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Nomi Prins
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Wednesday 25 January 2012
“One part optimism, two parts repetition equals one total uninspiring.”

President Obama’s State of the Union: Ten Skirted Issues

I confess; I expected to be bored out of my mind listening to President Obama’s campaign - I mean, State of the Union - I mean campaign, speech. I kept hoping some truly earth shattering story would sneak in there beforehand, like say some discovery that Mitt Romney had been having an affair with Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife while he was creating jobs at Bain capital, and we could all focus on that instead.

It turned out that my pre-determination proved accurate. I wonder if the members of Congress felt the same sense of same déjà vu that I did, as they were bopping up and down and applauding. 

Obama's speech was a compilation of highlights from his past ones. One part optimism, two parts repetition equals one total uninspiring. Maybe it’s so boring, because it matters so little at this point. Taking away popularity polls, our national threshold for belief in hope or change has been trampled, not just because of Obama or Romney, but of the whole political apparatus that thrives on deflection of reality and posturing. We don’t have the same energy to expend listening to politicians, the endless spin that renders fact obsolete, responsibility absent, and true accomplishment, unnecessary.

We saw Optimistic Obama in his first address to Congress in 2009: “While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

We got Presumptuous Obama in 2010: “As we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.”

We watched Philosophical Obama in 2011: “We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny.  That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here… The future is ours to win.”

Now, we had Campaigning on Fairness Obama. He returned to the roots of his pre-Presidential words, having accomplished little to attain the goal that his words implied. Here are ten things that President Obama skirted: 

1) The cost of healthcare insurance. Obama tried to play both sides, slapping a populace spin on an insurance industry gift. “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.” He claimed he won’t “go back” on things like health insurance companies being able to cancel policies. He didn’t say that insurance premiums have already risen 22% in the past two years. Republicans hate Obama’s ‘signature’ healthcare reform bill because it unconstitutionally forces people to purchase insurance. Democrats support the bill because Obama passed it. The reality is – by the time it takes effect in 2014, premium costs may have doubled. Frame it however you want, that means health insurance could cost twice as much when this bill takes effect as it did before it was passed. Meanwhile, there are more people without insurance (because they can’t afford it) even though insurance companies can’t cancel policies or deny insurance for pre-existing conditions. This bill merely offers insurance companies a wider pool of customers, with a few restrictions on how much they can pillage them.

2) Student Loan Defaults. Obama claimed he wants to cap interest rates on student loans - which would be great, but can only work in this particularly low rate environment. He urged  colleges to keep costs down – again, something that’s worked out really well when he’s mentioned it before. This year, student loan debt surpassed credit card debt, breaching the $1 trillion mark, at an average of more than $25,000 per student (and up 47% over a decade ago, not all under Obama, but a bi-administration problem is still a problem). Not surprisingly, student loan defaults rates have risen alongside this debt increase. Nearly 9% of loans defaulted in 2010, of those that began repayment in 2009, vs. 7% that began in 2008.) Obama didn’t mention this growing problem. 

3) Youth unemployment. Obama took credit for the creation of 3 million jobs (I’m not going to debate that here). Regardless, youth unemployment is at its highest rate since 1948. The unemployment rate for those under age 25 is 18.1%, (31% for blacks) havin risen sharply since 2008. Do the math. High student loan debt + diminishing  job prospects =  bad ending. Work-study programs have to be intense to really alter that.

4) Big banks. The largest firms continue to grow their asset bases and fee extrapolation strategies from their captive customer base (If you’re say, a JPM Chase customer, it costs you $5 to extract your own money from a Bank of America ATM – both banks get a cut). It was Obama that re-confirmed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for another fourteen years (and yes, a bi-partisan Congress agreed), and who still keeps Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner around. Both men were gung-ho about the merger mania that dotted Wall Street in the fall of 2008 and making the ‘too-big-to-fail” banks bigger, as they now are.

