Obama goes for it

by: Mike Lux

Fri Jan 15, 2010 at 11:30


I have complained many times about how frustrating it is to see Obama not wanting to go with a populist message, especially in regards to going after Wall Street.

Yesterday, in a proposal to impose a major new surtax on the biggest banks, he really went for it:

Instead of sending a phalanx of lobbyists to fight this proposal or employing an army of lawyers and accountants to help evade the fee, I suggest you might want to consider simply meeting your responsibilities.

And this:

My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed.  And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people -- folks who have not been made whole, and who continue to face real hardship in this recession.

We want our money back, and we're going to get it.  And that's why I'm proposing a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on major financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street.  If these companies are in good enough shape to afford massive bonuses, they are surely in good enough shape to afford paying back every penny to taxpayers.

We cannot go back to business as usual.  And when we see reports of firms once again engaging in risky bets to reap quick rewards, when we see a return to compensation practices that seem not to reflect what the country has been through, all that looks like business as usual to me.  The financial industry has even launched a massive lobbying campaign, locking arms with the opposition party, to stand in the way of reforms to prevent another crisis.  That, too, unfortunately, is business as usual.  And we're already hearing a hue and cry from Wall Street suggesting that this proposed fee is not only unwelcome but unfair -- that by some twisted logic it is more appropriate for the American people to bear the costs of the bailout, rather than the industry that benefited from it, even though these executives are out there giving themselves huge bonuses.

Ultimately, it is by taking responsibility -- on Wall Street, here in Washington, all the way to Main Street -- that we're going to move past this period of turmoil.

I know, I know, I can hear the protests rising already: Obama still isn't doing enough and Geithner and Summers are still out there messing things up.  I'm with you. But going after the big banks with new taxes, and smacking them down with this kind of language is still a very good thing. So let's give credit where credit is due: if you never praise a politician even when they take a step in your direction, they won't have any incentive to do so.

There are two things I find especially encouraging about this:

  • The first is that when Bob Rubin worked in the Clinton White House, he had a huge impact not only on the policy but also on the rhetoric. He was always urging the President away from any hint of populist rhetoric, saying it would scare or anger the business community. And Clinton usually gave in. I don't know how much Geithner or Summers care about the rhetoric, but I would guess they have given similar counsel, and in this case they also lost big. Don't discount the importance of political rhetoric from a President, either. It makes it harder to back away policy-wise in the future, and it emboldens those White House staffers who do want to do the right thing (who are always in battle with the Geithner/Summers team who doesn't) in playing hardball with Wall Street.

  • The second reason this is good is that it means some decision has been made, at least for now, that the White House is willing to forgo some of the money that can be raised from Wall Street. In my experience, the biggest single reason for Democrats avoiding populist rhetoric is worrying about the political donations you would lose as a result. Giving speeches like that is going to mean several million dollars less in Wall Street money for Democratic Party committees and candidates, and I think that is well worth the price. As I have been writing, Democrats cannot win in the 2010 elections without going after the big banks, and that means they will have to give up a lot of money. The tradeoff is certainly worth it in terms of extra votes they will get.

As I wrote yesterday, there is far more to be done, including breaking up the banks, prosecuting bank executives, a tax on financial transactions. One speech doesn't change the overall direction of an administration. But yesterday's announcement- the speech and the tax- was a big step in the right direction.

Mike Lux :: Obama goes for it

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Obama goes for it | 60 comments
good speech (4.00 / 4)
We all agree, he gives good rhetoric.......and?

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

asdf (4.00 / 3)
You are assuming there is a distinction between rhetoric and action. Often there is, of course, but sometimes rhetoric itself has consequences and makes things happen. Part of Mike's point here is that the rhetoric itself actually moves our agenda forward by scaring off Wall Street donors, etc.  

[ Parent ]
When was the last time Wall Street insiders got scared by rhetoric? (4.00 / 2)
The may step up their donations to lobbies a bit, for countering the attack, but that's it. You don't make billions at Wall Street when your afraid of a loudmouth doing some grandstanding. Obama really has to do more than holding speeches to leave an impact on those gangsters.

