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Obama Chooses Wall Street Over Main Street

Posted on Nov 25, 2008
Summers and Obama
AP photo / Charles Dharapak

They have his ear: Lawrence Summers, left, is just one veteran of Clinton-era deregulation who has found his way into Barack Obama’s inner circle.

Maybe Ralph Nader was right in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election. I hate to admit it, since it wasn’t that long ago that I heatedly challenged Nader in a debate on this very point.

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But how else is one to respond to Barack Obama’s picking the very folks who helped get us into this financial mess to now lead us out of it? Watching the president-elect’s Monday introduction of his economic team, my brother-in-law Pete said, “You can see the feathers coming out of their mouths” as the foxes were once again put in charge of the henhouse. He didn’t have time to expound on his point, having to get ready to go sort mail in his job at the post office. But he showed me a statement from Citigroup showing that the interest rate on Pete the Postal Worker’s credit card was 28.9 percent, an amount that all major religions would justly condemn as usurious.

Moments earlier, Obama had put his seal of approval on the Citigroup bailout, which his new economic team, led by protégés of Citigroup Executive Committee Chairman Robert Rubin, enthusiastically endorsed. A bailout that brings to $45 billion the taxpayer money thrown at Citigroup and the guarantee of $306 billion for the bank’s “toxic securities” that would have been illegal if not for changes in the law that Citigroup secured with the decisive help of Rubin and Lawrence Summers, the man who replaced him as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

As Summers stayed on to ensure passage of deregulatory laws that enabled enormous banking greed, Rubin was rewarded with a $15 million-a-year executive position at Citigroup, a job that only got more lucrative as the bank went from one disaster, beginning with its involvement with Enron in which Rubin played an active role, to its huge role in the mortgage debacle. It is widely acknowledged that Citigroup fell victim to a merger mania, which Rubin and Summers made legal during their tenure at Treasury.

Yet despite that dismal record of dismantling sound regulation, Summers has been picked by Obama to be the top White House economic adviser and another Rubin disciple, Timothy Geithner, is the new Treasury secretary. Geithner, thanks in part to the strong recommendation of Rubin, had been appointed chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank after working for Rubin and Summers during the Clinton years. Once at the New York Fed, he was the main government official charged with regulating Citigroup, a task at which he obviously failed. Yet over the weekend, it was Geithner who hammered out the Citigroup bailout deal with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a very actively involved Rubin.


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As The Washington Post reported, Paulson had indicated last week that no further bailouts were planned before the new administration took office until “Rubin, an old colleague from Goldman Sachs, told Paulson in phone calls that the government had to act.” Rubin conceded in an interview with the Post that he had played a key role in the politics of the bailout.

This outrageous conflict of interest in which Rubin gets to exploit his ties to both the outgoing and incoming administrations was best described by Washington Post writer Steven Pearlstein: “The ultimate irony, of course, is that just as Rubin and Co. at Citi were being bailed out by the Bush administration, President-elect Barack Obama was getting set to announce a new economic team drawn almost entirely from Rubin acolytes.”

As opposed to the far tougher deal negotiated on the bailout of AIG, the arrangement with Citigroup leaves the executives, including Rubin, who brought Citigroup to the brink of ruin, still in charge. Nor is there any guarantee of the value of the mortgage bundles that taxpayers will be guaranteeing. That is because, as candidate Obama clearly stated in his major economics address back in March, the deregulation pushed though during the Clinton years ended transparency in banking.

Why then has he appointed the very people responsible for this disaster to now make it all better? Why not ask him? Heck, yes, it is time for the many of us who responded to his e-mails during the campaign to now challenge our e-mail buddy as to why he suddenly acts as if the interests of Wall Street and Main Street are one and the same.

Robert Scheer is editor in chief of Truthdig and the author of a new book, “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.”

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By Levon, November 26, 2008 at 10:44 am Link to this comment
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if obama really was trying to change things he should have at least tied the bailout to lowering interest rates on consumer credit cards. that he didn’t gives me that not so fresh feeling.

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By Carlos, November 26, 2008 at 10:43 am Link to this comment

He hasn’t taken office yet for God’s sake. Who should he name to clean up this mess..Joe the Plummer?

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By outermind, November 26, 2008 at 10:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama is nothing more that a house-boy for the elite, singular, big-business party that rules this country. He is not “picking” his cabinet, rather the choices are being dictated to him by his string pullers. This is not “change”, this is a continuation of 28 years of the same failed fiscal and foreign policy that has brought this country to it’s knees. It is very unfortunate that many “liberals” think of the Clinton years as prosperous and harmless. The fact is Clinton laid the groundwork for the current economic collapse, being a massive supporter of financial deregulation and pushing NAFTA and other initiatives which have proved to be damaging to the middle and lower classes.

