Year Two Day 3 Obama Administration January 22, 2010 - History

Year Two Day 3 Obama Administration January 22, 2010 - History

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The President began the day by flying to Cleveland Ohio

THE PRESIDENT first toured the Wind Turbine Manufacturing and Fab Lab facilities

He then held a Town Hall Meeting at Lorain County Community College in Elyria . Remarks

The President then returned to Washington

In the year 2008 President Barak Obama was running for his second term in office. As an African American male, there were concerns of racial tension harming the country. During March of 2008, President Barack Obama gave a speech on unity in the United States called “A More Perfect Union”, in which his delivery and words were clear and moving. (Center, N.C.) Unity is what is needed in this land of diversity. If someone did not feel this was a necessity at the beginning of this speech, it was likely he or she would view America in a new perspective after listening to President Obama speak.&hellip

Rhetorical Essay Toni Morrison, written to then candidate, Barack Obama, addresses the topic of presidential qualities, and argues that Barak Obama is the finest choice for America's future. She supports this claim by rhetorical devices such as voice of opinion, tone, and commonplace. From the beginning of the letter, Toni Morrison creates a strong, amplified statement with expressing her perspective. She sets the atmosphere of her entry gradually stating her perspective. With the phrase, "I feel. &hellip

SHUTDOWN Day 3: ObamaCare Failures Overwhelm Media Narrative

TAKEAWAY OF THE DAY: A CBS poll shows that 76% of the American people want Obama to negotiate with the GOP — something he is refusing to do. The media are collectively covering this poll up, including CBS News. But the media forget that there is a world outside of Morning Joe and that pretending this poll doesn’t exist does not mean the president’s extreme position won’t hurt him.

Newest updates at the top, all times Eastern. Send tip to @NolteNC or [email protected]

3:04 – CNN Reports Stay-In-Shelter Order Lifted

Both the Senate and House are no longer being order to stay in place.

3:02 — CNN Reports Suspect Tried to Crash Through White House Barriers

CNN reports that the suspect tried to crash through the barriers in front of Pennsylvania Avenue. A car chase followed, a police officer was injured, and the office has been medevac’d.

The car chase led to Capitol Hill.

2:54 – ABC News: Female Suspect Is Dead

#BREAKING: Source says female suspect reported dead on scene at U.S. Capitol.

— ABC News (@ABC) October 3, 2013

2:52 – NBC’s Pete Williams Reports Incident Is ‘Over’

Williams reports the incident started at the White House and turned into some kind of car chase.

2:50 – ABC News: Started as Attack on the White House

Breaking: Someone tried to ram gate at the White House, then fled to Capitol Hill. Shots were fired, but unclear by whom.

— ABC News (@ABC) October 3, 2013

2:49 – MSNBC Now Reporting ‘Several’ Capitol Police Injured

2:46 – Photo: Chopper Lands Near Capitol

2:43 – Bloomberg Reports Shooter In Custody

BREAKING: Capitol Police say shooter in custody

— Bloomberg News (@BloombergNews) October 3, 2013

2:39 – Luke Russert says a helicopter has landed in the DC Mall.

2:37 – Congressman reports the shooter has been arrested.

2:33 – Witness tells MSNBC up to 15 shots before a black vehicle sped away.

2:32 – MSNBC reporting that a Capitol Hill police officer has been shot and wounded. The shots occurred outside the Capitol, not inside. The Capitol is locked down and a “shelter-in-place” order is in place.

2:22 – Numerous reports via Twitter of gunfire at the Capitol with police scrambling

Luke Russert tells MSNBC he heard three or four shots.

RT @KateNocera Literally was dragged in by cop as he heard shots fired come over the radio. Now this:

— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) October 3, 2013

Sounds like shots fired near Capitol and Supreme Court. Two bursts. A minute or so apart. Crowd being herded south of Capitol. Many sirens

— Daniel Malloy (@ajconwashington) October 3, 2013

I asked Capitol policeman if that was shots. He said “Yeah” and told me to go underground if I could.

— Chris Moody (@Chris_Moody) October 3, 2013

Senate in lockdown. Police activity outside, reports of shots fired not confirmed, officer tells me.

— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) October 3, 2013

1:54 – Video: RNC Chair Reince Priebus Verbally Slaps MSNBC Bully Around

My favorite part is when Thomas Roberts declared 11,000 people signing up for ObamaCare in Kentucky a win.

There are around 40 million uninsured in America.

CHAIRMAN PRIEBUS: Those are some pretty good talking points. Let me just rewind.

THOMAS ROBERTS: They’re not talking points. That’s directly from what the president just gave us.

PRIEBUS: It sounds like I’m debating the chairman of the DNC here, Thomas. that’s fine. I’m happy to debate you.

ROBERTS: Against the republican option who ran against the mandate who,instituted instituted —

PRIEBUS: I think you should apply for a job in the Obama administration and the communications.

ROBERTS: Just answer the question.

PRIEBUS: Would you support having that methodology and actually taking the government hostage.

ROBERTS: I would support a president —

PRIEBUS: Being implemented and sitting down and negotiating like any other president in America would do. The problem is you have a right or wrong from Washington —

ROBERTS: The sequestration levels that was negotiated by republicans. They agree on what the money needs to be spent.

PRIEBUS: The fact is that the AVA has been vetted for the Supreme Court.

ROBERTS: And the both houses of congress and the president was reelected in 2012.

PRIEBUS: — Negotiate with any Republican in office. I mean, he has redefined being the party of no is all about and that’s this president.

ROBERTS: Reince, with all due respect and if you’re looking at the long game — oh, you are respecting

PRIEBUS: Keep coming, Thomas.

1:50 – Chris Matthews Jokes About ‘Killing O’Reilly’ – Media Silent

NBC’s Chris Matthews “jokes” about “killing” Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and the media remains silent. Another example of the media reversing its policy of holding individuals accountable for eliminationist rhetoric.

1:29 – Poll: Obama Loses 9-Points In Job Approval

Below you will see that since Monday, Obama has lost ground in the Gallup daily tracking poll. The news is even worse for the president with Rasmussen, where he has lost 9 points and now sits at 47% approve, 51% disapprove.

1:23 – Damage Control: Harry Reid to Sit Down With Dana Bash at 3pm

This is New Media at work. The mainstream media are covering up Reid’s comments yesterday about his seeming indifference to kids with cancer. But New Media is getting the word out about it, and Reid likely feels he needs to do some damage control here with the reporter who asked the question that so flustered Reid.

1:19 – Gallup: Obama Disapproval Climbs to 50%

We are only three days into the shutdown, so don’t read too much into this. But since Monday Obama’s job disapproval rating has jumped two points to 50%. Approval is down a point to 44%.

12:29 – BuzzFeed Writes ‘You Serious, Bro?’ Over Photo of Obama

Interesting choice. Here is the article.

12:09 – Politico Shifts From Bias to Outright Left-Wing Activism

Bias is when the media pretend to be objective. This is usually how Politico operates they pose as objective to protect Obama and Democrats. The government shutdown, though, has forced Politico to drop its mask of objectivity and assume the role of outright left-wing activism.

As you will see in the links below, Politico doesn’t even attempt to pretend that what they are doing is journalism. The examples below are pure activism, and all of it directly angled to protect Obama and the shutdown narrative blaming the GOP:

The first two stories were lead pieces.

It is important to again note that Politico presents itself as an objective, unbiased media outlet.

And again, the linked examples above are not examples of bias. read the original pieces and what you will objectively see is flat-out, full-bored left-wing activism with no attempt to disguise it as anything else.

11:35 CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield Takes it To Democrats

My primary goal with this running account of the shutdown politics is to document media malfeasance. But I have been so hard on CNN that I feel obligated to report that Ashleigh Banfield not only opened her hour with Harry Reid’s gaffe about kids with cancer, she also informed her viewers that it is Democrats who are refusing to fund the NIH.

