Afghanistan

Trouble on Obama's Left

|

Over at Truthdig there are multiple grumblings about the president. First from Chris "American Fascists" Hedges:

The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country's future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.

Next up Robert "The Great American Stick-up" Scheer:

A president has only so much capital to expend, both in tax dollars and public tolerance, and Barack Obama is dangerously overdrawn. He has tried to have it all on three fronts, and his administration is in serious danger of going bankrupt. […]

[W]hat is nerve-racking about Obama is that even though he campaigned against Bush's follies he has now embraced them. He hasn't yet managed to significantly reduce the U.S. obligation in Iraq and has committed to making a potentially costlier error by ratcheting up America's "nation-building" role in Afghanistan.

Just as he was burdened with the Afghanistan situation, Obama was saddled with a banking crisis he didn't cause, and the worst that can be said of his attempted solutions to the financial mess is that they were inherited from Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. But Obama, who raised questions before his election about the propriety of a plan that would rescue the banks but ignore the plight of ordinary folks, has adopted that very approach as president. He elevated Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, the two Democrats most closely aligned with Paulson's policy, to top positions in his government.

Advertisement

NEXT: Thank God The Kids Will Pay For Health Reform

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans” “He will not end our wars.”

    Could not the majority of what of Mr Hedges (a commentator of whom I am unfamiliar) wrote in his article have very well come from the pen of a Libertarian?

  2. “The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.”

    I would imagine that I disagree with this guy on virtually everything. But honestly, I can’t argue with him here. That is exactly right. Obama is a fraud.

  3. In other words, it’s easier to campaign than it is to govern.

  4. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations.

    What’s with the “although?” There’s no other kind of socialism.

  5. Yes Ed. And the more your campaign is based on lies and bullshit, the harder it is to govern. Obama knew good and well that he wasn’t going to touch that Patriot Act. He understands that there are reasons behind it and that Bush and Congress didn’t pass it because they wanted to create a police state. Rather than being honest and proposing realistic reforms. He lied to his supporters and made them think he intended to change it.

  6. You know, corporations are no more unified than the public in general, so this corporate bogeyman nonsense is, well, nonsense. I don’t get the left on this issue. Unless all businesses march in lockstep, the claim that a president is “serving corporate interests” is foolish. Not to mention that the emphasis on the word “corporation” misses a lot of other businesses that also wield influence.

    Sure, most politicians are vaguely pro-business, because any other position would tank the economy, given the power the government has to regulate and otherwise meddle in industry. But that doesn’t mean that they’re all screwing the little guy for giant corporations run by guys wearing top hats.

  7. In other words, it’s easier to campaign than it is to govern.

    I’d say about the same.

  8. Pro,

    Big corporations, as opposed to small ones, are very connected. They use their influence to rob the treasury and crush their competition.

    The reality is that leftist feel good regulations help big corporations since they are better able to cope with them than small business. What is funny is not that Leftists rage against big corporations. It is that Leftists do big corporations bidding in the name of helping the little guy.

  9. You know, corporations are no more unified than the public in general,

    Was it Walter Karp who pointed out that one corporation is best served by higher prices for X, but another is clearly served by lower prices for it, and the govt sides with whichever corp would then be more dependent on govt if it intervened?

  10. If by corporations Hedges means incorporated unions, then he hits the nail on the head.

  11. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Walter_Karp/Indispensable_Enemy_IE.html

    “… To avoid the suspicion of fundamental collusion, the party oligarchs like to pretend, for example, that the Democrats favor the trade unions while the Republicans favor the corporations. Actually both parties favor and protect both giant special interests. That the corporations are more likely to finance the Republican hierarchy and the trade unions the Democratic machine signifies nothing except a fair splitting of the loot; neither party organization stands to gain if the other party organization is impoverished. Before the trade unions became wealthy on a national scale, privileged trusts and banking interests had the burden of financing both party syndicates.”

  12. Corporations, labor unions, “public interest” groups…they all wield a certain political influence, but in the end it’s individual voters in our republic who determine the winners in the power game. A nation’s politics is a reflection of its people’s philosophy. That’s what’s so glorious and dangerous about our national “experiment.”

