Obama State of the Union “subverts New Deal” says Stein

Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, called today for a Green New Deal to counter the “trickle down economic agenda” laid out by President Obama last night in his State of the Union address. Stein plans to release her alternative at 8:30pm Eastern Time in a “People’s State of the Union: A Green New Deal for America” that will be given via her campaign website: http://www.JillStein.org

After viewing President Obama’s address, Stein commented that “It is startling how the candidate who four years ago promised to be an agent of change has morphed into the candidate of more of the same. The key features of the President’s State of the Union address were drawn from the centrist Republican agenda. He’s glorifying militarism, calling for more business tax cuts, promoting offshore oil drilling and hydrofracking, pushing trillions in cuts to discretionary Federal spending, promising cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and putting American workers into a struggle for survival in a global economy dominated by big corporations.”

“The President has subverted the progressive ideals of the New Deal. He’s imposing his vision of a ‘grand bargain’ that represents the effective philosophical merger of the Democratic and Republican parties. ”

“The President presented a rosy picture of the current state of the economy by tossing out a few anecdotes and cherry-picked statistics. He seemed almost oblivious to recent news that 48% of Americans are living in poverty or near poverty, the greatest number in 50 years of record keeping. If he thinks things are going so well, maybe that’s why he sees no reason to change course.”

“America needs to go in a new direction. We are calling for a Green New Deal that would decisively end high unemployment and make a massive investment in solar, wind, energy efficiency and mass transit. We reject the President’s assertion that “all of the above” is the right answer when it comes to energy. We need to wean ourselves from the fossil fuels that pollute our land and water, motivate wars for oil, and which are pushing us to a climate catastrophe.”

“An honest analysis shows that most of the president’s proposed solutions are just band-aids on the status quo and do not represent a serious attempt to end the crises we face. His mortgage foreclosure reforms will reach only a tiny fraction of homeowners in crisis. And his proposed commission to investigate bank fraud is hamstrung from the outset by the packing of the commission with big bank-friendly regulators. Furthermore it ignores the enormous inequity and economic damage that Wall Street does without committing prosecutable fraud. Contrast that with the Green New Deal that would impose an immediate moratorium on home foreclosures, would write down the principals of inflated mortgages to market rates, and would break up the big banks that caused this crisis and replace them with decentralized and democratized financial institutions.”

Regarding education, Stein noted that “Obama’s plan for the student loan crisis basically preserves the status quo. His solution is to keep interest rates the same and to cut Federal funding to colleges that are in financial crisis. The Green New Deal would end the crisis by taking over the student debt and implementing tuition-free higher education.”

“America needs decisive action to get us out of the current economic slump. Most of all we need jobs — tens of millions of them — not the puny numbers that will result from President Obama’s attempts at top-down stimulus. The unemployment office needs to become the employment office. The bold actions that worked to end the Great Depression can work again. The tax giveaways and corporate welfare that the President advocates are inefficient, take too long, and don’t create the right type of jobs in the places where they are most needed. We can and must do better.” 

“This election is a turning point. We can continue with the failing corporate-serving philosophy represented by Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and the other establishment politicians. Or we can stand up for a rededication of our nation to the public interest. As I have traveled around the nation in the past two months, I’ve found that people are hungry for real change and are excited to see something like the Green New Deal put on the table.”

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Debt Ceiling Deal: The Democrats Take a Dive

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

So the debt deal has finally been reached. As expected, the agreement arrives in a form that right-thinking people everywhere can feel terrible about with great confidence.

The general consensus is that for the second time in three years, a gang of financial terrorists has successfully extorted the congress and the White House, threatening to blow up the planet if they didn’t get what they wanted.

Back in 2008, the congress and George Bush rewarded Hank Paulson and Wall Street for pulling the Cleavon-Little-“the-next-man-makes-a-move-the-n—er-gets-it” routine by tossing trillions of bailout dollars at the same people who had wrecked the economy.

Now, Barack Obama has surrendered control of the budget to the Tea Party, whose operatives in congress used the same suicide-bomber tactic, threatening a catastrophic default unless the Democrats committed to a regime of steep spending cuts without any tax increases on the wealthy.

Commentators everywhere are killing the president for his seemingly astonishing level of ball-less-ness. Both the New York Times house editorial and the Nobel prizewinning liberal columnist Paul Krugman are insisting the president should have invoked extreme measures to counter the radicals on the other side, using emergency legal tactics to unilaterally raise the debt limit. Or, at least, he should have threatened to do this, according to Krugman:

And even now, the Obama administration could have resorted to legal maneuvering to sidestep the debt ceiling, using any of several options…

At the very least, Mr. Obama could have used the possibility of a legal end run to strengthen his bargaining position. Instead, however, he ruled all such options out from the beginning.

