Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

College for all is an economic red herring

April 9, 2015

wages-productivity-educationSource: The Atlantic.

SDT-higher-education-02-11-2014-0-06Senator Rick Santorum was right, or at least partly right.  Only a snob would think that you have to be a college graduate to be a success in life.

Now President Obama didn’t exactly say that in the 2012 campaign, not in so many words, but the focus of his policy is that high schools should make their graduates “college-ready” and that a college diploma is a key to economic success.

This is a red herring.  It is a diversion from the real economic problems, especially the erosion of the wage-earning middle class.

Thomas Geoghegan pointed out in his new book, Only One Thing Can Save Us, that when the President says lack of higher education is the cause of economic inequality, he is writing off the 68 percent of Americans age 24 to 64 who don’t have college diplomas and never will.

Suppose, he asked, that Obama and the Democrats succeed in pushing the college graduation rate up to 35 percent or even 40 percent, which would be hard to do.   Obama is still writing off the majority of working-age Americans.

The President is in effect telling high school graduates that the reason it is so hard for them to find decent-paying jobs is that they didn’t go to college.  And as for the the one in five male college graduates and one in seven women graduates whose income is less than that of the average high school graduate, it is because they attended the wrong college or majored in the wrong subject.


The truth about President Obama’s budget

February 5, 2015

I like to write good things to write about President Obama.  It helps me to convince myself that I am a fair-minded person, and also convince my friends, most of whom are supporters of the President.

But usually when I do, it turns out there is a catch.  I feel as if I were Charlie Brown in the comic strip once again trusting Lucy to hold the football so he can kick it.

I wrote a post the other day praising the President for budget proposals, which contained some modest tax increases on the upper income brackets and some modest benefits from working people.

But now I realize I missed important parts—more spending for the military, tax reductions for the rich and cuts to Medicare.

Andre Demon, writing for the World Socialist Web Site, pointed out:

Obama’s budget proposal would increase Pentagon spending by 7 percent, adding an additional $38 billion to bring the total defense budget to $534 billion. 

Obama is separately proposing $51 billion in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Syria, including money to back the so-called “moderate” opposition in Syria, as well for as the ongoing US troop presence in Afghanistan.

Newsweek - Obama - The Democrats ReaganThe budget calls for the corporate tax rate to be cut to 25 percent for manufacturers and 28 percent for other corporations, down from the current rate of 35 percent.

The proposal would also allow US corporations to repatriate past profits generated overseas at a tax rate of only 14 percent.  Foreign profits would be taxed at 19 percent in the future. 

Currently, US corporations pay a rate of 35 percent on foreign profits, which many corporations avoid by keeping their foreign earnings abroad.

These tax cuts are accompanied by $400 billion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The budget proposes to raise $66 billion over ten years by charging higher Medicare premiums to upper-income patients, a move that would undermine Medicare’s status as a universal entitlement and open the door to means testing and the transformation of the government health insurance program for seniors into a poverty program.

The plan would cut another “$116 billion in Medicare payments to drug companies for medicines prescribed for low-income patients,” according to the New York Times. 

It would also slash $100 billion for the treatment of Medicare patients following their discharge from the hospital, affecting primarily the elderly.

via World Socialist Web Site.


Why were Democrats AWOL on minimum wage?

January 26, 2015

President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union message proposed tying the minimum wage to the rate of inflation.

A blogger named Jamison Foser pointed out that the Democrats, who had a majority in the Senate, did not introduce any legislation in 2014 to accomplish that.

minimum_wage_onpagePresident Obama in his 2014 State of the Union message proposed an increase in the minimum wage.

Foser pointed out that the Democrats, who still had a majority in the Senate, introduced a bill in April to raise the minimum wage and, when it failed, they did not try again.

The Republicans who controlled the House of Representatives meanwhile passed bill after bill to repeal Obamacare.

Pundits ridiculed them for this, but in the 2014 elections, the Obamacare mess was a much bigger issue for voters than minimum wage.  Some states that passed referendums to increase the minimum wage still voted Republican.

This is a failure of the whole Washington leadership of the Democratic Party.

What good are politicians who won’t fight for the public good even when it’s popular?


After the State of the Union by Jamison Foser.  Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.

Obama’s tax plan: Better now than never

January 19, 2015

When Barack Obama ran for President, he promised lower taxes on the American middle class and higher taxes on the super-rich.  Public opinion polls show most Americans favor this.

Barack_Obama_Hope_posterNow, in the seventh year of his Presidency, Obama has a new tax plan that will do just that—reduce taxes by $175 billion on working people and increase taxes by $320 billion mainly on holders of financial assets.

