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Robert Scheer
Truthdig / Truthdig Op-Ed
Published: Friday 27 January 2012
“Obama should shine in comparison with his Republican challenger, but there is little in his State of the Union speech to suggest he will chart a much-needed new course in his second term.”

Obama’s Faux Populism Sounds Like Bill Clinton

I’ll admit it: Listening to Barack Obama, I am ready to enlist in his campaign against the feed-the-rich Republicans ... until I recall that I once responded in the same way to Bill Clinton’s faux populism. And then I get angry because betrayal by the “good guys” for whom I have ended up voting has become the norm.

Yes, betrayal, because if Obama meant what he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about holding the financial industry responsible for its scams, why did he appoint the old Clinton crowd that had legalized those scams to the top economic posts in his administration? Why did he hire Timothy Geithner, who has turned the Treasury Department into a concierge service for Wall Street tycoons? 

Why hasn’t he pushed for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, which Clinton’s deregulation reversed? Does the president really believe that the Dodd-Frank slap-on-the-wrist sellout represents “new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again”? Can he name one single too-big-to-fail banking monstrosity that has been reduced in size on his watch instead of encouraged to grow ever larger by Treasury and Fed bailouts and interest-free money?

When Obama declared Tuesday evening “no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas,” wasn’t he aware that Jeffrey Immelt, the man he appointed to head his jobs council, is the most egregious offender? Immelt, the CEO of GE, heads a company with most of its workers employed in foreign countries, a corporation that makes 82 percent of its profit abroad and has paid no U.S. taxes in the past three years.

It was also a bit bizarre for Obama to celebrate Steve Jobs as a model entrepreneur when the manufacturing jobs that the late Apple CEO created are in the same China that elsewhere in his speech the president sought to scapegoat for America’s problems. Apple, in its latest report on the subject, takes pride in attempting to limit the company’s overseas suppliers to a maximum workweek of 60 hours for their horribly exploited employees. Isn’t it weird to be chauvinistically China baiting when that country carries much of our debt?

I’m also getting tired of the exhortations to improve the nation’s schools, certainly a worthy endeavor, but this economic crisis is the result not of high school dropouts as Obama suggested, but rather the corruption of the best and brightest graduates of our elite academies. As Obama well knows from his own trajectory in the meritocracy, which took him from one of the most privileged schools in otherwise educationally depressed Hawaii to Harvard Law, the folks who concocted the mathematical formulas and wrote the laws justifying fraudulent collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps were his overachieving professors and classmates.

If he doesn’t know that, he should check out the record of Lawrence Summers, the man he picked to guide his economic program and who had been rewarded with the presidency of Harvard after having engineered Clinton’s deregulatory deal with Wall Street.

That is the real legacy of the Clinton years, and it is no surprise that GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich has been campaigning on his rightful share of it. The international trade agreements that exported good U.S. jobs, the radical financial deregulation that unleashed Wall Street greed, and the free market zealotry of then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was reappointed by Clinton, were all part of a deal Clinton made with Gingrich, House speaker at that time.

As Gingrich put it in the first Republican debate in South Carolina: “As speaker ... working with President Bill Clinton, we passed a very Reagan-like program, less regulation, lower taxes.” Even the 15 percent tax break that Mitt Romney exploited for his carryover private equity income was a result of the unholy Clinton-Gingrich alliance. Both principals of that alliance were pimps for the financial industry, and that includes Freddie Mac, the for-profit stock-traded housing agency that Clinton coddled while it stoked the Ponzi scheme in housing and that rewarded the former speaker with $1.6 million to $1.8 million in consulting fees.

There were, finally, some bold words in Obama’s speech about helping beleaguered homeowners, but they ring hollow given this administration’s efforts to broker a sweetheart deal between the leading banks and the state attorneys general that would see the banks fined only a pittance for their responsibility in the mortgage meltdown. Obama could have had success demanding mortgage relief if he had made that a condition for bailing out the banks. Now the banksters know he’s firing blanks, and they are placing their bets on their more reliable Republican allies to prevent any significant demand for helping homeowners with their underwater mortgages.

Of course, Romney, Obama’s most likely opponent in the general election, will never challenge the Wall Street hold on Washington, since he is the personification of the vulture capitalism that is the true cause of America’s decline. Obama should shine in comparison with his Republican challenger, but there is little in his State of the Union speech to suggest he will chart a much-needed new course in his second term.

This article was originally posted on Truthdig.



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ABOUT Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural figures.