5) Small banks. President Obama didn’t address the smaller bank closings occurring because the big banks got disproportionate subsides;, 389 smaller banks (with $297 billion in assets) failed from 2009 to 2011. Like during the early years of the Great Depression, this means less choice for individuals, less loans for local businesses, and consolidation of influence and market share for the big banks – which comprise Obama’s largest bundling base.

6) Borrowers. Despite a few tepid programs to help homeowners, the sheer number of foreclosures is higher today than it was in 2008. There were a record number of foreclosure filings:  2.9 million in 2010 and 2.7 million in 2011.  These are predicted to rise in 2012 amidst default surges and more lender notices than in 2011. 

Why? Because Obama’s program (that was supposed to help 5 million borrowers, and helped half a million) had to be approved by the banks. Banks don’t like citizen aid programs, even if they screwed them to begin with by fueling a $14 trillion toxic asset pyramid repackaging risky (for people), high interest-bearing (for them). Obama said, “The banks will repay a deficit of trust”? What?! When?! Where?!

7) Recent regulator incompetence. Regulators looked the other way, Obama said, pre-crisis. But he mentioned nothing about the regulators giving a pass since; the SEC bestows banks settlements for fraudulent mortgage asset products, without extracting any admission of wrongdoing. He missed saying anything about the lack of related DOJ criminal indictments. The top five banks agreed to pay $1.149 billion to the SEC to settle subprime-mortgage related fraud charges, with no admission of guilt or criminal indictments. (The SEC settlement of $285 million with Citigroup was rejected by Judge Rakoff in November, 2011 and is being re-negotiated.) And Obama wants to create a Financial Crimes Unit? What’s the SEC supposed to be doing? or the DOJ? or the FBI?

8) MF Global and customer money. On the same topic – the deficit of trust thing: Obama avoided any talk about his buddy, Jon Corzine or MF Global, the nation’s eight largest bankruptcy. He didn’t point out how diabolical it was to use and ‘lose’ customer funds that were supposed to have been kept separate from bad bets. He didn’t suggest having a solid separation between customer money and financial firm money - as in - don't have it at the same firm. He claimed to ‘we will not bailout you out again” and yet, we still are.

9) Banks hoarding. Obama neglected to mention the $1.6 trillion that banks are stashing at the Fed in the form of excess (and interest-bearing) reserves, which do nothing for the Main Street economy. Meanwhile, small business loans are at a 12-year low, having shrunk continuously since 2008.

10) Obama conveyed that we dodged a bullet with getting the banking system under control. He didn’t note the rising risk in the banking system: the largest four US banks (JPM Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs) control nearly 95% of the US derivatives market, which has grown by 20% since just last year, to  $235 trillion JPM Chase holds 11% of the world’s derivative exposure, Citibank, Bank of America, and Goldman comprise about 7% each. Goldman has 537 times as many (from 440 times last year) derivatives as assets and it’s still considered a bank holding company (as per Bernanke) that gets federal backing.

In all, the President's speech was reminiscent of George Clooney’s in Ides of March. We’ve heard it all before, maybe with slightly different words: America lost 4 million jobs before I got here, and another 4 million before our policies went into effect, but in the last 12 months, we added 3 million job. We must reduce tax loopholes, and provide tax incentives to businesses that hire in America. We must reform taxes for the wealthy (though he signed an extension of Bush’s tax cuts.) We must train people for an apparent abundance of expert jobs. We need more clean energy initiatives.  We created regulations (big sigh of relief he didn’t use the word ‘sweeping’) to avoid fraudulent financial practices. We will help homeowners. Wall Street must ‘make up a trust deficit.”   Like Jamie Dimon cares. 

In other words, Obama gave Wall Street a pass, while waxing populace. Don’t get me wrong. I expected nothing different. I will continue to expect nothing different, when he gets a second term, given the lame duo the GOP favors his key contenders to be.

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I am hopeful that if he has a

I am hopeful that if he has a second term that he can accomplish many of the things outlined in his speech. He won't have to play politics in order to win another election and he can bring out the big guns. If the republicans aren't faced with pressures to defeat him they might even be more flexible and open to some positive changes. Now they are so desperate to defeat Obama and to get in office the state of the country is irrelevant to them. Contrary to other views here, I see a huge difference between him and the other contenders. I don't have much hope for this country if he is not re-elected.

