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Many on the left thought that the Obama White House, once in place, would quickly seek to rein in the titans of Wall Street. After all, what happened in the fall of 2008 when Hank Paulson temporarily took over the George W. Bush presidency.....was no small deal. The U.S came as close to a total financial collapse as I've ever seen.
Yes, in the fall of 2008, the Bush administration did recognize the imminent danger caused by uncontrolled greed and unaccountable money schemers gone wild.....and acted to alleviate ripple effect damage by shoring up the very financial institutions which created the problem.
But Americans were unhappy with the bailouts of the banks and money schemers. Rightfully so. Bush's boys put a "we love you" bandaid on the problem, hugging all their buddies from Goldman, AIG, etc,....handing them tax dollars so they could party on.
Obama followed Bush's lead. Asked early on what his biggest disappointment as president had been, Obama responded that he was disappointed that he couldn't get the banks to do what he wanted them to do. Dick Durbin (D-IL), said from the floor of the Senate that banksters "owned" the government.
Soon, new reports of huge bonuses to Wall Street schemers circulated causing working class Americans to really get steamed.
Back in March of this year, even progressives thought that the inequality reflected in bailing out banksters would lead to some social backlash.......
"That day is not yet here, but it’s closer than it has ever been, and its possibility cannot be discounted. Barack Obama smells the public mood, and is trying to respond to it in a grown-up and non-incendiary way."
My point today is this....Obama's administration made a huge mistake early this year by not emphatically demanding from Congress a new regulation plan for the financial industry. He had earned significant political capital with his huge electoral win and Americans were in no mood for more coddling of the money shufflers. Early this year, when the new revelations about even more "bonuses" for the bailed-out money schemers were circulating....was the time to act, and act decisively. Instead of doing that, Obama chose to introduce his conservative health care reform plan.
If the House is taken back by the Republicans in 2010 (I shutter at the thought)....Obama helped to aid that takeback by refusing to act early on......clamping down hard on the banksters who led us to the brink of ruin. Independent and moderate American voters wanted the feds to actually do something, not only to punish the evildoers on Wall Street...but also to ensure that the nation's financial security couldn't be so easily jeopardized down the road.
Nothing happened. Nothing has changed. No new regulations, no elimination or control of mortgage derivatives, no moratorium on credit default swaps.....nothing. Banksters were given virtually unlimited access to near-zero-percent cash from the FED....and they have been using that cash to gamble on stocks and commodities ever since...while they also have been raising fees and interest rates on most Americans, tightening credit daily. That's why the Dow is up.
The banksters handed all "risk" for saving our economy over to the feds, and Congress responded by passing a conservative, watered down, tax-cut-laden, small-ball, stimulus bill. But no new restrictions for the industry which sold us out.
Instead of insisting on bankster re-regulation first....Obama moved to health care reform. Now, we're facing a watered-down, conservative, insurance and big pharma-friendly health reform bill which appears similar to the Bush Medicare Plan D giveaway to Big For-Profit Insurance.
Because Democrats needed more Democratic senators to pass effective health care reform legislation, (58 Democratic senators when Obama was inaugurated), my calculation was that Obama should wait until after the 2010 election to tackle health care reform. When the year started, the prospects of Democrats gaining even more senate seats in 2010, were good. 62-64 Democratic senators would have made the chances of progressive health care reform possible.
Now, our chances are not so good.
This wouldn't have been the case if the banksters had been frontally attacked back in the spring. Populism shouldn't be the basis for all decisions.....but in the case of the bankster backlash.....instead of Obama harnessing that populism to his electoral wagon through bankster reform....he and Rahm squandered the opportunity.
Hindsight is 20/20...I understand that.
Obama did not "dither" on how to finish up Bush's languishing Commander Guy wars. He dithered ignorantly over "bipartisanship".....when bipartisanship required serious conservative brokers....an obviously extinct species. Obama and his Chief of Staff have dithered with health care reform, allowing extremist conservatives to grab the wingnut-media megaphone and industry shills to dictate terms.
But Obama's most egregious dithering came with his dealing with the biggest domestic problem we faced.....the banksters. Those responsible for that 10% unemployment number, those who pre-meditatively put our entire nation's future at risk with their insatiable greed and addiction to reckless gambling......have, as yet, gone unchallenged.
For our nation's economic well being....and for the prospects of authentic progressive "change" in a country led into a ditch by conservative forces over three decades.....it's a shame.
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