It’s not a radical plan, but it’s almost certain to be opposed by Republicans in Congress, and that will make a good campaign issue for Democrats in 2016.

The cynic in me wonders why the President didn’t introduce this in 2009 when Democrats had majorities in both houses of Congress, and there was some possibility it would be enacted.

But the pragmatist in me thinks it is a good thing to get politicians and the public talking about tax justice even if it doesn’t result in legislation on the first try.


President Obama finally has his Piketty moment by Matt O’Brien for the Washington Post.  Hat tip to Cannonfire.

Five things about Barack Obama’s Robin Hood tax plan by Brian Faler for Politico.

Which side are they on?

December 9, 2014

The Republican Party leadership is explicitly anti-union because they recognize that unions are a key support for the Democratic Party and a key opponent of the right-wing corporate agenda.

It would seem logical to think that President Obama and the Democratic leaders would defend organized labor, one of the pillars of their party, but they don’t.

RTW_protestAs Thomas Edsall pointed out in his New York Times column, the Democratic leadership has been not only indifferent to labor’s goals, but sometimes actively hostile.

Republicans such as Scott Walker and Chris Christie have persuaded the public that low wages, job insecurity and lack of benefits are normal, and that a policeman who gets a pension enjoys an unfair privilege at the public expense.

Democratic leaders do little or nothing to counteract this.

The problem is not that Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi or the other Democratic leaders are naive or weak, or that the Republicans are obstructionist (they are, but that’s not the problem).

The problem is that the goals of the Democratic leaders are different from what they say and from what their core supporters want.


My problem with President Obama

November 3, 2014

My problem with President Obama is not that he is ineffective in accomplishing good things.

My problem with President Obama is that he is proactive in doing bad things.


Paul Krugman’s defense of President Obama

October 15, 2014

I started reading Paul Krugman’s column in the New York Times during the Bush-Cheney administration, and quickly came to respect him for his incisive and fearless criticism of the administration’s policies.  He didn’t have any insider knowledge—just a willingness to look at the facts and state the obvious.

I don’t read his column regularly any more—partly because the New York Times has gone behind a pay wall and I’m not a subscriber.

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

Recently he wrote a long article entitled In Defense of Obama for Rolling Stone magazine, which, to me, is an example of how progressives have come to think of peace and prosperity as unattainable ideals.

I think it is worth discussing in some detail, but I first want to mention the way Krugman framed his argument.  He wrote that “the left” did not get all it wanted, like somebody going to a restaurant and not finding everything they like on the menu.

For me, it is not a question of the degree to which you satisfy the desires of “the left” and “the right”.  It is a question of whether the USA can halt its descent into authoritarianism, militarism and oligarchy before it is too late.  Obama, in my opinion, has not done this.  In my opinion, he has not even tried.

I know this language sounds exaggerated.  I don’t think it is and, if you follow this web log, you will see the reasons why I think so.


Now, Krugman on health insurance reform and the Affordable Care Act.

We won’t have the full data on 2014 until next year’s census report, but multiple independent surveys show a sharp drop in the number of Americans without health insurance, probably around 10 million, a number certain to grow greatly over the next two years as more people realize that the program is available and penalties for failure to sign up increase.

Democrat Lady and Her Republican FriendIt’s true that the Affordable Care Act will still leave millions of people in America uninsured. For one thing, it was never intended to cover undocumented immigrants, who are counted in standard measures of the uninsured. Furthermore, millions of low-income Americans will slip into the loophole [Chief Justice John] Roberts created: They were supposed to be covered by a federally funded expansion of Medicaid, but some states are blocking that expansion out of sheer spite. 

obamacare&alternativeFinally, unlike Social Security and Medicare, for which almost everyone is automatically eligible, Obamacare requires beneficiaries to prove their eligibility for Medicaid or choose and then pay for a subsidized private plan. Inevitably, some people will fall through the cracks.

Still, Obamacare means a huge improvement in the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans – not just better care, but greater financial security.  And even those who were already insured have gained both security and freedom, because they now have a guarantee of coverage if they lose or change jobs.

tomTomorrow-20090804What about the costs?  Here, too, the news is better than anyone expected. In 2014, premiums on the insurance policies offered through the Obamacare exchanges were well below those originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office, and the available data indicates a mix of modest increases and actual reductions for 2015 – which is very good in a sector where premiums normally increase five percent or more each year.  More broadly, overall health spending has slowed substantially, with the cost-control features of the ACA probably deserving some of the credit.  [snip]


The passing scene: Links & comments 9/30/14

September 30, 2014

Bernie Sanders: Longterm Democratic strategy is “pathetic”, an interview by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said the Democratic Party is too beholden to big-money donors to do anything meaningful for working people.  Instead Democrats pin their hopes on social issues, demographic changes and fear of Republican extremism.