[ Parent ]
asdf (4.00 / 3)
So you think rhetoric is meaningless? That words have no consequences? "Scared off" was probably the wrong way to put it, but Mike suggests that rhetoric like this moves wall street donations away from the Democratic party, emboldens progressive elements within the administration, and makes it harder to go back on things policy-wise. Do you disagree? It also has the possibity to improve the politics of the situation for rank-and-file Democrats, to inspire people like me at least a tiny bit, and so on. Those are all good things from our perspective.

So...does the rhetoric make the gangsters nervous? Probably not, but how the hell would I know? Does it advance a progressive agenda? Yes, at least a bit. Does it carry the possibilty of stronger action that might make the gangsters nervous at some later date? Yes, perhaps. Should we reflexively critize Obama when he does something like this, thereby further marginalizing ourselves? No.

[ Parent ]
"Do you disagree?" Not necessarily. But... (4.00 / 5)
..this administration has a record of saying one thing in public, and saying something totally different in negotiations with the alleged enemies behind closed doors (as proven by their approach to healthcare reform), so excuse me pls for staying sceptical.

[ Parent ]
The rhetoric qaccompanies a fee to recover money Billions (0.00 / 0)
at least tens of billions, probably hundreds of billions.

This is soemthing to applaud.
Criticism is heard more often, whenit is also accompanied by credit where appropriate.

If you keep beating the dog, even after he brought your paper, the dog not only wont bring the paper next time, he will lose his mind. This is basic. (Of course I don't actually suggest one should beat the dog, and I certainly don't equate constructive criticism with beating, nor President Obama with a dog)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
He didn't deliver yet, HoP. And I'm not beating the dog. (0.00 / 0)
I just refuse to react on his annoying barking until the effing cur finally brings the paper. No goody until the work is done, Barry! Now go and get the paper. GO!

[ Parent ]
don't think retoric is meaningless (0.00 / 0)
But I do think empty retoric is extremely harmfull to politicans. And that is almost entirely what Obama has delivered so far. Until there is substantial effort made towards his stated goals, more left wing retoric sounds phony, and IS damageing.

Only child like authoritarian followers can truely discount his recent past record in this regard. Not calling any here naive, just don't believe you are really convinced he will follow through (based on our current knowledge of his MO)--the hope part, I suppose.

It is much harder to "walk the walk than talk the talk", so until he is prepared to do his best to deliver on promises, better for all if he quits makeing them. They hurt him overall, as more and more see through the smoke screen, and recognize a corporatist.

P.S. What is asdf?

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
don't think retoric is meaningless (0.00 / 0)
But I do think empty retoric is extremely harmfull to politicians, and that is almost all he has delivered so far.

The hope part of his campaign retains some of the original following, even here, as expressed by believers (hopers?) willing to give him another chance to act on his stated agenda, but most of us have lost faith in any substantial change.

It is always harder to "walk the walk than talk the talk" but he has yet to use his talent, organization, bully pulput, senate rules, or political capital to the fullest extent to advance ANY of his major initatives.

Until he really tries to accomplish something substantial, he (and we) would be much better prepaired for the next election if he would quit making promises he won't keep.

P.S. What is asdf?

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
sorry for the double post (0.00 / 0)
Thought it had been lost, so retyped from memory.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
Indeed, this speech could also be translated as... (4.00 / 2)
... "hey, Wall Street, you're not giving us enough money. Nice scam you've got here. Would be a shame if anything happened to it."

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Hehehe, good one, Emo! (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Good political theater (4.00 / 2)
May help his numbers. Helping the country....not so much.

Bull droppings (0.00 / 0)
Getting billions of dollars in new fees from the banks WILL help the country. And it sets a damn fine precedent.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
I afraid I don't agree. (4.00 / 4)
We've seen this smoke-and-mirrors crap before. At the the eleventh hour suddenly Obama cranks up the "progressive" rhetoric well after the deals have already been struck and we've been sold out once more. No, Lucy. I ain't kickin' that ball again.  

