Shameless Obama Savages Poor & Working Classes With A Reagan Budget -- More Nightmarish Consistency c/o Inside Man for Oligarchs
[Welcome, Roseanne World readers! --lambert]
I want to share the optimism lifting so many for the Egyptians and of the Egyptians, but I keep picturing the euphoria of millions of Americans after the Obama election and I want to warn the Egyptians to stay vigilant and wary of charismatic, say-anything inside men for the oligarchs. Can the Egyptians possibly begin to institute the kind of democracy we Americans seem to have lost?
Obama has hit a new low with the present budget. I keep thinking I am beyond astonishment at him, but alas, he keeps on delivering the hits, farther and farther below the belt.
Glen Ford, who, incidentally, coined the "inside man for oligarchs" reference to Obama, reminds us of the time when Obama stunned so many of us progressives by heralding Reagan as a great president. That was surely a big tip off that he was not what he was being packaged as by the political progressives, but not really progressives, more accurately, soul-less, pragmatic gamesmen and gameswomen enthralled to their shadow corporate overlords hawking him to win an election. I don’t know if I am getting more traditionally religious or not. I find myself praying there is a ferocious hell for all those who played and benefited from the biggest con perpetrated on a citizenry, the faux-answer to the Bush Insanity, Barack Obama. After the trauma of Bush, we deserved a break, not a Trojan Horse shamelessly ready to continue and worsen human suffering both home and abroad.
Ford writes of the new budget:
The First Black President just gave birth to an unmistakably Republican budget – and everybody knows who that ugly baby’s daddy is. For the past two years, Barack Obama has been making out quite publicly with George Bush’s corporate friends. But that shouldn’t be a scandal; after all, Obama has always told everyone in range of his voice that his main goal in life is to forge a grand consensus with the GOP, a bipartisan understanding between the Right and the Center Right.
The result is an Obama budget that is all sliced up, like the loser in a knife fight – only, Obama and his corporate executives-on-loan at the White House did all the cutting, themselves. Obama is showing such extraordinary talent for obliterating poor and working class programs across the board, he’s making Republicans look redundant and obsolete.
From community block grants to Section 8 housing vouchers to child care to Pell Grants to home heating oil for the poor, Obama has preemptively savaged all that decent people hold dear in the social safety net, and is in enthusiastic, principled agreement with the Republicans that the big cuts are still to come, in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.
Ford reflects back on the craven selling of Obama as man of the people:
As we at Black Agenda Report and honest analysts like Paul Street pointed out all along, Obama has always been a dangerous, corporate creature. But like the frog that allows the scorpion to hitch a ride on his back across the swollen river, Black and progressive misleaders act shocked and hurt when Obama stings them with his deadly budget halfway through his term. But the frog should have known the nature of a scorpion. Obama’s corporate character was no secret to anyone except those who wished not to know.
Despite being dazzled by Obama's skin color and charm, there is still a consensus among Black Americans on issues of social justice. With his draconian cuts, President Obama is violating that consensus so sharply, it cannot be papered over for the sake of racial pride.
I hope Mr. Ford is right. There is nothing as ferocious as the denial invested in someone who so breathtakingly betrays. With a heartbreak so massive, some will will themselves to rationalize and justify seemingly forever.
Laura Flanders writes of the preposterous degree of abundance for the super-rich in our recent past, escalated not reduced thanks to the Obama administration:
In 2009, as million of workers lost their jobs, on Wall Street at the thirty-eight biggest firms, investors and executives earned $140 billion -- the highest sum ever.
James Madison famously wrote that the new American republic was to be "a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people," not aristocratic privilege or hereditary right. Yet in 2010 undisclosed private donors and multinational corporations funneled millions of dollars into our media, saturating the airwaves and skewing the election.
As all this has been shaping up, as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson point out, government in our era not only failed to push back on the tide rising at the top but "put its thumb on the scale, hard... on the side of those who had more weight."
The thumb on the scale, all right. More than a thumb, I dare say.
Where is the accountability? Where is the justice? Where are our laws of protection? Gone to greed and graft most every one.
Matt Taibbi always has a dramatic, realistic take of our situation as citizens, if you have the stomach to face down the scope of the corruption and non-accountability in Obamaworld. He paints a full and tragic picture in his latest Rolling Stone article "Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail?":
Here's how regulation of Wall Street is supposed to work. To begin with, there's a semigigantic list of public and quasi-public agencies ostensibly keeping their eyes on the economy, a dense alphabet soup of banking, insurance, S&L, securities and commodities regulators like the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), as well as supposedly "self-regulating organizations" like the New York Stock Exchange. All of these outfits, by law, can at least begin the process of catching and investigating financial criminals, though none of them has prosecutorial power.
The major federal agency on the Wall Street beat is the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC watches for violations like insider trading, and also deals with so-called "disclosure violations" — i.e., making sure that all the financial information that publicly traded companies are required to make public actually jibes with reality. But the SEC doesn't have prosecutorial power either, so in practice, when it looks like someone needs to go to jail, they refer the case to the Justice Department. And since the vast majority of crimes in the financial services industry take place in Lower Manhattan, cases referred by the SEC often end up in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Thus, the two top cops on Wall Street are generally considered to be that U.S. attorney — a job that has been held by thunderous prosecutorial personae like Robert Morgenthau and Rudy Giuliani — and the SEC's director of enforcement.
