Barack Obama has shown himself to be a progressive voice for change in America, a champion for the advancement of our nation and its citizens to build a brighter future for all. At least in his speeches that is what he’s shown himself to be. I believe it’s what made us fall for the man during an incredible 2008 campaign where he seemingly rose above the attacks against him and demonstrated an unflappable coolness and the ability to inspire passion in those who heard him speak. But in practice, Barack Obama is a moderately conservative, deal-making politician who for all intents and purposes, is a Republican-Lite.
He has continued the Bush-era tactics on the abuse of detainees. He has continued the Bush-era tactics on warrantless surveillance. He has escalated the Afghanistan war while working on how to keep our forces in Iraq. He orders the use of Drone attacks in Pakistan and Libya–essentially assassinating people—even in the face of continued civilian casualties.
He extended the Bush Tax Cuts, which he said he would not do, even though they were set to expire on their own, after succumbing to Republican pressure from the House of Representatives. When the Republican House threatened to shut down the government, Obama threatened to veto a temporary spending measure because it didn’t resolve the issues, but ultimately Obama capitulated and signed a budget that had what he said were the deepest spending cuts in US budget history. During the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 he conceded to no increases in revenue, even though he repeatedly said revenue increases in the form of tax increases were required as a part of a balanced approach to resolving the matter. The government continues to bleed money from unsustainable deficit spending while the wealthiest Americans enjoy the lowest tax rates in over 50 years.
In his one signature progressive accomplishment—health care reform–he accepted a watered down compromise that is already facing legal challenges that will ultimately dismantle it as District and Appeals Courts have ruled that Congress overstepped its authority in mandating that Americans purchase health insurance coverage. A true progressive would have argued that now is the time to bring an end to the bankrupting costs of medical care, which forces more Americans into bankruptcy than any other financial issue. He would have argued for universal health coverage for all Americans, and raised the successful models of other nations’ programs as the programs to emulate. Instead, he allowed Tea Party mobs to have the limelight in town hall meetings around the country, creating an atmosphere of fear and ultimately producing a law that neither fixes the problem we face, nor is likely to stand up to Supreme Court review.
In dealing with the members of the opposing party, Obama has yielded to the most conservative elements of the Republican Party, forcing him further to the right than he already is. It is difficult to imagine that anyone can be as poor of a negotiator as Barack Obama, so it stands to reason that while he may have ended up conceding more to the Republicans than his more moderate temperament would have liked, it is likely closer to where he stands ideologically than the more liberal elements of his own Party.
As huge corporations like General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Bank of America and others use loopholes to avoid paying any Federal Income Tax, the President has been silent. However in 2009, he had vowed to slam shut these offshore tax loopholes. Either this is the most silent fight to ever be waged or the Obama Administration has yet to put on its boxing gloves.
In slightly more than a year, the American people will witness another battle for the White House. The Republican field is chock full of conservative ideologues who will be bankrolled by unprecedented spending from the newly unleashed power of corporations, who the Supreme Court has said have First Amendment rights, just like individuals, to spend their own money on political campaigns if they so choose. There is no telling what kind of spending will come from the business community and perhaps that is why we’ve never heard another word from President Obama about closing corporate tax loopholes. We’ve heard not a peep about the injustice of US corporations incorporating offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying not their fair share, but even a dollar of US taxes. Nigh a whimper has been uttered about the 1,470 US millionaires who paid no Federal Income Taxes in 2009. Not one note of outrage has been sounded when news broke that American corporations like Allstate, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and others refuse to hire the unemployed.
The ruling class in the United States is the wealthy, powerful business interests who, while always powerful, now have the ability to spend unlimited funds supporting a candidate of their choosing, or against a candidate that doesn’t represent their interests. The last voice of the working class American in terms of funding political campaigns are the unions, and Republican controlled state governments across the country have been working tirelessly to break the backs of unions, to essentially cut their legs out from under them and damage their ability to raise money, perhaps permanently. In the last election cycle, eight of the top ten political campaign contributors were business interests. The other two were unions. The rather obvious goal of union busting is to remove the competition.
It is highly doubtful that a progressive candidate from the political left; hell even one who occasionally leans slightly left of center, will emerge to challenge President Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012. So our choices to lead the nation for the next four years will be a matter of degrees, and how far right we will swing will depend on whether ordinary American citizens are able to find their way through the deluge of corporate spending on message control to vote in their own best interests. It won’t be the President, but the Congress that will be the hope of progressives in 2012. If Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives, especially if Tea Party backed members increase their number; we can look in the rearview mirror to see what lies ahead. If a Republican defeats Obama in 2012 and has a House of Representatives comparable to what we see today, it would likely be the most conservative Federal Government in modern times.