Anyone who truly believes that Obama will deliver anything beneficial to the non-elite in this country is likely suffering from a form of dementia. Trust me, I WANT to believe in this gimmick just as much as the next person, however I just can’t close my eyes to the truth. Obama has supported the War in Iraq, the Patriot act, FISMA, FISA, the military commissions act, the Bailout, and many other damaging initiatives. He wants to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and put military pressure on Iran. An yet somehow, someway, 60-70% of the general population has deitized him grand Cesarean fashion as a champion for the poor and downtrodden. In reality nothing can be father from the truth. The powers that be really pulled a slick one this time - beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Don’t be a slave to to the Obama marketing campaign. Open your eyes, do some research, and discover the truth.

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By coloradokarl, November 26, 2008 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

I used to think Progressives were to the Dem.‘s what the Bible thumpers were to the Repub.‘s I now believe if obama goes center right the progressives will create the third party that will bring parity to the system. WHAT WE NEED !!!

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By Louise, November 26, 2008 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

Last night I watched Frontlines, “The Hugo Chavez Show”

The people of Venezuela sent a clear message. “We want change!” Unfortunately the change has morphed into something no-one anticipated. In short, the “elite” have been driven from government and the “people” are in charge. Now this might work if the people knew what to do, or at least how to do what they see as needing to be done! They don’t, so now their love for, and their dependence on Chavez has allowed his wish for change to morph into a dicto-demand sort of leadership, that speaks of all the things that must be done, assigns responsibility to various people or groups to get it done, but little or no leadership on how to get it done. So things get started, but nothing gets done!

Reminds me of the famous/infamous French Revolution. Following a violent overthrow of power, and the beheading of any and all who might have had some sense or experience, or ability to rebuild a nation; those who had none of the above set about to do that which they didn’t know how to do, and eventually ended up with a brand new despot!

Mind you, it is not my intention to draw a parallel between Obama and Chavez, or Obama and Napoleon, there really is none. The parallel is between the PEOPLE and the people! We want change and have little patience with what appears to not be change. But as has been pointed out, if someone wins an election based on hope,  the hope needs to be followed by an affirmation of confidence. And until Obama actually takes his oath of office, building confidence is about the only tool he has.

Would the peoples grumbling be less or more if Obama had done what most president elects do? Nothing.

The mess we find ourselves in has no shortage of villains. If some of them pop up in an attempt at recovery, we should not be surprised.

If someone hires an architect to design the perfect house, and down the road the house starts to fall apart. Who does the home-owner call? The builder or the architect? If they’re lucky they’ll find both. Because in spite of the fact that the architect and/or the builder may have been responsible for delivering the mess, the home-owner needs them both to figure out what went wrong and where. Then and only then can they set about trying to fix the problem.

Sometimes the blame can be laid on a bad design. Sometimes on a builder who cut corners. Sometimes a building inspector who didn’t inspect. Some times all three. And sometimes its simply a product failure, or an act of God ... an unknown fault that moved. Regardless, the problem needs to be found, and if possible fixed. And that means the home-owner needs to deal with those who had a part in the original creation.

But some folks are so stubborn and angry, they choose to ride their collapsing house into total ruin. Rather than have any dealings with “those people” who might, because of experience be able to help them save their house.

Meanwhile, we watch Obama do the only thing he can do. Keep talking and doing, until the day he can move into the White House and begin doing in earnest. Pointing out that fact does not equate as an apologist, simply an observer. And I for one prefer to observe, since I cant in any way influence where this house built by so-called conservative insight will finally land!

If nothing more, Obamas leadership will cushion the landing.

But hey - if finding whatever Obama does, it’s wrong, gives pleasure to some - who am I to take away their pleasure!

I just wont allow their pleasure to ruin my day!

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By Maani, November 26, 2008 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

Apparently, the only “change” that some here would accept is either experienced radical progressives in every position (unrealistic in the extreme), or an administration made up of completely inexperienced Joe the Plumbers, Jim the Mechanics, Jane the Teachers, Lisa the Health Care Professionals, etc.

The question is not who Obama chose, but what does Obama intend.  How many times do I have to remind people that the people a president chooses are there to carry out HIS policies, not their own, whether past or present.  I see no indication that Obama is going to change the positions he stated during the primary and general election campaigns - LONG before he even had an inkling of who his choices might be for various positions.

Of course I could be wrong, and Obama could be a stealth or “Manchurian” candidate who will make Bush look like a walk in the park.  But I SERIOUSLY doubt it.  NOTHING he has said or done since becoming president-elect is a betrayal of the policies he stated as a candidate.  So while it is true that the unexpected economic crisis has forced him (as it would anyone else!) to modify CERTAIN aspects of his economic plan, he has clearly shown the smarts and understanding to tackle it.

Tell me: how would YOU like to be judged on a job you have not even started yet?  You might want to give that some thought.


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By demar, November 26, 2008 at 10:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is time to return Ralph Nader to the position of respect that he deserves. I can’t think of a better place to start than to use his list of issues as a litmus test for Barak Obama. Why don’t you put his list on your site.

