The New York Times reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday reiterated his willingness to attack the Iranian nuclear program without support from Washington or the world, returning to an aggressive posture that he had largely abandoned since his United Nations speech in September.
“When David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel, was it done with American approval?” Mr. Netanyahu asked in an interview broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 on Monday night. “When Levi Eshkol was forced to act in order to loosen the siege before 1967, was it done with the Americans’ support?
“If someone sits here as the prime minister of Israel and he can’t take action on matters that are cardinal to the existence of this country, its future and its security, and he is totally dependent on receiving approval from others, then he is not worthy of leading,” Mr. Netanyahu added. “I can make these decisions.”
Though American officials, including President Obama, have always acknowledged that Israel ultimately has the right to decide how to defend itself, Mr. Netanyahu’s tough tone and timing — on the eve of the American presidential election — are sure to reignite rifts with Washington over how best to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
As has been the case over the past two years, however, it is impossible to know whether his hawkish words are harbingers of deeds or part of a strategic campaign to scare nations into increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran.
“I am not eager to go to war,” Mr. Netanyahu said in the seven-minute interview. “I have been creating very heavy pressure, and part of this pressure comes from the knowledge some of the most powerful nations in the world have that we are serious. This isn’t a show, this is not false.”
Besides the creation of diplomatic tensions if Israel were to act alone against Washington’s wishes, there is a more practical concern: the Israeli military lacks the capacity to penetrate all of Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, and thus could most likely only delay the potential development of a nuclear weapon by a few years. The United States has bunker-busting bombs that could do far more damage.
The interview was broadcast on “Fact,” a program often compared to “60 Minutes,” at the end of an hourlong documentary on Israeli decision making regarding Iran over the past decade. The program highlighted the opposition of Israel’s own security establishment to a unilateral strike, saying that Mr. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, ordered the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for an imminent operation in 2010 but were rebuffed by the chiefs of their military and international intelligence service.
Among those interviewed was Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister currently contemplating a political comeback. He accused Mr. Netanyahu of “spitting in the face” of Mr. Obama and “doing anything possible to stop him from being elected president of the United States,” a harsh critique in a country that regards safeguarding its special relationship with Washington as a sacred priority. [Continue reading…]
By Cora Currier and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica, November 1, 2012
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo linked the storm to a broader change in the weather. “I don’t call it ‘global warming’ because you trigger a whole political debate,” Cuomo said. “But the frequency of extreme weather is going way up.”
President Obama and Mitt Romney have been even more reluctant to utter the words “global warming.” Neither candidate mentioned climate change over four presidential debates and none of the moderators asked about it — the first time that’s happened since 1988.
Obama has barely spoken of it on the campaign trail, while Romney has mocked the president’s earlier promise to address climate change.
As reporters and scientists discuss what role climate change may have played in fueling the storm, we’ve looked beyond the candidates’ rhetoric — or lack thereof — to find out where they actually stand:
Tony Karon writes: Superbarrio Gómez ran the most underreported campaign of the 1996 U.S. presidential election. The masked Mexican wrestler turned social activist showed up in New Hampshire during the primary season and declared himself a “candidate” even though his foreign citizenship rendered him ineligible. Decisions affecting the lives of Mexicans are made in the White House, he reasoned, so Mexicans should have a say in choosing its occupant. It’s a sentiment that’s widely shared: two-thirds of the 26,000 respondents from 32 countries in a recent poll believe that the White House has an important impact on their lives, and for that reason, almost half believe they should have a vote in the U.S. presidential election. (If they did, President Barack Obama would be a shoo-in, according to almost every poll.)
The level of interest in this U.S. election, however, is considerably lower than that of 2008. One reason for this may be that any global citizen tuning in to the campaign’s foreign policy debate would have struggled to find substantial differences between what Governor Mitt Romney advocated and what the White House is doing. There is also a growing sense of the relative decline of U.S. global power. The U.S. remains the world’s most militarily powerful country and its largest economy, but its ability to shape economic and geopolitical events in distant climes has steadily declined over the past decade — whether it’s Afghanistan or Iraq, the rapidly changing Arab world or Europe’s debt crisis, Washington struggles to impose its will.