Is Krugman right? Probably. In a perfect world, where the president was what he is supposed to be, i.e. a representative of that majority of American voters who elected him, that is what a good president would probably have done. No matter what the situation was with the deficit, or what cuts were or were not justified, a real leader would have invoked such powers at the very least to set a precedent that the government is not to be held hostage by irresponsible lunatics bent on invoking a catastrophe for purely political reasons.

But that isn’t what happened. What did happen? The popular take is that Obama is a weak leader of a weak party who was pushed around by canny right-wing extremists. Observers like pollster Sydney Greenberg portray Obama and the Democrats as a group of politically tone-deaf bureaucrats who fail because the public associates them with a corrupt government that benefits the rich and connected.

The Democrats, Greenberg argues, could change their situation by showing the public that they genuinely represent the interests of ordinary working people. In his piece, “Why Voters Tune Out Democrats,” he offers a list of things Democrats could do to turn things around:

What should Democrats do?

The Democrats have to start detoxifying politics by proposing to severely limit or bar individual and corporate campaign contributions, which would mean a fight with the Supreme Court. They must make the case for public financing of campaigns and force the broadcast and cable networks to provide free time for candidate ads. And they must become the strongest advocates for transparency in campaign donations and in the lobbying of elected officials.

IF they want to win the trust of the public, Democrats should propose taxing lobbyist expenses and excessive chief executive bonuses and put a small fee on the sale of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. By radically simplifying the tax code to allow only a few deductions, the Democrats would generate new revenue and remove the loopholes that allow special interests to win favorable treatment …

I think everything Greenberg says is true — except for the part about it being possible. His list of solutions would make sense as advice to a real political party.

But to a bunch of hired stooges put in office to lend an air of democratic legitimacy to what has essentially become a bureaucratic-oligarchic state, what good does such advice do? Would it have made sense to send the Supreme Soviet under Andropov or Brezhnyev a list of policy ideas for enhancing the civil liberties of Soviet citizens?

The Democrats aren’t failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there’s political hay to be made moving to the right. They’re doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I’ve said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television.

For evidence, all you have to do is look at this latest fiasco.

The Republicans in this debt debate fought like wolves or alley thugs, biting and scratching and using blades and rocks and shards of glass and every weapon they could reach.

The Democrats, despite sitting in the White House, the most awesome repository of political power on the planet, didn’t fight at all. They made a show of a tussle for a good long time — as fixed fights go, you don’t see many that last into the 11th and 12th rounds, like this one did — but at the final hour, they let out a whimper and took a dive.

We probably need to start wondering why this keeps happening. Also, this: if the Democrats suck so bad at political combat, then how come they continue to be rewarded with such massive quantities of campaign contributions? When the final tally comes in for the 2012 presidential race, who among us wouldn’t bet that Barack Obama is going to beat his Republican opponent in the fundraising column very handily? At the very least, he won’t be out-funded, I can almost guarantee that.

And what does that mean? Who spends hundreds of millions of dollars for what looks, on the outside, like rank incompetence?

It strains the imagination to think that the country’s smartest businessmen keep paying top dollar for such lousy performance. Is it possible that by “surrendering” at the 11th hour and signing off on a deal that presages deep cuts in spending for the middle class, but avoids tax increases for the rich, Obama is doing exactly what was expected of him?

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Rejecting nuclear power

Suffolk Closeup

By Karl Grossman July 20, 2011

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has caused several nations to say no to nuclear power, mainly through elections, referenda and protests. But the position of the U.S. government, including the federal officials who represent Long Island, is different. Despite Fukushima, as U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer says, “I’m still willing to look at nuclear.”

Germany is closing its nuclear plants after huge, indeed historic election victories by the anti-nuclear Greens and major demonstrations. Italy is rejecting nuclear power after a referendum in which an awesome 94 percent of voters balloted “no” to atomic energy. Switzerland, after referenda and protests, will phase out nuclear energy.

Even the prime minister of Japan, a country that has been heavily committed to nuclear, declared last week: “Japan should aim for a society that does not depend on nuclear energy.” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that, with Fukushima, “I came to realize the risk of nuclear energy is too intense.”