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By Shift, November 26, 2008 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

A top heavy structure resting on a deteriorating foundation’s days are numbered.  Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

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By Tom Semioli, November 26, 2008 at 10:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yep, Ralph Nader was a “spoiler” again. He spoiled the illusion of Obama as an agent of change.

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By Jim Yell, November 26, 2008 at 10:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We must remember that our political system is all or none and that means even sizable minorities must decide to vote for a candidate who has a real chance of winning. What we get with Obama is a balanced and rational leader, but that doesn’t mean he will be a success and so it is right that any of us question the top heavy appointments of political and insider hacks. If he is able to control them and get them to work in the frame work he has in mind it may prove that he was brilliant. If not it will be a sad mess, but when a large part of the electorate insists on voting against their own interests for ideological reasons we get 8 years of an arrogant irrational nincompoop who believes in magic.

Don’t be too hard on Obama yet.

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By Michael, November 26, 2008 at 10:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You can’t email Obama back by replying to an email they send out. I got an email the 25th asking for a donation. i replied to it the 26th and it was undeliverable.

Seems like Obanomics is a one way street already.

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By SaraB, November 26, 2008 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

All anyone ever needed to do, to figure out what Obama meant by ‘change we can believe in’ was look up his record. Who were his mentors, what was their own political take on the world and who funded him officially or otherwise(like Soros). And what exactly are they part of - CFR for instance. How did he vote: for FISA though he had promised not to, (whoah, that should have told us all everything we needed to know!), against impeachment and for Bush’s war funding etc etc etc. His stand on the war “do it properly”. I would win it.

People fall for what they want to fall for and they get very angry indeed with the messengers of disillusionment - like Nader. Robert, you owe Nader more than a ‘maybe I was wrong’. You WERE wrong and you know it. You him and everyone whose willful (though wholly understandable) Obama blindness you helped to perpetuate - an outright apology.

Now, will you and others with the honesty and the brains to see and assess the fascist dawn we have arrived at, start putting your talents towards figuring out what it will take to change the foundations of this system before it is too late?!

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By bert, November 26, 2008 at 10:04 am Link to this comment

Well, well, well, Mr. Scheer. Coming to your senses are we???? This post, plus one the one a few weeks ago regarding Obama and Iraq, is great, if you enjoy irony and sarcasm as much as I do. But I stopped being a fan of you and Truth Dig months ago after someone here offered to fill my body with buckshot and serve me up with a nice duck sauce just because I tried to point to Obama’s record as reason to believe he might not be all he was selling himself as. Seems I was correct. So much for digging for the truth here at Truth Dig. So much for respecting diversity of opinion in a free democratic republic where free speech is protected in the first amendment to the Constitution.

I never supported Barack Obama and I didn’t vote for him. I looked to his record, scant though it is, to make my decision. And what record he has easily predicted how he is now filling his administration, packing it with those who had a hand in both Iraq and Wall Street. Who the hell do you think gave him $600,000,000 to run his campaign? And oh by the way – say bye-bye forever to public financing of campaigns after this!!!!!

Anymore there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties. They are just flip sides of the same corrupt policies. I think it is time we throw all the bums out and start anew in this country.

Obama ran a duplicitous, multi-million dollar campaign that masqueraded as a social movement. It was just a gimmick; the good ‘ole hood-winking and bamboozling style campaign run by con men every where. And the saddest fact is that his election and his administration will thwart and demoralize the re-creation of real social movement for years to come. So much for hopey-dopey we can believe in. Yes we can be idiots!!!!! Yes we can be conned!!! Yes we can be duped!!!! Yes we were.

Let me be the first to tell you – I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!

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By One Little Victory, November 26, 2008 at 10:01 am Link to this comment how about we give Mr. Obama the chance to become President and actually govern before labeling him?

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By Folktruther, November 26, 2008 at 9:56 am Link to this comment

Scheer’s attack on Obama so soon is a significant indication that even establishment Progressives are becoming disenchanted and can’t ignore the obvious.  Progressives are dividing into pro-Dem Progressives and anti-Dem-Gop progressives. 

The pro-Dem progressives support war, racism, neoliberalism, and a police state often under the guise, and sincere belief, that they are opposing it.  The pro-Dem faction is largely fueled by Zionism, as are the Gops.

Now the question is: haow to unite the anti Dem-Gops into a cohesive force.  This requires new ideas.

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By Ted Swart, November 26, 2008 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

I just want to say thank you Robert Scheer.  I don’t often agree with you but this time round I do. Getting the foxes to repair the chicken house seem risky at best and madness at worst.
I sure don’t agree with everything Nader says—not should anyone else—but, on this one point, he is totally correct. The two party political system can only continue to regurgitate more of the same and can never result in real change. The we are right you are wrong attitude is inherently destructive. Obama used an indubitably flawed (grotesque?) political system (more so in its functioning than in its conception) with a level of finesse that boggles the mind. He is a consummate operator but appears to be so far away from real change as to be positively frightening.
Let me just close by saying:  I hope I am wrong but unless and until I hear those who are really responsible for our financial predicament start saying their mea culpas out loud and convincingly I remain a skeptic.