Sanders told Thomas Frank that nothing is going to change until there is a political awakening in this country as to the power of big money and the need to overthrow it.

Obama’s Long Battle to Cut Social Security Benefits by Eric Zuesse for Washington’s Blog.

President Obama throughout his term of office has tirelessly campaigned for a budget-balancing bargain in which Social Security and Medicare would be cut.  This is not something Republicans have forced upon him.  It goes well beyond anything they have asked for.

None of this is a secret.  It is all on the public record.  Yet few of Obama’s supporters seem to notice.

Did Indiana Autoworkers Strike a Blow Against Two-Tier Contracts? by David Moberg for In These Times (via Bill Harvey)

Two-tier union contracts, in which newly-hired workers start at a lower pay rate than the incumbents, demonstrate the weakness and lack of solidarity of labor unions and their pessimism about the future.

The United Auto Workers signed a contract with a Lear Corp. auto parts plant in Hammond, Indiana, that supposedly restores the principle of equal pay for equal work.  But the price of the contract is wage reductions for sub-assembly workers.  So did the workers gain or lose?

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey, who sent me the link, pointed out that the two-tier benefits structure remains in place.

After Surgery, $117,000 Medical Bill from Doctor He Didn’t Know by Elisabeth Rosenthal for the New York Times.

Hospitals and physicians jack up medical bills by bringing in “out of network” consultants without asking the patient’s permission.  Not every ethical!


David Malone, a British blogger who posts as Golem XIV, has written a new installment in his series about the strategy of the global over-class.   Here are links to the complete series so far.

The Next Crisis – Part One

The Next Crisis – Part Two – A manifesto for the supremacy of the 1%

The Next Crisis – Part Three – The World Turned Upside Down

These articles a bit long to read on a screen, but they contain good information and insight.

Why we fight

September 25, 2014

ByX_Ou3IYAADiaHAbove is a letter to the editor to The Daily Mail in London concerning what military intervention in the Middle East is all about.  Actually it’s a bit out of date.  The Saudi Arabian government doesn’t officially support the Islamic State militants any more, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t get any support from individual Saudi Arabs.

Another interesting question is where Israel stands in all this.  The Islamic State (ISIS) and the other Sunni Muslim militias fighting in Iraq and Syria are enemies of Israel’s Shiite Muslim enemies, especially Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim militia and political party in Lebanon, and Hezbollah’s backer, Iran.

I am always in doubt at moments such as this as to whether the President (whoever he is at the time) lacks a clear purpose, or whether he has a purpose that is not revealed.


War Without End: The U.S. may still be fighting in Syria in 2024, 2034, 2044 by Jack Shafer for Bloomberg News (via Naked Capitalism).

The War Nerd: Bombs away in the Middle East!  But why is Israel so quiet? by Gary Brechter for Pando Daily.

Am I smart enough to criticize President Obama?

September 22, 2014

Lance Mannion, an astute and interesting long-time blogger, wrote recently that he has no standing to criticize President Barack Obama because Obama is so much smarter than he is.   Therefore he is going to be silent about the President’s policies and restrict his criticism and ridicule to obviously ignorant right-wingers.

Obama.tcWell, I don’t think I’m as smart as Obama, either.  As far as that goes, I think the vast majority of Presidents during my adult lifetime were smarter than me.   President Richard Nixon, in my opinion, was the smartest of all, both in being well-read and in political astuteness, but that doesn’t put him above criticism.

I think the answer to this was given by the philosopher John Dewey in his defense of democracy.   The average voter is not capable of making presidential decisions, but the voter is capable of knowing how those decisions turned out.  In the same way, Dewey said, he himself was not capable of making his own shoes, but he was capable of knowing whether his shoes fit or not.

I don’t have a plan that will guarantee peace and prosperity for all.

But I don’t see that I’m obligated to come up with such a plan in order to have the standing to oppose perpetual war, presidential death warrants, preventive detention, universal surveillance, bank bailouts, impunity for financial fraud, proposals to cut back Social Security and corporate trade agreements that override national sovereignty.

The first step in making things better is to stop doing things that make them worse.  You don’t have to be a genius to understand that.

Tom Ferguson on Piketty and the Democrats

May 15, 2014

Bush, Obama and the federal deficit

October 2, 2013

deficits-since-2000The great economist, John Maynard Keynes, said that governments should set taxes and expenditures so that they run a surplus when times were good and a deficit when times are bad, but balance over the period of the economic cycle.   This is much like the advice that Joseph gave to Pharaoh in the Bible.

The Clinton administration, with maybe some nudging from Republicans in Congress, followed that advice.   Bill Clinton was lucky in his timing.  He came into office at the start of an economic recovery and got out before the next crash.