Moreover, Banfield was very tough on California Senator Barbara Boxer – going so far as to mention the shutdowns that occurred under Tip O’Neill.

11:14 – Shrill Obama Back to ‘Gun to Head’ Rhetoric

In a campaign speech today, a shrill President Obama returned to his hostage-taking rhetoric, saying of Republicans, “You don’t negotiate by putting a gun to the other person’s head. Or worse yet, by putting a gun to the American peoples’ head.”

Last week, the media collectively made any politician who used this kind of rhetoric pay a political price.

This week, the media have suspended this policy in order to protect Democrats and a President who have repeatedly called Republicans arsonists, anarchists, hostage-takers, house burners…

In his speech, Obama also said he will not negotiate, a position a new CBS poll confirms 76% of the American people disagree with.

The media are also refusing to report on that poll.

11:22 — Washington Post Issues SOS for Someone Who Signed Up for ObamaCare

Thursday, the Washington Post reported that they are unable to find a single person who signed up for ObamaCare:

The federal government has said that somewhere out in this vast country of 313 million people, where 48 million lack insurance coverage, someone has managed to sign up for health insurance on the federally-run marketplaces. As of yet, we haven’t tracked this person – or these people – down.

This is not for lack of effort. Reporters here at The Washington Post and at other publications have been on the hunt for this mythical creature.

11:02 – CNN’s Wolf Blitzer References Kids with Cancer Dems Won’t Fund

Though CNN is in no way using the children sick with cancer talking point like they did yesterday, today Wolf Blitzer did reference the children and their need for government funding and the Democrats’ refusal to join the GOP in agreeing to that funding.

10:56 – VIDEO: Hot Mic Catches Confident Paul and McConnell Talking About Obama Refusing to Negotiate

10:39 – Media Silent in Face of “anarchists, arsonists,” “terrorist,” “jihad,” “murderers…”

There was a time when the media made politicians and their Tea Party supporters pay a harsh price for divisive and eliminiationist rhetoric. In fact, merely describing Obama as a “socialist” or using the words “Food stamps” resulted in the media accusing people of outright racism.

There was a time when the use of such rhetoric meant the media would make the “rhetoric” the issue instead of the issue — the penalty for using such rhetoric was the media distracting from that issue.

But time was LAST WEEK. This week it is Democrats and the President hurling hate, but the media are silent.

10:26 – Why ObamaCare Is As Doomed as Prohibition: Premiums Rise 260% For Young People

The media — oops, I mean Obama — need young, healthy people to sign up for insurance they don’t need in order to fund ObamaCare. Here is why that isn’t likely to happen:

Health insurance premiums for young people will rise in all 50 states under Obamacare, with an average increase of 260 percent, according to a study released Thursday.

The young and healthy segment of the uninsured is considered crucial for the Affordable Care Act to succeed. Former President Bill Clinton suggested last week that Obamacare only works “if young people show up.”

However, an analysis of premiums both before and after the implementation of Obamacare shows that 18- to 35-year-olds are likely to opt out of high rates in the exchanges in favor of cheaper penalties for not having insurance.

Just like the government’s ill-fated attempt to stop Americans from imbibing during Prohibition, I suspect that the government is about to learn once again that you can only push the American people so far.

And attempting to force people to buy what they don not want or need is too far.

9:53 – BREAKING: Media Ignore Poll Showing 76% Disagree With Obama’s Refusal to Negotiate

The part of today’s CBS poll that the media, and not even CBS, are reporting is that a full 76% of Americans want President Obama to negotiate — which is something he refuses to do. That makes his position a growing liability and no better than that of Republicans. Seventy-eight percent of those polled want the GOP to compromise, but the GOP already have and are still willing to when it comes to funding the NIH, parks, and the DC government.

Obama has threatened to veto this funding.

If you look at the headlines this CBS poll has generated throughout the media, they all focus on the fact that the GOP have a 9% blame disadvantage over Democrats and Obama. But that is much lower than in 1995, and with the president defying 76% of the American people with his refusal to negotiate, the GOP just need to hang on.

9:27 – BREAKING: NBC’s Chuck Todd Reverses Policy of Using Gaffes to Assault Politicians

In a remarkable change of policy, NBC’s Chuck Todd today reversed his long-held policy of using a politicians’ gaffes to beat them senseless with.

Last year, Todd was a Terminator against REPUBLICAN Todd Akin and REPUBLICAN Mitt Romney when it came to relentlessly, and for weeks, using every slip of their tongue to undermine their campaign and destroy their chances of victory.

Thursday, however, during his MSNBC show, Todd took the position that any use of DEMOCRAT Harry Reid’s gaffe, in which he dismissed children with cancer, was nothing more than a political stunt.

Oddly enough, Todd has taken this position even though Reid’s words do fit into his policy position of refusing to fund cancer treatments for children.

When Akin fumbled his abortion question, Todd insisted the REPUBLICAN’s gaffe was fair game because it fit neatly into his policy opposing abortion.

So because Todd is an objective, unbiased, not-at-all liberal journalist, we cannot accuse him of shamelessly carrying water for power.

No, instead, it is obvious that Todd has suddenly decided that gaffes should not be used by the media as partisan political weapons … at least for now.

9:16 – Watch NBC’s John J. Harwood Play Obama’s Palace Stooge

In a widely circulated interview Wednesday, the real news wasn’t Obama repeating his week-old talking points, it was watching NBC’s John J. Harwood play Palace Stooge.

After calling Republicans extortionists and house burners, Obama told “real reporter” Harwood that he has “purposely kept my rhetoric down.”

Harwood never challenged that absurd falsehood.

You can watch this “real reporter” in action here.

9:08 – Will the American People ‘Defund ObamaCare’?

While the media laughably spin massive computer failures as “glitches” and proof of ObamaCare’s success, numbers the media are not interested in reporting are the sign-up rates.

If the wonderfully unruly American people do not sign up for OCare, it will be defunded by default.

If this keeps up, ObamaCare will be remembered like Prohibition as a disastrous attempt by the government to control the public.

8:45 – New Shutdown Poll Not the Numbers Obama/Media Hoped For

Bad news for everyone in a new CBS News shutdown poll is bad news for the media and Democrats.

These are not the numbers Obama/Media hoped for. It is not 1995, folks:

When the government shut down back in November 1995, 51 percent of Americans blamed the Republicans in Congress, while 28 blamed President Bill Clinton.

And what are those numbers today? 44% blame GOP, 35% blame Obama, and 17% blame both.

What we have today is a 9-point difference compared to a 23-point difference. And when you add up the 17%, both are over 50.

8:30 — BREAKING : Media Stops Caring About Kids with Cancer

In an extraordinary turnaround in just one day, the media seem to have stopped caring about kids with cancer.

Just yesterday, the story of children unable to get experimental cancer treatments from the National Institute of Health due to the shutdown was all over the media. Today, I have hardly heard a peep about these same sick children.

What happened between yesterday and today is that the GOP agreed to fund the NIH and give these kids the treatments they need. But Obama threatened a veto. So it is really Obama’s fault that these kids are not getting treatment today, not the GOP’s. And…

…the media just aren’t going to continue a Narrative that will now hurt Obama.

Hopefully, the parents of these children understand that the media is no longer care about their children because to do so would now damage Obama. And to our media, advocating for sick children just isn’t worth hurting Obama.

3. Obama's Domestic Policies

Former Clinton administration official David Rothkopf mused that Obama’s political style follows “the violin model:” you hold power with the left hand but you play it with the right. Obama has come to power and hopes to keep power in Congress through the support of the left while clearly governing as a moderate centrist domestically, and a conservative internationally. Obama’s appointments to both his foreign policy and economic teams indicate that he is not even liberal in the way that’s usually understood in this country.