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By Kashilinus, November 26, 2008 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Temporarily, this belongs in the “You broke it. Now Fix it” category. There wasn’t much else that Obama could do as there are few out there who could be called in to fix things who have both the capability to do it and an understanding of what happened. I do believe that Obama should, as I’ve said before, empanel a group of non-governmental, peer chosen economists who would meet annually, spot problems, chart courses and make recommendations to the president. The same goes for a scientific advisory panel. The world is getting too complicated to rely on single individuals who may have personal agendas alongside their duties (think Gramm).

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By remoran, November 26, 2008 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

Thus far, Obama looks like an empty suit.

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By michele hemenway, November 26, 2008 at 9:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If this is all so bad, why did Paul Krugman say it was not on Olberman last night?
And some of us who supported Obama and still do, never had blinders on and did not need to be slapped in the face to wake up. We had been awake for eight years.believe me. there is not just black and white: theres’ also gray. ( no pun)
You can support a candidacy and still know it’s not exactly perfect yet. Right? You j ust keep at the work. Some of us have been at it for a long time. We know , as the book tittle suggests,
“The Impossible Will Take A Little While.”
Be thankful today of all days and stop whining all the time.Get to work instead in your own cities, neighborhoods, schools and towns.
Go read to a child , help someone learn English, DO Something!!!

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By troublesum, November 26, 2008 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

Appologists for Obama represent everything which is wrong with the democratic party.  The events of the next year or so will be a good slap in the face for them and might even wake some of them up.

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By Louise, November 26, 2008 at 9:24 am Link to this comment

Oooops! Sorry Stephen, the link I posted doesn’t work, so all you folks just click on:

And scroll down to:

Confidence We Can Believe In?

That should work!

But if it doesn’t scroll down to his post,  Stephen Smoliar. Worth the hunt and worth the read!

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By Louise, November 26, 2008 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

“Enough of ‘Barbituate’ Left Cynicism, Obama Is a Victory over White Supremacy”

“These are people who think being agitators is about pissing people off more than reaching out to them. So they pull out their “Buck Fush” signs at their repetitively irrelevant antiwar demonstrations, or their posters with W sporting a Hitler mustache, because that tends to work so well at convincing folks to oppose the slaughter in Iraq. But effectiveness isn’t what matters to them. What matters to them is raging against the machine for the sake of rage itself. Their message is simple: everything sucks, the earth is doomed, all cops are brutal, all soldiers are baby-killers, all people who work for corporations are evil, blah, blah, blah, right on down the line. It’s as if much of the left has become co-dependent with despondency, addicted to its own isolation, and enamored of its moral purity and unwillingness to work with mere liberals. In the name of ideological asceticism, they spurn the hard work of movement building and inspiring others to join the struggle, snicker at those foolish enough to not understand or appreciate their superior philosophical constructs, and then act shocked when their movements and groups accomplish exactly nothing.”


And these are people who, no matter what, will look for negativity and doom in anything their ‘soon to be president’ chooses to do! Because negativity and doom is the only thing they understand!


Stephen Smoliar, November 26 at 4:57 am #

“After getting the initial aggravation out of my system, I found myself writing a more moderated point of view yesterday:” nce-we-can-believe-in.html

Thanks Stephen! smile

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By mark, November 26, 2008 at 8:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is where the guy is a genius. He’s lulling the elites into thinking he’s with them, then he can spring his trap on them!

Not likely.

You don’t get elected to the U.S. Senate by rocking the boat and bucking the established order.

Ditto, for the presidency.

It “takes” gobs of money to get elected to national office.

Wealthy benefactors expect something in return for those “contributions”.

Money = Power

Therefore, we have the best government money can buy!

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By troublesum, November 26, 2008 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

Of course there was no reason to believe that Obama was going to bring on a european style social democratic government, but given the size of his overwhelming victory, there was every reason to hope that he would “spend some political capital” (as Bush put it after his victory four years ago) to at least give main street a voice in dealing with the present crisis.  That is not going to happen. The question of why he chose not to do what he earned the right to do is worth considering.