The boom in itself helped bring the government’s budget into balance.  Tax revenues increased, and it was easier to cut spending.  Clinton made good use of that opportunity.  A commission headed by Vice President Al Gore streamlined the government so that, at the end of his administration, there was less spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) and fewer civilian employees [1] than at the beginning.

Clinton persuaded Congress to increase taxes [2] by a few percentage points, which also helped.  Taxes still were low compared to what they were prior to the Reagan era.

I don’t think increasing taxes makes it easier to spend money.  On the contrary, the fact that it is necessary to pay for what is spent creates an incentive to avoid unnecessary spending.

President George W. Bush changed this.  He persuaded Congress to cut tax rates while launching an expensive war.  Nevertheless, the economic recovery during his administration brought the federal budget closer to being in balance, until the crash.

Notice that a fiscal year starts on October 1 of the previous year.  Thus fiscal 2001 began on Oct. 1, 2000, and fiscal 2009 began on Oct. 1, 2008.  This means the first Bush budget was in 2002 and the first Obama budget was in 2010.


In 2010, the first Obama budget, the federal budget deficit began to close.  Maybe the need to appease Republicans in Congress had something to do with this.  Maybe the decrease is not enough since, even though the deficit is being reduced, it still exists and the debt in cumulative.   I won’t argue either point.

What I will argue is that if budget balance is your main priority, the Clinton era shows how to do it.  Cut unnecessary spending, raise enough taxes to cover the rest and hope for economic growth.


Who caused the deficit?

September 17, 2012

I’m not a supporter of President Obama, but if I thought that balancing the federal budget was the overriding issue, I would vote for him.  On fiscal matters, he is a better conservative than the present Republican Party leadership.

Remember that the fiscal year begins in October of the previous year.  The 2009 fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2008, and so is the responsibility of the George W. Bush administration, except for the stimulus program enacted after Barack Obama took office.

The main causes of the federal budget deficit were the tax reductions proposed by President George W. Bush, the cost of invading Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Great Recession, which reduced tax revenues while automatically increasing spending for the social safety net.   Recall that when President George W. Bush took office, he and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan thought that federal budget surpluses were a problem, and Bush’s tax reduction program was intended to eliminate those surpluses.

I see little hope of balancing the federal budget until (1) the Clinton era tax rates are restored, (2) military spending is brought under control and (3) the Great Recession comes to an end.  President Obama has proposed restoring Clinton era taxes on upper-bracket taxpayers, and he is reducing the size of the U.S. military (although not cutting back on its mission).  Obama’s embrace of drone warfare is, I think, partly for budget reasons, like the Eisenhower-Dulles “massive retaliation” policy of the 1950s.

The most important step to bring the federal budget under control would be to bring the Great Recession to an end.  Budget problems, like other problems, are relatively easy to solve under conditions of peace and prosperity.  So long as unemployment is high and poverty is increasing, tax revenues will be low and spending on the social safety net should be relatively high.

Newt Gingrich called President Obama the “food stamp” President.  The present food stamp program was created by bipartisan legislation in the 1970s co-sponsored by Senators Robert Dole and George McGovern.  The reason spending on food stamps is high is because the Great Recession is pushing people into unemployment and poverty-wage jobs.  We should not change the law and let children go hungry, but by work toward a high-wage, full employment economy in which hard-working people won’t need food stamps.

Click on Marketwatch: Obama spending binge never happened for background and the source of the first two charts.

Click on The Four Causes of the Huge Deficit for more background and the source of the next to last chart.

Click on Causes of the Trillion Dollar Deficits for more background and the source of the bottom chart.

Click on Greenspan Endorses a Cut in Tax Rate for an article from 2001 about how Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan and President George W. Bush wanted to get rid of budget surpluses.

Click on ‘Reagan Proved Deficits Don’t Matter’ for comment on the Crooks and Liars web log on changing Republican attitudes toward the deficit.


Why I’m not voting for the black President

September 13, 2012

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer and blogger for The Atlantic Monthly, wrote an essay entitled “Fear of a Black President” in which, among other things, he described what President Obama’s election means to black people, and especially to black parents.  It means that there is literally no upper limit on what black Americans are allowed to achieve.  As recently as five years ago, I would not have believed it possible for a black person to be nominated, let alone elected, by either of the two major parties.  I take satisfaction as an American that I was proved wrong.

At the same time, as Coates pointed out, Barack Obama is under constant attack based on his race.  He is accused, based on no evidence whatsoever, of being a product of affirmative action, of being a Kenyan anti-colonial radical, of hating white people.   When Obama said policeman James Crowley’s arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates on trumped-up charges was “stupid,” he was accused of stirring up black people against white people.  Given Obama’s difficult situation, Coates wrote, it is understandable that he has not actually done anything to help black people as a group.