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

Hope/change =bait/switch (0.00 / 0)
Obama's MO is becoming clear. his habitual "rhetoric vs action" gap goes byond acceptable pragmatism. When it suited him, BO hit hard against the mandates with hilary in the primary and the excise tax tax with Mccain in the general. With our votes safely in the past, both bad ideas now make up the centerpiece of his HCR plan. When Obama talks populist I'm learning to put my hand on my wallet.

On another note. Compared to other brilliant OL paid posters, and unpaid commenters, Lux's recycled cheerleading sessions don't add much value for me here. I suppose Huffington gets her moneys worth from him.

Just this lurker's 2cents. --otto schmidlap--

[ Parent ]
Good Step (2.00 / 2)
In the right direction.  Some people are never happy, of course...

Also, the GOP coming out against this and other similar (future? fingers crossed) proposals should put the lie to their claim of the populist mantle.

exactly (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
a - freakin' - men! (4.00 / 2)
The time for change is long past, and the President must continue to voice the needs of the poor, the working poor and the middle class.

He can start in on the 2010 midterm campaign for the DNC any time he wants to. imo, he just did. He will only sacrifice Summers or Geithner if he has to.  

They only call it class war when we fight back.

Words vs Actions (4.00 / 4)
The President Talked a good game---given his 'record' of past 'success'. I hope I'll be forgiven for wanting to wait and see how his actions stand up to this great rhetoric.

It would be more disappointing than usual if we were to see this moving speech followed by  Administrative double-dealing or back-room promises and give-backs to the banksters.

Sing while you slave, and I just get bored.... (4.00 / 1)
Respect Arabs. Check.

Close Guantánamo. Check.

Safeguard civil liberties. Check.

Make government transparent. Check.

Serve the people. (Up on a platter.) Check.

Mike, for Christ's sake, please join the Salvation Army and be done with it.

It wasn't meant to be helpful (4.00 / 3)
People who keep insisting that shit is shinola are beyond help. President Obama's speeches are masterful examples of propaganda. What they are beyond that is questionable at best. I'll quit saying that just as soon as a) there's credible evidence to the contrary, and b) happy-talk merchants stop trying to insist that what they imagine is more real than what any fool can see.

What I'm doing about it, beyond calling a spade a spade, won't fit in a comment. (Those who'd help others must first help themselves.)

[ Parent ]
or accuratre apparently (0.00 / 0)
I appreciate criticism, but accuracy is good too.

Common cause et al. just the Obama admin an A+ for transparency

Good government groups give Obama high grades on lobbying, transparency

By Dan Eggen
The White House gets high marks in a report issued Monday by four prominent good-government groups, who said anti-lobbying and ethics rules issued by President Obama have "begun the difficult process of changing the way business is done in Washington."

The glowing "report card" from Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG highlights a series of policies enacted by the Obama administration over the last year aimed at increasing government transparency and limiting the influence of lobbyists and other interest groups. The steps have included a ban on lobbyist gifts; restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists; publication of White House visitor logs and other records; and a move to bar lobbyists from serving on advisory boards.



The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Definitions of transparency apparently differ (4.00 / 1)
1. Who were the AIG counterparties we bailed out? How did they qualify? What did they do with the money? Likewise with the TARP funds.

2. Which of our large banks are insolvent? And don't try telling me that the answer is a) none, or b) that nobody at Treasury knows the answer. Please.)

3. Exactly what was the nature of the deal the President made with the health insurance industry?

4. Why did it take the NYT and persistent FOI requests to find out that over 100 people have died in ICE custody. Why were their relatives lied to about their deaths?

5. Exactly how much is being spent on intelligence black ops, and which departments are running them?

6. Why does the Obama administration continue to defend -- vigorously -- the Bush Justice Department assertion that a State Secrets' defense should suppress not only discrete items of evidence, but judicial proceedings in their entirety?

7. Have we really seen all the White House visitor logs? Common Cause is sure about that, are they?

[ Parent ]
The uselessness of cynicism (4.00 / 1)
So where do we take the dialogue from here? Whenever there is any promise of reformist policy we just resign it to blather. Great way to construct some useful dialogue. Pech!