Importantly, he called for the use of safe, clean, renewable energy technologies led by solar and wind to replace nuclear, as have officials in Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Major studies in recent years, including by the UN, have determined that these now advanced technologies, the costs of which have plummeted, have the potential to provide the world’s energy.

Since Fukushima, the stance of the U.S. government has been in “sharp contrast” to the direction taken by these other nations, notes Kevin Kamps of the organization Beyond Nuclear (beyondnuclear.org). Officials in Washington are “living in a bubble,” he says. This has much to do with the continued intense lobbying by the nuclear industry and the massive campaign contributions it provides.

President Barack Obama has not only continued his support of nuclear power, a reversal of the critical position he took during his election campaign, but since Fukushima has renewed his call for $36 billion in taxpayer-based loan guarantees to construct new nuclear plants.

Among officials in Washington who represent Long Island, Congressman Tim Bishop of Southampton told us last week, “The Fukushima disaster reinforces my view that nuclear facilities should be sited in locations that take into account major population centers, the potential effects of natural disasters, and evacuation strategies. I have consistently opposed siting a nuclear facility on Long Island because a speedy evacuation is impossible.” But, he said, he still believes “nuclear power can play a role in a balanced energy portfolio.”

Congressman Steve Israel of Huntington said, “We must ensure that our permitting standards, our safety standards and our technology are strong enough and robust enough so that nuclear power doesn’t result in the kinds of dangers they experienced in Japan.”

And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said: “I want to ensure that all of our nuclear facilities everywhere in America are safe. We need to have the best oversight and accountability possible.”

The positions of federal representatives are disappointing to Suffolk officials opposed to nuclear power. Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk said, “I don’t think the U.S. is acting correctly after what happened in Japan.” Legislator Ed Romaine of Center Moriches, whose district includes Shelter Island, said, “Germany showed tremendous courage as a nation when they determined they would move away from nuclear power completely. There are much safer, less expensive sources of energy.” Having federal representatives of Long Island backing nuclear power — while here local officials have been against it — isn’t new. During much of the construction of the now shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant, Congressman William Carney of Hauppauge advocated it and nuclear power in general. Since his departure from Congress, he has made millions as a lobbyist in Washington for the nuclear industry, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Polls show that, since Fukushima, a growing number of people in the U.S. — more than a majority — are against nuclear power. How can this be translated politically?

Meanwhile, on Long Island, Priscilla Star of Montauk, through the Coalition Against Nukes (CAN), is organizing coordinated protests throughout the nation, including in Manhattan on October 1. “We have to show Washington where the people stand on deadly nuclear power and what we have learned from the Fukushima catastrophe. Time’s up, Washington!” said Ms. Star last week. She can be reached at priscillaastar @ hotmail.com

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Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama

[From Truthdig]

By Chris Hedges, Mar 1, 2010

We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and progressives.

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush. He promised us that the transfer of $12.8 trillion in taxpayer money to Wall Street would open up credit and lending to the average consumer. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), however, admitted last week that banks have reduced lending at the sharpest pace since 1942. As a senator, Obama promised he would filibuster amendments to the FISA Reform Act that retroactively made legal the wiretapping and monitoring of millions of American citizens without warrant; instead he supported passage of the loathsome legislation. He told us he would withdraw American troops from Iraq, close the detention facility at Guantánamo, end torture, restore civil liberties such as habeas corpus and create new jobs. None of this has happened.

He is shoving a health care bill down our throats that would give hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the private health insurance industry in the form of subsidies, and force millions of uninsured Americans to buy insurers’ defective products. These policies would come with ever-rising co-pays, deductibles and premiums and see most of the seriously ill left bankrupt and unable to afford medical care. Obama did nothing to halt the collapse of the Copenhagen climate conference, after promising meaningful environmental reform, and has left us at the mercy of corporations such as ExxonMobil. He empowers Israel’s brutal apartheid state. He has expanded the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where hundreds of civilians, including entire families, have been slaughtered by sophisticated weapons systems such as the Hellfire missile, which sucks the air out of victims’ lungs. And he is delivering war and death to Yemen, Somalia and perhaps Iran.

The illegal wars and occupations, the largest transference of wealth upward in American history and the egregious assault on civil liberties, all begun under George W. Bush, raise only a flicker of tepid protest from liberals when propagated by the Democrats. Liberals, unlike the right wing, are emotionally disabled. They appear not to feel. The tea-party protesters, the myopic supporters of Sarah Palin, the veterans signing up for Oath Keepers and the myriad of armed patriot groups have swept into their ranks legions of disenfranchised workers, angry libertarians, John Birchers and many who, until now, were never politically active. They articulate a legitimate rage. Yet liberals continue to speak in the bloodless language of issues and policies, and leave emotion and anger to the protofascists. Take a look at the 3,000-word suicide note left by Joe Stack, who flew his Piper Cherokee last month into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, murdering an IRS worker and injuring dozens. He was not alone in his rage.

“Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?” Stack wrote. “Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political ‘representatives’ (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the ‘terrible health care problem’. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.”

The timidity of the left exposes its cowardice, lack of a moral compass and mounting political impotence. The left stands for nothing. The damage Obama and the Democrats have done is immense. But the damage liberals do the longer they beg Obama and the Democrats for a few scraps is worse. It is time to walk out on the Democrats. It is time to back alternative third-party candidates and grass-roots movements, no matter how marginal such support may be. If we do not take a stand soon we must prepare for the rise of a frightening protofascist movement, one that is already gaining huge ground among the permanently unemployed, a frightened middle class and frustrated low-wage workers. We are, even more than Glenn Beck or tea-party protesters, responsible for the gusts fanning the flames of right-wing revolt because we have failed to articulate a credible alternative.

A shift to the Green Party, McKinney and Nader, along with genuine grass-roots movements, will not be a quick fix. It will require years in the wilderness. We will again be told by the Democrats that the least-worse candidate they select for office is better than the Republican troll trotted out as an alternative. We will be bombarded with slick commercials about hope and change and spoken to in a cloying feel-your-pain language. We will be made afraid. But if we again acquiesce we will be reduced to sad and pathetic footnotes in our accelerating transformation from a democracy to a totalitarian corporate state. Isolation and ridicule—ask Nader or McKinney—is the cost of defying power, speaking truth and building movements. Anger at injustice, as Martin Luther King wrote, is the political expression of love. And it is vital that this anger become our own. We have historical precedents to fall back upon.

“Here in the United States, at the beginning of the twentieth century, before there was a Soviet Union to spoil it, you see, socialism had a good name,” the late historian and activist Howard Zinn said in a lecture a year ago at Binghamton University. “Millions of people in the United States read socialist newspapers. They elected socialist members of Congress and socialist members of state legislatures. You know, there were like fourteen socialist chapters in Oklahoma. Really. I mean, you know, socialism—who stood for socialism? Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Jack London, Upton Sinclair. Yeah, socialism had a good name. It needs to be restored.”

Social change does not come through voting. It is delivered through activism, organizing and mobilization that empower groups to confront the hegemony of the corporate state and the power elite. The longer socialism is identified with the corporatist policies of the Democratic Party, the longer we allow the right wing to tag Obama as a socialist, the more absurd and ineffectual we become. The right-wing mantra of “Obama the socialist,” repeated a few days ago to a room full of Georgia Republicans, by Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. speaker of the House, is discrediting socialism itself. Gingrich, who looks set to run for president, called Obama the “most radical president” the country had seen in decades. “By any standard of government control of the economy, he is a socialist,” Gingrich said. If only the critique were true.

The hypocrisy and ineptitude of the Democrats become, in the eyes of the wider public, the hypocrisy and ineptitude of the liberal class. We can continue to tie our own hands and bind our own feet or we can break free, endure the inevitable opprobrium, and fight back. This means refusing to support the Democrats. It means undertaking the laborious work of building a viable socialist movement. It is the only alternative left to save our embattled open society. We can begin by sending a message to the Green Party, McKinney and Nader. Let them know they are no longer alone.

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Where’s My Change?

by Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader, speaking at BYU's Alternate Comme...
Image via Wikipedia

“No more fine print; no more confusing terms and conditions.” This is what Barack Obama told a White House gathering of leading credit card issuers this week.

Right afterward, President Obama told the press that “there has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers, protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties.” This soaring rhetoric places a heavy burden on Mr. Obama to stand up to the giant power of the credit card bosses and their monetized allies on Capitol Hill. Yet he has shown little interest in re-instating a Presidential consumer advisor as did Lyndon Johnson with the formidable Betty Furness and as did Jimmy Carter with the legendary Esther Peterson.

Deep recession times are tough for the nation’s over 200 million consumers. Still, no consumer voice in the White House, though consumer groups asked Mr. Obama to move promptly on this tiny advocacy office months ago.

The corporate chieftains have easy access to the White House and the new President, whether these bosses come on missions demanding power or missions of beggary for bailouts. When will he meet with the leading heads of consumer protection groups with millions of dues-paying members who could give him the base to hold accountable and regulate the democracy-denying, economy-wrecking corporate supremacists?

