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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Obama and the Economy

BLANK 8:43 Truthdig
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 16:43:31 GMT
Comment: Welcome to our live Q&A session with Robert Scheer.

8:50 Truthdig
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 16:50:36 GMT
Comment:

  As we wait for our columnist to appear, feel free to chat among yourselves and take a look at some of these videos on the topic.

9:01 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:01:59 GMT
Comment:

  Hi Bob, thanks for joining us this week. We have a lot of questions lined up, so let’s start this!

9:02 Robert Scheer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:02:11 GMT
Comment:

  Hello everyone.

9:02 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:02:36 GMT
Comment:

  Dilbert, San Diego asks “When is the DOJ going to prosecute the Wall Street bankers and rating agencies for FRAUD?
This crisis is all about jobs. The multinational corporations have shipped the factories that our parents and grandparents have built to Asia now. What are we going to do to keep the US citizens in well-paid jobs now?”

9:04 Robert Scheer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:04:08 GMT
Comment:

  I don’t think there are going to be significant prosecutions because the people who committed what should be serious crimes got to write the laws making those crimes legal through their lobbyist campaign contributions to the politicians. As far as controlling the multinational corporations, that requires a democracy in which the average voter’s interest is reflected, and we don’t have one.

9:04 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:04:55 GMT
Comment:

  Next question:
Since the stimulus bill has not worked, how can Obama improve the economy and get people back to work?

9:04 Comment From Guest

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:04:59 GMT
Comment: Hi Bob –

9:05 oceanshaman via twitter
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:05:15 GMT
Comment:

  RT @markknoller: In an economic speech today, Obama will again say: “Our economy is growing, instead of shrinking … almost 600,000 new jobs.”

9:05 RPaul_Bedford via twitter

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:05:42 GMT
Comment:

  Is Obama helping the economy or hurting it?

9:06 republicangnome via twitter

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:06:27 GMT
Comment:

  Obama promotes energy projects, economy in Nevada (AP) http://goo.gl/fb/K72aq #tcot

9:06 Robert Scheer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:06:32 GMT
Comment:

  It’s not that the stimulus bill didn’t work but that it didn’t go far enough, and that a much larger amount of money was wasted on bailing out Wall Street. The key to the whole problem goes back to the housing foreclosures, and there needs to be an empowerment of the courts to readjust those mortgages when the banks don’t want to and to put a freeze on mortgage foreclosures. And we need a real stimulus as we had during the Great Depression, where we made very important needed additions to the infrastructure of this country.

9:07 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:07:16 GMT
Comment:

  Truthdig reader Lars from San Francisco asks:
Obviously the President is grossly ineffectual on nearly all the major issues, as you and so many others have pointed out. In your opinion, is this because Obama lacks the will and desire to actually make the necessary changes to fix our unemployment crisis, Afghanistan, financial reform, etc.? Or, does he have the will, and is trying his hardest, but simply doesn’t have the authority to overcome the corporate interests that now seem to control every major policy decision?

9:11 Robert Scheer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:11:13 GMT
Comment:

  (To Lars) Obama has fallen prey to the siren song of centrist opportunism that has dominated the Democratic Party. He rehired the worst culprits from the Clinton administration in foreign and domestic policy. In foreign policy, we’re pursuing the fantasies of Richard Holbrooke and the other liberal hawks who’ve dominated Democratic foreign policy going back to Vietnam and still believe it’s their obligation to remake the world in some version of American corporate interests. In domestic policy, he hired the very people — Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers — who legalized financial industry crime, removed those toxic derivatives packages from any legal supervision and opened the door for what really in effect was a corporate crime spree.

9:11 Question From Spencer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:11:50 GMT
Comment: Is the economic situation beyond the scope of our broken electoral politics? (I would say yes.) Can we effect change some other way?

9:13 Truthdig
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:13:30 GMT
Comment:

  We have a few questions lined up, so please be patient; we will get to yours shortly.

9:13 Robert Scheer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:13:55 GMT
Comment:

  (To Spencer) It had better not be, or we’re doomed. I think there’s a great deal of pain out there; the IMF just predicted that the unemployment situation will not improve for a couple years. We have a stagnating economy — people’s life savings have been destroyed with the collapse of the housing market. And I think that if the Democrats and the so-called moderates don’t respond to that pain with real programs to control Wall Street and bring jobs back, we’re in for an era of right-wing demagogic control. Get ready for President Palin … !

