Tag Archives: Obama

Brief Thoughts on Obama’s Reelection and Health Care

For reasons discussed in my previous post, I think we can be thankful that Obama won the election, or to be more accurate, happy that Romney lost.  The biggest difference is that Obama’s healthcare reform can stay intact.  (A good Huffington Post piece on this was posted today.)  Obviously, it would be nice to not have insurance companies at all and some kind of a single-payer system instead.  But nonetheless, it is important that almost everyone will have health insurance, especially if you keep in mind the Medicaid expansion.  There is good reason to be concerned about keeping premiums down over the long-term, but the fact that the insurance industry will be regulated much more heavily and will not be able to charge more for people based on their health status could end up improving the overall health of the American people.  Leftists (including myself) should keep in mind that saving people’s lives is a good thing, even (or perhaps especially) in a capitalist system.

And now for reactions to Obama’s victory from his opponents…

Brief Thoughts on Obama’s Speech

To start with what Obama did well, he did make his policy preferences clear on many issues, even though he did not commit to many specific policies.  The exceptions are that Obama did state he wanted to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year, create 1 million manufacturing jobs in four years, and hire 100,000 new teachers by 2020.   Otherwise, it was rather broad, expressing support for things such as addressing global warming, equality for gays, strengthening Social Security, and investing in renewable energy.  While it would be nice to hear more specific policy proposals on these issues, I can’t blame for not doing so.  After all, mainstream Republicans call global warming a hoax, oppose gay rights, want to privatize Social Security, and have never indicated any interest in renewable energy.

There were two specific parts of his speech, though, where I think Obama was sending signals that people wanted to hear, but were very unrealistic.  First, Obama’s goal of 1 million manufacturing jobs and doubling exports are nice hopes, but there are so many factors in play here that he can’t possibly commit to making that happen.  Massively expanding US exports won’t happen unless Europe gets its house in order and that could be a long way off, especially since Germany, the strongest Euro country, is starting to see some worries about future economic decline.  A huge export-led growth based on manufacturing would lead push wages up in this sector, making it hard to keep jobs in the US.  By talking this up Obama did present a good idea, but it was clearly not something he can promise to deliver if reelected.

The second part of his speech that was pure popular appeal was his providing a false sense of empowerment to those who voted for him.  He said the 2008 election was not about him, but about “you.”  He then went on to list policy accomplishments with each followed by “You did that.”  Really?  The population was responsible for the Affordable Care Act, stopping deportation of the children of illegal immigrants, ending the US war in Iraq?  It was one of those statements that is in some broad way true (they wouldn’t have happened if people had not voted for him), but overstates the case completely.  The population was responsible for these accomplishments in the same way they were responsible for Clinton surplus, since he was elected by them too.  This part of the speech presented a false image of Obama as a leader of a social movement, implying that we can be part of a great march of progress if we vote for him.  Obama clearly did have some good accomplishments and maybe there will be progress if he is reelected, but by saying “You did this,” he made people feel like participants when they were mostly spectators.

Obama Is Not The Answer

I was reminded recently of a great song by the punk band Bad Religion called “The Answer” and it reminded me of the fact that we shouldn’t think of Obama as the answer to our problems.  I encourage everyone to listen to the full lyrics, but my point is simply this.  While it is absolutely imperative to elect Obama over Romney and recognize that Republicans are hell-bent on class warfare, we should not think that Obama is some kind of savior.  I hear many people say that Obama does his best, but is limited by Republicans.  This is partially true, for sure, but if you look at his policies, Obama is basically a centrist Democrat.  Remember the Occupy movement?  Obama was able to say that he understood the movement’s frustration, but he certainly did not do or say anything once the evictions started.  Perhaps he would have lost credibility among the powers that be and have not been able to get anything else done.  But this is all the more reason that the US population needs to set a new threshold that allows for more radical changes.  Remember the slogan “Yes We Can!”?  It was clear then and it is clear now that meant we could vote for Obama and then he would do all these great things for the population.  But we should take his saying that “We are the ones we are waiting for” more seriously, re-elect him and continue to push for greater reforms in our society.  Reviving Occupy is one possibility.  Another possibility that I think offers the best long-term promise is the somewhat hidden, but growing movement of worker-owned cooperatives.  Visit the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives for more. As a leftist, I am not calling for radical revolution overnight, but for simply giving people more control of their daily productive lives.