"As I see it, the empire is

"As I see it, the empire is on a spiraling decline" In case you hadn't noticed, it started as far back as allowing a second-rate, has-been actor to front for the Corporatocracy and call himself President. EACH president since has done his bit for them. The only difference has been that the electorate has progressively seen through the corporate shills a little bit more with each passing term.

It no longer matters, if it ever did, who is "running the country" or what party he represents, the damage is done. The downward spiral lies ahead. NOTHING short of a revolution can effect enough of a change to slow down the slide.

The political system does not work. The economic system has stopped working. If you keep doing the same things over and over again, you cannot expect a different result.

Allen et el: Why is someone

Allen et el: Why is someone glad to be unimpressed with our American President's speech? I think it was of his best, and I hope to be impressed, pray to be impressed. What have you done? What risks have you taken for social justice? I will take Obama's three years of experience to all of the wantabe's negativity for this country, any day. 'Just say no' doesn't do it for me! Appeasement just may be a Trojan horse to finally get somethig done. Have you ever negotiated? What are your clever strategies to deal with the opposition? It isn't just black and white, and he is learning on the job...read the real results in depth please.

Great synopsis on SOTU. Both

Great synopsis on SOTU. Both parties work for the same people, I don't know how hard it is to understand that. Ven Diagrams made to show the BoDs of the main industries...can't get any clearer than that.

To the ignorant #OWSers who support Obama: if he really gave a crap about you, then why did he not mention you or decry the abuses we've suffered. He did decry the brutality against the Egypt protesters, that is, until the puppet dictator was installed, then he went mum.

Dear Ms. Nomi, Have a heart!

Dear Ms. Nomi,
Have a heart! Imagine yourself in his boots on January 04, 2009 when as a black/off-white President with the berthers trying to berth him and the about to implode Empire he had been made responsible for 'putting back together' Humpty Dumpty fashion by the same"all the King's men'' who had pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall in the first place, you would have done and not done the things he did and did not do. Apart from 10 point you feel he did not do, he did much and did the latter in a manner which has kept him physically alive up and until end of January 2012. That in itself is an achievement. Yes, he has failed but I am convinced that now that he has served his king makers enough, he has taken the big risk of telling them that he is going to metamorphose to an FDR type of New New Dealer, should the American 99% elects him to a second term. Can you expect the same from from any one of the 'motley' crowd on the Repugnant side.
As a 70 year old Pakistani I wish my countrymen were addressed in the same manner and with the same sincerity as Obama's SOTU. They would hav responded in a manner quite unlike yours, Ms. Nomi.

Obama has great ideas, a

Obama has great ideas, a fantastic delivery of those ideas, but, he does not have the balls to stand up and fight for them.

I don't know what you all

I don't know what you all heard, but I was very much inspired. I cringe at the thought of Romney or Gingrich for this post. You have to know President Obama cannot do every thing by himself - it would be nice to have some help from somewhere along the line. Just think what will happen if we can back to Bush times or the "R" thinking. I get up every morning the thank God for President Obama. You all can be pessimistic if you want - I chose for HOPE.

Here's a quote that lays it

Here's a quote that lays it all out by Sir Joesph Stamp,Bernakes counterpart in the Bank of England (Engish Federal Reserve) in the 1920's.

"Banking was concieved in iniquity and born in sin...
Bankers own the earth. Take it away from them but leave them the power
to create money, and with the flick of a pen, they will create enough
money to buy it back again.....
Take this great power away from them and all great fortunes like mine will
disappear, and they ought to disappear, for then this would be a better and
happier world to live in.... But if you want to be the slaves of bankers and
pay the cost of your own slavery, then let bankers continue to create
money and control credit."