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
A disingenuous question (0.00 / 0)
Where, indeed? In case you hadn't noticed, no genuine dialogue is possible so long as a lie cleverly told is held by smart folks to be the functional equivalent of the truth. President Obama seems to think that choosing between the two is a matter of administrative convenience, at least when he's talking to us.

It's up to us to teach him the nature of his error, which we can't do if folks like you continue to put your fingers in your ears whenever anyone points out the obvious.

[ Parent ]
Teaching him the nature of his error (4.00 / 1)
Like that's really going to happen. I like what Mike says: "if you never praise a politician even when they take a step in your direction, they won't have any incentive to do so"
I know we would always prefer that politicians learn "the nature of their errors" but I don't think people work like that. Here's a time to reinforce progressive messages. Call me naive. But lets back this!

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Mike ... (4.00 / 1)
I know this is kinda OT .. but then again .. not really .. but is it possible to give us an insider's perspective on this whole Harold Ford, Jr./TradMed love affair going on right now .. after the NYT softball .. Kaplan Test Prep Post(aka the WaPo is out with one today .. `and the only people that want Ford to run are the Steve Rattners of the world .. why?

Is this really something to be excited about? (4.00 / 1)
It is almost a measure of how pathetic the Progressive movement (or some part of it) has become. Obama gives a speech that is likely pure BS, and we get a laudatory article. Sestak tries to help his campaign out by squeezing Specter and we get appeals to fund his campaign. I think we are better than this.

Obama's Latest Ruse: The Bank Tax (4.00 / 4)
 Alan Nasser:

"None of Obama's faux outrage has been as disingenuous as his Wednesday announcement that he will finally respond sympathetically to the public's deep resentment of the administration's tolerance and therefore encouragement of the bad guys' looting of the public treasury.

Obama assured his constituents that he would "recoup every last penny for American taxpayers" by taking back, in the form of taxes on the banks, the wealth that households have been forced to transfer to the coffers of the instigators of the financial crisis.

The announcement was timed to offset what will surely be another surge of public anger at the expected announcement this week of the banks' year-end bonus payments."


Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome the newest writer for the Onion (0.00 / 0)
Seriously Mike.  You sound like Harold Ford.

The US needs a new president.  This one is tiresome.  

Btw, I have a magnificent bridge in China.  Wanna buy it?

Send it (0.00 / 0)

You should send this post with the comments to Obama, so he can see that  no one is buying his BS anymore.

He has fooled us too many times in the past.

As for me, I can see it now: He comes out, reads his speech off his teleprompter; when he's through he rushes back inside and calls his pal Jaime Dimon & says "Hey did you catch me on TV,  How was I?"

And they enjoy a good laugh.

Yay!!! Obama is too a progressive, you'll see!!!! (0.00 / 0)
He is finally being the Obama we all know him to be. He is dissing Summers, Geithner, and Rahm. Because the progressive Obama is their boss, they'll have to implement progressive economic policies. Just be patient. That sure was some rabble rousing rhetoric from Obama! He's so eloquent.

So many ways to respond. I'll go with this. (4.00 / 2)
(With thanks to IMDB)
[after a burst of gunfire from the Democratic Base, Obama climbs to his feet, covered in mud from the tunnel floor]
Obama: It's good to see you, sweetheart.
Democratic Base: You contemptible pig! I remained celibate for you. I stood at the back of a cathedral, waiting, in celibacy, for you, with three hundred friends and relatives in attendance. My uncle hired the best Romanian caterers in the state. To obtain the seven limousines for the wedding party, my father used up his last favor with Mad Pete Trullo. So for me, for my mother, my grandmother, my father, my uncle, and for the common good, I must now kill you, and your brother.
[Obama falls to his knees]
Obama: Oh, please, don't kill us. Please, please don't kill us. You know I love you baby. I wouldn't leave ya. It wasn't my fault.
Democratic Base: You miserable slug! You think you can talk your way out of this? You betrayed me.
Obama: No I didn't. Honest... I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.
[Rahm covers his head in anticipation of more gunfire, Obama removes his sunglasses to make a wordless appeal, and the Democratic Base visibly softens]
Democratic Base: Oh, Obama... Obama, honey...
[Obama embraces the Democratic Base and they kiss]
Obama: [to Rahm] Let's go.
[He drops the Democratic Base and walks off]
Rahm: [to the Democratic Base as he steps past them] Take it easy.