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16 comments on "Obama’s Faux Populism Sounds Like Bill Clinton"

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hah hah are you serious? He was aoslmt as big a Tool as Bush 2. The guy did nothing much, waved alot, (also waved his wand around a lot, don't blame him for that, H is in my opinion a lesbian so he was cut off there long ago) and also I think one of his biggest errors, cut and run in Somalia, emboldening the terrorists. By the way I'm not right wing either, I think as stated Bush is an idiot.I'd be interested in hearing your justification for one of the best american presidents

RICHARD VANCE

May 01, 2012 6:09pm

Dude, I could have written that myself. The flow followed my mindscape perfectly. I too feel betrayed that Jamie Dimon et al are still siting in their CEO chairs screwing us over instead of sitting in a jail cell while his possessions are sold at auction.

So rather than Democrats are better than Republicans its more accurate to say Republicans are just more blatant Democrats. At least they say they are evil.

Clinton balanced the budget. Do the research. He taxed the rich.

Ann Marie Saidy

January 28, 2012 8:45am

God bless you Robert Sheer. You give us the sheer truth time and again.

wonderland

January 27, 2012 10:11pm

Robert Boyle, I agree that the National Defense Act stinks, but I have yet to see any evidence for the paranoid fantasy that Obama is coming to get your guns. Please give us any factual information that will support your thesis.

American Bolshevik

January 27, 2012 7:46pm

Barack Obama is a great campaigner. Period.

Stogy Skip

January 27, 2012 6:54pm

If he could choose and hire his people from Universities instead of Wall Street we and he would do much better

HenryCCarey

January 27, 2012 5:32pm

Article is correct, but for one point: Clinton nearly went after Wall Street in 1998, and then " they" went after him, and he was broken. Obama never even threatened to break with Wall Street.
Obama will likely get us in a war with Iran, which will become World War III, now that we know he is employing Dennis Ross as a go-between with Netanyahu. As Bush should have been impeached ( and was protected by Pelosi), so Obama should be impeached, and then perhaps we might find a Democrat ( FDR type) with guts to step in. Don't fall for supporting a lesser evil. We may not even have an election under these circumstances.....

Robert W. Boyle

January 27, 2012 4:52pm

Obama seemed to have no quams about signing the treasonist National Defense Act. It will be mis-used as we know full well. While I know a good percentage of my fellow liberals disagree, I am a westerner and I consider Obama and Hiliary traitors for their stealth attack on the second amendment via the U.N. It will come out in the open after his re-election.
You folks are always touting the Constitution when it suits your cause but our president is out to disarm the populace and more than just Republicans don't like it. Think Germany in the early 1930's; Hitler protected them from nasty guns too. Obama is not a great deal different from the Christo/Fascists who are making the rounds in the GOP pep rallies. He too, mostly serves The Corporate $tates of America. Praise Jesus and Koch.

M.C. Henry.

January 27, 2012 4:00pm

"For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds
Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds".

Riconui

January 27, 2012 3:26pm

I share Mr. Scheer's disappointment in Obama and for much the same reasons. But I think we waited for Obama to do voluntarily what we should have been forcing through demonstrations. Should he receive a second term, which seems likely, that would be the time for #OWS or some like minded movement to put the pressure on him. Most especially if the tea bag assholes in the House and Senate are run out in sufficient numbers to take the republicators out of control. FDR wasn't FDR until it became clear that it would take more than populist rhetoric to avoid a true revolution in a nation mired in depression. A more equitable society will seem like a small price to pay when the alternative is too ugly to contemplate. Even a Harvard educated narcissistic, avaricious moron, such as the ones ruling over our economy today, can appreciate that.

M.C. Henry.

January 27, 2012 4:02pm

"For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds
Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds".

rodley

January 27, 2012 1:12pm

I think Don points out the dilemma. Do we face the reality of who Barak Obama is and still vote for him and try to push him in the correct direction and force him to be less hypocritical (admittedly more elegantly and less obviously so than his opponents) -- or do we put our heads in the sand and pretend he's something he isn't and comfort ourselves with that delusion.

I don't see bad information in this article, but a reminder of what really happened in the interest of the truth. And let's hope second term appointments are people who have some integrity and the interests of the country at heart. I am not optimistic. Obama has repeatedly "resigned" or marginalized any nay-sayers (the few who accidentally got into his administration) -- but he is a politician (and alas little more) and so he is responsive to political pressure. You can already see it even in state of the union, trying to appeal (tepidly) to those he seduced with campaign promises that have largely proved themselves empty -- and worse. He is arrogant and elitist and his populism doesn't seem grounded in either action or spirit and he certainly in no way identifies with the little guy. Hence Mr. Sheer's characterization is accurate-- faux indeed.

Don

January 27, 2012 11:52am

This article is based on bad information. Obama has not appointed any of his economic advisers fot the second term yet. Even Geithner says he will not be appointed. FAux populism assualts are not constructive at this time.