Guest post by Andrew Murphy
There comes a time when one has to state the obvious and thus become the skunk at the family picnic. But the hard truth is Barack Obama so far as been nothing more than the continuation of a Republican administration. Now I am sure many on the Left and the Right will reject my assertion, but I can prove it with hard facts, so spare me the “you need to be strapped and sedated by nightfall” remarks. Here it goes.
Bank Bailout: Quick trivia, was it a Republican or Democratic Administration in 2008 that nationalized nine banks and justified it by suggesting that they were not trying to undo American capitalism but “to preserve it”? The Obama Administration continued in January 2009 the original $700 billion TARP (Trouble Asset Relief Program) started by the Bush Administration. One of the arguments made is that the Bush Administration TARP program was a Republican anomaly; after all, it was a ‘faux’ conservative administration. However, the Republican Party has had a long history of supporting the bailout of banks.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the savings and loan meltdown prompted the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) to close over 296 S&Ls. Prior to that, in 1984, Continental Illinois Bank, which at the time was the seventh largest bank in the USA, failed and the Reagan Administration immediately sought a $4.5 billion bank bailout to save Continental Illinois. By the time the S&L crisis was over in 1989, after the banks and S&L had repaid many of their government loans, its estimated the S&L bailouts cost the US taxpayer, $124 billion dollars.
Likewise liberal economist James Galbraith claims that William Isaac, Ronald Reagan’s chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in 1982 had a contingency plan in place to nationalize all major US banks if countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil defaulted on their loans.
Decades earlier, in 1932, Republican President Herbert Hoover established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) to make loans to banks and private business during the Great Depression. It doled out $1.5 billion in 1932 and $1.8 billion in 1933 before the Roosevelt Administration continued funding the RFC through the Depression and World War Two.
Even on an intellectual level, continuing the TARP bailout has a basis in free market ideology. Libertarian economist Tyler Cowan argues the late Milton Friedman probably would have approved of the bailout of the banks. In his magnum opus, “Monetary History of the United States,” Friedman quotes approvingly British journalist Walter Bagehot on what the state should do to stop bank runs.
“The way in which the panic of 1825 was stopped by advancing money has been described in so broad and graphic a way that the passage has become classical. “We lent it,” said Mr. Harman [one of the Bank’s more senior directors] on behalf of the Bank of England, “by every possible means and in modes we have never adopted before.”
It is clear the Obama Administration has simply continued a decades-long Republican policy in regard to banks; the only difference is that it’s “socialism” when Obama does it but “saving capitalism” when Hoover, Reagan, GHW Bush and GW Bush have done it in the past.
Health Care Reform: Perhaps it should go without saying, that Obama Care was a triumph of politics as usual rather than ideology as so many on the Right have argued. Soon after Obama was elected President in late 2008, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance trade association, made an about face; once opposed to Hillary Care in the 1990s, they came out in favor of universal coverage. AHIP was one of Obama’s strongest supporters during the health care debate and came out in favor of it once the final version was voted for. It should be noted as well, that Senator Max Baucus hired the former health insurance vice president of WellPoint, Liz Fowler, as a top aide on his staff in late 2008. Fowler was the quarterback behind the scenes of the health care reform in the Senate. As Carrier Brown of Politico wrote, “If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer.” And this is not speculation on Ms. Brown’s part, Senator Baucus acknowledged in front of the Senate health care reform’s debt to Liz Fowler.
“And I want to single out one person. And that one person is sitting next to me, her name is Liz Fowler. Liz Fowler, my chief health counsel, Liz Fowler is, put my team together, my health care team, Liz Fowler worked for me many years ago, since left for the private sector then came back when she realized that she could be there at the creation of health care reform, because she wanted to, in certain sense that be her professional lifetime goal. She put together that white paper last November 2008, um, 87-page document which became the basis, the foundation, the blueprint from which almost all health care measures and all bills both sides of the aisle came from. She’s an amazing person, she’s a lawyer, she’s a PhD, she’s just so decent, she’s always smiling, she’s always working, she’s always, always available to help any Senator or any staff. And I thank Liz from the bottom of my heart and in many ways she typifies, she represents all the people who’ve worked so hard to make this bill such an accomplishment”
So contrary to the propaganda, the brainchild for Obama Care is not going to be found in the life and works of Aneurin Bevan or Tommy Douglas, but more likely in the boardrooms of the health insurance industry and among former Republican presidents.
Most people know of the similarities between Obama Care and what former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts; however, what most people are not aware of is the political history of Obama Care started in 1974 with Richard Nixon. The plan proposed by Nixon was intended to achieve universal coverage with state and federal subsidies to employers. It would have banned exclusions for pre-existing conditions, ended caps on spending, and the poor and unemployed would have received larger subsides. Sound familiar? Ben Stein, the former Nixon speech writer for the plan, claims Nixon’s plan was far more “socialist” because it would have required far more federal and state government power over health insurance then what was passed this year.