Health insurance is not health care.
If you don't fight, you can't win.
Never give up. Never Surrender.
Watch out for flying kabuki.

Wow what a bunch of negative comments (4.00 / 2)
Way to be receptive to good ideas everybody.

oh you must be new here (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
The problem here is these aren't really "good ideas." (4.00 / 1)
No one has a problem with taxing the banks. But this particular tax won't really solve any problems. Indeed, given the craven nature of the WH, Senate and House Finance Committees, we'll undoubtedly learn there are loopholes big enough to sail an aircraft carrier through them.

Being critical is not the same thing as being "negative." That word, used in this context, is usually pejorative. That's how people backhandedly get around the fact that perhaps some valid criticisms are being made.

"Oh, you're just being negative. Don't rain on my parade, brah!"

Without genuine structural reforms, this is all just a creepy game of Hide The Economic Sausage.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
It re-orients the political landscape (4.00 / 1)
As this site has been writing, the way to win the next few cycles is to be the David to the banking industry's Goliath.  This tax, and the subsequent fight over it, is the beginning of re-orienting the democratic party in that direction.  As Mike wrote, if this dries up donations to the democratic party from Wall Street, then democrats will need to turn to voters to win elections instead, and that changes the power dynamic for a long time.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (4.00 / 3)
A very good example of this is how George W. Bush would always talk about "freedom" and "democracy" and "peace" while launching his military aggression. (Actually Goebbels did as well). It is very convincing and won him a huge following.

Of course you are half right. Rhetoric IS important and can be as valuable in some cases as action. But rhetoric that is seen as just rhetoric is almost worth less than saying nothing at all. At this point, Obama needs to act not to give another empty "speech". He has lost the trust and confidence of a large swath of erstwhile supporters and voters.The problem in Massachusetts is NOT swing voters...Democrats have a large and favorable edge in voter registration. The problem to some extent are the Democrats who are apathetic or downright hostile to this sort of empty talk and empty promises.

[ Parent ]
I'm actually all right (4.00 / 1)
Because I sure didn't say, "Great speech, no need to follow through!"

Really, a Goebbels comparison?  Honestly.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (0.00 / 0)
Take out the Goebbels reference (it was not a comparison but a point on how rhetoric can backfire). But my point is still that the speech is NOT a great speech, NOT even a good speech, just a speech, period. Because the context NOW is "that is all there is to Obama, nice speeches and actions that service the interests of the moneyed, the corporations, the military the powerful at the expense of the poor, vulnerable, sick and weak."  Obama is sort of like Harold Ford with a patina of popular rhetoric. I am not sure you will like this comparison better.  

[ Parent ]
Indeed. (4.00 / 1)
Additionally, doing the right thing by people is a far better type of politics to be engaged in, as it reaps good results at the voting booth. FDR's policies created generations of loyal voting blocks, so we know damn well it works electorally. But that's not the trade-off leadership wants to make.

They prefer, it seems, to do bad things and raise a lot of what amounts to illicit money so they can then produce media blitzes that obfuscate and lie to voters. In this sense, the money dis-incentivizes doing right by the people.

I'll disagree though on the notion of re-orientation. I hope I'm wrong, but since this tax won't really change any of the bad behaviors so wracking our economy through organized looting, this won't really work. It's like putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound and calling that "surgery."

So I posit that using power in ways that makes this country a better place in any number of ways is actually vastly more successful in terms of electoral outcomes than having pockets lined with money that will be used to simply lie to people.

Even low-information voters can see through that. It's why they are increasingly pissed off and likely to not show up for Dems in November. No amount of money from Wall Street or PhARMA can change that.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Taxes aren't structural? (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
Actually, no. Not usually. (4.00 / 3)
Taxes are often used to either incentivize or dis-incentivize behaviors or decisions. For example, kids are poisoning themselves drinking too much soda. A non-structural solution would be to, say, put a 50% tax on sodas, to make it too expensive to drink too much of it. We do it with liquor and tobacco, right? But it doesn't really solve the problem. It just makes it more expensive.

