Posted November 8, 2009
The judgments about the Obama administration one year on by people such as Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation (www.thenation.com/doc/20091123/kvh?rel=emailNation) indicate that while he has a “mixed” record, he has “kept the economy from falling into the abyss” and is “clearly a reform president committed to the improvement of people’s lives and to the renewal and reconstruction of America.”
Whatever Obama has done to prevent “the economy” together, he has not prevented the working majority from undergoing tremendous hardship. Unemployment continues to grow and foreclosures have quickened as more people lose their jobs. One condition for propping up GM and Chrysler was Obama’s requirement that the work force accept wages, conditions and benefits similar to non-union workers in the transplants. The Department of the Treasury also secured the elimination of vision and dental care for GM and Chrysler retirees. This does not reveal an administration committed to improving people’s lives.
Instead of saving the jobs of workers and putting government financing to the task of manufacturing renewable energy and public transit, Obama choose instead to aid the restructuring of the auto industry. This will result in fewer jobs; it also undermines the possibility of reversing climate change.
Instead of breaking the hold corporations have on workers because our health care system is employer based, Obama chose to “reform” health insurance. Why not extend Medicare to the entire population? He said if we were designing our health care system from the beginning, single payer would be the way to go. But since we have a patchwork system, he was only for another patch.
The patchwork quilt designed by the House reveals the inadequacy of the system. Obama and the Democratic majority are willing to exclude all undocumented immigrants from the reform, as if their exclusion won’t impact everyone’s public health. The House bill just passed by the Democrats explicitly rules out women in need of abortion. Once again for the Democrats women’s need to control their bodies is a negotiable issue!
The problem isn’t that the economic recovery plan is too small, rather that the plan isn’t based on the needs of the majority who live and work here. It’s loading the dice so that the corporations will come out of the economic crisis with more control over workers. The proof is all around us–in a bloated military budget, in the bail out of the banks and corporations, in Obama’s prioritization of accommodating to the right wing, in an expanding war.
Those who prettify what is being done under this administration–whether examining domestic issues or the escalating war in Afghanistan–try to hide behind the banner that structural change is difficult and requires strategic thinking and massive mobilization. Of course it does. But when the strategic thinking is fuzzy it cannot help to clarify the problem or pose a solution. The first task is to see ourselves as an independent force from which social change can come.