“Where’s the Backbone?” asked Ruth Marcus, the usually-restrained lawyer-columnist for The Washington Post. On April 15, 2009 she wrote: “When will President Obama fight, and when will he fold? That’s not entirely clear-and I’m beginning to worry that there may be a little too much presidential inclination to crumple.” Ms. Marcus asserts that “for all the chest-thumping about making hard choices and taking on entrenched interests, there has been disturbingly little evidence of the new president’s willingness to do that.” This is the case even with his allies in Congress, never mind his adversaries.

Just four days later, The New York Times weighed in with a page one news article that said President Obama “is well known for bold proposals that have raised expectations, but his administration has shown a tendency for compromise and caution, and even a willingness to capitulate on some early initiatives. …His early willingness to deal or fold has left commentators, and some loyal Democrats, wondering: ‘Where’s the fight?'” Like the Post, the Times gave examples.

It is not as if Mr. Obama is lacking in public opinion support. Overall he has a 65% approval rating. People know he inherited a terrible situation here and abroad from the Bush regime and they want action. Large majorities believe America is declining, that there is too much corporate control over their lives, and that the two parties have been failing the American people.

But the President’s personality is not one to challenge concentrated power. A Zogby poll reports that only six percent of the public supports the financial bailouts for Wall Street. The vast majority of people do not think the bailouts are fair.

The upcoming 100 day mark for the Obama administration is a customary time for evaluations by the politicos, the pundits, and the civic community. While his supporters can point to the pay-equity law for women, more health insurance for poor children, and a $787 billion economic stimulus enactment, the general appraisal by the liberal-progressive intelligentsia is decidedly mixed and gentle with undiluted hope.

Mr. Obama nourishes these mixed feelings. He showed some courage when he agreed, as part of an ongoing court case, to release the four torture memos written by Bush’s Justice Department. Graphic photos of prisoner treatment in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be released next week. Yet Obama came out against a Truth Commission regarding the alleged crimes of the Bush regime and said he would “look forward and not look back.” For Obama that means immunity for anyone from the Bush Administration who may have violated the criminal laws of the land.

It is remarkable to read those oft-repeated words by lawyer Obama. Law enforcement is about looking back into the past. Investigation and prosecution obviously deals with crimes that have already occurred. That’s the constitutional duty of the President.

After 100 days it is far too early to render many judgments about Obama. One can, however, evaluate his major appointments-heavily Clintonite and corporate. One can also look at what he hasn’t gotten underway at all-such as labor law reform, a living wage, and citizen empowerment.

Next Monday, the Institute for Policy Studies (www.ips-dc.org) releases a detailed report card on Obama’s first 100 days titled “Thirsting for a Change.” While The Nation held a panel discussion on April 22 in Washington, D.C., the panelists largely gave Obama the benefit of the doubt so far, and declared that only grassroots mobilizing will move him forward on such matters as “single-payer” health care, corporate abuse, and the demilitarization of our foreign policy and our federal budget.

Panelist William Grieder coined the phrase “independent formulations” to describe the citizen action needed.

It is important to note that a transforming President has to ask for and encourage this pressure from the citizenry, much as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in the 1930s.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

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Obama’s Centrism Could Drive the GOP Out of Business

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20:  President Barack Oba...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Article printed from Pajamas Media
By Jennifer Rubin

Perhaps it is all a gigantic head fake. Maybe President-elect Obama is going to dash Left as soon as he utters the words “So help me God” next week. But so far, there seems to be the most astounding and sweeping repudiation of a president’s own base of support in the offing since … well, since forever.

Bill Kristol documents the “change” — otherwise known as “continuity” — President-elect Obama is preparing us for on a raft of Bush administration international policies. The difficult task of finding an alternative to Guantanamo is going to get careful consideration, Dick Cheney has wise counsel, and Israel policy will echo the Bush and Clinton eras. That’s President-elect Obama’s take, not some Republican’s, as expressed on ABC’s This Week. Kristol writes:

[T]the Obama transition team’s chief national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, was denying a press report that Obama’s advisers were urging him to initiate low-level or clandestine contacts with Hamas as a prelude to change in policy. Anderson told The Jerusalem Post that the story wasn’t accurate, and reminded one and all that Obama “has repeatedly stated that he believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and that we should not deal with them until they recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by past agreements.”