This banking tax will not solve the problem of derivatives. Nor will it solve the problem of banks selling bogus MBS and such. It does nothing to stop the culture of gambling that now exists in big banks. It just makes it a little more expensive. But since it is we, the lowly taxpayer, that gets to pick up the tab every time they take losses, this tax will do nothing to change the behavior.

This is why it's not structural. A structural solution would be to get rid of TBTF and reinstate Glass-Steagal for starters. It's like driving with a tire going flat. You can either stop and keep pumping it up (with taxes) or you can change the tire (Glass-Steagal). The latter choice is structural, the former is not.

This government prefers the former option and as such does nothing to address the very real problems we face as a nation.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Not addressing structural problems with structural solutions. (0.00 / 0)
In a nutshell, this is the basic problem with this government and the White House. The rhetoric is only intended to float Obama's poll numbers for a while.

The bank fees, if only directed at TARP banks and not struggling community banks, are not a structural solution to the problem of TBTF banks running amok over our real economy. It does nothing about the real problems that will all too soon tank our financial system again... generating another round of massive bailouts. This is just smoke and mirrors, intended to mollify an increasingly bitter electorate.

Now a real Tobin Tax would be a much better idea, as it would be the big winners of the  bailout extravaganza who pay 80% of that--and would actually raise a lot of money, based on current volumes of HFT algo "trading." Of course, that's why it's not going to happen.

Structural problems require structural solutions. Without eliminating TBTF, restraining banks and real structural reform, there will be no real change. And without real reform, we're going to go through this time and time again until the American taxpayer has simply been made too poor to cough up the dough anymore. They're going to use this decades long, manufactured crisis to bleed us all dry and throw us to the neo-liberal wolves. Not very "progressive," methinks.

This is our future and no amount of phony rhetoric will ever change that. Bush's neo-liberalism gave us Katrina. Obama's neo-liberalism is giving us an economic Katrina for many years to come. They know all this and yet they do it anyway.

No amount of milquetoast, pseudo-populist rhetoric will ever change that. The time for erstwhile progressives who continue to hide behind silly dreams that Obama is somehow our "friend" is long gone. He is our ideological enemy and will do everything possible to make our little "movement" a tepid little historical footnote.

"If only........."

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

The Bank Tax (0.00 / 0)
Predictably, the Obamabots will seize upon this as "evidence" of Obama's qualities as a leader, as "proof" that he has not abandoned Democratic principles, his base, or the American middle class. Just as predictably, the White House will provide no leadership whatsoever. Instead, it will continue its strategy of preemptive capitulation, continue to make back-room deals, and continue to support corporatist Blue Dogs as they do everything in their power to water down this proposal or kill it outright. And when, like so many of Obama's other ideas, this initiative also peters out and dies -- not with a bang but with a whimper -- the self-proclaimed pragmatic centrists will boo-hoo that progressives just don't understand how hard it is, how difficult, to get anything done in Congress, and they will vilify us for daring to suggest that the emperor is bare-ass naked. Thanks, but I think I'll skip the Kool-Aid this time.  

To play devil's advocate (4.00 / 2)
If progressives are going to bash Obama even when he behaves at least a little bit well for once, aren't they giving up any hope of leverage (and thus implicitly committing to a screw-the-Dems third-party strategy that's unlikely to bear fruit for a long time)?

That's a genuine question; I'm conflicted about this myself.

[ Parent ]
The answer is yes (4.00 / 1)
Advocacy is a balance of criticism and praise.

[ Parent ]
Condemning the rhetoric itself is wrong (0.00 / 0)
but Obama has been known to appropriate the rhetoric for his own political purposes. Progressive critics need to praise Obama for this step, but the praise should presented as a contrast to his previous steps, his insider politics, in order to push him to stay on this path, to make a backslide less likely.