The relationship between the SEC and the DOJ is necessarily close, even symbiotic. Since financial crime-fighting requires a high degree of financial expertise — and since the typical drug-and-terrorism-obsessed FBI agent can't balance his own checkbook, let alone tell a synthetic CDO from a credit default swap — the Justice Department ends up leaning heavily on the SEC's army of 1,100 number-crunching investigators to make their cases. In theory, it's a well-oiled, tag-team affair: Billionaire Wall Street Asshole commits fraud, the NYSE catches on and tips off the SEC, the SEC works the case and delivers it to Justice, and Justice perp-walks the Asshole out of Nobu, into a Crown Victoria and off to 36 months of push-ups, license-plate making and Salisbury steak.
That's the way it's supposed to work. But a veritable mountain of evidence indicates that when it comes to Wall Street, the justice system not only sucks at punishing financial criminals, it has actually evolved into a highly effective mechanism for protecting financial criminals. This institutional reality has absolutely nothing to do with politics or ideology — it takes place no matter who's in office or which party's in power.
JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Most of these firms were directly involved in elaborate fraud and theft. Lehman Brothers hid billions in loans from its investors. Bank of America lied about billions in bonuses. Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling. What's more, many of these companies had corporate chieftains whose actions cost investors billions — from AIG derivatives chief Joe Cassano, who assured investors they would not lose even "one dollar" just months before his unit imploded, to the $263 million in compensation that former Lehman chief Dick "The Gorilla" Fuld conveniently failed to disclose. Yet not one of them has faced time behind bars.
Instead, federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements — whitewash jobs that involve the firms paying pathetically small fines without even being required to admit wrongdoing. To add insult to injury, the people who actually committed the crimes almost never pay the fines themselves; banks caught defrauding their shareholders often use shareholder money to foot the tab of justice. "If the allegations in these settlements are true," says Jed Rakoff, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, "it's management buying its way off cheap, from the pockets of their victims."
To understand the significance of this, one has to think carefully about the efficacy of fines as a punishment for a defendant pool that includes the richest people on earth — people who simply get their companies to pay their fines for them. Conversely, one has to consider the powerful deterrent to further wrongdoing that the state is missing by not introducing this particular class of people to the experience of incarceration. "You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street," says a former congressional aide. "That's all it would take. Just once."
But that hasn't happened. Because the entire system set up to monitor and regulate Wall Street is fucked up.
Criminal Justice is simply "in bed" with Wall Street. Taibbi:
Criminal justice, as it pertains to the Goldmans and Morgan Stanleys of the world, is not adversarial combat, with cops and crooks duking it out in interrogation rooms and courthouses. Instead, it's a cocktail party between friends and colleagues who from month to month and year to year are constantly switching sides and trading hats. At the Hilton conference, regulators and banker-lawyers rubbed elbows during a series of speeches and panel discussions, away from the rabble. "They were chummier in that environment," says Aguirre, who plunked down $2,200 to attend the conference.
The revolving door of opportunities to government employees in the private sphere guarantees non-accountability. Taibbi:
"It wasn't just one rotation of the revolving door," says Aguirre. "It just kept spinning. Every single person had rotated in and out of government and private service."
The Revolving Door isn't just a footnote in financial law enforcement; over the past decade, more than a dozen high-ranking SEC officials have gone on to lucrative jobs at Wall Street banks or white-shoe law firms, where partnerships are worth millions. That makes SEC officials like Paul Berger and Linda Thomsen the equivalent of college basketball stars waiting for their first NBA contract. Are you really going to give up a shot at the Knicks or the Lakers just to find out whether a Wall Street big shot like John Mack was guilty of insider trading? "You take one of these jobs," says Turner, the former chief accountant for the SEC, "and you're fit for life."
But even beyond that, the system is skewed by the irrepressible pull of riches and power. If talent rises in the SEC or the Justice Department, it sooner or later jumps ship for those fat NBA contracts. Or, conversely, graduates of the big corporate firms take sabbaticals from their rich lifestyles to slum it in government service for a year or two. Many of those appointments are inevitably hand-picked by lifelong stooges for Wall Street like Chuck Schumer, who has accepted $14.6 million in campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other major players in the finance industry, along with their corporate lawyers.
As for Obama, Taibbi lays out the nauseating details of his legacy of non-accountability and Taibbi's guarantee that this swamp will never get drained under Obama's watch, which most likely will continue thanks to the surreal level of payola coming back to him for 2012:
As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff. "The betrayal that this represents by Obama to everybody is just — we're not ready to believe it," says Budde, a classmate of the president from their Columbia days. "He's really fucking us over like that? Really? That's really a JP Morgan guy, really?"
Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. Since 2007, felony immigration prosecutions along the Mexican border have surged 77 percent; nonfelony prosecutions by 259 percent. In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses.
So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry. That's too mean; let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year. What's next? Taxpayer-funded massages for every Wall Street executive guilty of fraud?
Taibbi attempts to explain why most Americans can not grasp the depth and scope of financial crimes:
The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They're attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone's claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.
As for Obama? I thought Bush was the worst President. But Obama ... there seems something extra unforgivable about him. At the same time, I think I could even feel sorry for someone who has been willing to sell out so profoundly, in a way, if he didn’t have such enormous power to keep on worsening people’s lives and such powerful enablers like Oprah distributing his koolaid.