Obama’s Economic Policies

The Washington Post notes, “Obama’s economic team isn’t particularly liberal, either. Lawrence H. Summers, who––as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury––opposed regulating the new-fangled financial instruments that greased the way to the subprime meltdown, will chair Obama’s National Economic Council. To head the Treasury, Obama has chose Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, who helped oversee the financial system as it collapsed. Each is close to Robert Rubin, another former Clinton Treasury Secretary, a director of bailed-out Citigroup and a poster boy for both the corporate wing of the Democratic Party and discredited Big Finance. Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board will be guided by Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman whose controversial tight-money policies ended the stagflation crisis of the 1970s but led to a nasty recession.”

The Obama administration talked about cooperating across the aisle with Republicans in Congress. However, the Democrats have been forced to pass their principal legislation almost all alone, with few votes from the opposition party—for which Obama was willing to water down the stimulus part of the bill. The $775 billion in stimulus spending––involving tax cuts ($300 billion), infrastructure construction, and other projects––received the votes of most Democratic legislators, but almost all Republicans stood firmly against it. The economic stimulus plan, intended to put money in the hands of consumers in order to get the economy moving again, represents very much a traditional measure if on a grand scale.

Obama and his Treasury Secretary Geithner have dealt with the financial crisis so far by throwing trillions of dollars to the banks and other financial institutions. In economic terms, this is Keynesian deficit spending with a vengeance, but, in social terms, it has nothing to do with the kind of Keynesianism that promoted public works employment and social welfare programs. We should remember that the Keynesianism of the 1930s which created the Works Progress Administration and Social Security was succeeded by the military Keynesianism of the post-war period of the 1950s to the 1980s, and now we appear to be experiencing financial Keynesianism, deficit spending aimed as refinancing the banks and corporations by socializing their failure.

The first step has been to save the banks by buying them. While Obama and his team would have preferred ideologically to avoid buy the banks they have in fact had to buy Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, and Citibank among others. To other financial institutions they have offered billions in loans and financial guarantees. Whether or not this massive infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system will save it from collapse remains to be seen.

Obama has acted similarly with industry, putting up billions in loans and eventually purchasing the stock of General Motors and Chrysler, while forcing them to reorganize through bankruptcy. The U.S. has in effect nationalized GM and become a major partner in Chrysler, though the Obama administration claims that it will function as owner but not as manager, and will get out of the auto business as soon as possible. In this way Obama hopes to keep Congress and the public from making demands on how the government administers its auto business, demands that might harm corporate profits. He has called on bondholders, the corporations and the union to make sacrifices. The Obama administration, together with the GM and Chrysler corporations and the UAW has shifted the problems of the corporation on to the autoworkers and retirees.

The goal of everything that the Obama administration has done both with the banks and with the corporations is intended to return them to profitability in order to make possible the continued accumulation of capital. The goal is to make these corporations capable of competing in the world market, which means above all reducing labor costs and thus strengthening capital’s hand over labor.

Labor Policies

While Obama wishes to strengthen capital, he has not pursued, as he might have in this crisis, a policy of smashing unions in either the private or the public sector. Like Clinton before him, he pursues the “third way,” or the “middle path,” that is, the view that capital must live with labor, so long as labor remains docile and subordinate. The way that Clinton and now Obama pursue this is by promoting “partnership” between management and union, or between government and public employee unions. This “partnership” is typified by the no-strike language in the GM and Chrysler bailouts. Meanwhile, unions remain weak with only 12.4 percent of all workers in unions (with 36.8 in the public sector, but only 7.6 percent in the private sector).

As with so many issue, Obama made an important and symbolic statement early on. Obama’s first presidential act was the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for workers to challenge unlawful pay discrimination based on gender, race, age, and disability. That act, however, may never be complemented by action on the rest of labor’s platform.

The unions’ primary demand of Obama and the Democratic Party is the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), introduced to both houses on March 10. Under EFCA, rather than holding a representation election, workers could indicate their desire to join a union by simply presenting a majority of signed cards in any given workplace. While Obama says that he continues to support the act, AFL-CIO and Change to Win leaders fear that many Democratic Party legislators will knuckle under to the pressure of both the corporations and the small business lobby, mindful of the potential campaign contributions that might be lost. Meanwhile, three big retailers—Costco, Starbucks. and Whole Foods Market—are putting forward a compromise that could divide Congress. Under the retailers’ proposal, workers will need 70 percent (rather than a simple majority of 50% + 1) to unionize. This proposal may be enough to slice off a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans to kill EFCA.

Health Care

Obama plans to deal with the country’s health care problems, the 45 million uninsured and the rising cost of health care, by entering into an arrangement with the major health business groups—insurance companies, health and hospital corporations, pharmaceuticals industry—which will force everyone who can to purchase private insurance while allowing those companies to avoid fully insuring those who have the highest risks. At his mid-May Health Care Summit, Obama announced that his administration and these health care industries and corporations had come up with a plan that would save two trillion dollars over the next ten years and save U.S. families as much as $2,500 per year. This purely voluntary plan, with no government oversight, represented a first step toward the creation of a two-tier health care system.

This most recent development should be seen in the context of Obama’s on-going expansion of the government’s role and its relationship with business. Some of this, of course, represents a dramatic break with the Bush administration, but not necessarily a progressive step toward comprehensive national health care. On February 4, 2008, for example, Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Act, an expansion of State Children’s Health Insurance Programs that would extend its coverage to approximately four million of the eight million uninsured children in the country. President Bush had twice vetoed the bill. Obama argued that it represented the first step to health care for all. A single payer system, however, appears to be dead during this presidential term. Single payer advocates were only permitted to attend Obama’s major health care policy meeting after Physicians for a National Health Program threatened to picket the White House, but even then were ignored.

American Health Industry Plans, Inc., the insurance lobby, has spent $4.3 million in the last six months to advocate for their position. The Obama-insurance company plan has three planks, all mandates: 1) everyone must be covered (the “guarantee issue”) 2) customers would be charged the same rates (called “community rating”) 3) everyone must buy health insurance (called “the individual mandate”). The insurance companies want the government to subsidize the cost of health insurance, perhaps for all with serious health problems.

As Timothy P. Carney wrote in a column titled “Why insurers will win in Obama’s health reform”:

President Barack Obama and Sen. Ted Kennedy look likely to give the health insurance industry exactly what it wants on health care reform. This would be an ironic outcome, considering how activists on the Left have demonized the insurers, and how crucial health care reform is to liberals who care about policy.

While Obama and congressional Democrats will claim the insurers’ victory as a win for the forces of equality and progress, the more hard-core Left — the progressives who formed much of Obama’s base — will swallow this as a bitter pill or even a deal with the devil.

The Obama health care plan seems destined to make the government the guarantor of insurance company profits by forcing everyone who can to buy insurance.

Obama’s Immigration Policy

President Barack Obama announced on April 8 that he would make immigration one of his legislative priorities this year, after health care and energy. Obama’s plan represents a refurbishing of the Kennedy-McCain Comprehensive Immigration Reform Proposal of the last years of the Bush administration. That is, it aims to legalize many of the undocumented immigrants now in the country, but within a larger plan which sees a place for guest workers, albeit guest workers with routes to residency and possibly citizenship. Obama says his plan will:

  • Bring “illegal immigrants” into the legal immigration system after they have recognized that they violated the law and paid fines and penalties.
  • Prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.
  • Establish a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers.

Missing from the initial announcement by Obama was any statement about guest worker programs, which have been a particularly controversial immigration issue. Employers generally seek an expansion while unions generally oppose any expansion.

Labor’s Immigration Plan

The leaderships of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win have also come together to make their own policy proposal, not so different from the president’s. Shortly after Obama announced that he was making immigration a priority for this term, they announced their position on April 13. In 2008, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win were divided, with several major unions in the latter allied with employer associations. The new united labor position calls for:

  • An independent commission to assess and manage future flows, based on labor market shortages.
  • Secure and effective worker authorization mechanism.
  • Rational operational control of the border.
  • Adjustment of status for the current undocumented population.
  • Improvement, not expansion of temporary worker (guest worker) programs.