  13. “stanch?” Damn, you don’t hear that one very often.

  14. Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer, racists.

  15. It amazes me how both sides throw around the term “Fascist”. Each side accuses the other with such relative ease. The term has taken on such a wide variety of meanings, it’s difficult to even begin to nail down exactly what it stands for anymore. At one time it was relatively simple; Hitler, Mussolini. It is just a fear mongering term in the rich tradition of Sen. Joe McCarthy.

  16. The term has taken on such a wide variety of meanings, it’s difficult to even begin to nail down exactly what it stands for anymore.

    It stands for you, you fascist.

    And I’m somewhat amused the hard left has taken this long to wake up and realize Obama is Bush redux. WTF have they been doing for the past 8 months?

  17. But Obama, who raised questions before his election about the propriety of a plan that would rescue the banks but ignore the plight of ordinary folks, has adopted that very approach as president. He elevated Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, the two Democrats most closely aligned with Paulson’s policy, to top positions in his government.

    The President lacks imagination, and any real substantive understanding of what’s going on? He’s committed to the status quo?

    Shocked, I am.

  18. I keep hearing about some movie exposing the monstrous evilness of Teh Corporashunz.

    I should watch it, some day. I am obviously in dire need of re-education.

  19. It stands for you, you fascist.

    Then I shall wear it with honor.

  20. Maybe it was Gabriel Kolko:

    http://tmh.floonet.net/articles/strombrg.html

    What Gabriel Kolko shows in The Triumph of Conservatism and Railroads and Regulation is that, contrary to popular belief, most of the Progressive legislation regulating business activity was promoted by Big Businessmen themselves in order: (1) to avoid local, populistic regulation; and, (2) to “rationalize” (i.e., cartellize) the economy at the expense of smaller competitors and the consumers. By examining the steel, telephone, oil, and other industries, Kolko shows that at the turn of the century decentralization and vigorous competition were the main trends in the American economy and that the attempts by would-be monopolists to gain a chokehold on the marketplace failed in the abortive Merger Movement of 18971901.12 As competition persistently undercut such private efforts to achieve stability and predictability (and long-term profits), corporate “liberals” of Big Business sought industry by industry federal laws to limit the subversive effects of open competition.
    Such an interpretation goes against the grain of much American historiography, but Kolko points out that “(o)nly if we mechanistically assume that government intervention in the economy, and a departure from orthodox laissez-faire, automatically benefits the general welfare can we say that government economic regulation by its very nature is also progressive in the common meaning of that term.”13 Only by investigating the intent and consequences of regulatory laws can the historian assess the inner nature of Progressivism and modern Liberalism. In these two respects, Kolko writes that “the regulatory movements were usually initiated by the dominant businesses to be regulated” and that the regulatory commissions and bureaus were controlled by “leaders of the regulated industries.”14 Thus, to take one example, the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 turns out to have been initiated by large meat packers who favored it because “it primarily affected their innumerable small competitors.”15 The result of such measures was an economic “triumph of conservatism” by means of what Kolko calls “political capitalism”: the conscious use of the State to favor established interests against the “irrationality” and “cutthroat competition” of the unhampered marketplace.16

  21. Woah, trouble in paradise huh? heh, heh, heh.

  22. I would take the left’s problems with Obama more seriously if they had been protesting him with us a year ago. For them to start complaining now. at this late date, makes anything they have to say suspect.

  23. Johnny Longtorso

    Nice passage. Being a small business owner I can appreciate it. I especially liked the part about “stability and predictability”. I can understand a business’s desire for that, since, most likely, there’s an underlying business plan or model that needs to be adhered to, but, what makes a good business is the ability to foresee and adopt to changing economic conditions. So, in reality, a well run business doesn’t necessarily need stability in the economy (within reason).