On Iran, Obama did say he’d be taking “a new approach,” that “engagement is the place to start” with “a new emphasis on being willing to talk.” But he also reminded Stephanopoulos that the Iranian regime is exporting terrorism through Hamas and Hezbollah and is “pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” He said his willingness to talk would be combined with “clarity about what our bottom lines are” — one of them presumably being, as he’s said before, no Iranian nuclear weapons. And he demonstrated a sense of urgency — “we anticipate that we’re going to have to move swiftly in that area.”

So: After talks with Iran (if they happen) fail to curb Iran’s nuclear program, but (perhaps) impress other nations with our good faith, we’ll presumably get greater international support for sanctions. That will also (unfortunately) fail to deter Iran. “Engagement is the place to start,” Obama said, but it’s not likely to be the place Obama ends. He’ll end up where Bush is — with the choice of using force or acquiescing to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

And James Pethokoukis provides an even more comprehensive list of the very non-liberal plans for the candidate who was billed (by friends and foes alike) as the most liberal man to run for the presidency since George McGovern:

Even worse for the Left, Obama advisers are now signaling, says the New York Times, “that they may put off renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, overhauling immigration laws, restricting carbon emissions, raising taxes on the wealthy, and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.” You know, like, pretty much the very heart and soul of the liberal policy agenda. Even healthcare reform might only be getting what aides call a “down payment” as a “sign of dedication to the broader goals.” Let the wretching begin, Daily Kossacks. (Fun Fact: Obama gave his big economic speech at George Mason University, a bastion of free-market scholarship.)

But it’s Obama’s $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will be ground zero in this coming liberal internecine battle. “Way too much Reagan, not nearly enough FDR,” griped some key liberals about a plan that would, in addition to the tax cuts, still provide a whopping half-trillion dollars over two years in government spending for infrastructure, healthcare, education, clean energy, grants to states, and aid to lower-income and unemployed folks.

Continue reading

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The Nuclear Industry’s Golden Child: That Obama Glow

[From CounterPunch]

By JOSHUA FRANK

Barack Obama, hoping to shore up major victories in the delegate rich states of Texas and Ohio early next month, is going after Hillary Clinton’s ever-dwindling base of working class voters. The Illinois Senator is hoping to stimulate their passion for his campaign by proposing to stimulate the weak economy by spending $210 billion on new jobs. Obama says his government sponsored employment program would allocate $150 billion over 10 years to create 5 million jobs in environmental industries.

Sounds Keynesian enough. Obama would couple his lavish government spending with investments from the private sector to produce work for many of America’s underemployed. The number of jobs he seeks to create is significant to be sure, but the real question is in what “environmental” capacity would these so-called “green collar” jobs be created? Many critics argue that Obama’s plan doesn’t exactly create jobs, but only redistributes money from one part of the economy to another. Even so, there may be far more sinister tenets to Obama’s economic plan.

Unfortunately the Obama campaign is light on the details of his stimulus program, only referring to these government gigs as working to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources. At face value this may all sound like a noble venture — one greens and others concerned with the environment might consider getting behind. But given Obama’s track record, voters can’t be too certain his plan is all that “green”. In fact it may be just the opposite, for the senator’s ties to the nuclear industry are stronger than any other candidate in the hunt for the White House this year.

In 2006 Obama took up the cause of Illinois residents who were angry with Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power plant operator, for not having disclosed a leak at one of their nuclear plants in the state. Obama responded by quickly introducing a bill that would require nuclear facilities to immediately notify state and federal agencies of all leaks, large or small.

At first it seemed Obama was intent on making a change in the reporting protocol, even demonizing Exelon’s inaction in the press. But Obama could only go so far, as Exelon executives, including Chairman John W. Rowe who serves as a key lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Lobby, have long been campaign backers, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars dating back to Obama’s days in the Illinois State Legislature.

Despite his initial push to advance the legislation, Obama’s office eventually rewrote the bill, producing a version that was palatable to Exelon and the rest of the nuclear industry. “Senator Obama’s staff was sending us copies of the bill to review, we could see it weakening with each successive draft,” said Joe Cosgrove, a park district director in Will County, Illinois, where the nuclear leaks had polluted local ground water. “The teeth were just taken out of it.”

Inevitably the bill died a slow death in the Senate. And like an experienced political operative, Obama came out of the battle as a martyr for both sides of the cause. His constituents back in Illinois thought he fought a good fight while industry insiders knew the Obama machine was worth investing in.

Continue reading That Obama Glow at CounterPunch

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