I think this is correct.  As a matter of pure political calculation, it is more important for him to reassure white people than to stand with black people.  The fact that he has shown a black man can be elected President, plus the nature of the attacks made on him as a black man, is enough to assure him the support of the vast majority of African-Americans.  So he can afford to turn his back on Van Jones, on Shirley Sherrod and on ACORN, while he would give ammunition to his attackers if he had stood by them.

Obama’s political career, as Coates noted, is based on presenting himself to white people as someone more reasonable than a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton.  Obama was not, except for his short and ineffective service as a community organizer, an advocate of the interests and grievances of African-Americans.  Rather he was the person who could bring black people and white people together and get them to, if not forget about race, at least put race in the background.

Much has been made of Obama’s connections with the angry preacher Jeremiah Wright, the ex-revolutionary Bill Ayers and the racketeer Tony Renko.  Obama is not angry, revolutionary or a racketeer.  The significance of these three people is that they are part of the Chicago power structure, which he as an outsider worked his way into, just as he worked his way into the Washington, D.C., power structure.

Obama’s political advancement was based on his ability to convince people in power that what he advocated was reasonable.  That is how he persuaded the Illinois state legislature to pass a law requiring police interrogations to be videotaped and made available to juries; that is how he together with Senator John McCain persuaded Congress to create an Internet site on which all earmarked appropriations would be listed.   All his speeches—and he is a great speaker—are examples of walking through minefields, of satisfying and reconciling all sides.

My astute friend Oidin pointed out during the 2008 campaign that Barack Obama’s advertising and video biography showed him interacting only with white people, not with black people.  His black sister did not emerge into the public eye until election night.  Many successful black people say they have to purposefully be less forceful than is natural to them, in order that white people not feel threatened by them.  President Obama is the prime example of the non-threatening black person—although there are a certain number of white people who will feel threatened by him no matter what he does or doesn’t do.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

When I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, it was not in order to do black people a favor.  I voted for him because I thought he would stop the country’s drift into perpetual warfare, lawless authoritarianism and economic oligarchy.  I thought that merely replacing President George W. Bush would be a change for the better.  I was wrong.

I don’t think President Obama is any worse than the leading white Presidential candidates of the past 10 years.  Obama built on precedents set by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  He probably is no worse than Hillary Clinton or John McCain would have been in his place, let alone Mitt Romney.

But I am not demanding that the black President adhere to a higher standard than a white President.  The basic minimum duty of a President is to obey the law and to enforce the law.  I would vote for a Gerald Ford if I could count on him to do these two things.  President Obama has claimed the power to sign death warrants and commit acts of war based on decisions made in secret according to secret criteria.  He has refused to enforce the law against financial fraud or crimes against humanity.  The legal and organizational infrastructure for dictatorship exists in the United States, and Obama has not dismantled it.  He has strengthened it.

Human rights do not end at the water’s edge.  People in targeted areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen have as much right as you, me or Trayvon Martin to not be killed based on vague suspicions.

Most of my friends and acquaintances intend to vote for Obama.  They tell me it is my responsibility to choose among the options on the table and, if they are all bad, to vote for the least bad.  I don’t accept that.  If I don’t insist on a candidate who upholds the Constitution and the laws, then I am an enabler for the violation of the Constitution and the laws.

Click on Fear of a Black President for the complete article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic Monthly.  It is well worth reading in full.

Click on Vertical Solidarity is nonsense for a rejoiner by “B Psycho” on Psychopolitik.

Click on Why Barack Obama Is the More Effective Evil for an important article by Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report.

Click on The Hard Right Is Paranoid About the Wrong Things for comment by Conor Friedersdorf, another Atlantic writer, on rational and irrational reasons for opposing President Obama.

A pragmatic case for voting for Obama

September 10, 2012

Click to enlarge.

Click on Ted Rall’s Rallblog for more cartoons.

Hat tip to AZspot.

Is President Obama the best we can expect?

September 8, 2012

These two videos are segments of a debate yesterday on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now program.  Glen Ford, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, argued that Barack Obama, with all his flaws, is the most progressive President who has a chance of being elected, while Michael Eric Dyson, editor of the on-line Black Agenda Report, said that Obama, compared to Mitt Romney, is the more “effective evil” in his support of Wall Street and undeclared war.  Interestingly, Dyson plans to vote for Obama just the same.

Click on The Black Left Debates Barack Obama for a link to the complete debate, comment by Ta-Nehisi Coates and an interesting discussion thread.