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By Hulk2008, November 26, 2008 at 8:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Can you imagine ANYone who voted for McCain actually voting for Nader ?  Until some 3d party can push their percentages above 15%, the electorate at large will never take any of their candidates seriously.  Most of the electorate has difficulty reading ketchup labels. 
    Having voted for a number of outliers myself over the years, I tired of wasting what tiny leverage I have on the political process - might as well vote for some fractional change rather than an ideal.  Our media immediately labels any “outsider” (anybody 5 miles away from DC or a state capitol) as a hopeless loser. Remember Howard Dean’s “unforgiveable sin”?  He cheered at an elevated level - he raised his voice !!!  The media was so shocked and his opponents so ready with their carving knives, he was totally dismissed from that point on.  Perot’s flaw?  He couldn’t understand people threatening his family over a political campaign.  Dukakis’ error?  He was too reasoned in responding to a bogus interviewer’s question.
  Our so-called “Ship Of State” is a gigantic unwieldy leaky oil tanker basically out of control except by the very rich - it runs on vast sums of money and ultra-insider influence and cannot change course more than a few degrees at a time.

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By wordsonfire, November 26, 2008 at 8:23 am Link to this comment

My mother always said . . . the proof is in the pudding . . .

Can we see the results of his actions before we start condemning?  Listen . . . As far as I’m concerned, Nader’s use of the term “Uncle Tom,” was so far out-of-bounds that nothing he says or does in the future will ever get me to listen to a word he says.

He has become part of the problem with his do nothing, trash talking . . . we really do need everyone to solve our problems.  You think the markets would have gained confidence with nader in some significant post . . . also, I see a lot of complaining, but who would have been better?  I love and respect Paul Krugman and he seems very delighted about the appointments.

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By Paul_GA, November 26, 2008 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

As long as the country continues to vote the War Party into power, nothing will change. I’ve voted Libertarian the last three election cycles, and have never regretted it except in a minor way (I had my misgivings about Bob Barr this year, but voted for him anyway because the LP was the only alternative to the Repubs and Demos on the Georgia ballot).

The lesser of two evils is still evil, y’know.

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By Back bencher, November 26, 2008 at 8:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By tdbach, November 26 at 6:15 am

“If you’re of a mind to move our country leftward, you first have to make sure it doesn’t crash.”

No, actually you do not “have to make sure it doesn’t crash.” In point of fact, the Country was at its apex of radicalism during the Great Depression when the American Communist party had its largest membership.

“Left” is people realizing that “right” is the status Quo where the rich get richer. The greatest barrier to “change” is a happy well fed middle class.

The suburbs are the reason Obama is “President elect” rather than John McCain.

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By jamiedbruce, November 26, 2008 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

Mr. Schreer, as much as I generally admire your point of view (I read your articles and listen to LRC) I really think that jumping on the Nader wagon is to say the least pathetic. If you think that at any time Obama was going to run the country as a social democrat (in the European sense) was never in the cards. The fact is that he is a centrist in the US model and he seriously should be given a chance before everybody on the left and right start jumping all over him. What everybody seems to neglect is that Obama is trying to create a government of Unity which is the ONLY way things have a chance of getting fixed. I am someone who was brought up in Europe and a man of the Left but I have to say that one thing the americans have had in the past which i believe Obama is trying to bring back is the “can do” pragmatic essence of the american people and leaders which is what has made this country so great. This is what we should focus on and make sure to help Obama succeed.

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By robertsgt40, November 26, 2008 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

Are you going to sit there and suggest there was ever any doubt in your mind who runs this country?  Amazing!

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By marta kaye, November 26, 2008 at 7:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I voted for change, but it appears most of the same. We still have Gates to continue the wars in the Middle East, or wherever, and Wall Street will remain the same, and out tax money will still fund Israel, since Leiberman is still around.

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By Danielle TeunionSmith, November 26, 2008 at 7:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Really, did we expect to see someone to take power in the White House that truly believed in dismantling and recreating positions of power to better this mess. Most of the positions will change names, possibly change the positions names, but the system is still corrupt. Even if you believe in Obama’s integrity to clean things up…read about social disorganization in sociology basic theories textbook. NOt all the apples are bad…it is the barrel that is bad.

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By Kathy, November 26, 2008 at 7:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Last night on TV I saw some “pragmatic” liberals trying to rationalize this turn of events by saying it’s conservatives who believe personnel constitute policy and liberals should await outcomes.  OK, I suppose we have no alternative to wait and see.  But the level of distrust which this recession has left the public means any honeymoon that Obama enjoys will be extremely short.  The Know-Nothing segment represented by Sarah Palin (proudly anti-intellectual, solipsistic, reflexively anti-cosmopolitan, prone to scapegoating, preferring myth and chiliastic religion over science) will continue to grow, meaning there will be no 1936 for Obama.  Roosevelt won re-election by a larger margin that year than in 1932, despite the “Roosevelt recession” that pushed unemployment back up to 1933 levels.  If Obama follows Jimmy Carter and Clinton by campaigning on the left and governng on the center-right, I think the Thousand Year Reich of Reagan-Bush-Bush will seem enlightened, benevolent and restrained compared to the tyranny of idiots that will follow.

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By Max Shields, November 26, 2008 at 7:35 am Link to this comment
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Again, YOU miss the point. Ideology is the basis of what’s going on. Neoliberalism is the core of the very essence of the American economy and its endless wars. Pragmaticism in this context is “making neoliberalism”, the bane of the world, work.

