Yves Smith writes: Barack Obama swept into office on a tide of giddy enthusiasm. His “Hope and Change” was a pledge to reverse Bush era policies, including socialism for the rich, adventurism in the Middle East, and attacks on civil liberties. He announced his intention to serve as a transformational leader, invoking Abraham Lincoln, FDR and Ronald Reagan as role models. Despite the frigid temperatures, people poured into Washington, DC to hear his inauguration speech, wanting to be part of a remarkable passage.
It wasn’t simply that Obama was the first black president, but also that the economic devastation of the financial crisis opened up a historic opportunity to remake the social contract, to punish the reckless and greedy, no matter how lofty, and to build new foundations and safeguards for ordinary citizens. Obama, with his youthful vigor, his technocratic command of policy details, his “no drama” steadiness, his mastery of oratory, seemed uniquely suited to this time of need. His personal history of repeatedly breaking new ground fed optimism that he could do so for the nation as a whole.
Those times of heady promise are now a cruel memory. Again and again, Obama has shown his true colors. It isn’t simply that Obama lied. Politicians lie. But there are norms for political lying. The depth and dependability of Obama’s misrepresentations constitute a difference in kind.
His pattern of grand promises producing at-best-in-name only and at worst outright bait and switch was well established by his 2008 campaign. Some close observers pointed out his past legerdemain, for instance, his misleading account of his years in New York, his record of fronting for finance and real estate interests in Chicago, his promise to bring a state-wide health care program to Illinois, which in the end was walked back to a mere study. And there were more decisive tells in 2008: the high level of Wall Street funding for his campaign, the inclusion of neoliberal “Chicago boys” in his economics team, his reversal on FISA after promising to filibuster it, which gave retroactive immunity to telecoms for aiding and abetting illegal wiretapping, and his whipping for TARP.
Obama didn’t make compromises necessary to lead effectively. He entered office with majorities in both houses and a country eager for a new direction. He has repudiated or retraded every pledge he made. He promised transformational leadership, and instead emulated Wall Street, devising complex programs that to sell average Americans short and reap his funders handsome rewards in the process. Rather than elevate his fellow citizens, Obama’s transactional focus and neoliberal philosophy have kicked the struggling middle class down the road greased by the right. [Continue reading…]