9:14 Question From Doodranch

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:14:15 GMT
Comment: Bob, are there any avenues you can foresee that would allow taxpayers to get some of that misused stimulus money back from banks? 9:17 Robert Scheer
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:17:18 GMT
Comment:

  (To Doodranch) The problem is that the U.S. government and the Fed have picked up the obligation for the toxic derivatives. We taxpayers are now holding them; banks have been let off the hook. And in the so-called financial reform, they lost the $20B obligation for Wall Street to pay for any of the restructuring. So the real issue is that if we don’t bring this economy back, it’s the taxpayers who are holding those toxic derivatives rather than the Wall Street folks who created those packages. Since we are on the hook, it behooves us to allocate resources to the unemployed, so they can at least keep making their mortgage payments, and to a serious stimulus program, which includes: hiring rather than firing teachers; building rail systems that are needed; and the same sorts of things that were done under FDR — the last great Democratic president — to revive an economy that is in deep trouble.

9:17 Question From Tim

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:17:35 GMT
Comment: Whether it’s the auto industry, big coal, offshore oil, or Wall Street, I see how these big businesses have all captured the government agency that were supposed to regulate them. What other captured agencies exist, and how can we fix them BEFORE a crisis blows up? One that comes to mind is the Dept. of Agriculture, which is supposed to protect our food but also serves as a promotional mouthpiece for agribusiness.

9:20 Robert Scheer
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:20:08 GMT
Comment:

  (To Tim) The first thing to do is identify the few politicians who actually stand for the public interest and rally around them. On the Senate side, you have Russ Feingold from Wisconsin, who is attempting to hold the fat cats responsible. Go to his website and read his objections to the Obama so-called financial reform. He has led the charge in the Senate to hold these multinational corporations accountable, and he has been betrayed by this administration and by the Democratic leadership. On the House side, the truth about corporate power exists somewhere between the position of Henry Waxman and Dennis Kucinich. All the others — Pelosi included — are just so much noisy cover-up for business as usual. And put Barney Frank in that destructive camp.

9:20 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:20:16 GMT
Comment:

  Our next question is from Truthdig reader Lars, who asks, “Mr. Scheer,
I read your blog post right after Obama’s election. When did you change your mind about the Obama presidency, what specifically made you change your mind?”

9:21 Comment From WSmart

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:21:30 GMT
Comment: I think making the economy stronger is madness. It’s like the opposition party in Nazi Germany making Germany stronger. The only way the troops are coming home and we can face our pink elephants is if the economy simply can’t support it anymore, apparently. To that end, I think talking about China’s undervalued currency and Obama offending the China state at Cocainehaven were a good start on what we need, which isn’t at all a stronger economy. We need to sober up and pull our heads out of the sand. Be real, be sober.

9:25 Robert Scheer
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:25:55 GMT
Comment:

  (To Lars) Well, my mind is changed by awkward facts — the first of which revolved around the selection of Timothy Geithner to be treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers to be the top White House economic adviser. These people are up to their eyeballs in creating this mess when they worked for Clinton. I’ve just completed a book that will be published in the next six weeks called “The Great American Stick-Up,” which documents the central responsibility of the Clinton presidency for our economic debacle. And when Obama was running against Hillary Clinton in the primary and spoke at Cooper Union in April of 2008, he was very clear that the radical deregulation of the financial industry, pursued by President Clinton, was at the root of the problem. But then he turned around after being elected and hired the very people who had messed up the economy under Clinton. Now if they had had a sudden reversal of ideology and found some integrity and allied with people like Russ Feingold who bring about meaningful change, well then fine. But the opposite happened. Wall Street — and you can see it from the increased stock valuations of bankers — has been made whole while we are asked to accept massive unemployment and housing foreclosures as somehow normal. And in the process, in order to save Wall Street, we have run up enormous debt that will be used as the excuse for preventing spending money on schools and other needed programs in the future. It is, as the title of my book suggests, “The Great American Stick-Up,” and as the subtitle explains: “How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Rewarded Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

9:26 tpmpolls via twitter

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:26:13 GMT
Comment:

  Obama Job Approval (Economy): Approve 37.0% Disapprove 58.0% (Jul. 06 – YouGov/Polimetrix) http://tpm.ly/8YPemz

9:26 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:26:42 GMT
Comment:

  Our next question comes from Nat in Los Angeles. “You mention the need for reforms to prevent another financial crisis such as the present one. What are some reforms that you believe would be effective? Would the re-enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act be a possible solution? Or would something like the Volcker Rule be sufficient?”

9:28 Question From Tim

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:28:26 GMT
Comment: Thanks for keying me in on Russ Feingold and the others. Who in California do you believe are worth rallying behind?

9:30 Robert Scheer
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:30:03 GMT
Comment:

  (To Nat) Well, the Volcker Rule is a good start; it’s just that it got watered down terribly in the legislation that’s being pushed through Congress. We need a restoration of Glass-Steagall which would force, for example, Goldman Sachs, which was allowed to become a commercial bank, to decide whether it wants to stay in that position and be guaranteed public funding and bailouts, because it’s playing with ordinary folks’ money, or it wants to go back to being an investment bank that deals with sophisticated high-rollers who are gambling their own money. You shouldn’t allow it to be both. And this legislation, as Sen. Russ Feingold points out very clearly on his Web page as his reason for voting against this legislation … does nothing with the too-big-to-fail problem because it doesn’t reverse the dangerous, radical deregulation of the Clinton years.

