not going to guide the policy of my administration."
As Roger Burback put it: "The upshot is that a reform-minded president supported by labor unions and social organizations is now pitted against a mafia-like, drug-ridden, corrupt political elite accustomed to controlling the Supreme Court, Congress, and the presidency."
Even the more reactionary governments of Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and Felipe Calderon of Mexico felt the need to denounce the Honduran coup. Obama also publicly opposed it, saying it set a "terrible precedent." But when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked if "resotring the constitutional order" in Honduras required restoring Zelaya, she would not say yes. Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of of Public Affairs at the State Department, stated that the coup should serve as a "lesson" for the deposed Zelaya, who had signed trade and oil accords with Venezuela. Washington supported the 2002 coup against Chavez in Venezuela and is determined to limit his influence to this day.
Obama falsely claimed that the killing of Bin Laden took place during a "fire fight," when in fact he had ordered the shooting of an unarmed man, a feat of which is greatly proud. The killing and sodomization of Qaddafi is also an Obama "triumph." As Edward S. Herman summarizes: "Obama has extended and deepened the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, greatly enlarged the use of drones for use in war and to fight terror (i.e., terrorize) across the globe, and he has fought, and continues to fight, de facto wars in Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. . . . Obama has enlarged AFRICOM and advanced the U.S. military penetration into Africa. He regularly assails and threatens Iran and he continues the encircling and threatening of Russia and China . . ."
Obama's deficit commission was what initially established the dogma that a minimum of $4 trillion must be cut from the U.S. federal debt. It was the number proposed by Obama last February 2011 in his budget. $600 in cuts from Medicare-Medicaid was agreed to in the August 2011 budget deal, and more cuts are on the way. Obama and Biden have consistently offered hundred of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, without asking for a single Republican concession in return. Both Republicans and Democrats are agreed on SEVERE AUSTERITY for the American people.
U.S. annual spending on war is between $900 billion and one trillion dollars.
The $700 billion in corporate and bank bailouts represented by TARP is just the tip of the iceberg. The Federal Reserve has injected 9 TRILLION dollars into the banks snce 2008. That's the real bailout. They keep a separate set of books that do not add to the U.S. deficit and total debt of the federal government. Obama and the Fed did this in the expectation that the banks would start lending the money they were given. They didn't. And we're over a trillion dollars in tax cuts for the rich and we still have 25 million unemployed.
Health care costs are not increasing because of benefit increases but because of price gouging. The causes of the deficit/debt is/are wars and runaway military spending, the Bush tax cuts, the bailouts of banks and corporations, the fiscal stimulus packages of both Bush and Obama - that didn't produce economic recovery - the three years and counting of 25 million unemployed, and price gouging by health insurance and service providers.
He has called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the U.S.
What is happening is a massive churning of lost -full-time jobs into part-time employment.
The fiscal stimulus was $830 billion. Then there was $9 trillion in bank bailouts, hundreds of billions more for bailing out non-bank companies like GM, AIG, and others, and at least another $300 billion in additional business-investor tax cuts. In additional "stimulus" Obama merely extended the Bush tax cuts, 80 percent of which benefitted wealthy investors at a cost to the federal government of $200 to $270 billion a year. Although producing a $2 trillion surplus since 1986, the Social Security Trust Fund after the 2007-09 recession was barely breaking even. The payroll tax cut was supposed to stimulate household consumption in 2011, but all it really accomplished was a transfer of money from the Trust Fund and retirees to oil companies and other speculators. The largest U.S. companies continue sitting on their $2 trillion in cash and liquid assets, refusing to invest in U.S. job creation. It seems likely they will spend it on stock buybacks, higher dividend payouts, mergers and acquisitions of rivals, and speculation in derivatives and swaps, foreign currencies, all of which create no jobs, and in many cases actually reduce jobs.The CEOs of S&P companies have seen their compensation double, as stock prices on average have doubled and stock awards constitute 53 percent of their total compensation. Corporate profits are not $200 billion higher than they were at their peak in 2006 at $1.7 trillion. Profits rose 243 percent in 2009 and another 61 percent in 2010. Profit margins are at an 80-year high. Meanwhile, real earnings continue to fall for 90 million workers and middle class households.
Obama refuses to condemn the repression and government killings of protesters in Bahrain using U.S.-made tanks and weapons, because that is where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is stationed. And Yemen, a close U.S. ally, kills and wounds protesters while Obama looks on impotently. Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that a "no-fly zone over Libya would be an "act of war."
"If American workers are being denied their right to organize . . . I'll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I'll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America."
------Barack Obama, 2007
U.S. moved to strangle the "Arab Spring." Obama did not criticize the 30 years of U.S. support for Mubarak, nor Mubarak's collaboration with Israel, strongly opposed by the majority of Egyptians. This collaboration was sustained by dictatorship and attendant state terror, including torture, both given economic support courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. Washington's three decade support for a ruthless dictator carrying out state terror against the Egyptian population was not an occasion for delivering "change you can believe in."