Well Ms. Prins isn't going to

Well Ms. Prins isn't going to be drinking any coolaid because she's keeping her eye on the balance sheet. That is the sheet where actions are tallied against words, and I whole heartedly agree. Many of the same issues crossed my mind when listening last night leaving a taste of bile behind. Reading Ms. Prins column today reminded me of several events I would have missed; like the many failures of smaller banks not bailed out and unable to withstand the bubble burst. Great to have a financial watchdog deciphering some of the more complex issues for the public. The call to reel in the financial industry should be loud and clear. Regulations must be enacted to ensure a safe and fair market with major reforms being legislated. Hopefully this great recession does not spiral down to a depression,but I wouldn't bet against it. If it does then the call should be to end the power the financial sector holds over all national economies, and by projection the world's, by abolishing their control through the practice of fractional reserve banking and having the right to create and issue money. Want to know how the banks have the ultimate control over all facets of the economy? Google "The Money Masters" and watch the video.

I am inclined to say that

I am inclined to say that there were some high points of Mr. O's SOTU. Perhaps just not for Mr. O himself. Foremost is that Obama has begun using the rhetoric of #OWS in framing his economic arguments. (It isn't co-opting until we can catch him red handed blowing us off which should happen fairly soon). Now if we can just get him to incorporate the IDEAS of #OWS into his agenda, that would look like a success to me.

Even FDR wasn't THAT FDR until he got his second term. This president proved to be only slightly more disappointing than I had expected. He never really ran as a proxy for Kucinich or Bernie Sanders so if that was what you had hoped for, your disappointment was inevitable. I would have felt much better if he had used his golden shot, both houses of congress in Democratic hands before 2010, to stick it square in the eye of the republicators on issues like Gitmo and the public option. But Mr. O was never going to push those items through a congress that is only Democrat in name. Too many of these mooks are there providing quos for the quids supplied by the likes of Goldman Sachs, Exxon, Lockheed, Raytheon, Halliburton and so on and so on and so on and so on......... I can count on one hand the number who seem to genuinely reflect the will of their constituents or seem (with emphasis) to be acting in that regard. The problem I see going into this election cycle is what's the matter with Kansas. While prospective republican voters are musing over the automaton vs. the serial philanderer vs. the eagle scout with a merit badge in duplicity vs. the racist libetarian, the liberal left is gnashing teeth about how Mr. O did not turn out to be the liberal that they THOUGHT he was, (ignoring the fact that he never was). How does the liberal/prog movement in this country (NOT Obama or his proxies) get at the kind of voters that hold onto the ridiculous notion that they live in a "free market" system, that government can play no role in their lives that isn't inherently destructive, That all liberal philosophy ends with a fascist state and..... well...... you know the litany, right? How can the core philosophy of #OWS short circuit the propaganda machinery that keeps people voting against their own self interest? Tall order, I know. But that is the challenge. Not whether or not we can remake Obama into the next FDR (in his second term) and wouldn't that be nice?

Brarian64 must be some kind

Brarian64 must be some kind of masochist!

Goodness gracious... the sky

Goodness gracious... the sky must be falling. You seem to hear what you want to hear, with little thought... just nugatory nabobicism. Support for good thinking will be helpful; withdrawal from reality doesn't do anybody any good.

.

.

I have a few ideas: 1. Health

I have a few ideas:
1. Health insurance. Scrap what got passed and go with a public option. The
Republicans should applaud it - since it's the essence of capitalism, and
Dems should welcome it - since it would create a competitive market that
would help assure that the insurance companies would have to provide good
service in order to survive themselves.

2. Student loans:
The one thing no one brings into the conversation is that people CANNOT pay
off their student loans by paying a little more each month that would go
towards principal. That's the cornerstone that every good financial advisor
offers those trying to get a handle on their budgets. -Paying a little extra
towards principal is a cornerstone of getting oneself out of debt. But you
CAN'T PAY EXTRA on student loans and have it affect the bottom line - ALL
EXTRA MONIES PAID GOES STRICTLY TO INTEREST, NOT PRINCIPAL. So while you may
make your lender wealthier much more quickly, you do little to help yourself
out of the morass. The ONLY way you can "pay off your loan early" is to PAY
IT IN FULL. However, a loan to do this is a consumer loan, most of which
charge 7-9%, and then the interest isn't deductible. This structuring of
student loans is little more than indentured servitude. Obama et. al. can
talk all day about interest rates, but this SINGLE FACTOR will keep student
loans and debtors RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE NOW. No progress will be made.

