08-12-11 - A review of Obama so far

It's amazing to think back to the Obama election and how ecstatic so many people were, and how sad the reality has turned out to be. I think Obama has got to be the most disappointing president of all time. Let's try to run through the score card and remind ourselves of what's happened.

1. Military Policy. No significant de-escalation of American involvement abroad. No significiant cuts of spending on programs which are irrelevant to the modern world (such as large weapons programs). No merging of services to reduce waste. Continued extra-legal prosecution of war, such as assasinations of people in non combat zones.

2. Immigration. One of those sad cynical things that came out of the GWB white house was using 9/11 as an excuse to crank up enforcement of illegal immigration under DHS ; obviously the real motive was always getting them dirty Mexicans out of our country, but it was politically difficult before 9/11 ; so the anti-Mexicans saw a great opportunity to sneak it in as "protecting our borders from terrorists". Unfortunately this has only gotten worse under Obama, including breaking the veil between INS (ICE) and law enforcement; historically law enforcement had an agreement to not enforce immigration because they wanted immigrants to be able to interact with the police on normal legal issues, but that is now gone.

3. Domestic spying. Only continues to get worse. The FBI was recently given new powers to snoop without warrants; ever since 9/11 the FBI has amped up its monitoring of clearly non-terrorist organizations, claiming that all sorts of groups like environmental activists are "domestic terrorists" (hint : corporate property damage is not "terrorism"), and under Obama that just got massively worse, we're basically back to Hoover levels of sneaky FBI that can now monitor anyone they want without probable cause. Obama continues going around FISA. Obama continues to use "state secrets" and national security defences to make unquestionable arrests. Abroad, "Extraordinary rendition" (aka passing the torture buck) continues.

4. Taxes. No indiciation that Obama will get realistic on this or close any loop holes or the sweetheart deals for various special interests (like financiers). The GWB tax cuts seem to be near permanent at this point, except maybe on the very richest bracket. Amusingly, the majority of Republicans believe that Obama has raised taxes (he hasn't - in fact he cut them for the vast majority of Americans).

5. Health Care. This was a small step in the right direction, but completely lacking the teeth to make it actually work (which requires government control of the outrageous costs of the private medical industry). Sadly "Obamacare" is really just another case of what Dems and Reps have been doing for many years now - creating government laws that gaurantee massive profits to private industries, force you to use private services without controlling their costs. (and it looks like this trend will only get worse in the next N years as there is talk of creating publicly-gauranteed private-profit-takers out of the Mortgage Macs, for social security, etc.; this is just the most beloved form of modern "reform")

6. Accountability. Fools thought some of the lawsuits and investigations into the questionable acts of the GWB administration may have gotten some help or at least been allowed to proceed, but they were not. The opacity of the executive branch started by GWB continues and perhaps has only gotten worse.

7. Funding for basic services. This is one of the saddest things to me and something that often gets lost in the shuffle of all the other disasters. The sort of very basic things that I think everyone except real nut jobs agrees that government should be doing are getting cut because they're the easiest things to cut. Obama is doing nothing about the big costs (Medicare & Defense), but is supporting cuts to "Non-defense discretionary spending". That sounds like just beaurocratic waste, but in fact "non-defense discretionary spending" is the meat of what makes government good and useful - it's education, housing, social programs, etc. And it's even worse at the state level. Here in WA we are cutting ferries, buses, homeless programs, mental illness programs, health care for the poor, animal shelters, etc. you name it, it's being slashed severely.


Aaron said...

Obama ran as a centrist and he has governed like one. He has consistently ignored public opinion when it leans to the left (huge majorities of the public wanted a public option for health care, to GTFO of iraq and afghanistan, and tax increases).

Wonder how a Hilary Clinton presidency would have turned out, but I doubt it would have been much better.

I can imagine how a McCain presidency would have gone though: Bush Tax made permanent written into law as quickly as possible, a real attempt to 'fix' iraq, scratch sotomayor and kagan and replace with conservative corporate pawns. Obvious economic fumbling and idiocy leading to multiple recessionary shocks. And subsequent heart failure leaving us with President Palin and basically the end times.

I do wonder what is the theoretical limit of liberal greatness Americans (or, more importantly, the corporate/media structure) are willing to accept in a president.

Obama is definitely a tough to pin down creature though. He *seems* to have surrounded himself with some super smart and cool people (chu, biden, elizabeth warren, goolsbee), and some incompetent monsters (geitner, holder). And he just comes across as so damn passive, waiting around for congress to totally fuck things up then swing in near the end, pulling everything to the right a bit kinda half-assing it. Guess we'll have to wait for the book(s) to see what actually went on.

I think he actually just might not be a very good leader. Like he's one of those smart people who would have failed on The Apprentice because he just doesn't appear to lead (despite whatever real work is going on).

cbloom said...

True true, just because it's bad doesn't mean it couldn't be worse.

jfb said...

I was surprised how few people took his FISA vote and "we need to move on" there as a premonition. Joe Nacchio's still in jail, AT&T CEOs roaming free...

Aaron said...

I'm kinda curious what we could actually do to make it better. Maybe just wait around for the baby boomers to cycle out and the next generation to become politicians and fix it all?

nothings said...

I dunno, I kind of feel like it doesn't matter what generation it is, the kind of people who become politicians are the kind of people who will be shitheads by the time they're in positions of influence.

I mean, yes, give it enough time and we'll stop demonizing videogames, because the politicians will know the videogames aren't at fault and know that their constituents won't think videogames are at fault. But I can't imagine the same happening on more substantive issues.

cbloom said...

"Maybe just wait around for the baby boomers to cycle out and the next generation to become politicians and fix it all?"

LOL no.

IMO the huge paradigm shift would occur if got money out of politics to a much larger extent. Of course as long as money controls politics, that's not gonna happen.

The only chance to make a big change like that is when the populace is all stirred up, eg. right around 9/11 you could slip it in, or I think right when Obama got elected he could have immediately pushed for political finance reform and maybe got something through.

The arch-republicans were ready for 9/11 in the sense of having a host of policies ready to cram down lady America's throat when she wasn't looking. The dems are not nearly so organized; you need to have a Wolfowitz/etc with a package of proposals ready to go that you can slip through in times of crisis.

old rants