Whether or not it would actually be too hard to implement more progressive policies, the administration bank retreads, neo-liberals, insiders, etc are telling that story and so must believe it to some extent - we need to undercut them, and using Obama's own words against them (and himself) is a good way to do so.

[ Parent ]
I don't think so at all. (4.00 / 1)
If we praise policies and speeches we know to be wrong-headed or disingenuous, then those we claim to represent have no reason to respect us anymore. In politics, that's a huge problem. You can't diss your base and expect them to respect you in the morning.

It's not about "screw the Dems," it's about getting Dems to do the right thing on issues that have genuinely massive consequences for all of us down the road. It might sound unreasonable, but it's necessary. If we were arguing about the size of a carbon tax or something, that would be one thing. But we're arguing about the future of this economy (in this case), the future of our energy system (peak oil), the future of our place on the world stage (foreign policy) and the fate of the nation (add it all up). These are all crisis issues that simply aren't being dealt with in a positive, productive manner. We are going to pay dearly down the road if this isn't reversed.

The moment we can get our "representatives" to do right by us and by extension the country is the moment we can say we have "leverage." Until then we don't have any. Being nice won't get us any either. Is PhARMA nice? AHIP? Exxon? Wall Street? Of course not.

Right now, the WH is laughing at us, because they know we'll just cave and go along, no matter what they do to the country. So far, they are being proven right by people who think if they just "assume the position" this time (like the last 27 times), then everything will be okay. Sadly, life doesn't work that way.

This is a very dangerous situation.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
SOTU (4.00 / 2)
I think Obama is positioning himself for the State of the Union address. The SOTU will kick off the way Democrats position themselves against the GOP this year. If he reinforces the anti-bank rhetoric in the SOTU, then we'll know he thinks he can attack the GOP from the populist left, instead of standing back and watching the teabaggers attack him from the populist right. Drawing attention to the fact that the GOP will try and block the bank tax is brilliant. It isolates the GOP from their (potential) base in the teabaggers, and pulls Obama's natural base closer to him.

ec=-8.50 soc=-8.41   (3,967 Watts)

perhaps (0.00 / 0)
The strategy you explaign could very well be the point. And it seems to be good politics. However, if politics is the end in itself, what good are the democrats?

We need action, not verbage, to address the existential problems articulated earlier in this thread. It's what we voted for, but it is yet to be acomplished, or even really attemped.

The continued promises only result in raising anger as nothing is being successfully addressed. As more and more lose their life's work the situation will (is?) become volatile. And still NOBODY represents the vast majority!

Change is comming....one way or another.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
Nicely done, good analysis and hopeful too. (0.00 / 0)
I 'm glad to be reading an analysis. It pleases me. The potential for a pivot to Main Street is now a lot more real, I think your take is right on the money.

Its so good, if it wasn't their idea, I hope someone passes it along so it becomes their plan. Hey Mike, tell them how smart we think we are, and hand this over....


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
All I'm gonna say is: (4.00 / 1)
I'll believe Obama is serious about this when I see him get it through Congress -- and not more fluff disguised as something else.  This guy has proven that his words are worthless.

"Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time." -- Harry S. Truman

wake me up (4.00 / 1)
when he fires his economic team

or proposes to break up the "too big to fail" institutions

Obama knows how to bullshit (0.00 / 0)
He can ramp up the rhetoric when required. He doesn't deliver. The eternal seducer, the eternal lothario. He sounds great tho doesn't he?

And responding with force to Haiti. He is great with the grand gesture. Lousy with the little details of everyday.

it's ultimately up to Congress, isn't it? (0.00 / 0)
How will the administration pressure Congress into enacting such a law? The Senate is awash in Wall Street money. They ain't going for this.

The banks and their pet legislators will force Obama to back down and things will be worse than before, because they'll be pissed and they'll unleash the media on him to hound him like they did Clinton.

Now, if he'd actually tried doing this when the banks were demanding to be bailed out, and rallied popular support for this policy, that might have worked because people were very angry. But he chose not to and the moment passed.

You have to strike at the right time to have a chance of success. And he didn't.

Obama goes for it | 60 comments

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