Obama has made it clear, way before the “meltdown”, before the election that Summers is his kind of guy. Obama IS an insider. In some ways he’s an insider of the worst kind. A “wanna be” which means, unlike FDR (who was by birth an elitist) who could keep the wolves at bay, Obama will always be proving to the “man” that he’s worthy of the job, and, the “man” is the existing power structure that has ruled this country since its inception - regardless of the person in the White House.

FDR kept the power structure solidly in place, he saved capitalism and provide a jolt do to factors beyond him but also his own willingness, to create an American “middle class” that lasted for about 3 decades before it began to come undone. It was an unsustainable middle class built on mass consumption and passive tv watching, individualism at the expense of community and civic-mindedness, and fast-foods.

But, today, we have people who wanted real change. Some voted for Obama, some for Nader or McKinney, but most didn’t show up. The numbers, with all the marketing and hoopla, were no different in turnout than 2004.

But folks, remember, we didn’t elect a new government or economic system. Elected was a man to secure and protect the plutocracy and the existing system. He was never more than that.

For change…look elsewhere. First, to ourselves, to our communities. Build a world from where you are. Obama is simply part of the machine.

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By felicity, November 26, 2008 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

Thanks, Fahrenheit 451, for the link.  I’m really getting tired of the naysayers, uninformed critics, ill-informed prognosticators and just plain belly-achers. Innocent before proven guilty works outside the courtroom as well as inside.

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By troublesum, November 26, 2008 at 7:20 am Link to this comment

Excusing Obama 101

He had to vote for funding the war even though he opposed it so republicans couldn’t accuse him of not supporting the troops.  But when he gets to be president….

He had to vote for the fisa bill so that republicans… but when he gets to be president….

He had to grovel in front of AIPAC because it’s expected of every candidate and he needs Jewish votes, but when he gets to be president….

He had to vote for the bailout bill because the crisis was so severe the government had to act, but when he gets to be president….

He had to choose insiders to fix the economic mess because having caused it, they know best how to fix it.  But as president he’ll be the one in charge and he may have chosen these guys just because….

He had to keep Gates on as defense secretary because it’s Bush’s war and not his so even though he will be president the war won’t really be his to deal with but he will still be the president in case….

He can’t really change anything this time around because there are too many problems that he had nothing to do with creating.  We have to wait until his second term and then he’ll really be the president and then….

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By Fadel Abdallah, November 26, 2008 at 7:18 am Link to this comment

I am interested in hearing the opinion of some Obama’s enthusiasts, especially Cyrena, about Obama’s making the sexist Summers as a pillar of his team.

Remember, this was the guy who scandalized many women when he said that women have some inherent defect that make them under-achievers in math and sciences. Look at his ugly sexist picture in the shadow of Obama! Do we have the right of raising the issue of guilt by association?!

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By tdbach, November 26, 2008 at 7:15 am Link to this comment

Some here (Mr. Smoliar comes to mind) have pointed out Mr. Sheer is missing the point. This mess we’re in has many dimensions, perhaps the least among them ideological. If you’re of a mind to move our country leftward, you first have to make sure it doesn’t crash. Obama is nothing if not pragmatic (and that’s a good thing). To have any chance of solving this mess, you have to do two things: understand what got us here so we can start applying the appropriate remedies; and make sure that the markets have confidence that you know what you’re doing. Like it or not, the markets - that evil engine of a capitalistic economy - both responds to and drives the economy. Without the collapse of the markets, there would not have been a Great Depression.

Obama, by picking this team, has satisfied both requirements. They (or their mentor, Rubin) may have been instumental in creating this mess, but they are also the ones who best understand what happened. And the markets, which have the intelligence of schooling fishes, believe in these guys, even though they’re the ones who led them into the shark’s mouth. So they give the markets confidence.

Obama is no Bush. He will not take their word for anything, I believe. He’ll poke and prod their thinking, and use their understanding to shape his own solutions. Or at least I hope so. But at this stage, what choice do we have?

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By leilah, November 26, 2008 at 7:12 am Link to this comment

We won the battle (the election) but lost the war.  What we have here is Bush in blackface.
Someone on this blog said, “How’s the new boss?” 
“Just like the old boss.”
According to Michael Hudson, Obama policies will touch around the edges as far a middle class tax cuts go and will move more wealth up the power structure.  When they want it all, they want it all.

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By Max Shields, November 26, 2008 at 7:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is not about “plumbing”. Bringing in the plumber who broke it, who can now fix it because he knows where the leak might be coming from.

TD continues to have a number of apologists for Obama. Maybe one day?

In any case, Summers, et al are the achitects of the new neoliberalism. They are plumbers and we need a new house, to use the anology once again.