3. The need to create jobs for EVERY AGE is imperative. Many youth who owe
student loans are being helped by their parents - we are. But if #2 is never
resolved, this one will never make headway. It's all a vicious cycle, based
on loan terms that were established by our friends, big banks.

4. Many of these big banks committed fraud and other crimes in pushing our
economy to the brink; they have protected their "too big to fail" position
consistently, and this administration assists them in that. INDIVIDUALS in
these banks that perpetrated fraud and committed crimes need to be
prosecuted. Merely allowing the banks themselves to pay fines - which are, by
the way, deductible, and allow the people in those positions to stay where
they are, untouched, needs to be changed. Obama's administration seems to
have a double standard for those who commit crimes: if you're rich, shame on
you, keep up the good work. If you're poor - you're prosecuted. That's
shameful at best, and gross miscarriage of his position as president and
justice at worst.  Bernanke and Geithner come from Wall Street. Just exactly
how objective does Obama expect them to be? Oh. Wait. He gets lots of
political funding from the Street, so keeping their water-carriers in place
works well for him as a politician. Shame on him as president.

5. Just as the large insurance companies shut down the small companies in the
early 90's with the "Worker Compensation fraud scandal" - that didn't exist
and was never proven - the big banks interest in shutting down competition is
the same. They and their lobbyists ensured that would be an "unhappy
collateral damage issue" with TARP, and Obama and his administration -
Bernanke and Geithner - all assisted in the murder. Because that's what it
was. They knew what they were doing and have no remorse whatsoever. Again -
solution is to get rid of B & G.  

6. Again, Obama and his banking buddies need to be called to account for
this. He should hang his head in shame each time he hears of another home
lost. But he doesn't. Just as with the student loan issue, he offers weak and
basically impracticable solutions. He's just saying what he wants people to
hear. Again, the banks need to be removed from it. But he doesn't have the
leadership or the balls. But it would be a solution that would work. Nice he
can go to Martha's Vineyard for vacation with his family so he doesn't have
to see the empty homes and eyes of his and the banks' victims. He's a social
climber in its worst form and words are cheap.

7. Essentially, nothing has changed. Again - Obama is all hot air and
placation speeches, but no action or bite. His idea of leadership is so
horribly misshapen, it makes me shudder. In places like this where he needs
to step up and be a strong leader - he starts being "the professor" and
intellectualizing it into oblivion, and nothing substantive gets done. He's a
Republican, big biz and Wall Street placator and I dread the next four years
under his presidency. History will show him to have been one of our worst, I
have little doubt. It's already judging his first term and it's coming up
wanting. Again - the solution here is for him to grow some brass and start
pushing thru and supporting regulators. I won't hold my breath. BTW - the SEC
has no teeth, by and large. I pursued a complaint with them and after lots of
time and being told I was right, they then told me that couldn't really DO
anything though. Thank congress for that. Toothless regulatory agencies
should just be done away with. Good way to cut the budget...

8. Again - the only solution to these and so many similar situations is for
Obama to finally be ashamed enough to actually stand up and be a real leader
and call it honestly. He doesn't and he won't. He wants to continue to
vacation in Martha's Vineyard...

9. Not only are banks hoarding, but the team of B & G, with Obama's
knowledge, I'm sure, continue to loan them (and overseas governments like
Ireland) massive amounts of in no-interest loans. -While US taxpayers can't
BEG a loan and if they get one, the interest rates are staggering! So long as
the US Treasury isn't subject to audit and being called on the carpet for
their misdeeds, the banks aren't going to stop and neither will B & G. The
concept of ethics and fairness do not play well in the corridors of the
treasury or the White House. It's all smoke and mirrors - as proven by the
lack of purposeful steps being taken to stop this debacle.

