The man who said he was going to challenge the system, fight corporate lobbyists and change the system now appears to be fighting for the status quo and corporate America at every turn. I call the Republican Party a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America, but now Barack Obama is not far behind. Let me explain.
On health care reform, Obama on the surface appears to be challenging the status quo in a major way and fighting for universal coverage. But what does that mean? The way the Senate bill is written now 30 million new Americans will get insurance coverage. That's great, right? Yes, it's great for the private insurance companies. They get all of those new customers and with the help of Barack Obama they defeated any new competition from a public option or expanded Medicare. And now there's a mandate that everyone must buy insurance from those same companies that Obama was supposedly challenging. Change you can believe in!
You might be thinking, wait a minute that was Lieberman who insisted that we kill the public option and protect the corporations. Yes, but there'll always be Liebermans in the world. Obama told us that he would fight for us against the corporate sell-outs of the world like Lieberman. And he most certainly did not. Instead, he ordered the other Senate Democrats to stand down and bow their heads to Lieberman. That's because Obama never wanted the public option. While claiming in public that he thought it was a good idea, behind the scenes he fought to kill it at every turn.
I wasn't predisposed to think this. I voted for Obama and really did think he was going to bring us some degree of change. I gave him the benefit of the doubt in a hundred different ways. But every time the public option came up, he sent Rahm Emanuel out to knock it down. But it's not just the public option.
The drug industry also received massive protection from the Obama administration. Some people think Obama is weak and that he can't enforce his will on stubborn senators. That's not true. When Byron Dorgan introduced a bill that would allow drug importation from Canada, Obama came down like a ton of bricks on Democratic senators and switched a huge number of votes so that in the end the drug industry won. That cost the American taxpayer nearly $100 billion in the next ten years alone. Score another victory for Barack Obama, Inc.
I could go on and on about the health care bill and tell you dozens of ways that corporate America was protected and how more customers were funneled their way. But there are so many other issues on which Obama has sold out to corporate America that I want to get to those as well. The biggest one being so-called financial reform.
There are so many loopholes in the Obama administration proposals for financial reform that you could drive a campain bus through them. The main problem is regulating derivatives. But instead of banning what Warren Buffet calls financial weapons of mass destruction, or even regulating them, Obama has proposed that we merely note them. Wow.
But even that didn't happen. Instead, there are two huge loopholes (one for end-users and one for foreign currency swaps, both pushed by the Obama administration) in the so-called requirement to report derivative trades so that in the end it appears 90% of derivatives will not even be reported. Change you can believe in!
How about taxing bonuses like England and France have done? Obama fought against it. How about re-instituting Glass-Steagall like John McCain of all people has suggested (you know you're a corporate sell-out when McCain outflanks you on the left)? Obama fought against it. How about regulating credit default swaps like Paul Volcker has suggested? Obama fought against it.
Nearly every financial reform proposed has been either killed or watered down by this administration. Whenever someone suggests real reform, Geithner gets sent out to say it can't be done. Tim Geithner and Rahm Emanuel aren't doing this on their own. Their boss is giving them their marching orders -- protect corporate America at every turn.
On climate change, Obama is threatening to use the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. According to all the reporting coming out of Washington, this is a threat to try to get Congress to pass a mild form of legislation instead. The House version of this bill is already ridiculously weak and the Senate will only make it worse. Corporate America's win on this issue will be even more impressive.
Right now, the legislation is not even close to making out of the Senate. So, will Obama follow through on his threat and have the EPA regulate? Hell to the no. Given the course he's on, I guarantee he doesn't use the EPA (if he really wanted action, he would have already used the EPA; what's he waiting on?). So, now if you think I'm over-reacting we'll have a gauge by which to test my theory.
Then there are other issues where Obama has been far, far less progressive than he promised on the campaign. I'm probably more angry about his cave in on civil liberties than any other issue. He's continuing Bush and Cheney's clearly un-American policy of indefinite detentions and clearly unconstitutional invasions of privacy through national security letters. The Patriot Act is largely unchanged. And we haven't even gotten to the escalation of the Afghanistan War (but at least that was promised in the campaign).
But I don't put the civil liberties and the wars in the same equation as the other issues I mentioned. Why? Because it's one thing if I disagree with your policies and principles, if they are genuinely held. Ok, that's a sad day for me but doesn't necessarily indicate that you're wrong or unprincipled (no matter how much I might disagree with you). What I mind is the give-aways to corporate lobbyists that have nothing to do with your principles and have everything to do with politics and money. What I mind is when you sell out the American people to protect corporate America. I hate it when the Republicans do it and pretend to be for the little guy. And I hate it when this administration does it and pretends to be for change.
Maybe I should just get used to it. Money runs the world and no matter what a politician -- any politician -- promises you, they're going to do what their corporate overlords told them in the end. But I don't want to get used to it. I want to fight it. I'm not Barack Obama. I actually have hope that we can in fact change the system. That's the change I believe in and the change that Barack Obama has definitely not delivered so far.