Obama's January 2011 State of the Union address promised a five year freeze in domestic spending (federal), flatly incompatible with his promises to improve education and help rebuild a decaying infrastructure. His support for massive military spending and permanent war prevents resources from being delivered to a crisis-ridden civil society, even as he talked hypocritically of "solidarity." He failed to address the massive unemployment, housing, and insecurity problems of millions of Americans, the growth of inequality, and the further consolidation of the "too big to fail" banks. He expressed great pride in keeping the U.S. "competitive," which means cheap labor, no benefits, and increasingly privatized educationally. He praised his accomplishments in extending "free trade" agreements to Latin America and South Korea, with their attendant exploitation of the poor.
Big business critique of Obama: he has gone "too far," straying from the proven principles of free enterprise with major tax increases, massive deficits, and "job-destroying regulation." The solution for them is capital flight to force down workers' wages still further and eliminate all social democratic protections.
Six months before the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, Obama and his secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar colluded with the oil behemoths to permit exactly the kind of drilling that produced the catastrophe.
Obama expanded war budgets to $750 billion; increased ground troops in Afghanistan by 30,000, expanded allocations on military base building and mercenary troop recruiting in Iraq; multiplied U.S. air and ground incursions in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya. The budget deficit soared to $1.6 trillion. He also spent hundreds of billions of dollars on internal security agencies, gave Wall Street a trillion dollar bailout while ten million homes were foreclosed and unemployment reached the highest levels since the Great Depression.
A catastrophic explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and ruptured an oil well 5000 feet below the water's surface, ultimately spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf
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"You argue that the son of a single-working mom can't be an elitist. But it's not where you start in life; it's where you end up. After a prestigious prep school, Colombia, and Harvard, you've ended up with the values of Cambridge, San Francisco, and Hyde Park. So you're doing badly in Scranton, Youngstown, and Erie, where ordinary Americans live."
-----Karl Rove, letter to Obama, May 2008
The reasons Obama originally gave for not going to Iraq were not moral reasons. He favors "smart wars" and is against "dumb wars." The reasons he gave for not going included economic cost, uncertainty of outcome, risks of regional destabilization, but not immorality, criminality, and mass murder of innocent Iraqis. Obama voted AGAINST troop withdrawal in June 2006 and voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state during his first weeks of office, breaking with most of his liberal colleagues in the Senate in doing so.
In March 2006, Obama went out of his way to travel to Connecticut to campaign for Senator Joseph Lieberman who faced a tough challenge by anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. At a Democratic Party dinner attended by Lamont, Obama called Lieberman "his mentor" and urged those in attendance to give him their money and votes. Lieberman was Bush's closest Democratic Party ally on the Iraq war.
His main criticism of Bush's war was that the U.S. had not committed "enough troops to win." In the Audacity of Hope Obama claimed that the Iraq war had been launched "with the best of [Democratic] intentions." In a 2006 speech claiming that the American people supported "victory" in Iraq, he made this incredible statement: "The American people have been extraordinarily resolved. They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah." This is something like Himmler claiming that Germans had seen their children killed in the Warsaw Ghetto, as indeed some had.
Obama said U.S. troops scheduled to depart from Iraq were leaving "with their heads held high, proud of their success." U.S. foreign policy expert William Blum has well summarized the nature of the success in Iraq that Obama is so proud of:
More than a million Iraqis are dead. 4 million have been displaced, a million of them exiled abroad. Entire cities, like Fallujah, were completely destroyed. A Sunni-Shiite civil war was ignited, leading to the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad. U.S. practiced systematic and widespread torture.
Popular resistance forced Obama out of Iraq. This is presented as a "successful mission in regime change."
So many dead children, bombed weddings, assassinations, mutilated corpses. Obama strengthened Taliban rule in Afghanistan. He also sponsored medical marijuana raids on pot farms in states where marijuana was legal for medical purposes.
On civil liberties, Obama has outdone Bush in elevating himself to Divine Kingship. He has ignored the Supreme Court's banning of secret military tribunals (this because officials who work on the Guantanamo issue say that administration lawyers became concerned that they would face significant barriers in prosecuting terrorism suspects - who had been tortured - in U.S. courts) and completely folded on his promise to close down the U.S. torture center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while continuing the Bush torture and rendition policy, which is blatantly illegal under the Geneva Conventions and the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He blocked any prosecution of those engaged in torture of Iraqis and continued preventive detention at Bagram Air Base. He has signed legislation allowing the government to engage in preventive detention of U.S. citizens, has held Bradley Manning in cruel solitary confinement merely for publishing government documents the general public desperately needs to read, and has assumed a unique right to assassinate U.S. citizens at will with no due process of law (so long as he labels them "terrorists" first). He expanded the Bush-Cheney policy of warrantless spying of electronic communications by the National Security Administration. He has expanded the cowardly use of predator drones raining down lethal havoc on Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.