President Barack Obama: The Balance Sheet

Brad Forrest

Brad Forrest

The George W. Bush years seem like a distant and very unhappy memory these days. But it should be remembered that it was the disastrous policies of the Republican Party and the same open and unabashed representatives of big business that figured prominently in bringing about the victory of Barack Obama. The ascendancy of the Democrats was a direct result of the repudiation of the predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by many voters. Barack Obama rode the wave of euphoria for hope and change. It was thought that the first African American president would actually enact policies in favor of the downtrodden masses, that is, the working class in America. The course pursued by Barack Obama while in office demonstrates once again that what is called “personality politics,” the primary interest being race, sexual orientation, or gender is still secondary to the old socialist bedrock of class politics.

Obama and the Democrats are the shamefaced representatives of big business. That is why they always seem so muddled. They have to appease Wall Street and the “small man,” as one of the representatives from BP would put it. This is an impossible utopia, and in the current evolution of American capitalism they have had to veer farther and farther to the right to protect the vital interests of the financial and corporate elite.

What is the current evolution of American capitalism? The recession that began in 2008 has turned out to be the biggest slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Internationally, the fall of the Soviet Union has given the American Imperialists, Democrat and Republican, the green light to invade the Middle East in search the oil wealth and strategic advantage over their capitalist rivals. The Middle East has become a military barracks to prop up a sickly American capitalism. All talk about rooting out Islamic fundamentalism is sheer nonsense, dust to throw in the eyes of working people.

Specifically, Obama has not only not pulled the troops out of the Middle East but he has been even more belligerent than that old warmonger George W. Bush. More troops have poured in to the Middle East, gigantic permanent garrisons have been constructed, American troops have needlessly been sacrificed, and the fragile political climate in that region is being destroyed. This quagmire, similar in nature to the disaster that was the Vietnam War, is only going to lead to more and more conflict.

On the economic front, the recession, ultimately and irrationally the product of overproduction (most of us cannot afford to buy all the goods we produce), has led to widespread unemployment which the Obama administration cannot and will not ameliorate, because that would mean tampering with the profit system. The answer to the jobs crisis is a large-scale program of public works. However, the money for that would have to come from the military budget, a steep tax on the rich and the corporations, or some other source. But Obama and the Democrats have rather made it a top priority to cut the nation’s debt and deficit at the expense of working families. The working class is caught between the hammer and the anvil if you stay within the framework of ruling class economics. A case in point: the Bank Bailout. The large American banks like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers made a big mistake insuring bad mortgage loans from shoddy lenders, and ended up running out of money (liquidity). They are bringing the economy to the brink of ruin. Do they have to clean up their act? No. Obama gave the banks most of our tax money in the treasury to keep them afloat, and hardly gave the banks any regulations like restrictions of executive pay. Now we are told that we have to cut the deficit in our budget by cutting back on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits. Hi there, that’s capitalist economics for you!

We’re now 75 plus days into the BP Gulf Oil Spill disaster. BP destroyed the Gulf region by cutting back on safety requirements because the costs of safety eats into their profit margins. Did Obama nationalize BPs assets so the cleanup could be handled in a responsible manner? No. He “worked” with BP so that they would have to cough up only $20 billion for the cleanup. The sanctity of private property trumps even properly assigning responsibility for dealing with the worst environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez.

As you can see, the balance sheet for the Obama administration is decidedly negative. In fact he seems to be as reactionary and pro-corporate as George W. Bush, if that’s even possible. There is really nothing of substance dividing the Republicans from the Democrats anymore. Rather than continuing to look to either of these capitalist parties for solutions, working people should draw up their own balance sheet and ask themselves if the elected politicians are really doing anything at all that is in the interests of the working class.

What, then, is the way forward? While America may not appear to be ready for explicitly socialist politics, because the word socialist is so misused and abused. What many working people are ready for is a mass party of labor based on the trade unions to fight for the elementary interests of all workers. Such a party would begin by taxing the rich, enacting a large-scale program of public works, and pulling all the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. These are things every working class person living in America can embrace.

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