by Mort Malkin
www. Obama’s Home Page
Two columns ago, Gadfly cast a critical eye on some of Barack Obama’s foreign policy positions. In the four weeks between then and now, the candidate, no Mohandas Gandhi, has slightly conditioned his formerly firm stands on a) the American war (as the Iraqis call it) and b) Iran-US relations to be. The principals in the Near East seem to be pre-empting our good-faith efforts to bring them democracy. The (our) Iraqi government says they want a timetable for US withdrawal. The Iranians coffee houses have come up with a plan to move international dialog from uranium enrichment to missiles. If the US threatens cruise missile strikes against the Oriental rug weaving centers in Isfahan, Iran is testing missiles that can retaliate against the fast food flipperies in the Green Zone. So far, Obama has responded with clever hedging. He prescribes aggressive diplomacy but won’t take military action off the table. We await the Europeans who usually move with all deliberate speed (key word: deliberate).
Meanwhile, let us hold up the fun house mirror to Obama’s home rule plans The first order of business is the economy. As with several other issues, Obama is hedging his bets. One of his avid supporters is Ken Griffin, the CEO of the Citadel Hedge Fund. Aha! Then, the official economics guru of the Obama campaign is Austan Goolsbee, first anointed into Skull & Bones at Yale and now a University of Chicago professor. The University of Chicago school of economics was long the personal fiefdom of Milton Friedman, the shock jock of sauvage capitalism. OK, what he actually said was, “Only a crisis produces real change.” Yet, Kissinger, Reagan, and the neo-cons based their revolutionary right-wing strategy on those six words. Uncle Milt was an opponent of: government regulations, taxes on corporations, and aid for the poor and hungry. He once said the FDA should fold up its tent — food & drugs don’t need regulation. The market would take care of everything.
Perhaps we should not assume Obama is locked into their economic theology. To his credit, he has promised to consult with James Galbraith, son of John Kenneth Galbraith, the once nemesis of Friedman. Moreover, Obama has had the audacity to promise that he will abolish one of civilization’s most enduring natural laws — the inevitability of death and taxes. He will grant seniors, who earn less than $50,000, freedom from taxes. But will Obama also ask those seniors to wait until age 68 or 70 to start collecting Social Security benefits? Obama’s team has nailed the sources of economic discontent in the nation and has a fix for each: tax rebates for the working class, a foreclosure prevention fund, an increase in the minimum wage, and extension of unemployment benefits. The Obama whiz kids have even figured out where to find the money for said initiatives: disappearing the Bush tax cuts for the ultras, collecting Social Security payroll taxes on incomes above $250,000, and surgical strikes on corporate off-shore tax havens. It all sounds miraculous, courtesy of common sense, but there are a few knotholes in the economic plank. Obama’s dismal scientists say he will protect low income American workers from unscrupulous lenders — from store fronts to investment banks. Will he set a fair, maximum, single-digit rate on adjustable mortgages? A hint of the answer comes from his proposal to limit payday loans to [are you sitting down?] 36%! 36%?? Was he talking about storefront loan desks or Mafia loan sharks from the 50s?
You can select the domestic next from a list of nine: health care, energy policy, the environment, immigration, homeland security, information & communication, trade policy, education, and church & state. As nothing and nobody is pure, as everything is interconnected if not tainted, we may gain insight into how Obama analyzes issues. One of the poets of the Revelry & Research Team discovered that Obama the Hedge Man appears in most of these issues.
The O Man is an adherent of free trade, and uses the words “fair trade” in the same breath. He stresses environmental and labor safeguards in our trading partners, but says little about protecting traditional agriculture in third world countries that we flood with corn, wheat, rice, beef and pork. He talks the clean & green talk, but also has encouraging words for the nuclear industry and “clean coal.” There, he wily as a fox. He wants the old coal plants to clean up by sequestering CO2 and scrubbing out mercury and other toxics. New coal plants would have to meet similar high standards. O knows that clean coal technologies will be costly and coal will be unable to compete with wind and tidal energy. Nuclear plants concern him on two fronts — storage of radioactive waste and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. He will speak of public-private partnerships for any new nuclear plants, and that will seal the fate of any new plants. Investors and insurers want no part of the risk — they want public-public financing.
Obama also hedges by advocating comprehensive immigration reform, but build the border fence, too. On surveillance, the FISA bill, passed with his help, gives the telecom giants immunity from law suits, yesterday and tomorrow. But the Senator knows that Big Tel is still subject to criminal prosecution. Will President
Obama’s Attorney General investigate such evidence?
You say you want to vote for someone who doesn’t equivocate. The Green Party
may be your cup of herbal tea. Cynthia McKinney, the Greens’ nominee brews a a robust vertebral tea. Or maybe Obama will realize that the more
compassionate he is towards Bush-Cheney Inc, the less passionate his base of
progressives is about him.
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