The united labor position is meant to support President Obama’s initiative as well as to pressure him to adopt something close to the labor position.

Meanwhile, mass arrests and raids have continued apace throughout the U.S., and the Obama administration has stated that it intends to expand immigration checks to local jails (such practices already exist on the federal and state level), another extension of a Bush-era policy.

Republicans and Democratic Party conservatives are hostile to the Obama proposal in that it offers “amnesty” to undocumented workers. They can be expected to mount a strong opposition to proposals for “comprehensive immigration reform,” as the Obama package is labeled.

The Obama administration has encouraged Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) to travel throughout the country speaking on the issue of immigration reform and to build support among Latino voters. The Roman Catholic Bishops Council appears to support the Obama position. In early June 2009 Democratic Party politicians, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions, churches, and immigrant organizations in forty cities launched the Campaign to Reform Immigration for America. This campaign, it appears, will be the principal vehicle for mobilizing public support for what will once again, as it was in the last Congress, be called “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Some immigrant organizations will criticize the fines and penalties and others will object to the border enforcement and to more pressure on employers to deny employment or to fire workers whose documents don’t check out. Nevertheless most immigrant groups will support the measure. Legalization of 12 million undocumented immigrants would mean, at least potentially, more Democratic Party voters and more union members. Passing the reforms as drafted is unlikely and more negative elements may well be grafted onto it. Immigration reform will be a test for this administration as it was for the last one.

Education Policy

Despite the strong backing of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association, many of whose local affiliates and members worked on his campaign, Obama has taken a social liberal position on education, one that does not necessarily support traditional public education or teachers unions. With public education seen as failing, many will no doubt support his policies. Over the unions’ objections, Obama has come out strongly for national standards, charter schools and merit pay.

Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was once Richard Daley’s CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Duncan’s program of school reform, imposed against the will of the Chicago Teachers Union, relied heavily on closing failing schools and opening others to replace them, many of those charter schools. He also supported the alternative of military schools. Critics argue that under his leadership, schools cut culturally relevant curricula and critical pedagogies and encourage teaching to the test.

Organizations such as the National Center on Education and the Economy with its report “Tough Choices for Tough Times,” suggest that the education system should be fundamentally reorganized along Japanese or European lines with a critical examination in the 10th grade that would sort out vocational or technical students from those going on to colleges and universities. Such reforms are premised on the notion that education should serve corporations as they struggle win achieve supremacy in international economic competition. Obama and Duncan share a commitment to the social liberal school reform program advocated by corporations and their foundations, which encourage the partial privatization of education, the results of which would be a multi-tiered educational system reflecting social class structure.

Environmental Issues

The Obama’s environmental policy represents a break with the Bush administration, but it does not in any way represent a fundamental break with the overall approach of past administrations. The Obama administration has adopted a series of measures which will reduce auto emissions and energy industry greenhouse gases, but which will not dramatically change the country’s policy and practices. These measures represent a partial fulfillment of campaign promises and the on-going pressure of liberal environmental organizations.

In the area of automobile standards, Obama ordered the EPA and Transportation Department to take action which would, in effect, allow California’s higher emissions standards to set the national standard (since Californians buy so many cars). California’s standards would require manufacturers to raise average miles per gallon from 27 to 35 by 2016. Obama has pushed these administrative measures so that auto companies can begin retooling for the 2011 model year with the new standards in mind. Since cars produce one-fifth of all greenhouse gases, this is an important measure, but obviously it does not represent a fundamental break with past policy. The administration continues to put the internal combustion engine automobile at the center of the national transportation system, rather than to promote a national alternative based on some combination of rail, light-rail, trolley and buses, electric cars, and bicycles.

With regard to greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and industry, the Federal government will create a so-called “cap and trade” system. The federal government will set a national limit on greenhouse gas pollution, a limit which will be reduced over time. Corporations which pollute will be allowed to buy pollution credits, from the government or from others, to cover their emissions. The bill now before Congress calls for a 17 percent reduction by 2020. States would also be required to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. These standards were reduced from the original proposals, allow a more gradual transition for coal-fired plants.

Some environmental groups have also expressed concern about Obama’s choice of Ignacia Moreno to head the Department of Justice Environmental Division. Moreno, a former Clinton Justice Department official, is now counsel for environmental programs at General Electric, a corporation that has been called the country’s biggest polluter.

Obama’s ‘violin method’ operates clearly with respect to mountaintop removal mining. On the campaign trail, Obama pledged stronger review of proposed projects by the Environmental Protection Agency and more enforcement to protect threatened communities and polluted streams and lands in Appalachia. All the major enviro and conservation organizations unconditionally supported Obama. But after meetings in May between Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, and pro-mining lobbyists and politicians, the EPA quietly gave the go-ahead for two dozen mountaintop removal projects, included in the 42 of 48 mining projects the EPA has approved during Obama’s tenure.

On other environmental issues, such as genetically modified organisms, cloning, and biotechnology, Obama’s choice former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture worries some. The Organic Consumers Association writes of him:

    While Vilsack has promoted respectable policies with respect to restraining livestock monopolies, his overall record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms and promoting genetically engineered crops and animal cloning. Equally troubling is Vilsack’s support for unsustainable industrial ethanol production, which has already caused global corn and grain prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion people in the developing world.

As Philip Brasher wrote in late April in his blog:

If there was any question about how the Obama administration would get behind agricultural biotechnology, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is removing any doubt. In fact, he says he’s going to do a better job than the Bush administration.

Just back from the G8 summit in Italy, Vilsack pledged today to bring a “more comprehensive and integrated” approach to promoting ag biotech overseas.

That will be good news to biotech companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Vilsack was a vocal backer of the biotech industry as governor, and President Barack Obama has been a supporter as well.

Whatever one’s position on genetically modified foods, what is clear is that big agriculture and corporate science and technology will be well represented by the Obama administration.

Reproductive Rights

Obama, under the watchful eyes of NOW, Planned Parenthood and NARAL, has moved to reverse the Bush policies on reproductive rights, taking us back to the Clinton years. National Organization of Women President Kim Gandy issued a statement saying, “It goes without saying that the combination of war, economic collapse, piracy and a potential pandemic may have removed many important items from the top of the president’s legislative agenda, including the Freedom of Choice Act. But I urge President Obama to maintain his public support for this critical legislation, which he enthusiastically endorsed during the campaign.”

Obama has acted to meet the immediate demands of women’s organizations regarding reproductive rights issues. In January, he ended the “Mexico City Policy,” which forbade the U.S. government from funding clinics or groups that offered abortion-related services overseas. The “global gag rule” had barred foreign aid recipients from promoting or even discussing abortion as a method of family planning.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made it easier for women to purchase Plan B, a morning after drug that can prevent conception if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. The Obama administration will also end the practice of funding “abstinence only” sex education programs, and will instead fund sex education programs that actually work.

NOW and NARAL have also been pleased to see the nomination and confirmation of former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Their central preoccupation now is to see Obama nominate a pro-abortion rights candidate, preferably a woman, nominated for the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

Some reproductive rights organizations are, however, concerned because Obama has not dealt with the Hyde Amendment in the proposed 2010 budget. The Hyde Amendment restricts government funding of abortions. Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated on May 1, “President Obama made clear during the election that he opposes the Hyde Amendment. And for good reason—over a third of women who rely on Medicaid and are seeking an abortion have been prevented from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion. Hyde unjustly impedes women’s access to timely, quality healthcare and disproportionately harms those women who already face significant barriers to obtaining services. Sound public health policy means protecting the wellbeing of all women.” As socialists, we oppose Hyde and demand that all women have, together with access to fee contraception and sex education, access to free abortion on demand.

