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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
Much has been made about Obama’s trip to Asia this week, including his three day visit to India. Initially, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of his visit. After eight years of George W. Bush, it is obviously quite refreshing to have an intelligent and well-spoken leader like Obama represent us in diplomatic missions. But there were reasons to be skeptical about Obama’s motives in making this trip, even if this skepticism failed to manifest itself in anything more than a vague feeling of apprehension.
I commented several days ago on Obama’s lackluster and woefully uninspiring Op-Ed piece in the NY Times. It was clear from the ambiguity of the article itself that there was something more sinister afoot then a simple mission to boost exports. After all, the article failed to mention specifics of any kind, and instead was nothing more than a showcase for Obama’s renowned ability to string together long sentences of eloquent words while saying absolutely nothing.
It has become increasingly clear that this trip has absolutely nothing to do with the interests of ordinary Americans. If any jobs happen to be created in the United States as a result of Obama’s visit, it will be purely coincidental. As should be expected – assumed – with any mission undertaken by our most recent corporatist president, Obama’s goal is to aid the powerful and elite, to help them amass still higher levels of unprecedented wealth while 850,000,000 Indians live on less than 50 cents a day, and 10% (a conservative figure) of the US population remains unemployed.
Democracy Now! on Monday included a highly enlightening discussion about Obama’s visit to India. According to Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, unsurprisingly the main objective of Obama’s visit was to foster trade deals to benefit the extremely wealthy in both nations. Prashad described how among the 250 business executives who accompanied Obama were representatives of major weapons manufacturers, including Boeing. It seems that the overriding goal was to foster an arms deal with the Indian government to the tune of some $50-60 billion. Unbeknownst to most Americans – and indeed, much of the world – India is the world’s number one importer of weapons, and until now most of these weapons have come from Russia and Europe. US weapons manufacturers are obviously eager to enter this lucrative market, and it turns out this was one of the most important objectives of Obama’s visit. Other proposed trade deals included bringing Harley Davidson to India, a venture which will hardly benefit the previously mentioned 850,000,000 Indians living on less than 50 cents per day.
So this is our supposed liberal president on a trade mission to Asia, attempting to fulfill his promise of creating more American jobs through increased exports. It is, to say the least, absurd.
I’ve read and heard a lot during the last two years about how Obama is basically a decent human being, that he means well but is continually thwarted in his good intentions by vicious Republicans and embedded business interests. People still want to believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that in Obama we finally have a president that represents the interests of the common citizen, that he will work as the voice of the people rather than the instrument of big business, that he will end the wars, observe the rule of international law, help the poor and middle class and finally rein in Wall Street. People need to believe it, because times are so grim there is little else to cling to.
But the facts speak otherwise. If we judge Obama based on his actions – rather than his slick branding – we see a president who differs only slightly from his ultra-conservative predecessor, and who stands well to the right of the beliefs and values held by most Americans. Health care reform was little more than a massive giveaway to the insurance companies, delivering 45 million new customers into their pockets. His administration continues to fight the efforts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA. Two wars rage on unabated in Afghanistan and Iraq, while unmanned predator drones are now striking both Pakistan and Yemen. Wall Street continues to reek havoc on the economy while millions remain unemployed, and hundreds of thousands more lose their homes. Extraordinary rendition continues as before, while Guantanamo Bay remains open, in spite of hollow promises to the contrary.
People talk about what Obama has accomplished during his first two years in office, and herald such shallow achievements as the enactment of minor restrictions on health insurance companies, a recovery act which has us on pace to recover all of our lost jobs in 20 years’ time, and yet another self-proclaimed “victory” in Iraq. But if we take a harsh look at reality, we soon realize that, as Andrew Sullivan rightly (for once) noted, Obama’s achievements bear all the marks of a right-wing Republican, not the progressive hero he is (was) meant to be.
We talk a lot about how foolish Obama is to continue attempting to compromise with the Republicans. We want to believe that he is truly on our side, but he is just too good-natured to ram his alleged liberal agenda through Congress without first soliciting at least some support from the Right. I would argue that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Obama does have our best interests in mind, that he is genuinely trying to champion the progressive cause. He said very little during the 2008 campaign that should lead us to believe otherwise, so why do people continue to believe in this unfounded notion of Obama as a leftist?
Obama is a corporatist, right-wing president, just as all of our presidents have been since at least Ronald Reagan. While I will concede that Obama is slightly more to the left then was George W. Bush, the difference is minute as to be negligible – it is hardly a victory to be celebrated for liberals.
In reality, Obama is not a fool for his persistent feigned attempts at compromise with the Republicans. He is fulfilling exactly the agenda he and his corporate masters had in mind when he, seemingly miraculously, rose from obscurity to the highest public office in the land. Obama is not the fool. We are, for continuing to trust yet another corporate representative from the slightly-less-right-wing branch of the Business Party: the Democrats.
Our two party system is a sham, and our society will make no real progress as long as Democrats are the best option we have available. Democrats are not a liberal party, nor do they represent the interests and values of the American mainstream. Instead, just as the Republicans, they are the party of big business which just happens to be slightly better at deceptively masking their real agenda. And until Americans wake up to this most basic of facts, we deserve whatever we get.