  24. I’m reserving judgment on the level of control industry has over Obama until the health bill is passed. If it is a big christmas present to the insurance industry, it will be disheartening. But having them at the proverbial table isn’t necessarily a bad thing: if they’re at the table they’re not out running ads against him. The sad truth is our government shares power with industry. Coming into office with no intention of negotiating with the other powers that control this country would very likely result in nothing getting done at all.

    That being said, thanks for acknowledging that the left isn’t a bunch of kool-aid drinking Obamabots. Since day one they’ve been critical of Obama when appropriate.

  25. Well put, SugarFree. I’ve seen too many leftists go from “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” too “YOU CAN’T CRITICIZE THE PRESIDENT THAT’S UNPATRIOTIC YOU’RE JUST BITTER OVER LOSING THE ELECTION SHUT UP AND JUST LET OBAMA DO HIS JOB, YOU RACIST ASSHOLEZ!”

  26. Hhahaaa!! That’s hillarious Tony! What a kidder you are.

  27. …would very likely result in nothing getting done at all.

    And that’s bad because…? If the government had done nothing with regards to the banking crisis, instead of ending up with an even greater consolidation of banks, we’d most likely have stronger small and medium sized banks, loaning money with their newly found, “cheap” assets. Sure, it would have been a horrendous shock to the system, but if managed properly, it would have been short lived and not be stretched out, leading to another bout with stagflation (but that has yet to be seen).

  28. If the government had done nothing with regards to the banking crisis, instead of ending up with an even greater consolidation of banks, we’d most likely have stronger small and medium sized banks, loaning money with their newly found, “cheap” assets. Sure, it would have been a horrendous shock to the system, but if managed properly, it would have been short lived and not be stretched out, leading to another bout with stagflation (but that has yet to be seen).

    The other point I have tried to make, with varying degrees of success, is that if our financial system is vulnerable to a cascade stemming from the failure of a single institution, something is dreadfully wrong. Propping up the vulnerable entities instead of letting them fail is not doing anything to correct the systemic problems. Let it fail, see how everything else reacts, and then figure out to fix it.

    Of course, avoiding moral hazard by refusing to subsidize the losses would have a been a peachy side effect from doing nothing, too.

  29. I love the gist of Tony’s post:

    “Sure, once the health-care bill passes it might turn out that it’s just a big pay-off for health-care industry interests and does nothing to help consumers. Better that, though, than nothing at all!”

  30. I’m reserving judgment on the level of control industry has over Obama until the health bill is passed. If it is a big christmas present to the insurance industry,

    Tony, I would think that requiring everyone to buy insurance, with big taxpayer subsidies for the poor, is about the biggest Christmas present the insurance industry could hope for.

  31. Of course, avoiding moral hazard by refusing to subsidize the losses would have a been a peachy side effect from doing nothing, too.

    Well, if given a choice, I would say it better to subsidize the losses (to a degree), and the resulting unemployed, than giving out billions in direct subsidies to the financial institutions, who most likely, as a result, have not learned their lesson,and now have little or no fear of bankruptcy.

    And there has been no talk of the recommendations of Sheila Bair and the ICBA to break up the “too big to fail exist”. But government intervention into forcing companies to divest may not sit well with Libertarians. I suppose it would be better to just let the big ones fail, and remove some of the restrictions to small banks and barriers to start ups.

  32. R C Dean,

    I agree. That’s why I favor medicare for all. Barring that, a foot in the door with a public option. I won’t hide my desire to see medicare for all at some point.

  33. “The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations.”

    From MODERN LIBERALISM AT WIT’S END:

    Recall how he spoke of an ideology that “resembles that of communism.” Indeed: a crafted mythology as official history; government growth as a declared inevitability; administration of the masses economically (professedly to benefit the lower classes, really to establish a political elite); the use of the term socialization to denote usurpation by the State of the institutions of society; the invocation of “wrecker” saboteurs (“reactionaries” and “conservatives”) to prove that statism never fails, but is only failed; militarism in the service of “pacification.” Corporate socialism and Communist socialism are of course not twin totalitarianisms, but they are kindred Orwellianisms: Fantasy is Reality — reality, fantasy.