GLBTQ Issues

Obama had strong backing from GLBTQ voters who look to him for leadership on issues of concern to them, but while he will advance elements of their agenda, he draws the line at gay marriage. While in the Illinois State Senate, Obama supported gay rights and a law that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Human Rights Campaign rated him as having a voting record of 89% on issues of importance to gay and lesbian citizens in 2006. Obama has committed to passing the Matthew Sheppard Act which would expand hate crimes protection, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would expand existing anti-discrimination legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity and help make possible domestic partner benefits. The new president also supports gay and lesbian adoption rights. Obama opposes the U.S. Military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, though it is not clear if he will make a fight over this with military commanders.

Obama and his GLBTQ backers fall out over the question of gay marriage. While Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment and opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, and supports civil unions with full partner rights (accompaniment in emergency, equal health insurance, employment benefits and property rights), still he opposes gay marriage. Obama said in an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune, “I’m a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.” The problem for Obama and for the GLBTQ community is that gay marriage has become the touchstone issue on all GLBTQ issues. While we as socialists are supporters of full civil, political, social and economic rights for the GLBTQ community and opponents of hetero-normal standards, we are not necessarily advocates of marriage still, we do support the civil right to gay marriage as a matter of simple equality and support the gay and lesbian movement in its fight on this issue.

Communities of Color

The economic crisis has fallen hardest on communities of color, particularly on African Americans and Latinos, who have higher rates of unemployment and poverty. Whether one talks about the closing of auto plants or cutbacks in construction, Black and Latino workers have born more than their share of the suffering. In April 2009, the national unemployment rate reached 11.3% for Latinos and 15.0% for African Americans. In 2007, 18 percent of all children were growing up in poverty, and 7.8% in extreme poverty, but with today’s much higher unemployment rates that figure must also have grown substantially. A disproportionate percentage of poor children will be found in Latino and African American homes because of their parents’ unemployment, under-employment or lower wages.

Like other areas of American life, our society’s structural racism adversely affects people of color in terms of homeownership. In 2007, 68.1% of all families owned homes, and for whites, the figure was 72%, while for Latinos it was 49.7% and for African Americans only 47.2%. Home foreclosures have also hit Latinos and African Americans harder than whites, according to a study by ACORN published last year. African Americans and Latinos have lost more homes during the current crisis both because of their higher unemployment and because of high cost of their home loans. Subsequent news reports in various cities have confirmed ACORN’s research, with Black and Latino neighborhoods in many cities being affected.

Throughout the United States, as homeowners can’t pay mortgages and renters can’t pay their rent, cities and suburbs are experiencing a rise in homelessness. While most homeless people are white, Blacks and Latinos represent a disproportionate percentage of the homeless as they face rising unemployment and poverty. A study by the National Center on Family Homelessness, analyzed data from 2005-06 and found that more than 1.5 million children were without a home. That is, one in fifty U.S. children will be homeless. African American and Native American children were disproportionately represented. Naturally, homeless children are less likely to graduate from school and more likely to have health problems.

The crisis may have the most detrimental affect on undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants, an estimated 12 million people in the U.S., suffer more than others during this economic crisis because they are not legally entitled to many of the social welfare programs, whether unemployment compensation, state welfare, or many public health programs. Rightwing groups also make undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for the problems of “American society,” blaming them, rather than the corporations or government, for lost jobs, low wages, crime and other problems.

Scapegoating provides the climate in which hate crimes flourish—with such crimes rising almost 50 percent since 2000. In December 2008, seven teenagers attacked and killed Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrants in Patchogue, N.Y. The gang of youths who attacked and killed Lucero were also accused of attacking another eight Latino men. Less than a month later three men shouting anti-Latino and anti-gay epithets, beat and killed Jose Sucuzhañay, another Ecuadorian immigrant, in Brooklyn. An FBI report on hate crimes indicated that there had been a 40 percent surge in anti-Latino violence since 2003. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that it tracks 888 organizations, among them the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which it classifies as hate groups.

African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other people of color in American society continue to deal with the abuses of the criminal justice system, among them such issues as racial profiling and police abuse. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer killing of Oscar Grant represents just one of the most recent such acts so typical of police forces around the country. Or, then there is the case of Bernard Monroe, the retired electrical utility worker, age 73, who was hosting a cookout at home when police, with no motive, shot and killed him and then planted a gun on his body.

We publish here several contributions to the debate about how revolutionary socialists should engage with the 2020 Elections. Readers, you are invited to send us your comments.

EDITORIAL: Obama's phony federal freeze

The federal worker pay freeze President Obama announced last week was promoted as a move in the right direction toward deficit reduction. But weighed against the historic fiscal damage his administration has inflicted on the country, it’s nothing more than a symbolic gesture.

The pay freeze was clearly driven by politics since Mr. Obama has shown no restraint in shelling out money to create more bureaucrats. Mr. Obama has presided over a 20 percent increase in the federal work force, the long-term costs of which dwarf any savings from a two-year salary standstill. There shouldn’t be any pay increases for bureaucrats these days anyway. Federal wage increases are supposed to mirror movements in the private sector but tend to outpace them. In 2009, the cost of living index declined by .7 percent, and private-sector wages rose .9 percent. Federal workers, on the other hand, enjoyed a lavish 3.9 percent across-the-board salary hike. That largesse should be considered their two-year pay raise paid in advance. Pay-band increases and purported “performance” bonuses were exempted from the freeze, which cuts into potential savings and provides a handy backdoor for raises.

The response from pampered bureaucrats was predictably ballistic. One likened the situation to the Holocaust. “As a whipping boy for excess spending of the past, I feel like the Jews in Germany just prior to the persecution,” he hyperventilated in a note to Federal News Radio. “I guess soon we will see our fellow co-workers disappearing and no one will say a thing.” It’s a sad day when someone who is supposed to be a public servant believes missing out on a small, automatic pay rise is the equivalent of Hitler’s crimes. This monstrously exaggerated sense of entitlement is why most Americans roll their eyes when government hacks grumble about their alleged woes. The people who really have been disappearing are private-sector workers forced to take 100 percent pay cuts when their jobs evaporated, something coddled federal employees don’t have to worry about.

Mr. Obama’s drop-in-the-bucket approach to deficit reduction is an attempt at Clinton-style political triangulation, but it’s likely to backfire. The American people are too well-acquainted with Barack’s addiction to deficit spending to be fooled, and it’s another data point for the president’s disappointed liberal supporters who’re increasingly convinced he lacks the fire in the belly to withstand the Republican onslaught. At a time when the left wants the president to show an uncompromising attitude and to stand firm against the winds of change, Mr. Obama chose to cave, at least rhetorically.

Promised savings from the freeze are a pittance compared Mr. Obama’s orgy of deficit-fueled spending. The claimed $2 billion savings this fiscal year could more easily be realized by reclaiming the stimulus money the Obama administration doled out for California’s controversial high-speed train to nowhere, or countless other wasteful projects. If the O Force truly cared, meaningful savings could come from rolling back the administration’s federal hires. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, has proposed legislation that would reduce the federal workforce to the size it was on Feb. 16, 2009, which is a start but hardly sufficient.

In 2000, the federal civilian workforce was 1.78 million, the lowest level since 1950. President Clinton bragged that he eliminated 377,000 government jobs during his two terms. The incoming, small-government Republican Congress should set the bar lower than Clinton-era levels.

Year Two Day 3 Obama Administration January 22, 2010 - History

For those supporting greater social and economic fairness in the United States, 2010 holds few positive memories. Those able to divert their focus from politics to sports are still basking in the San Francisco Giants first local World Series win, and the victory parade reminded many of why they love the Bay Area. Otherwise, the most memorable events of 2010 were not positive. President Obama betrayed his progressive base and campaign promises, and touted a “compromise” that extended the Bush tax breaks for millionaires. This sets the stage for huge cuts in popular domestic programs in next year’s budget to pay for it. 2010 also saw Andy Stern leave SEIU, the demise of bookstores and video stores, the BP oil spill, Citizens United and more. Here’s my top ten list.