During the George HW Bush Administration, the idea of an individual mandate received close attention, but that administration never took it to Congress for fear it would be torpedoed by Democrats. As Mark Pauly, the Wharton School health economist whose writings on health mandates had caught the eye of the Bush Administration, wrote, “The idea of an individual mandate as an alternative to single-payer was a Republican idea.”
Cap and Trade: Once again emissions trading was originally a Republican idea, an idea which is now denounced by GOP leaders like John Boehner as a “code word” to destroy the US economy, and has been the subject of some incredible conspiracy theories by Glenn Beck which include abortions and mass sterilizations. Back to reality, whether or not you believe emissions trading is the best solution to greenhouse gases or not, the truth is the George HW Bush Administration started the Cap and Trade policy to control acid rain in 1990 under the Clean Air Act. By 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that acid rain in 2007 is now 50 percent below its 1980 levels. One wonders if if Glenn Beck was having Soylent Green nightmares about the Clean Air Act back then.
War on Terror: If there is any policy which has seen a smooth transition from the GW Bush to Barack Obama, it certainly is this one. Obama kept Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates. Guantanamo Bay is still open for business. There has been no effort to repeal the Patriot Act; in fact, the Administration is expanding federal surveillance with the Perfect Citizen program. In Afghanistan, in less then two years since Obama has been in office, military drone attacks have doubled from the previous Administration.
Nixonian Foreign Policy: If people were sick of the alleged neoconservative foreign policy of the last Administration and yearning from those good old days when realists of the Kissinger/Nixon school ran our foreign policy, then they have their wish so far under Barrack Obama. British journalist Nick Cohen earlier this year wrote a column entitled, “Obama is the Most Reactionary President since Nixon.” “Obama, Obama – either you’re with them or you’re with us” shouted the Iranian Green movement as they begged for the USA to support their democratic uprising against the Iranian Mullahs, it fell on deaf ears in the White House. For fear of upsetting the Chinese, Obama has refused to meet the Dali Lama. The Burmese-American Nyi Nyi Aung languished in a Burmese jail for months because the Obama Administration continues to want an “engagement” with the Burmese military junta and thus scarified Mr. Aung to the savage gods of realpolitik. The cries of Arab liberals everywhere have gone unheeded by this Administration. And Obama gave up Bush’s missile defense plan in order to appease Putin with no Russian concessions.
Obama the man: While so many on the radical Right focus on his birth certificate, claim he really is a Manchurian Candidate for Islam or that he is some sort of Fidel Castro without the cigar and green fatigues because of his past connection with Bill Ayers, the truth is far more mundane. While they search for communists under every bed Obama ever slept in, the truth is right under their noses. In his 1995 memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” Obama mentions obtaining a job out of law school with a corporation which he doesn’t name, or as he refers to it, a “consulting house to multinational corporations.” The company Obama doesn’t name is Business International Corporation (BIC), as journalist Sasha Issenberg discovered in 2008. Business International no longer exists; it was purchased in 1986 by the Economist Group in London and exposed on December 27, 1977, by the New York Times as a front company for the Central Intelligence Agency. Students for Democratic Society (SDS) leader Carl Oglesby claims in his autobiorography “Ravens in the Storm” that BIC’s main goal was to infiltrate the Left and student groups for US intelligence. It seems incredible that US intelligence, when doing their background check of Barack Obama before taking his job at BIC, missed his phony birth certificate and his “Marxist” connections. Likewise, while employed with BIC, Obama made several trips to Pakistan meeting Muhammad Man Soomro (currently Chairmen of the Pakistan Senate). In the 1980s when Obama was travelling to Pakistan, the country was on the barred list of nations for US citizens, meaning the State Department would not allow a private citizen to travel to Pakistan unless they were on official government business or a private business venture given permission by the State Department. If Obama has such a dubious past and could not prove his citizenship, it beggars the imagination how such a man could have been allowed to travel to Pakistan on behalf of BIC. Correspondingly, Obama’s mother, Ann Durham spent much of her career working for US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ford Foundation.
The Radical Right mythology about Obama is simply not true. His Administration has done very little different than what one would have expected a Republican Administration to do. When one considers his mother’s establishment pedigree and his past association with a company that infiltrated the Left and was used as a cover for US intelligence, Obama’s networking with men like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright can be put more into perspective. After all, if Oglesby was right about BIC, perhaps Obama, instead of being an advocate of Chicago radical politics, was in fact infiltrating them. There is no evidence to support my accusation but hey, since when has proof been important these days. Lack of proof has become a badge of honor for the Radical Right.