That said, the Oval Office remains the world’s strongest single center of power, and the outcome of Tuesday’s vote will be closely watched. Here are five places [Syria, Israel, China, EU, and the Arctic] where the stakes are particularly high [Continue reading…]
Mark Danner writes: Amid the clamorous controversies of this election campaign, what strikes one here on the West Bank of the Jordan is the silences. Though the issue of Palestine promises to have a much more vital part in the volatile, populist politics of the Middle East’s new democracies—whose vulnerable governments actually must take some account of what moves ordinary people—here in Ramallah we have heard virtually nothing substantive about it, apart, that is, from Mitt Romney’s repeated charge that President Obama, presumably in extracting from Israel a hard-fought ten-month freeze on settlement building early on in his administration, had “thrown Israel under the bus.”
In fact, the West Bank is perhaps the place on the globe that has seen the least of President Obama’s promised “change you can believe in.” Nearly fifty years after Israel conquered the territories, its young soldiers are still on patrol, herding millions of Palestinians through and around an increasingly elaborate labyrinth of checkpoints, walls, and access roads, while Israeli settlers, now numbering in all more than half a million, flow over the hills, swelling their gated and fortified towns, creating one “fact on the ground” after another. Even as the land of the long-promised Palestinian state vanishes behind these barricades, the phrase “two-state solution” lives on, hovering like a ghost over the settlements, a remnant mirage of a permanently moribund “peace process” that has produced no agreement of consequence in twenty years, since the Oslo Accords vowed a Palestinian state would be declared no later than 1999.
Governor Romney’s own view of how to achieve Middle East peace is decidedly more modest—indeed, almost Buddhist in its fatalism. As he told guests at the now-infamous Boca Raton “47 percent” fund-raiser:
You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it’s going to remain an unsolved problem…. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.
Whatever that “something” that will “somehow…happen” might be, it will presumably not come at the initiative of a Romney administration, since, as the governor went on, “The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up, to get the Palestinians to act, is the worst idea in the world.” [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: On radio and on his Internet network, the influential conservative pundit Glenn Beck frequently invokes God, religious freedom and the founding fathers, but he does not regularly discuss his own Mormon faith.
But in early September, he broke with practice and hosted a special one-hour show, asking his audience, “Does Mitt Romney’s Mormonism make him too scary or weird to be elected to president of the United States?”
Mr. Beck has not always supported Mr. Romney. (“I think he’s an honorable man, but I don’t trust him,” he said last year.) But as perhaps the best-known Mormon after the Republican presidential candidate and a major influence on evangelical Christians, Mr. Beck has emerged as an unlikely theological bridge between the first Mormon presidential nominee and a critical electorate.
At the same time, Mr. Beck’s defense of his and Mr. Romney’s shared faith speaks to the long-frayed relationship between evangelical Christians and Mormons and raises the question of whether evangelicals will ultimately put aside religious differences and vote on common conservative issues.
During his special program, Mr. Beck took questions from mostly evangelical Christian listeners, colorfully debunking misperceptions about Mormonism. The “magic underwear” was compared to a skullcap, and Mr. Beck insisted that polygamy was seen as a “perversion” in the modern church.
“It’s not weird to be a Mormon,” he assured his listeners at the end of the program, “and it’s not weird to be president if you’re Mormon.”
Although Mr. Beck’s national media profile has waned since he left Fox News last year, his support among his core audience remains strong. “The Glenn Beck Program” is typically the third-most-popular talk-news radio show, after “The Rush Limbaugh Show” and “The Sean Hannity Show.” In September, an agreement was reached with Dish Network to bring Mr. Beck’s online network, The Blaze, to traditional television.
Mr. Beck’s unique position as both a Mormon and a prominent voice among evangelicals has been too tempting for Mr. Romney’s campaign to pass up. Campaign officials have quietly courted Mr. Beck, according to a person briefed on his meetings with campaign surrogates who could not discuss private conversations publicly. Mr. Beck declined to comment for this article.
Last month, Mr. Beck, along with former Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Romney’s son Josh, headlined a Dallas fund-raiser that brought in more than $250,000 for the Romney Victory committee, and on Friday Mr. Beck held a rally in Columbus, Ohio, intended to influence voters in that swing state. On Saturday, he attended Mr. Romney’s rally in Dubuque, Iowa.
