I voted for Obama in the Democratic primary, because I figured Hillary Clinton was more likely to expand the war in Afghanistan and otherwise engage in the sort of misguided military adventure favored by the shrub. Look what happened. He appointed Clinton Secretary of State, and then sent even more troops into Afghanistan than Bush Jr. would have dared consider. Don’t even get me started about his Mideast policy and spineless cave-in on Israeli settlements. Remember Guantanamo? He’s commander-in-chief, could shut this illegal abomination down whenever he wants to, instead he intends to keep it open indefinitely. Again, W would have closed the place by now and moved on. The fact that Obama was given a Nobel Peace Prize is some sort of sick joke.
On the domestic front, let’s face it: Obama has been a disaster for the country, moving it farther to the right than it has been at any time since perhaps a period of a few years sometime back in the 19th century. He has pursued policies more or less in line with those of Bush, confusing and neutering moderates and progressives (who don’t dare criticize him). Based on his inspiring speeches, they thought they had elected a community organizer, but are slowly realizing that they’ve been had, with the White House now in the hands of a Bush clone interested not in fighting powerful interests but in playing golf with them. By doing this, he has pushed the Republican opposition so far to the right that they’ve descended into lunacy, and ensured that he’ll should have no trouble winning re-election in 2012. The only threat to him is that of the rise of a populist/fascist movement, motivated by blind hatred and the (accurate) feeling that they are being driven into poverty by a ruthless Ivy-league-educated establishment with a lock on the political and financial system of the country. At the Harvard Club in midtown there’s a huge new portrait of him set in a prominent place as you enter the building. The establishment lawyers and financial types who congregate there know that he’s their man.
The military budget is now significantly higher than during the Bush years, and taxes on the wealthy even lower (taxes on large estates are lower than under Bush). While Bush expanded Medicare significantly to cover prescription drugs, Obama’s health plan was written in partnership with those responsible for the problem (high costs): doctors, insurance and pharmaceutical companies. The great innovation seems to be to expand access to medical care by forcing people who can’t afford it to buy insurance from rapacious insurance companies. Obama’s choice for Fed Chairman: same guy as the one Bush had running his Council of Economic Advisers, before moving on to the Fed and presiding over the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. If there’s any difference between Obama’s treasury secretary (Geithner) and Bush’s (Paulson), I’m unable to see it and haven’t met anyone who can. Geithner is now in charge of gutting the few minor reforms that were passed in the aftermath of the crisis, while institutionalizing a system of government backing for too-big-to-fail financial firms of sizes expanded since the Bush years. The organized looting of these firms by their employees that brought on the mess of 2008 is now back in full-swing.
Next year’s presidential campaign is predicted to cost a billion dollars, which Obama has already started raising from the financial industry and other interest groups. He faces no progressive or moderate opposition at all, with the only question to be resolved that of exactly how extreme his Republican opponent will be. I’ll be covering all this here on the blog, but on days when I don’t get around to giving you my thoughts on what is happening, two other places you might want to consult are FireDogLake and Naked Capitalism