The system is about the concentration of wealth and power. It is not the “guys” who are going to fix this. They are plutocrats and it’s an inside game and most of us (perhaps all) on this little virtual space AREN’T part of it - GET IT?

Obama will do what he’s been doing all along. He’ll pull out the Clinton handbook on “last Dem president to successfully hoodwink the public and the naive “left”” and conclude that he must say a little of this and do a lot of that.

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By Zhong Yan, November 26, 2008 at 7:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I do not understand why so many well educated Americans can be led to still think that U.S. government is for the people, even though it is by the people who are fooled around once every four years.  I suggest that the name U.S.A should be changed to U.S.I. with the “I” for Israel. Several previous presidents who tried to break free from the control of the international financiers were either assassinated or tried upon. Even Reagan was tried upon when he tried to restore the gold standard for the US dollar. So the American people should have voted for a man with courage rather than a man with a lot of empty rhetoric. That is why I would have voted John McCain if I were a citizen of the U.S.of I.

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By Fadel Abdallah, November 26, 2008 at 7:03 am Link to this comment

I feel sorry for myself for investing too much hope in Obama’s rhetoric of “change.” And I further feel greater sorrow for those who cannot read the writing on the wall about what Obama really stands for as the man of Wall Street.

I am wondering how many people have noticed that Obama’s empty rhetorical slogan of “change we can count on” has been recently replaced by the slogan of “reaching across the isle” and working on “non-partisan” basis?!

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By Dag Andersson, November 26, 2008 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

@Frank & Fahrenheit 431.

I’m not saying you are wrong.but I doubt you are right.
For 3 weeks now I’ve searched for a sign of change. That Obama will bring something new into the WH.  So far zilch-zero-nichts-nada-rien and nothing. Your hope is that PEOPLE will change. That Hillary will stop warmongering. That Gates, a central figure in Iran-Contras, the cooperation with Saddam and other atrocities will undergo a metamorphosis and acquire some moral fabric after all these years.  I think not

Hiring people with the same ideology that caused the economic predicament to solve it can never be very smart. It is like curing hangover with more booze. It makes you feel better for a short while, but makes things worse in the long run.

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By coloradokarl, November 26, 2008 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

I’m still hoping it’s all a “Keep your enemies closer” thing. Obama, after all, has NO CONTROL over very much until Jan. 20. At this point “Hope and Change” are just words and as we all know “Actions speak louder than Words”. The ONLY “Hope” we have, as I see it, is $500 billion towards NEW GREEN JOBS. Solar Energy from EVERY Roof in America would create 1 million new jobs in 6 months and the benefits would last, well, forever? The problem with anything this easy though is the Coal Companies, The Railroads, The Utilities, The Nuclear Industry Etc.,Etc. Nobody Likes Change, It’s an unknown and it takes Courage to travel an untried path. Follow the SUN, Barack Obama, It lights your way to success!!

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By troublesum, November 26, 2008 at 6:29 am Link to this comment

A hundred years ago it was possible for politicians to talk about restraining corporate power.  Anyone who does so today is labled a radical left wing nut case who is not sufficiently “pragmatic.”  Being pragmatic means that you have excepted the idea that corporations rule the world and there is nothing we can do about it.  Asking the insiders who created the disaster to fix it is like expecting the bull to clean up the china closet.

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By nrobi, November 26, 2008 at 6:05 am Link to this comment

In the course of the events that have brought us to this point in time, the American people have been swindled and bamboozled. Why? Because we have bought the bait, hook, line, and sinker, that Wall Street Thugs cared about the financial status of “real Americans.” 
Yeah Right! And if you believe this line, I have a bridge to sell you.
No one in their right or left minds, would truly believe that the Wall Street Thugs are compassionate and caring about the American people, this is quite honestly the worst lie that has ever come down the pike.  The only thing that the Wall Street Thugs care about is the money that can be made off the backs of the working class.
Now, that Barack Obama, is the president-elect, he has chosen the very people who caused this mess. But to fix it there are people out there who have no ties to the Wall Street Thugs, but are in academia and other parts of the financial sector of our economy.  Yes, we all knew that Barack Obama, was bought and paid for by the Wall Street Thugs and as a result would not care about the Main Street people, those for whom the global economic crisis, is the disaster that will bring them down. Yet the financial sector of our economy, can take many hits, and still survive, but the one hit that the American and global markets cannot take will be the one where the derivatives come due. $485 Trillion US. More than all of the countries in the world, GDP.
If anyone can think there way out of this hit, they deserve to be the leader of the world, no one has that kind of money, not any country in the world, nor all the countries combined can take this kind of hit.
Yet survive we must, we, the people, not the economists, must find a way to survive the worst economic disaster in the history of the world. And now regulations must be put in place, to hold the line on the markets of the world so that this never happens again. If not, then bend over and kiss your ass good-bye.  For the Wall Street Thugs, the ones who have caused this mess will again, once bailed out do the very same things, that have caused this global economic crisis.