Stalwart conservatives who support the Romney-Ryan ticket, like Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas; Rick Santorum, a former senator and Republican presidential candidate; and retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, have appeared on Mr. Beck’s program not so much to tout Mr. Romney directly as to discuss hot-button political issues like the handling of the attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Mostly Mr. Beck has helped Mr. Romney by directly addressing his devout Mormon faith, something the candidate himself rarely does. “I believe Mr. Romney prays on his knees every day,” Mr. Beck said recently on his radio program. “I believe he is being guided.” He has also said that a Romney victory would be “a sign from God.” [Continue reading…]
But as usual, God is struggling to make up her/his/its mind. Maybe the saturation advertising ends up confusing an omniscient mind — just imagine having to hear/see all those robocalls and commercials simultaneously.
Maybe the sign from God in this election will end up being revealed not by who wins but how many Americans bother voting.
Gary Younge writes: The symbolic resonance of Obama’s victory for black Americans has not diminished [since he took office]. At rallies the hawkers are still there with T-shirts setting him alongside Martin Luther King, setting his logo within Superman’s crest or insisting: “I like my coffee black. Like my president”. According to Gallup 90% of African Americans intend to back him and they plan to turn out at the same rate as white voters. No other block of voters is more loyal.
No other block of voters is more optimistic. Over the past few years polls have consistently shown that African Americans are more likely than any other group to be bullish about their own future, to think the country’s best days are yet to come and that the economy is already recovering.
A Pew survey in January 2010 indicated that the percentage of black Americans who thought blacks were better off than they were five years before had almost doubled since 2007. There were also significant increases in the percentages who believed the standard-of-living gap between whites and blacks was decreasing. No wonder they love the president.
There was only one trouble with these assessments. They weren’t true. African Americans, as a group, are far worse off now than they were when Obama came to power and the gap between whites and blacks in terms of wealth and income has increased under Obama’s tenure. The overall rate of unemployment may be close to where it was when Obama took office, but black unemployment is up 11%. Meanwhile the wealth gap has doubled during this recession with the average white American now having 22 times more wealth than their black counterparts. So too has the educational achievement gap with the rate at which white Americans graduate from high school growing at a far faster clip than black students. [Continue reading…]
The Jerusalem Post reports: Were Israel America’s 51st state, it is clear – at least based on various polls in Israel over the last five months – that it would be giving its hypothetical 13 electoral votes (based on the size of its population) to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the upcoming US elections.
In other words, Israel – in American political terms – is a deep red state. Unlike the popular stereotypes of Jews, we here in Israel are Texas, Nebraska and Indiana.
What is so jarring about this is the degree to which it stands in sharp contrast to the voting trends of American Jews.
An Israel Democracy Institute/Tel Aviv University Peace Index poll released this week found that when asked “in terms of Israeli interests, who would be preferable to win the elections next month in the US,” 57.2 percent of Israeli Jews said Romney, and only 21.5% said Obama.
These findings are consistent with other findings over the last few months, including a Jerusalem Post poll in mid October that found that only 18% of Israelis believe Obama is pro- Israel, while 28% believe him to be pro-Palestinian; another Peace Index poll from August showing that 40% of Israeli Jews believe Romney assigns “more importance to defending Israel’s national interests,” compared to 19% for Obama; and a Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies poll from June showing that 29% of Israelis believe Romney would better promote Israel’s interests, as opposed to 22% for Obama.
What is clear from all those figures is that over the past four years Obama has not exactly won over the Israeli Jewish public. In other words, Israelis have not felt the love. The same, of course, cannot be said of Israel’s American Jewish brethren.
Jews, according to 2008 exit polls, voted for Obama over John McCain by a 78% to 22% margin.
And Obama’s numbers among American Jews, four years down the line, are still very high, though not as high as they were back then, something that could play a significant role in a close election.
A Gallup tracking poll from July 1 – September 10 found that Jews planned to vote for Obama over Romney by a 64% – 25% margin. And an American Jewish Committee poll in mid September put that number at 65% for Obama, 24% for Romney and 10% undecided. [Continue reading…]
Stephen Walt writes: Is it too early to talk about the foreign policy and national security agenda that will face the next president? No matter who wins on November 6, the feature that is going to dominate U.S. national security planning over the next four years is constraint. Even if we avoid going off the sequestration cliff, there is going to be considerable pressure on the defense budget. Forget all those promises that Romney made about ramping up defense spending, expanding the Navy, etc. If he does beat Obama and has to face reality (as opposed to his Etch-a-Sketch approach to campaigning) he’ll figure out that budget math is real and unforgiving. And given the budget picture these days, that means limits.
