Paul Krugman: Obama is missing

April 11, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Paul Krugman, writing for the NYT:

I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.

Krugman was commenting on Obama’s lack of fight during the recent budget deal. That bad deal comes on the heels of Obama’s recent lack of fight on net neutrality, where Obama and his hand-picked commissioner Julius Genachowski purposely steered clear of the promising solution of declaring the Internet to be a mode of “telecommunications” pursuant to the Communications Act of 1996.  That wasn’t doable with AT&T looking on, spending more on lobbyists than all members of the military-industrial complex combined. Obama’s recent collapse occurred after he declared that he would “Take a back seat to no one” regarding net neutrality.

Well, it’s clear that Obama didn’t have the guts to fight for what he apparently once believed regarding net neutrality.  That’s the awful trend.  Consider his inept Wall Street finance alleged reform (“banks” are now bigger than they were prior to the collapse) and consider his convoluted health care reform, which dumped us into the waiting arms of virtually monopolistic private health insurers (mine raised my premium 10% last week–so much for “cost control,” Obama’s original justification for health care reform).

And then there is Guantanamo–yes, it’s still open for business, and consider that the “Peace President” ramped up our military presence in Afghanistan, where we still waste $2B/week, killing and maiming numerous civilians in America’s longest war.  And consider that Obama has become quite the “Secrecy President.”  And consider his unwillingness to speak up to protest the torture of Bradley Manning.  And why is he taking the side of tens of thousands of tax cheats while ignoring the massive injustice done to a man for whom we should be holding parades, Bradley Birkenfeld?

Barack Obama is a President who doesn’t have the guts to fight for the promises he made during his campaign. It’s apparently not in his bones to do so.  He’s the Political-Free-Market President: He apparently believes that good things will happen in Washington if only he charms everyone and stays out of the way.  Because of this deep character flaw, his window of opportunity to implement the program he campaigned slammed shut. At best, he’ll be playing defense, though the recent budget deal suggests that he doesn’t have the grit to play tough defense. If I were a Republican, I’d probably be wondering whether I’d actually want to replace Obama with a Republican.

This is all so incredibly surreal.  My thoughts are similar to those expressed by Lawrence Lessig at the 2011 National Conference for Media Reform. He boiled the problem down to this: “Private funds drive elections.” He noted that members of Congress spend 30-70% of their time raising money to get re-elected. This has got to change, because “every issue we care about is blocked by this rot.” The Citizens know about this problem quite well; Lessig cited a poll showing that 70% of voters “believe that money corrupts Congress.” He has declared that it’s often not worth our time to fight issues of the day, because good ideas don’t have a chance of winning. Instead, we all need to become “rootstrikers.” Here’s the idea in a nutshell:

“”There’s no progress so long as private funds drive public elections.”

And see the Rootstriker video here.

Two nights ago, in the midst of all of this frustration, I had dinner with an African American man who looked at me with shock and disbelief as I expressed my frustrations regarding Barack Obama.  The man warned me that we can’t “afford” to criticize Obama, or else Obama’s opponents will use that against him.  “We worked so hard to get him elected.”

Yes, it seems unsavory to criticize the bad judgment of those who we generally respect, but it is often one’s moral duty.  For many months I’ve been losing hope for Obama, evidenced by many articles I’ve written at this website, but now I’m losing respect for him.  I’ll admit that my frustration occurs in the following context:  We’ve been moving toward the political right for at least 10 years now (longer if you include Bill Clinton’s disastrous de-regulation of Wall Street). Based on this long sad slide, it would be immoral for me to not criticize the current president, for whom I voted. There was so much hope in the air a mere two years ago.  Is there still hope?  The current situation brings to mind a quote regarding FDR:

FDR once met with a group of activists who sought his support for bold legislation. He listened to their arguments for some time and then said, “You’ve convinced me. Now go out and make me do it.”