How Obama has surpassed Bush

July 19, 2012

David Boaz of the Cato Institute has combed through the statistics, and unearthed achievements in which President Obama can justly claim to have surpassed President Bush:

Most deportations.  Despite his endorsement of the DREAM Act, President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any president in history. He’s been deporting about 400,000 people a year, about double the number in the George W. Bush administration.

Most leaks prosecutions.  The Obama administration has been criticized for leaking classified information in a series of campaigns to portray the president as a tough, engaged commander-in-chief. But meanwhile the administration information has used the 1917 Espionage Act to target suspected leakers in twice as many cases as all previous presidential administrations combined.

Most troops in Afghanistan.  The United States had about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan during 2008, the last year of President Bush’s term. By the end of 2010, President Obama had increased that number to almost 100,000. It’s down to about 88,000 now, which still might surprise people who recall candidate Obama’s ringing antiwar speeches of 2008. 

Most medical marijuana raids … …

Most drone strikes.  President Obama doesn’t like the way the Bush administration treated prisoners at Guantanamo, so he’s taking fewer prisoners. The Obama administration has carried out at least 308 covert drone strikes in Pakistan, more than five times the 44 approved under Bush.

Most fundraisers.  All presidents spend a lot of their time fundraising. But President Obama leads the league. Political scientist Brendan J. Doherty, author of the new book The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign, reports that Obama had held 104 fundraisers by March 6, compared to 94 held by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush combined [at the same point in the years they campaigned for reelection]. CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller noted that by June 12 Obama had done 160 re-election fundraisers, twice as many as Bush by the same point in 2004.

Click on Obama’s Accomplishments to read Boaz’s whole article.  I don’t agree with Boaz that the failed recovery is because President Obama has weighed down the economy with taxes, spending and regulation.  The total U.S. tax burden is at a low point, the Obama administration is looking at cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare and the big Wall Street and energy companies ought to be regulated more than they are.  In these respects, too, the Obama and Bush administrations are more alike than they are different.

Click on George W. Obama? for an article about the Obama administration has followed in the footsteps of the Bush administration by David W. Bromwich of Yale.  [Added 7/20/12]

Click on Obama May Not Even Be the Lesser Evil for a comparison of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by Andrew Levine of Counterpunch.

The Julian Assange file

June 20, 2012

This is a collection of links, videos and comments about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks posted from June through December of 2012I rearranged the links and replaced dead videos on August 2, 2014.  I have to say I was wrong in my comment that the U.S. and U.K. governments had neutralized Assange and WikiLeaks.

Click on In Conversation with Julian Assange Part One and Part Two for an extended interview with Assange on his life and ideas.

Click on Conspiracy as Governance for Assange’s 2006 statement of his political philosophy.

Click on Interesting Question for Julian Assange’s old blog from 2007, which provides insight into his thinking..

Click on WikiLeaks for the WikiLeaks home page.

Click on This Day in Wikileaks for daily news updates concerning Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks.

Click on Justice for Assange for news from the Julian Assange Defence Fund’s Committee to Defend Julian Assange.

Click on Sex, Lies and Julian Assange for an investigative report by the Four Corners public affairs program of Australian’s ABC broadcasting network.

It shows that there are many questionable things about the sex charges against Julian Assange, and leaves the impression that there are good reasons why he fears being extradited to Sweden. But it doesn’t answer the question of exactly what Assange did or didn’t do to the two women he is accused of abusing.  We may never know the answer to that.  If you view the video, you probably should also view the sidebar showing an interview with Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer for Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen, the two alleged victims.

Click on Wikileaks: the Forgotten Man for a Four Corners report on Bradley Manning.

Click on The Wikileaks Interviews for Four Corners interviews with key figures in the Bradley Manning Case.


A better educated class of unemployed

June 13, 2012

President Obama said in a speech sometime back that everybody should get some education beyond high school.  This might be a good thing, but, in itself, it does nothing to create jobs.  A majority of the unemployed now have some education beyond high school. Without an increase in available jobs, all that increased college enrollment will do is raise the bar for getting a job, and create a better-educated class of unemployed.

Click on College Graduates, Dropouts Now Account for Majority of Jobless 25+, First Time Ever for background information and the source of the chart from Investors’ Daily.

Is it racist to criticize Obama?

May 23, 2012

Click to enlarge.

Click on Candorville for more Darrin Bell cartoons.

Why Kazakhstan matters

May 17, 2012

In the 2006 movie Borat, Sasha Baron Cohen treated the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan as an object of ridicule, a prime example of ignorance and backwardness.  But in fact Kazakhstan is emerging as a key player on the international scene.  This central Asian nation, which is larger than western Europe and borders on Russia and China, is the world’s largest producer of uranium and an important producer of oil and natural gas.  The government of Kazakhstan recently bought a 7.7 percent interest in Westinghouse Corp., one of the two major U.S. manufacturers of nuclear weapons.