  34. Tony, I’m curious about your level of trust of government. Your insurance company has wide latitude with respects to your health data. A government plan for everyone means the government is the holder of your medical information, CPTs, ICD9s, Labs, ect.

    Would you have a problem if the feds raided someone’s house because they told their doctor they smoke pot and the doc put a 405.xx (Cannabis dependence) code for a diagnosis?

  35. And how do you justify a national health insurance/medicare for all system, in light of the past “successes” of government programs and their efficiency and budgets?

    How do you justify taking more of my ability to choose what I pay for, than already is? How do you justify a top down mandate to determine how much a person should be paid for their time and services?

    I could keep going, but I think that is enough to start.

  36. how do you justify a national health insurance/medicare for all system, in light of the past “successes” of government programs and their efficiency and budgets?

    Medicare is more efficient than the private sector, and cheaper: it doesn’t have to spend money paying CEO bonuses, on advertising, and bribing the government for favors. I realize government inefficiency is a matter of faith here, but I believe it’s only inefficient when its custodians want it to be, to prove how inefficient it is. Somehow, though, it manages to ensure your access to safe food and water, roads, fire and police protection, armed forces, healthcare for the poor and elderly, universal education, among a host of other things. I’m sure inefficiencies exist–but I don’t see why inefficiency is a given.

    How do you justify taking more of my ability to choose what I pay for, than already is? How do you justify a top down mandate to determine how much a person should be paid for their time and services?

    It’s a curious definition of freedom you have. What would you rather have: freedom to possess a few dollars in would-be tax money, or freedom from having to worry about whether an illness or accident will bankrupt you?

  37. Medicare is NOT cheaper than a private insurance. The costs are hidden in your taxes. But it does exercise price controls that pay much less than cost. The difference is eaten by private insurers, employers, or providers. If there are no private insurers or employers to absorb the costs (or just any one)you will quickly put providers out of business. Or enslave them to care for you. Or just limit what care is available. Thus basically crippling the industry from providing the necessary care. i.e. rationing.

  38. In addition, private health care is MORE expensive than it would be without Medicare/Medicaid due to the above reasons.

    I didn’t want to assume you’d draw that conclusion yourself.

  39. As to Tony’s question, I’d prefer to purchase my low cost health insurance from a private insurer that’s forced into keeping his prices low and efficiency high because he’s competing on an open market, and I can do a cost/benefit analysis myself by looking at the options.

  40. Medicare is more efficient than the private sector, and cheaper:

    Maybe, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Many of the costs of administering Medicare are off of Medicare’s books because they are handled by other government agencies, such as the IRS. Also, Medicare imposes enormous costs on the system via the voluminous and incomprehensible Medicare regulations.

  41. The other point I have tried to make, with varying degrees of success, is that if our financial system is vulnerable to a cascade stemming from the failure of a single institution, something is dreadfully wrong. Propping up the vulnerable entities instead of letting them fail is not doing anything to correct the systemic problems. Let it fail, see how everything else reacts, and then figure out to fix it.

    Absolutely. Events that we could not foresee may have prevented it from happening as cleanly as we would like, but that would have been the result in the long term.

    What just kills me about this, is the bailout especially did not make sense in liberal terms of argument, and the Democrats were on board with it even before the Republicans were (recall it required a second vote because the Republicans and some Democrats squashed it in the House).

    If the goal is a Night Watchman state where the state is the guardian of equal access and there are no predetermined winners or losers but everyone is guaranteed at least a minimum outcome, than TARP flies into the face of all of that.

    In the pragmatic since, even if unemployment would have climbed to higher levels without TARP, (something I don’t believe, but let us take it as a given) it would have been far cheaper for the government to cut more checks for unemployment and food stamps than it would have been to pass TARP. Not to mention the insult to injury Porkulus bill.

    For the vast majority of these Republicrats, corporatism comes before principle.

  42. R C Dean,
    Not to mention Medicare is subject to plenty of fraud and waste, in part thanks to it’s “lack” of administrative costs.

  43. OMG Tony!!!! Are you channeling Chad AKA Brainy Smurf?

    Put your nose back in “It Takes a [Smurf] Village”.