10. Obama's hearing rumors of success that is far exaggerated and grossly
mistaken. To say it's pure rationalization is understatement. The fact that
he would even bring it up is mind-numbing in its arrogance. -

And all of this is summed up in that one word: arrogance.

The arrogance of Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Biz, Big Banks, B & G and Obama.
Obama in particular seems to think that the citizenry whom he 'leads' doesn't
"fully appreciate the nuances" that he and his folks deal with. And that's
the definition of HUBRIS. I thought George Jr. and Cheney had it, but Obama
seems to be outstripping them in that department.

The fact that we, as US citizens are left with a choice of a Richey-rich, an
admitted philanderer who had the nerve to call his ex-wife's interview
"tawdry" while apparently forgetting his own behavior that instigated that
interview, and an arrogant law professor who has to work at communicating
with the 'little people' is nauseating. I've gone from supporting Mr. Obama
to much preferring Mr. Paul. He may be loony - and perhaps even certifiable -
but he's the only one in the field that's honest and "what you see is what
you get." That's a quality that is abjectly missing from all the
above-mentioned and all those politicians who weren't. They have begun to
give the reputation of lawyers a real run for the money.

"equals one total

"equals one total uninspiring" -- heard of adverbs? and oh, that missing noun.
"populace" is not the same as "populist"
"It turned out that my pre-determination proved accurate." -- preconception, maybe?
"the same sense of same déjà vu" -- is there an extra "same" in there, or is there a distinction between "same déjà vu" and some other kind?

I do not disagree with the sentiments, but DO wish I didn't have to read past mangled English in order to get to them.

I wish I didn't have to read

I wish I didn't have to read past this to find thoughtful comments...

Nonclassical, please have

Nonclassical, please have your hearing or your attitude checked. Our President did NOT say we no longer have troops in Iraq. He said, ". . . we no longer have troops FIGHTING in Iraq." He did NOT say Hussein is no longer a threat, he said, "... after 20 years, Osama Bin Ladin is no longer a threat." I'd say you probably heard what you were predisposed to hear. You must listen to Fox Noise a lot.

This pretty much sums it up:

This pretty much sums it up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDDRiGIUYQo

C'mon guys, give Obama a

C'mon guys, give Obama a break. Do you want a Republican to win in 2012? Support Obama!

Nomi, I think you mean

Nomi, I think you mean "populist" when you're using the word "populace."

C'mon Brarian64....Even if

C'mon Brarian64....Even if he's ineffective? That's just being foolish.

Just wondering if you have

Just wondering if you have any better ideas than President Obama put forth? I would much rather support unity in facing these issues. When are we going to realize that it will take the co-operation of all our citizens and the people they elect to reverse what greed and diversity have engendered for the past couple of years. As the Occupy movement has proven, there is great power in 'agreement'.

Considering both Bushbama's

Considering both Bushbama's first two statements were sneaky LIES-"There are no
U.S. troops remaining in Iraq"-attempt to avoid private military contractors-hundreds of thousands...

AND "For the first time in 30 years Saddam Hussein is not a threat"...for at least half that time Saddam was U.S. proxy=ally against Iran, complete with U.S. intel and chemical weapons..

..the speech was an abject failure-turned it off after first 5 minutes=propaganda..

Well Nonclassical...... If

Well Nonclassical...... If you turned the the address off after the first five minutes, how are you so sure that it was an abject failure? Do you always leave the theater before the second act has even started and then go on to review the movie anyway?

Norman Allen's picture

I am glad to read that

I am glad to read that someone else was as unimpressed as I was. Mr. O. just continues to appease the status quo as "Rome" is burning. In the current political scene of leaders, those who seem to have a solution for our nations problems are Professor Reich, Krugman, Nobel Laureate Economist, and Congressman Kucinich. Unfortunately, they are not the dominant players in fixing the maladies. As I see it, the empire is on a spiraling decline, those who can afford to save it are mentally fixed on hoarding wealth and power (for no reason than just fixated on the idea of having more of the unnecessary assets) emphasizing militarism (a consuming force producing nothing but mayhem). IT IS THE ECONOMY, not the military that is the savior of modern nations.

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