President Barack Obama, in talks recently in Seoul, South Korea, conferred one-on-one with Khazakhstan President-for-Life Nursultan Nazarbayev about forging closer ties with the two countries.   The U.S. military provides aid and training for the Kazakhstan armed forces.  A consortium of American universities, including the universities of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, are advising on construction of Nazarbayev University, which will enroll 20,000 students who will be taught entirely in English.

The problem with this, as investigative journalist Allen Ruff said in an interview on the Real News Network, is that the Nazarboyev regime is one of the world’s most brutal and corrupt.  The situation he described reminded me of U.S. relations with the Shah of Iran, prior to the Shah’s overthrow in 1979.   Our government overlooked his human rights violations and encouraged his development of a nuclear energy program because he was considered a key ally and energy supplier.  All this blew up when he was overthrown.

Click on US Befriends Kazakhstan Dicator, Now World’s Largest Producer of Uranium for a transcript of the highly informative broadcast.

Click on RuffTalk for Allen Ruff’s web log.   His recent posts go into the Kazakhstan situation in great detail.  Ruff said Bill Clinton and his Clinton Foundation played a key role in helping Nazarbayev overcome U.S. objections to his Westinghouse acquisition.

Gay marriage, money power and state’s rights

May 10, 2012

President Barack Obama said he believes that same-sex couples have a right to be married.  There are two things to remember about this.

  • His statement comes after gay rights organizations throttled back on contributions to Democratic candidates.  Donations in the 2010 mid-term elections fell by 50 percent from the 2006 mid-term elections.  Evidently the Democratic leaders got the message.  The military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was repealed in the 2010 lame-duck session of Congress.  In 2011, the Obama administration stopped defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a1996  law that forbid any federal government recognition of gay marriage.  And now, with the 2012 Presidential elections coming up, the President endorses gay marriage.
  • President Obama did not propose to support any federal law or Constitutional amendment in support of gay marriage.  He would leave the issue to state governments, which is how things were before he issued his statement.   I happen to think that is the correct position.  I don’t believe in federalizing laws of marriage and divorce either.   But it makes Obama’s statement a mere expression of personal opinion.  It doesn’t change anything.

Mitt Romney for his part has signed a pledge to the National Organization for Marriage to support a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and said he would defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  While Barack Obama has done little to advance gay rights, he isn’t trying to turn the clock back.

Click on Don’t Ask, Don’t Give and Gay Rights Political Donations Plummet for the story of the gay fund-raising boycott.  Hat tip for the links to Making Light.

Click on Obama and Gay Marriage for Radley Balko’s comment on The Agitator.

Click on Obama’s historic affirmation of same-sex marriage for Glenn Greenwald’s comment in The Guardian newspaper.  [Added 5/11/12]

Click on Mitt Romney reiterates opposition to gay marriage for Huffington Post’s comparison of Obama’s and Romney’s positions.

Click on Christian marriage and civil unions for my argument as to why government should not have the authority to say who’s married and who isn’t.

[Afterthought 5/11/12]   Barack Obama’s statement on gay marriage is historically significant, because no previous President has declared himself so clearly.  So maybe my comment above was a little mean-spirited.   It is not consistent to criticize somebody for being equivocal, and then belittle him when he takes a clear stand.  As Glenn Greenwald wrote, we can’t know people’s motives, all we can judge is their actions, good or bad.

Now you may disagree as to whether his statement was the right thing.  That is a different matter.

[Another afterthought 5/12/12]   As my friend Josh said, this shifts the focus of the Presidential election campaign toward the question of gay marriage (even through President Obama has declared it an issue for the states to decide) and away from the bipartisan consensus on creeping totalitarianism – detention without trial, torture, assassinations, universal surveillance, undeclared wars and governmental impunity.

Reasons for voting 2012

May 4, 2012

The only good reason for a principled liberal Democrat to vote for Barack Obama is that he is not Mitt Romney.

The only good reason for a principled conservative Republican to vote for Mitt Romney is that he is not Barack Obama.

That is probably the reason that Negative Ads Dominate 2012 Election, Study Shows.

May 3, 2012


These graphs posted by John Pennington of San Francisco give a good snapshot of the U.S. economy. I think the loss of public sector jobs (shown in the fourth graph) is a bad thing, not a good thing as Pennington implies; and in any case, the job loss reflects layoffs at the state and local level due to the recession.

There is a link to Pennington’s Class War in American web log in the More Blogs menu on the right side of the page.

