Nothing like starting out your day with a laugh — and today I have Matthew Lynch (“12 Reasons Why Obama is One of the Greatest Presidents Ever,” Huffington Post, November 15) to thank for it.
About half of Lynch’s points boil down to, “Obama is for x, because he makes speeches talking about x all the time.” He starts out with the best one of all:
“Unlike the many presidents who preceded him, he cares about what is best for the greater good. He truly does represent The People. His actions have always been motivated by a sincere desire to do what is best for the majority, even if it meant losing ground with the wealthy, influential or powerful minority.”
Um, yeah. That’s why he adopted a Republican “universal healthcare” proposal to require everybody to buy private health insurance — and give taxpayer money to the ones who can’t afford it. That should be popular with “The People,” all right — at least those who own stock in insurance companies. That’s why he quietly promised the drug companies he wouldn’t use Medicare’s bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices. That’s why Joe Biden conducts copyright enforcement policy out of Disney’s corporate headquarters and the administration backs draconian copyright legislation dictated in secret by proprietary content industries.
Among my favorite other howlers:
“2. He is for civil rights. He has consistently spoken on behalf of the disenfranchised, the underdog and the most controversial members of society …”
Yeah, I know he said a lot of stuff about gay marriage and ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But he refused to actually stop prosecuting gays in the military before the law was repealed, or to put enforcement on the back burner, even when he was fully capable of using his executive authority to do so.
And notice Lynch doesn’t say “civil liberties.” Obama said a lot of stuff about them, too — back in 2008. Since then he’s expanded unconstitutional wiretapping, run interference for the telecoms that help out with it and given amnesty to people who systematically ordered and engaged in torture. Holding war criminals accountable would be “divisive,” you see. He owes the late Nuremberg defendants an apology — they were only following orders, too.
4. Healthcare. I think we already covered that.
“5. He is for the middle class. Here are just a few of the comments made by President Barack Obama in recent months …”
A lot of presidents were for a lot of stuff, if you stick to reading their collected speeches. In practice, Obama’s farm policies are written by ADM and Monsanto, and the office of Secretary of the Treasury is permanently reserved for Goldman-Sachs alumni, just as under his predecessors.
Obama’s actual economic policy is classic Hamiltonianism: Responding to technologies of abundance that reduce the need for capital and labor by using Rube Goldberg mechanisms to artificially prop up the demand for those inputs — even if it means giving people tax breaks for throwing stuff away and replacing it. The stomach-churning irony is that most of the same greenwashed Whole Foods liberals who applaud this also condemn planned obsolescence and the Military-Industrial Complex, which were designed to accomplish exactly the same result. The proper approach to technologies of abundance is to make sure their benefits are fully internalized by workers and consumers, by ceasing to enforce monopolies, artificial scarcities and rents of all kind. If it takes only fifteen hours of labor a week to produce our standard of living, it should only take fifteen hours of labor to enjoy that standard of living. But that would annoy Obama’s Big Business friends.
My favorite, though, is this:
“10. He is for peace. Let us never forget that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 …”
Yeah, he uses that Peace Prize as a paperweight to hold down his drone kill list. Obama didn’t end the war in Afghanistan — he transformed it into a remote-control video game war in which wedding parties can be massacred at the push of a button. And of course, Lynch can’t resist throwing in a mention of the Zero Dark Thirty crap about killing Bin Laden.
I can’t help picturing someone fifty years ago breathlessly gushing “I love JFK because he’s the Peace President” — while ignoring the Bay of Pigs, the Diem assassination and Green Berets in Vietnam.
Lynch’s points, edited for substance, are basically on the same level as a guy in a bar decked out in Full Cleveland thirty years ago saying “I feel comfortable with Reagan.” Obama’s the Reagan of moderate center-left NPR liberals who shop at Whole Foods. If you’re satisfied with the image of peace and social justice, while government in substance continues to serve the same powerful interests, keep right on voting — that’s what it’ll get you.
Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.