Let’s begin with the good memories: the Giants finally winning a World Series in San Francisco after 52 years. Here are my two favorite among many:

1. and 2. Tim Lincecum vs. Cliff Lee (Game 1) and Renteria Homer (tie)

If sports reflect society, why were historic World Series victories by the Red Sox in 2004 and the Giants in 2010 soon followed by national election results strongly opposed by local voters?

Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry failed to politically benefit from the Red Sox win – and while many Giants fans particularly enjoyed beating a Rangers fan base that gave public ovations for the Bushes and GW’s ceremonial first pitch before Game 3, Republicans did quite well a few days later.

I found Game 1 of the World Series particularly memorable, because I had to attend the Chinatown Community Development Center annual dinner that night and so watched the game with a large and boisterous crowd on a huge flat screen television at City Hall. I never anticipated watching a sporting event at such location nor have I ever seen fans in the stadium go crazier than when cool Tim Lincecum defeated the supposedly unbeatable Cliff Lee.

Renteria’s home run will forever stick with me because as I watched the ball leave the bat and head for the stands, I knew that nothing would stop the Giants from winning their first San Francisco World Series.

3. Obama’s Tax Cut Deal

This event will prove memorable because it conclusively revealed the disconnect between candidate Barack Obama – a fighter for the “Change We Can Believe In,” – and a President now defended as being better than John McCain.

The President’s eager acceptance of tax breaks for millionaires, his touting of “compromise” as the best strategy for social change (Obama needs to re-read the history of the civil rights movement, or of slavery for that matter), and his acceptance of the discredited Republican view of tax cuts for the wealthy as “economic stimulus” confirmed that President Obama would not be the fighter for real change that he promised voters.

Obama defenders argue he is better than McCain (no doubt!), or that he never campaigned as a progressive (I don’t recall campaign speeches where he said that compromising core ideals, not standing up for principle, would bring change). It is no accident that he has formed a tight bond with former adversary Bill Clinton, whose values and political approach Obama is adopting.

Nor is it an accident that Obama’s capitulation to wealthy interests has brought him the most favorable media coverage of his presidency, with even FOX News holding back on attacks.

4. Gibbs Condemns “the Professional Left”

Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ August 10 condemnation of “the professional left” will prove memorable, because it confirmed suspicions that Obama had come to detest his progressive base and resented its criticism. As I wrote at the time, “many seasoned activists thought it would be different under President Obama. Gibbs’ comments confirm they were wrong.”

In case anyone needed further confirmation, see Obama’s scornful attack on those promoting a health care “public option” – issued without prompting in connection to his defense of his tax cut deal. Obama claimed that people were attacking the bill over a provision that would “at most affect two million people.” The President appears to have forgotten his own public claims that the public option would bring down health care expenses for most of the thirty to forty million people impacted by the new law.

5. Andy Stern Leaves SEIU

Andy Stern’s sudden April 2010 resignation as President of SEIU is memorable for what it says about both SEIU and the nation’s labor movement.

For over a decade, Stern was the traditional media’s leading spokesperson for the labor movement. The media and many academics saw Stern as a visionary, and SEIU’s rapid growth appeared to confirm Stern’s insistence that he knew best how to expand union power.

Central to Stern’s strategy was the belief that dramatic labor union growth required political change, rather than the often painstaking organizing of new workers. But after SEIU invested upwards of $80 million in the 2008 elections, and secured a publicly pro-union President and Democratic congressional majorities, Stern got no action on SEIU’s top legislative priorities of labor law reform and comprehensive immigration reform.

Rumors abound as to why Stern left his post so suddenly, but don’t dismiss that he knew by April 2010 that his grand vision for revitalizing the labor movement by legislative and political change had failed. And 2010 will be remembered not only for the failure of SEIU’s growth strategy, but as the year organized labor missed its best – and perhaps last – opportunity for meaningful growth.

Most will remember this disaster for the daily photos of an oil leak for which our highly technological world had no quick solution. But it should also be remembered for exposing President Obama’s continued inability to control the media narrative.

Instead of Obama using the event to highlight oil company greed and the dangers of Bush Administration deregulation, he allowed his Administration to be put on the defensive for failing to find a prompt solution. The President of the United States has the biggest bully pulpit of all, but the BP spill showed better than any other event that Obama does not know how to effectively exercise power.

7. The Impending Death of New Bookstores

Remember when activists fought to save independent bookstores from chain store predators? In 2010, even Borders and Barnes & Noble are on life-support.

Despite closing 209 stores in the past year, Border’s December 2010 financial report was “dismal.” Barnes & Noble has put itself up for sale, with insiders believing its future hinges on Christmas sales of its Nook reader – the Nook, like the Kindle, also shifts sales away from bookstores.

While used bookstores have survived, 2010 will be remembered as the year in which stores exclusively selling new books began disappearing from U.S. cities. And this means fewer community spaces, and fewer opportunities to discover non- bestsellers.

8. The Demise of Video Stores

If video killed the radio star (as MTV’s first video announced), then Netflix, Redbox and streaming movies are killing video stores. Berkeley’s renowned Reel Video bit the dust in 2010 (it was part of the 760-store closure by parent Hollywood Video), and video stores nationwide are closing at a dramatic rate.

Like bookstores, the loss of video stores reduces opportunities for browsing. This is a culture-wide problem with widespread implications that will probably require a Malcolm Gladwell article and/or book, to get the attention it deserves.

9. Supreme Court Ruling in Citizens United

While Senate Republicans use threatened filibusters to kill progressive legislation, Democratic Senators graciously allowed Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Antonio Scalia and Samuel Alito to gain appointments to the Supreme Court. Thomas and Scalia have close ties to the Tea Party, while it was known prior to their appointments that Roberts and Alito were right-wing judicial activists.

Why then the surprise that the Supreme Court in Citizens United violated judicial precedent and reaches to throw out virtually every campaign finance restriction in federal races? This is a decision whose opening the door to corporate contributions to political races will be long remembered, and is just one of many in 2010 reflecting Wall Street and corporate control of the nation’s highest court.

10. Republicans Win the House

Major political upheavals are always memorable, but the 2010 elections raise at least two important questions worth pondering over the holidays:

First, what does it say about the prospects for progressive national legislative change when tens of millions of Americans – particularly those under thirty – only vote in presidential elections? McCain would have defeated Obama if only the 2010 electorate had voted, and the fact that so many who were enthused in 2008 couldn’t bother to vote two years later speaks to more than Obama’s inadequacies.

Second, have progressives won sweeping gains in any election in United States history other than 1964 that was not held during an acute economic crisis? And does this not make it even more imperative for progressives to engage in the ongoing organizing that helps expand the electorate year in and year out?

Have a great holiday season, and let’s hope for more positive memories in 2011.

If you are looking for hope and inspiration in these trying times, try Randy Shaw’s Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. Shaw is also the author of The Activist’s Handbook.

Obama rescued the economy, but it’s not that simple

Benjamin M. Friedman is the William Joseph Maier professor of political economy and former chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard.

On March 4, 1933, at the bottom of the worst financial and economic crisis to afflict the United States since the Civil War, Franklin D. Roosevelt took office as president. Two days later, Roosevelt acted to stanch the collapse by suspending gold payments, imposing a four-day �nk holiday” and arranging emergency assistance for banks when they reopened.

Over the next three months — FDR’s legendary � days” — the new administration initiated further measures, including federal job creation, welfare relief, aid to homeowners unable to pay their mortgages, and securities and banking reform. By the end of Roosevelt’s first term, the list of fundamental and lasting innovations, all responses to the crisis, included unemployment insurance, Social Security and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

President Obama signs the economic stimulus package into law at the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver on Feb. 17, 2009. (Matthew Staver/Bloomberg News)

Barack Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009, during the worst financial and economic crisis since World War II. By then, the Federal Reserve System had already acted to prevent the collapse of the banking system, and so the new president moved forward promptly to spur the depressed economy. The fiscal package he signed Feb. 17, 2009, allocated $787 billion — more than 5 percent of a year’s total U.S. income — to infrastructure investment, job training, aid to low-income workers, tax relief in various forms and other measures aimed at stimulating economic activity. The money could have been better directed, so as to achieve greater impact, and in retrospect the amount was too small. But in the face of opposition from Republicans in Congress, Obama’s fiscal stimulus was about as much as any president could have done.