Originally posted on Class War In America:

Here’s what’s wrong with our economy, and why it’s better under Obama than it would be otherwise, shown in five unambiguous graphs.

Although productivity has risen sharply since 1989, this money has not gone to workers.

A quarter of US workers are in low-wage jobs. These jobs don’t provide enough income for health care or retirement savings.

Since the time of Reagan, the money has gone to the rich.

Republican complaints about runaway government employment under Obama are belied by the facts.

Republicans want us to have more austerity, like Europe, but the Eurozone is underperforming the US. (

All told, Republican plans have consistently led to worsening conditions for all but the rich. Against active Republican opposition, the American economy under Obama has improved more than Europe has. The US economy is again in positive territory, now at a modest 2.3%. But no European country’s growth exceeds…

View original 7 more words

Today is Grumble About Obama Day

May 2, 2012

American Extremists - Positively negative

The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy web site has designated May 2 as Grumble About Obama Day, a day for liberals to vent their frustrations about President Obama before they go back to supporting him.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 is Grumble About Obama Day—a day of deliberately ineffectual venting!

President Barack Obama’s flagrant disregard for progressive values and interests has led to bottled-up frustration for some in his party’s liberal base.

On GAOD, Democratic partisans will be allowed to (softly) complain about Obama’s endlessly growing list of conservative deeds.

Grumble About Obama Day is an unprecedented chance to give voice to concerns which its participants have no interest whatsoever in addressing… even with so small a gesture as supporting a primary challenge or a third-party alternative.

The second of May is the ideal day to feign that you may not vote for Obama’s second term. Afterwards, you can stand tall, knowing you’ve role-played a toothless “make me do it” scenario without the fuss and muss of actually standing up about issues that once seemed important to you.

Observers of Grumble About Obama Day are urged to wear anything but 2L4O: Too Left for Obama or Too Liberal for Obama t-shirts.

Some may choose to mark the day by wearing nothing at all, in honor of the Obama DOJ’s advocacy for the recent Supreme Court ruling on strip searches.

If, like many Democrats, you think everything Obama does is eleven-dimensionally brilliant, or at the very least justified, don’t feel obligated to grumble at all. You can spend the day doubting the integrity and sanity of those who do, just like on any other day.

Early in 2008, I said I would vote for any Presidential candidate who was a bipedal, carbon-based life form who was not George W. Bush.  I voted for Barack Obama with great enthusiasm, but, unfortunately, his policies turned out to be as bad as or worse than Bush’s policies.

The most important duty of a President is to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  President Obama has gone beyond President Bush in asserting unconstitutional powers in regard to habeas corpus, extraordinary renditions, torture, assassinations, warrantless wiretapping, state secrets, prosecution of whistle-blowers and committing acts of war without congressional authorization.

Likewise he has bailed out the Wall Street banking establishment and protected them from prosecution for financial fraud.  A couple of years ago, I thought the problem with President Obama was that he was weak, naive and overly willing to seek compromise from people who weren’t interested in compromise.  I no longer think this.  I think President Obama is a master politician.  It is just that he is not on my side, nor on the side of the people who supported him.

President Obama did not have to offer to cut Social Security.   His administration did not have to block state attorneys-general from prosecuting financial fraud.   There was no political gain.  The only reason for taking such actions was that this is what he believes in.   The President is not weak.  He is tough when it comes to protecting the military-intelligence establishment or the Wall Street financial establishment for oversight.

Click on Little Hope for Change: A Summary of the Bush-Obama Legacy for a thorough rundown comparing Bush’s actions, Obama’s words and Obama’s actions across a whole range of issues.

Click on What If Bush Had Done That? for the perspective of the libertarian Reason magazine.

Click on When It Looks and Feels Like Totalitarianism for a report by Jemima Pierre of the Black Agenda report on laws that give the federal executive the power to arrest on suspicion and suppress protest.  She wrote that the government is acting as if it is getting ready to suppress an uprising.

Click on Obama Worse than Bush on Civil Liberties – Romney No Different from Obama for a libertarian conservative perspective.

Click on Why Obama’s “targeted killing” is worse than Bush’s torture for a British view – which is based on the questionable assumption that torture has ended under President Obama.

Click on NSA whistle-blower: Obama “worse than Bush” for a report on the price an honest man paid for revealing corruption.

Click on Growth of Income Inequality Is Worse Under Obama Than Bush for a comment by Matt Stoller of the Roosevelt Institute.   Stoller said that the continuing upward redistribution of income isn’t necessarily the fault of President Obama, but that it is obvious that the President’s priority is to preserve the capital structure of the major banks rather than to help homeowners, debtors or workers.

American Extremists - Positively negative

Click on American Extremists for more cartoons.


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