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By lester333, November 26, 2008 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You Bob, need to write a column dissecting the debate you reference so we call all see your failings and learm from them.  How in the hell can you go against Ralph Nader, the only sensible person in the political arena.  I would love the see your arguments in the heated debate.  I would even like to read ONE heated comment you made to Mr Nader.

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By Stephen Smoliar, November 26, 2008 at 5:57 am Link to this comment

After getting the initial aggravation out of my system, I found myself writing a more moderated point of view yesterday:

SamSnedegar is right, it IS a confidence game;  but, as Niall Ferguson pointed out in his new book, the very concept of money is a confidence game and has been one since the oldest financial records on clay tablets.  My conclusion is that the more important issue is the dialectical relation under which Wall Street depends on Main Street as much as Main Street depends on Wall Street.  Thus, there actually IS something to be said about bringing in the guys who caused the mess to address the question of what regulations are now needed.  As long as the question of regulation is now being examined seriously, we shall have advanced significantly from the days of the Bush Administration, which, in the dramatic language of Patricia Williams (hyperlink in my post), exhibited “a failure to govern at all.”

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By Paolo, November 26, 2008 at 5:49 am Link to this comment

Although I am a libertarian, I admire Ralph Nader and think he would be a far better president than the miscreants the two major parties have given us for the last half-century or so. Perhaps Robert Scheer is waking up to the fact that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

So long as the government has complete control of money and finance through the Federal Reserve, the two major parties are quite happy to trade places every few years. I’m sure they cast knowing winks at each other as they do so.

I hope Obama can break this cycle of government-business “partnership” (aka “fascism”), but I am not encouraged.

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By Frank, November 26, 2008 at 4:41 am Link to this comment

Fahrenheit 451, it’s nice to read a post with judicious use of honest humility for a change. I agree with your sentiments completely.

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By Fahrenheit 451, November 26, 2008 at 4:28 am Link to this comment

It’s very apparent we like chasing the mice running around in our brain.  I very much doubt any one here including me is a qualified economist.  I have stated, along with others, my opinions on the economic issues and have had to constantly reassess based on my increasing understanding of the causes and effects.  Scheer is very convincing as are many of the supposed experts as they pontificate and criticize and blame.  This whole mess is in fact out of our control and little of what we opine will ultimately matter in the least.  For me; I listening and will not have an opinion on this matter again.  Why, because I really have no idea and neither do you. 

Nouriel Roubini; one of the only guys who knew it was all coming down, said Obama’s choices for his economic cabinet were excellent.  If in fact that’s true, then what do we know?  Scheer is above his pay grade.  Here’s Roubini’s interview with Newsweek.

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By SamSnedegar, November 26, 2008 at 4:25 am Link to this comment

oh come on . . .

you’d HAVE to choose “insiders” to fix anything, mostly because no one else knows how the damned system works well enough to fix it without breaking it beyond repair.

When we lend the banks money (CDs) they squeal if they have to pay as much as 4.5%, but when they lend US money, (credit card debt) they don’t know whether to charge 28% or “just” 22%. That is like a license to steal. Jesus would have kicked the bastards out of the temple (bank), but despite many suppositions to the contrary, Obambi isn’t the second coming, and he has to use the tools available.

Surprised you haven’t noticed that Obambi keeps talking about “confidence” as the solution to our financial woes: yes, it is indeed a confidence game, and the losers are always the same people, the gullible and the unwary, and those are we . . .

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By REED RICHARDS, November 26, 2008 at 2:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Robert Scheer,

Don’t whine now.  Ralph Nader and many others told you and the rest of the Obamaniacs many times long before the election was ever held that Barack Obama would not only betray you and others who voted for him but that he would do it with a smile on his face, which he has.  I think it’s beautiful that Bush’s third term has come to pass, albeit with an unexpected face.  You people are getting exactly what you deserve, and that is MORE OF THE SAME…..

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By writeon, November 26, 2008 at 2:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Clearly, after all the long, dark, years of Bush; the desire for change was so overwhelming, so great, so needed; that lots of people willingly blinded themselves to reality and projected their hopes onto a presidential candidate that in many respects was a blank slate. This is perfectly understandable and honourable - though arguably, both naive and dangerous.

Now the “blank slate” is being written on and people are uncertain about what it means. Did they really vote for change and Obama and yet get the return of the Clintons? One votes for one candidate, but the losing candidates people take over the Whitehouse, run that past me again? And who voted for compromise and bi-partisanship with the hated Bush administration? Didn’t people vote to kick these people out, once and for all, not keep them on?

So for the second time in couple of years, like with the mid-terms, the people have voted one way, expecting change, but what they actually get is something else - continuity.

On the other hand, one could argue that Obama’s financial team are precisely the right people to deal with the current financial/economic crisis, because they were part of the gang that caused it in the first place, set a thief to catch a thief, if that’s a consolation?!

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