I will do everything in my meager  power to try to make Obama do what he promised, even when that seems hopeless. I will not hold back criticism.  Obama has been making a ghastly string of mistakes ever since elected, even though he ran one of the most brilliant campaigns I’ve ever seen. But now he appears to almost fully settled as a comfy resident of Washington, D.C., which is now more visibly than ever a highly big seductive coin-operated town.



Category: Corruption, Orwellian, Politics, Secrecy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Become a Root Striker | Dangerous Intersection | April 15, 2011
  1. Erich Vieth says:

    At DemocracyNow, economist Jeffrey Sachs comments on the recent budget deal:

    AMY GOODMAN: Plouffe made it clear that the House Republicans’ alternative, crafted by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, was unacceptable. He said, "Ryan’s plan] might pass the House, but it’s not going to become law."

    Obama is also expected to propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

    Well, to discuss the budget deal, we’re joined right now by leading economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. He is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia and also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit group aimed at ending extreme global poverty. He’s the author of numerous books and articles on development and economic policy.

    Welcome to Democracy Now! Your understanding of what this agreement is?

    JEFFREY SACHS: Well, this is a miserable step in the wrong direction. It started last December, when Obama and the Republicans agreed to cut a trillion dollars of taxes by extending the Bush tax cuts. And now, even though the details aren’t even worked out, apparently, they’re slashing into programs for the poor. So this is all going in the wrong direction, and many of us who supported President Obama just feel that he’s abandoned the field. He’s left it to the right wing, which wants nothing more than taxes cut for the rich, whereas the American public is saying very clearly, in every opinion survey, one after another, if you want to close the deficit, go after taxes for the rich, raise them, cut military spending, cut the excess profits in the insurance industry and healthcare, do things that would really make a difference—don’t punish the poor. And yet, that’s what Obama is giving up right now. It’s absurd. And when Plouffe says, "Well, it’s unacceptable that the taxes on the rich have come down," the President not only agreed to that last December, but when they announced the compromise this weekend, he referred to that historic agreement last December. So the whole thing is a bit of a mass confusion, and I find it absurd.

    AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the four proposals.

    JEFFREY SACHS: I say that there really are four proposals on the table right now. One is the Ryan plan; that is the extreme right: just do anything, slash anything, hit the poor, in order to get the tax rates down on the rich. It’s a fraud. But they have momentum because Obama is not resisting.

    Then there was Obama’s muddle, because he put forward a budget plan last month, after all, not only for fiscal year 2012, but a decade-long framework. He agreed to keep taxes so low on the rich that, in effect, his proposals, if you look at the fine print, would squeeze the so-called civilian discretionary budget, where education, where infrastructure, energy, climate would all be squeezed to an unmanageable small level.

    Then there’s a new proposal that the Congressional Progressive Caucus put forward last week. Terrific. It’s called the People’s Budget. It actually responds to what the people want, and that is, raise taxes on the rich, raise taxes on the corporations that are getting away with absolute unbelievable—unbelievably abusive loopholes, cut military spending, preserve spending for the poor, for education, for investment and so forth.

    Then there’s a fourth position. That’s the American public. You notice the American public isn’t asked by Congress or the President these days, but the American public speaks clearly in opinion survey after opinion survey. It says the rich have had a free ride, the corporations have been running our country, the spending on the military is completely unjustified, and we want a public option on healthcare. All large majorities, not one of them happening. Why? Because the lobbyists are in control, both of the White House and Congress.

    . . .

    AMY GOODMAN: But even outside of Fox, these discussions, for example, raising the issue of the military, that people recognize this as a huge drain on the budget, this is not raised, rarely in discussion.

    JEFFREY SACHS: It’s true. When I am on talk shows and people talk about what to do, it’s all wringing your hands: "We have to cut entitlements, we have to cut entitlements." But the public is saying, "Can we get out of Afghanistan?" What an incredibly wrongheaded policy, wasting more than $100 billion a year, achieving nothing. But you’re right, this doesn’t get discussed.

    Jeffrey Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance.

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