It’s Not The Wealthy That Are The Problem, It’s Those Welfare Queens…

This is truly sad.  Romney can’t dispel his image of being an out of touch rich guy, so he tries to say Obama is in favor of  keeping lazy people on welfare.  Are we supposed to believe people from Romney’s class aren’t the problem, it’s lazy welfare recipients and their dependency-loving ally in the White House?  It doesn’t surprise me that Romney put an ad like this out.  What get me is that people may actually believe it and vote for him because they think we have way too many lazy poor people.  This is class warfare at its finest.  Sorry this post isn’t as research-based as most of them, but this kind of stuff just gets to me.  I’m curious to hear who people think this ad is targeted at?  How many people might it actually sway?  Let me know what you think…

 

More on the Failed Arms Treaty

I did a post last week about the failure of the arms control treaty and said Democracy Now would have more on it.  Amy Goodman had a 20 minute segment on it which is posted below.

It is hard to believe how the US government can say things that are so in contrast with reality and they are not called out on it.  For example, on June 14, 2012 Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the State Department said  about US arms sales:

“We only allow a sale after we carefully examine issues like human rights, regional security, and nonproliferation concerns.”

Six months prior, in December of 2011, Mr. Shapiro was part of a State Department Press Conference announcing $30 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 2012 says of Saudi Arabia:

On 15 March, the government sent 1,200 Saudi Arabian troops in tanks and other armoured vehicles across the causeway to Bahrain to help crush pro-reform protests there, apparently at the invitation of Bahrain’s ruling family.

Would this count as an “issue like human rights?”

One more quote from Shapiro:

This sale will send a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East

“Stability” is code for things going the way the US wants.

 

 

 

Obama Not Much Better Than Romney–fascinating poll data of Arab world

My recent post on Mitt Romney’s “tough talk” on Israel was only one side of the coin.  On Friday, before Romney’s trip, Obama signed the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, increasing military ties between the two countries.  A Haaretz blog points out that this is largely political and that the act itself won’t do a whole lot, but a few key assumptions deserve scrutiny:

 

1) Obviously this was political, since Obama had Jewish senators and leaders of AIPAC by his side during the signing.  What does it say if the way our politicians try to get the Jewish vote is by showing how much they believe in giving military aid to Israel?  Iran is consistently put out as the main threat to Israel, and thus made to justify all this military aid.  But as Losang made an excellent point of in a recent post, even the US military sees Iran’s military as largely defensive, not offensive.  A terrible regime to be sure, but they are not the lunatics they are made out to be.  But if you can portray the Iranians as part of the irrational, Islamofascist, anti-Semitic conspiracy, then the US becomes the savior of Israel through massive military assistance.  Is this really the only way to get the Jewish vote?

2)  The US-Israel relationship is based on military (and economic) ties.  Is military aid really going to make Israel safer?  Israel has far more power militarily than the Arab world combined and the message that is sent when giving more aid is “The US and Israel will dominate these region with force.”  So the Arab world can do what we say or face the consequences.  This results in some very interesting trends in Arab public opinion.  The Brookings Institution released polls they did of the Arab world (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and United Arab Emirates) in 2011, which found the following:

  • When asked “What two countries do you think are the biggest threat to you?”   71% said Israel, 59% said the US, and only 18% said Iran.  59% view the US either “somewhat” unfavorably or “very” unfavorably.
  • When asked which leader outside one’s own country you admire the most, a plurarity of 22% said Erdogon of Turkey, 13% said Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, and 13% said Ahmadinajad of Iran.  Obama came in at 4%, which sadly couldn’t even beat Saddam Hussein at 6%, who has been dead for several years.
  • A 64% majority say Iran has the right to develop a nuclear program, even though a 52% majority think it is for nuclear weapons and not for peaceful purposes.  A 35% plurality think nuclear weapons would have a negative impact on the Middle East.
  • Perhaps most telling of all, respondents were asked to pick two items from the following list as what they thought were driving US policy in the Middle East.  Next to each item is the percentage who chose each factor: controlling oil (53%), protecting Israel (44%), weakening the Muslim world (32%), preserving regional and global dominance (29%), promoting peace and stability (8%), fighting terrorism (8%), preventing the spread of nuclear weapons (7%), spreading human rights (5%), and promoting democracy (5%).
  • Moreover, it is not some irrational hatred of Jews that leads to these attitudes.  67% say they are ready for peace with Israel if Israel is willing to return the 1967 territories, including East Jerusalem.

 

What this all means is that what is called US support for Israel is progressively alienating the Arab population, who in some areas at least (oil especially) seem to understand motivations for US policy better than the US population.  That such a serious issue is campaign fodder is horrendous.

Romney Visits Israel: What does this say about the United States?

The shameful part about Romney’s visit to Israel is that he can actually make Obama look weak.  There is a competition here on who will protect the Jews more, which has taken on twisted mentality since protecting Jews apparently means being the most willing to let Israel expand and knock over whoever gets in their way.  Exhibit A is the Israeli government asking its Supreme Court for permission to demolish Palestinian homes.

 

For more info: Say what you want about his style, but Norman Finkelstein is the best analyst of Israel’s human rights record, as well as comparison of its actions with international law.