Of course, foreign policy and national security tends to produce a lot of surprises; it’s probably the least predictable part of a president’s agenda. Remember that George W. Bush was totally blindsided by 9/11, an event that shaped almost everything he subsequently did in foreign and defense policy. Barack Obama didn’t see the Arab spring coming, yet he’s had to devote a lot of time and attention to figuring out what to do (or not to do) in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and elsewhere. No list of agenda items will cover all the possible topics, and it’s a safe bet the next president will get to deal with something that hardly anybody anticipated.
That said, what do I see as some obvious items that the next president will have to address? Obviously, he’ll have to manage the withdrawal from Afghanistan, keep relations with China on an even keel, cultivate reasonable ties with Mexico and other neighbors in the western hemisphere, and hope that the Eurozone mess doesn’t get worse. But here’s my list of the items that might take up even more of his time. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: In a surprise announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign and that as a result he was endorsing President Obama.
Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent in his third term leading New York City, has been sharply critical of both Mr. Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, the president’s Republican rival, saying that both men have failed to candidly confront the problems afflicting the nation. But he said he had decided over the past several days that Mr. Obama was the best candidate to tackle the global climate change that the mayor believes contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage.
“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote in an editorial for Bloomberg View.
“Our climate is changing,” he wrote. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
Mr. Bloomberg’s announcement is another indication that Hurricane Sandy has influenced the presidential campaign. The storm, and the destruction it left in its wake, has dominated news coverage, transfixing the nation and prompting the candidates to halt their campaigning briefly. [Continue reading…]
The Associated Press reports: There’s nothing like a natural disaster to test the depth of politicians’ preference for small government.
And so it turns out that after superstorm Sandy battered the East Coast, Mitt Romney is far more supportive of the government agency in charge of coordinating disaster relief. Only last year, as Romney hewed to the right while battling for the GOP nomination, he seemed to downplay the federal government’s role in disaster response.
“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” Romney said at a debate last June. “And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”
Asked by moderator John King of CNN whether that would include disaster relief, Romney said: “We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids.”
Now, a week before Election Day, after of a massive disaster, Romney’s campaign is reassuring voters that his administration wouldn’t leave disaster victims in the lurch. The public’s attention is locked on the devastation caused by Sandy at a time when Romney and President Barack Obama are locked in a close presidential campaign. With Obama heavily involved in getting federal funds to those in trouble, the Romney campaign moved quickly to reassure the public it supports a strong program of storm relief.
“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement supplied by his campaign Wednesday. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”
Wednesday’s statement came after the candidate ducked a spate of opportunities Tuesday to personally clarify his position and the statement essentially endorsed the current disaster aid system.
But what the campaign wouldn’t do is say whether a President Romney would insist that help for disaster victims be funded by cutting other programs in the federal budget, as many conservative Republicans insist. [Continue reading…]
Steve Kornacki writes: That Chris Christie is providing a serious political assist to President Obama less than a week before the election is indisputable. The question is why he’s doing it.
Christie, who was the keynote speaker at the Republican convention and has been one of Mitt Romney’s top campaign surrogates, will survey the post-Sandy wreckage in New Jersey with the president today. This comes after Christie went out of his way to praise Obama at the height of the storm and after Christie angrily shot down a Fox News host’s query about whether Romney might tour New Jersey with him too.
“I have a job to do,” he said. “If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”
Needless to say, this is all music to the ears of Democrats. Christie is one of the most prominent Republicans in the country, and one of the better-liked ones too. This is exactly the sort of cross-partisan boost that candidates dream of receiving in a race’s final days, especially a race as close as this one. So what’s Christie up to?
The simplest explanation is that this is just Christie being Christie. [Continue reading…]
A New York Times editorial says: Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.
Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.
It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen.
The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.
Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.
Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages. After Mr. Romney’s 2011 remarks recirculated on Monday, his nervous campaign announced that he does not want to abolish FEMA, though he still believes states should be in charge of emergency management. Those in Hurricane Sandy’s path are fortunate that, for now, that ideology has not replaced sound policy.
By Kim Barker, ProPublica, and Rick Young and Emma Schwartz, Frontline, October 29, 2012
This post was co-published with PBS’ Frontline.
The boxes landed in the office of Montana investigators in March 2011.
Found in a meth house in Colorado, they were somewhat of a mystery, holding files on 23 conservative candidates in state races in Montana. They were filled with candidate surveys and mailers that said they were paid for by campaigns, and fliers and bank records from outside spending groups. One folder was labeled “Montana $ Bomb.”
The documents pointed to one outside group pulling the candidates’ strings: a social welfare nonprofit called Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP.
Altogether, the records added up to possible illegal “coordination” between the nonprofit and candidates for office in 2008 and 2010, said a Montana investigator and a former Federal Election Commission chairman who reviewed the material. Outside groups are allowed to spend money on political campaigns, but not to coordinate with candidates.
“My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that WTP was running a lot of these campaigns,” said investigator Julie Steab of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, who initially received the boxes from Colorado.
The boxes were examined by Frontline and ProPublica as part of an investigation into the growing influence on elections of dark money groups, tax-exempt organizations that can accept unlimited contributions and do not have to identify their donors. The documents offer a rare glimpse into the world of dark money, showing how Western Tradition Partnership appealed to donors, interacted with candidates and helped shape their election efforts.
Though WTP’s spending has been at the state level, it’s best-known nationally for bringing a lawsuit that successfully challenged Montana’s ban on corporate spending in elections, extending the provisions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision to all states.
Matt Stoller argues in favor of voting for a third party candidate — even when this may result in Mitt Romney becoming president. His argument hinges on this claim:
The case against Obama is that the people themselves will be better citizens under a Romney administration, distrusting him and placing constraints on his behavior the way they won’t on Obama. As a candidate, Obama promised a whole slew of civil liberties protections, lying the whole time. Obama has successfully organized the left part of the Democratic Party into a force that had rhetorically opposed war and civil liberties violations, but now cheerleads a weakened America too frightened to put Osama bin Laden on trial. We must fight this thuggish political culture Bush popularized, and Obama solidified in place.
Stoller’s reasons for opposing Obama are cogent and persuasive, but whether a President Romney would have the mobilizing effect on the opposition that Stoller envisages is debatable.
Stoller writes: A few days ago, I participated in a debate with the legendary antiwar dissident Daniel Ellsberg on Huffington Post live on the merits of the Obama administration, and what progressives should do on Election Day. Ellsberg had written a blog post arguing that, though Obama deserves tremendous criticism, voters in swing states ought to vote for him, lest they operate as dupes for a far more malevolent Republican Party. This attitude is relatively pervasive among Democrats, and it deserves a genuine response. As the election is fast approaching, this piece is an attempt at laying out the progressive case for why one should not vote for Barack Obama for reelection, even if you are in a swing state.
There are many good arguments against Obama, even if the Republicans cannot seem to muster any. The civil liberties/antiwar case was made eloquently a few weeks ago by libertarian Conor Friedersdorf, who wrote a well-cited blog post on why he could not, in good conscience, vote for Obama. While his arguments have tremendous merit, there is an equally powerful case against Obama on the grounds of economic and social equity. That case needs to be made. For those who don’t know me, here is a brief, relevant background: I have a long history in Democratic and liberal politics. I have worked for several Democratic candidates and affiliated groups, I have personally raised millions of dollars for Democrats online, I was an early advisor to Actblue (which has processed over $300 million to Democratic candidates). I have worked in Congress (mostly on the Dodd-Frank financial reform package), and I was a producer at MSNBC. Furthermore, I aggressively opposed Nader-style challenges until 2008.
So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he’s a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he’s a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it’s just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it’s important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.
The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings — home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama’s policies severed this link, completely.
This split represents more than money. It represents a new kind of politics, one where Obama, and yes, he did this, officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else (see “The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship” in the Fordham Urban Law Journal for a more complete discussion of the problem). The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side. Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful. The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama’s oligarchy. [Continue reading…]