    I truly cannot believe you, with a straight(gay) face, type this drivel, much less believe it.

    Slaver.

  44. “””it doesn’t have to spend money paying CEO bonuses, on advertising, and bribing the government for favors.”””

    A government plan would most likely require you to enroll into a 3rd party managed care plan which would not give you much, if any of the savings you’re talking about. It would be a cash cow for insurers.

  45. The main reason our financial system is vulnerable to cascading collapse is fractional-reserve banking. Pretty much all banks are functionally insolvent. All a bank failure does is bring the fact to light.

  46. “It’s a curious definition of freedom you have. What would you rather have: freedom to possess a few dollars in would-be tax money, or freedom from having to worry about whether an illness or accident will bankrupt you?”

    I would prefer that my health insurance be based on a contract that I enter into voluntarily, not one that is forced on me, and in which the other party can change the terms when it suits them, as national healthcare systems can, and often do. You’re strawmanning while simultaneously positing an Pollyanna view of the results of your own proposal.

    You, Tony, are the fucktard of the week.

  47. Not too mention, if Medicare’s so efficient, why is Barack Obama claiming that he can save enough money not to raise taxes significantly by cutting out “waste and fraud” in Medicare, without reducing coverage?

    Well, OK, it could be because Barack Obama is full of shit, but for the sake of the argument…

  48. Ah, so my definition of freedom is curious…Hah.

    Thanks economist for your excellent rebuttal. I have no need to add to it.

  49. Actually, the way private insurance is run isn’t all that efficient, either. According to some reports, 33 cents of every dollar spent goes to admin costs. And when dealing with individuals and small businesses, that number jumps to 40 cents. I don’t know of too many industries that can tolerate that kind of overhead, and still provide a quality, affordable product.

    I’m sure an argument can be made that some of those admin costs go towards dealing with regulations, but that argument would only go so far. My former doctor had 3-4 administrators in his office, and he was the only doctor.

  50. How much of the money that gets put into any government run programs budget, is pruned out before it even gets there? If you compare the actual budgets of government run programs, with private, you aren’t including all of the costs on the government side unless you include the costs incurred by the IRS, congress, and the whole ridiculously inefficient governing system. Additionally, private insurance inefficiencies are driven up by government regulation, taxation, and especially, restrictions on competition.

    Which is why people like myself endorse getting as much government out of the picture as we can manage. Allow us to purchase across state borders, stop mandating coverage I don’t want, stop interfering in the process with bad, and entirely too expensive taxation.

    If you want to fix the health care system for those who can’t afford insurance, do the above, and encourage communities to open up free or graduated cost clinics. Combine that with HSP’s, and reduced cost, HDHP’s, and nearly everyone will be covered. At least that want to be.

  51. Obama ran on the Robin Hood platform. He convinced the poor he will take from the rich and give to them. Once it sinks in that he will be taxing them too, he’ll have big trouble on the left. But I have a feeling that it’s not going to sink in before it’s too late.

  52. The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations.

    There’s another word for that. But it escapes me at the moment.

  53. I’m reserving judgment on the level of control industry has over Obama until the health bill is passed.

    Obama is enabling a 30% tariff on Chinese made tires. Which industry do you think is behind that?

    Obama and the Democrats, the undisputed president and party of corporate welfare.

  54. What would you rather have: freedom to possess a few dollars in would-be tax money, or freedom from having to worry about whether an illness or accident will bankrupt you?

    Both, thanks. Lower taxes will enable to buy my own insurance.

  55. “Obama and the Democrats, the undisputed president and party of corporate welfare.”

    may I recommend “a new history of Leviathan”

  56. “Sure, most politicians are vaguely pro-business, because any other position would tank the economy, given the power the government has to regulate and otherwise meddle in industry. But that doesn’t mean that they’re all screwing the little guy for giant corporations run by guys wearing top hats.”

    Never mind all those bailouts to banks (700 trillion TARP etc.). What you think government is bailing out giant corporations? You must be crazy ….

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.