9:30 Cornhusk via twitter

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:30:07 GMT
Comment:

  Obama says: Economy failing? Spend more money, that 400b left over burning a hole in his pocket. Good luck, Pres.

9:30 Comment From Anne

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:30:09 GMT
Comment: Hi, bob

9:32 Robert Scheer
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:32:04 GMT
Comment:

  (To Tim) Henry Waxman for sure. Even though he ended up supporting the final Obama product on this, he’s raised the right questions, and his congressional hearings have represented an exemplary defense of the public interest. But there aren’t too many like Feingold and Waxman and Kucinich around.

9:32 Robert Scheer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:32:49 GMT
Comment:

  We have time for one more.

9:33 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:33:28 GMT
Comment:

  Here goes. Truthdig reader asks, “Given that it was such an obviously illogical choice, what do you think was behind Obama’s appointment of Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers?”

9:34 Comment From Anne

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:34:49 GMT
Comment: Isn’t Kucinich moving to Miami? I think I heard something about that. Clevelanders are all up in arms.

9:35 IMREALDJ via twitter
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:35:16 GMT
Comment:

  RT @msnbc LIVE VIDEO: Obama speaks on economy http://bit.ly/ajLvYf

9:36 Question From Ernest Fuentes

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:36:23 GMT
Comment: Big fan since the “Shovel” days. Growing economic inequality, poverty, etc., and yet this is not covered in the media. I see the crisis as the continuation of neoliberal policies by other means, yet there is no discussion of the class war that’s taking place. Thoughts?

9:37 Truthdig
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:37:35 GMT
Comment:

  Ernest, we appreciate your question, but Bob is answering the final question we have time for. Perhaps our readers here want to chime in on your comment?

9:38 Robert Scheer

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:38:02 GMT
Comment:

  (To Truthdig reader) It was a continuation of the (Bill) Clinton strategy of bringing Wall Street into supporting the Democratic Party. It was a strategy that says these people on Wall Street are social liberals in that they favor choice and accept gay marriage and contribute money to the Harlem dance troupe, but basically Clinton asked Robert Rubin, who was after all at the head of Goldman Sachs before becoming Clinton’s treasury secretary, what do we Democrats need to do to bring Wall Street and its money over to our side? And the answer was: Get rid of Glass-Steagall, which was the bill [the repeal legislation] that Clinton signed off on after Rubin helped push it through Congress, and provide “legal certainty” for the financial gimmicks (what we now know of as the toxic derivatives) that Wall Street was cooking up. This was the basis for garnering enormous loot. Clinton delivered where the Republicans couldn’t. Reagan had talked a good game of deregulation but was actually forced, because of the savings & loan scandal, to sign off in his last year on congressional legislation that toughened regulation. It remained for Clinton to deliver on the Reagan fantasy of “getting government off the back of business,” which translates in reality into giving the multinational corporations a license to steal from the rest of us. As someone who voted for both Clinton and Obama, I find that a truly depressing observation to have to offer, but unfortunately, it’s true.

9:38 Comment From Anne

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:38:28 GMT
Comment: Seriously, though — regarding “class wars,” it seems like some of the spread comes from the lack of the draft. I have two sons and am in no way hoping they get drafted, but people from different walks of life and/or geographic areas have very little in common with one another these days. Is it the draft, or something else, or a combination of reasons?

9:38 Robert Scheer
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:38:37 GMT
Comment:

  Thanks everyone.

9:38 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:38:41 GMT
Comment:

  Thanks Bob!

9:40 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:40:34 GMT
Comment:

  Our official Q&A with Bob has come to an end, but, readers, feel free to stay and talk among yourselves.

9:42 Truthdig

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:42:10 GMT
Comment:

  … and don’t forget to follow Truthdig on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/truthdig and on Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/truthdig

9:46 Comment From WSmart

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 17:46:32 GMT
Comment: Anne — If only Cleveland and the rest of America could do what it takes; wasn’t that Kucinch’s message, it’s all our fault? Washington seems to be full of that lately. How convenient. Yet how do people learn if you won’t let them fail on their own? Instead Washington is set on its own policies/story and the public doesn’t matter. Instead of united we stand, we should change it to better you than me, and to the hills, run for your life.

10:01 Comment From WSmart
Fri, 09 Jul 2010 18:01:12 GMT
Comment: “But what I may have been referring to is this. …” Quoting Obama from the above video.
Good gravy! Quoting my grandmother from Kentucky there. “Hey Bullwinkle! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”
I don’t think policy change is going to help what ails America. Burp! Pull my finger!

Robert Scheer
Editor in Chief
Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his…
Robert Scheer

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