After pushing through the stimulus, however, the Obama administration entered a period of quietude on the economic front. Despite large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, there was no other significant economic legislation during the new president’s first 100 days. Nor in the 100 days following that, nor in the 100 days after that.

Financial reforms to prevent a repeat of the disaster that had just happened were on hold. The administration took no advantage of the potential leverage the government had gained through its infusion of taxpayer money to recapitalize banks that would otherwise have failed. (By spring 2009, the U.S. Treasury owned 38 percent of the equity in Citibank.) Other potential economic policy initiatives, such as tax reform, remained out of sight.

Instead, once the economic stimulus became law, the Obama domestic agenda shifted to health care. When the president took office, roughly one in six Americans — 50 million in a population of 307 million — had no health insurance. The Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010, has now provided coverage to 20 million of those 50 million. If more states expanded Medicare, as was permitted under the new law and clearly expected by Obama, the number would be significantly greater. Moreover, some of the 30 million remaining uncovered are in the United States illegally and are therefore ineligible.

Raising the insured total to more than 90 percent of all Americans will likely stand as a historic achievement, but the cost was a diversion of the administration’s energy and attention from other economic problems badly in need of remedy.

The most pressing among them was, and remains, financial reform. Rather than advance its own set of proposals — especially during the president’s first year in office, when the Democrats held a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate — the administration largely left the matter to Congress.

The result, the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in July 2010, represented a reasonable first pass at fixing a dangerously defective financial system. Among other useful contributions, the new legislation called for higher bank capital requirements strengthened procedures for resolving the failure of banks and other financial companies restricted banks’ latitude to invest in risky securities and established a new, centralized mechanism for trading some of the financial derivative instruments that had been at the center of the crisis.

By contrast, some of the act’s provisions, most importantly the weakened ability of the Federal Reserve and the FDIC to rescue banks in any future crisis, may well prove counterproductive.

Demonstrators march in front of Wells Fargo Bank on San Francisco’s California Street in 2010. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

Overall, if Dodd-Frank were merely one in a series of financial reform packages aimed at addressing what had happened from 2007 to 2009, it would have been a laudable first step. But as the nation’s principal response to the worst financial crisis in two generations, it paled. Further, the specifics of many of the intended reforms were left to agency-level rulemaking exercises — at one point more than 300 of them were in process — that, predictably, enabled industry lobbyists to blunt their force, if not thwart them altogether.

As the crisis and its immediate aftermath receded, the Obama administration’s economic policy agenda shifted to mostly defensive actions domestically, combined with negotiating what have proved to be highly controversial trade agreements abroad. The main achievement of the intensely political 2011 budget deal with the by-now-Republican House of Representatives was simply to avoid the U.S. government’s defaulting on its debt. In 2013, the president succeeded in increasing the tax rate for top-bracket earners from 35 percent back to 39.6 percent, where it had been in the Clinton years in exchange, he agreed to extend, indefinitely, the rest of the Bush administration’s 2003 cuts for taxpayers with annual earnings of up to $450,000 per couple. (Later in 2013, in the course of a further dispute over budgets and debt, House Republicans shut down the government for 17 days.)

The president also pressed forward with two large-scale trade agreements: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), between the United States and the European Union, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with most of the major Pacific nations other than China. If implemented, these agreements would lower tariffs, remove various other trade barriers, and make cross-border investment easier and safer. Whether they will ever take effect, however, remains uncertain. As often happens when the economy stagnates, to many citizens free trade seems more a threat than an opportunity. Donald Trump made opposition to TPP a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and Hillary Clinton, who supported TPP as secretary of state, now opposes it, as well.

The TTIP negotiations with the E.U. remain to be completed, so there is nothing for either candidate to oppose.

What remains for the next president to accomplish? During Obama’s presidency, the country made little or no progress on long-standing issues such as tax reform and assuring the long-term viability of Medicare in the face of spiraling costs. The U.S. financial system remains too large, too expensive and too risky. Although Obama took some limited steps toward arresting the relentless widening of economic inequality — raising top-bracket tax rates, extending the earned-income tax credit and expanding the child tax credit, for example — the election campaign to replace him, in both parties, shows that the American public remains deeply unsatisfied.

Most important, the pace of improvement in America’s productivity — how much the nation produces per person, or per worker, or per hour worked — has been slowing for the past four decades. With more rapid growth, many of today’s economic challenges, especially widening inequality, would seem less worrisome. But with stagnating productivity, the resulting frustrations are rising toward boiling points. We know fairly little about how to boost an economy’s productivity growth, although some identifiable measures would clearly help. Rebuilding the nation’s physical infrastructure restructuring education, especially in the early grades providing prekindergarten to more 𠇊t risk” students and restoring the government’s shrunken funding for research are all good choices. All cost money.

Obama made progress in some areas of economic policy, perhaps as much as the country’s increasingly divided politics would allow, and on each of those fronts — economic and political — his successor will not lack for challenges.

Obama concedes 'shellacking'

A pensive and introspective President Obama said Wednesday the election was a “shellacking” and took responsibility for his party’s disastrous showing, saying that in the rush to get things done, they forgot to make good on their promise to change the way Washington works.

But Mr. Obama wouldn’t concede that the electoral blowout was a direct repudiation of his policies.

Instead, he blamed a slow economic recovery and the perception that some of the “emergency” measures taken to right the economy, such as the stimulus bill, may have been interpreted by voters as a permanent expansion of government, as opposed to a one-off response to the financial crisis.

“We were in such a hurry to get things done that we didn’t change how things got done. And I think that frustrated people,” the president said in a startlingly frank news conference in the White House’s East Room.

A day after Democrats lost at least 60 House seats and a half-dozen Senate seats to Republicans, Mr. Obama said he’ll search for common ground with the newly emboldened GOP on tax cuts, and acknowledged some of his first-term agenda is now beyond reach, including his goal of signing a bill to address climate change.

Republican leaders said they, too, will strive for cooperation, but that the president and Democrats need to understand the rejection voters dealt them on Tuesday.

“Listening to what they’ve had to say this morning, they may have missed the message somewhat,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “I get the impression they’re thinking their view is that we haven’t cooperated enough. I think what the American people were saying yesterday is that they appreciated us saying ‘no’ to the things that the American people indicated they were not in favor of.”

Self-abasement was the sentiment of the day.

Mr. Obama said the election results were “humbling,” and Rep. John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican likely to become House speaker in the next Congress, said his party has been “humbled” by voters’ trust.

“This is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the people’s priorities — creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress does its business,” Mr. Boehner said. “It’s not just what the American people are demanding it’s what they are expecting from us.”

Congress reconvenes later this month for a lame-duck session, and among the earliest tests of cooperation will be the expiring tax cuts. Mr. Obama signaled a willingness to compromise with Republicans, who along with many Democrats have insisted that the entire slate of tax cuts be extended past the end of this year.

But Mr. Obama did not say how the parties will overcome the impasse over extending the benefits for wealthier earners - something he and his allies have staunchly opposed.

Mr. Obama said he could have done a better job managing the administration’s relationship with business, and in a signal that he left Democratic leaders in Congress too free rein, he said he regrets having signed spending bills loaded with pork-barrel projects.

“In the rush to get things done, I had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them, which was contrary to what I talked about,” he said.

That signals a possible fight over the next several months with Congress, where Senate Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have vigorously defended their right to send money back to their home districts.

House Republican leaders, though, said they stand ready to work with him.

