Saturday, May 19, 2012

Obama/Geithner in 2012

Soon after the housing meltdown took hold I recall hearing President Obama's Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner casually dismiss a question about whether it would be a good idea to give some relief to homeowners, millions of whom were underwater or behind on their mortgage payments. Geithner, who was formerly with the big investment bank Goldman Sachs, was on TV trying to promote the Obama Administration plan, a supply side bailout for banks, and simply said no, he didn't think it would be a good idea, and the TV talk show host let the matter drop.

Geithner is the only remaining member of the president's original team of economic advisers who, to the dismay of Progressives at the time, Obama drew exclusively from Wall Street and big investment banks, excluding anyone, such as Robert Reich, who opposes Reaganomic/supply side economics, that is, Neoliberalism.

Although not in the same words I use, Geithner's out of hand dismissal of anything that might benefit working people is reflected in the final line of a New York Times profile on his tenure as treasury secretary, which says, incidentally, that Geithner is Obama's most trusted adviser. 

"Although Congress limited the administration’s options, many economists fault Mr. Obama and Mr. Geithner for being too timid in intervening, especially to help homeowners".

Radio talk show host Ed Schultz yesterday was reflecting on how people's sense of the value of their home translates into consumer confidence. If you don't know whether or not your home is going retain its value, you'll be less likely to go out and spend money.

The administration eventually came out with a token program to help homeowners, but in keeping with Obama's consistent practice of coddling big business, it was made voluntary for the banks. Because of that, what little money that was appropriated is still mostly unspent.

Alternet said of the program after one year in operation, in 2010, that of 10.7 million homeowners who were underwater (the bursting of the housing bubble means their house is now worth less that the amount they owe the bank) only 900,000 homeowners had been asked by banks to enroll and only 66,456 of those were participating.

"Even judging from the trial-stage figures, the program is barely making a dent in the actual problem," Alternet said.

The ever clever Obama, who inspired millions in 2008 with his message of hope and change without ever saying anything of substance, without really saying what hope and change might actually mean, and who now wants a second term, is back at his old tricks again. He uses populist rhetoric. He says he favors gay marriage, but that the issue should be left the the states, of which 30 (and counting) have already outlawed gay marriage. He sounds like a Progressive, unless you listen closely, and if you listen closely, his isn't saying anything at all.

I have a file folder full of things Obama has done during his presidency that should make it impossible for anyone who cares about working people to vote for him and I will start rolling those out. As people complain that there is no alternative but Mitt Romney, I'll be talking about alternatives, and how first Bill Clinton and then Barak Obama successfully emasculated the Left and then went about pursuing their Neoliberal agendas.

People who won't give up on the Democratic Party like to issue dire warnings about what will happen to the balance on the US Supreme court if you don't vote Democratic. When  they pull out their hole card, and throw up the specter of Roe vs Wade, to frighten people into voting for Obama, I'll remind them that the feminist movement in the US, and the well heeled, well connected leaders of that movement who concern themselves with Roe vs Wade, want no part of women of color and working class women, who also want no part of them.

I'll remind them of the ruined fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico and the people still living in FEMA trailers, of the hundreds of New Orleans schools that remain closed or have been privatized, and how demolished working class neighborhoods there have been given over to developers of upscale housing. I'll talk about the college graduates drowning in debt as they go out to look for non-existent jobs, of the growing disparity in wealth and income in the US which points to a future in which, among this year's graduates, may well be the last few working class people to ever attend college in this country.

When they bring up Roe vs Wade, and suggest voting for someone for that reason, I'll remind them of the millions of working class people who would Democratic but for the Roe Vs Wade litmus test Democratic candidates for president have to pass. When they talk about voting for the Democrat because he's not as bad as the Republican, I'll point out that that is the thinking that got us where we are today, little by little, one discarded principal after another. I'll remind them of eviscerated programs like Head Start, Aid To Families With Dependent Children, and WIC, the Women, Infant and Children Program that helped working class mothers make sure their babies got at least a little of the right kinds of nutrition, and of how many wasted lives of the children of working class families have already been sacrificed on the altars of the lesser of two evils and a woman's right to right to choose.


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