Rep. Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, said he and Mr. Obama spoke about the House GOP’s one-year earmark moratorium.

“If the president would like to partner in this effort, I gladly take him up on that offer,” Mr. Cantor said.

For their part, Democratic leaders said the message they heard from voters is to work together. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, quickly returned to pre-election rhetoric, saying it is up to the GOP to move away from being the “party of no.”

Mr. Reid is likely to remain Senate Democrats’ leader after winning support Wednesday from his two potential rivals. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat whose caucus has now shed all of the gains it made under her guidance in 2006 and 2008, told ABC News she is not sure whether she will try to remain as its leader.

Mr. Obama acknowledged at least temporary defeat on one of his original legislative priorities, saying it’s now politically impossible to impose a price on carbon emissions and set up a “cap-and-trade” scheme.

He said the new balance of power doesn’t mean the two parties should wait before moving forward on a smaller energy bill they can both support, however, and listed developing renewable- and clean-energy sources as points of cooperation.

The president said he also expects to find Republicans willing to work together on education, infrastructure and small business, and again urged Congress to pass his the second stimulus infrastructure spending package he proposed in September.

Comparing himself to popular predecessors Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — both of whom saw midterm losses amid sagging approval ratings, yet went on to win re-election — Mr. Obama said it’s “hard not to seem removed” when he’s in the White House. That’s why, he said, he likes to travel outside the Beltway and meet with the public. But he said he’s become trapped by Washington.

The president said grappling with the aftermath of voters’ rejection “is something I think every president needs to go through.” Still, he did not retreat from any parts of his first-term agenda, and even defended the health care law, though it required the kind of deal-making he said he had hoped to change in Washington.

Mr. Obama said the deals Democrats used to push the bill through represent “something I regret,” and said he wished the process had been “healthier.” But he argued it was worth it because the law was overwhelmingly beneficial to seniors, families and other groups.

At the same time, he said, he would be “happy to consider” Republican proposals to tweak and improve the law, such as eliminating an unpopular provisions that small businesses say pose an undue paperwork burden.

Romanticpoet's Weblog

By Hans Bader

June 2, 2011

Obama Administration officials had advance notice that General Motors would run deceptive ads claiming to have paid taxpayers back for its bailout, and did not veto or object to those ads despite the opportunity to do so. Only later did Administration officials distance themselves from those deceptive claims, and they did so only after the falsity of those claims became so obvious to the public that they could no longer be parroted. Treasury Secretary Geithner had parroted those deceptive claims, which then drew criticism from the TARP inspector general, members of Congress, and financial reporters. Geithner publicly repeated GM’s deceptive claims, even though the Treasury Department had weeks in which to review GM’s claims and discover their inaccuracy.

Treasury Department Documents released last week in response to a think-tank’s Freedom of Information Act request make this clear. Those documents illustrate that GM and the Obama Administration coordinated GM’s PR strategy regarding the company’s controversial TV and print ad campaign in 2010, in which the car maker misleadingly claimed to have repaid what it received from taxpayers. In those ads, GM’s then-CEO, Ed Whitacre, claimed GM had already repaid its government bailout loan “ in full, with interest, five years ahead of schedule. ”

In May 2010, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed a deceptive advertising complaint with the FTC , and GM shortly thereafter stopped running the ads. CEI also filed a Freedom of Information request with Treasury for documents on the ad campaign. Those documents were finally released late last month, after a year of delay – far beyond the 20-day legal deadline for responding to FOIA requests.

CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman laments that “the US Treasury Department aided General Motors in its fraudulent claim that it fully repaid its government loans,” pointing out that “the detailed nature of their cooperation is demonstrated in the documents that the Department has finally produced , 12 long months after our original request. Now, the Treasury Department is re-enacting this smoke-and-mirrors routine on behalf of Chrysler , ” Kazman observed.

The documents show GM coordinating PR strategy with the Obama Administration more than three weeks before launching the campaign. The White House received some of those GM materials at least two weeks before the ad campaign began. The Treasury Department delayed in responding to CEI’s FOIA request until after GM and Chrysler’s profits temporarily spiked , leading to the Administration’s current PR campaign touting the alleged “success” of the auto bailout. For example, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote a Washington Post Op-Ed on June 1, 2011 with a similarly-misleading statement that Chrysler had repaid its government loans. On June 3, Obama himself will give a speech in Toledo, Ohio defending the auto bailout.

The Stunning Decline of Barack Obama

Can it get any worse for President Obama? Undoubtedly yes. Here are 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency is in serious trouble, and why its prospects are unlikely to improve between now and the November mid-terms.

1. The Obama presidency is out of touch with the American people

In a previous post I noted how the Obama presidency increasingly resembles a modern-day Ancien Régime, extravagant, decaying and out of touch with ordinary Americans. The First Lady’s ill-conceived trip to Spain at a time of widespread economic hardship was symbolic of a White House that barely gives a second thought to public opinion on many issues, and frequently projects a distinctly elitist image. The “let them eat cake” approach didn’t play well over two centuries ago, and it won’t succeed today.

2. Most Americans don’t have confidence in the president’s leadership

This deficit of trust in Obama’s leadership is central to his decline. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, “nearly six in ten voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country”, and two thirds “say they are disillusioned with or angry about the way the federal government is working.” The poll showed that a staggering 58 per cent of Americans say they do not have confidence in the president’s decision-making, with just 42 per cent saying they do.

3. Obama fails to inspire

In contrast to the soaring rhetoric of his 2004 Convention speech in Boston which succeeded in impressing millions of television viewers at the time, America is no longer inspired by Barack Obama’s flat, monotonous and often dull presidential speeches and statements delivered via teleprompter. From his extraordinarily uninspiringAfghanistan speech at West Point to his flat State of the Union address, President Obama has failed to touch the heart of America. Even Jimmy Carter was more moving.

4. The United States is drowning in debt

The Congressional Budget Office Long-Term Budget Outlook offers a frightening picture of the scale of America’s national debt. Under its alternative fiscal scenario, the CBO projects that US debt could rise to 87 percent of GDP by 2020, 109 percent by 2025, and 185 percent in 2035. While much of Europe, led by Britain and Germany, are aggressively cutting their deficits, the Obama administration is actively growing America’s debt, and has no plan in place to avert a looming Greek-style financial crisis.

5. Obama’s Big Government message is falling flat

The relentless emphasis on bailouts and stimulus spending has done little to spur economic growth or create jobs, but has greatly advanced the power of the federal government in America. This is not an approach that is proving popular with the American public, and even most European governments have long ditched this tax and spend approach to saving their own economies.

6. Obama’s support for socialised health care is a huge political mistake

In an extraordinary act of political Harakiri, President Obama leant his full support to the hugely controversial, unpopular and divisive health care reform bill, with a monstrous price tag of $940 billion, whose repealis now supported by 55 per cent of likely US voters. As I wrote at the time of its passing, the legislation is “a great leap forward by the United States towards a European-style vision of universal health care, which will only lead to soaring costs, higher taxes, and a surge in red tape for small businesses. This reckless legislation dramatically expands the power of the state over the lives of individuals, and could not be further from the vision of America’s founding fathers.”

[Ed: Full list at link below]

There is a distinctly Titanic-like feel to the Obama presidency and it’s not hard to see why. The most left-wing president in modern American history has tried to force a highly interventionist, government-driven agenda that runs counter to the principles of free enterprise, individual freedom, and limited government that have made the United States the greatest power in the world, and the freest nation on earth.

This, combined with weak leadership both at home and abroad against the backdrop of tremendous economic uncertainty in an increasingly dangerous world, has contributed to a spectacular political collapse for a president once thought to be invincible. America at its core remains a deeply conservative nation, which cherishes its traditions and founding principles. President Obama is increasingly out of step with the American people, by advancing policies that undermine the United States as a global power, while undercutting America’s deep-seated love for freedom.

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