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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Give No Heed to the Walking Dead [The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] The People’s Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced […]
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Saturday: The Shareholders of Obama Corp

Rockefeller estate at KyKuit on Hudson: Abstraction in context

Sometimes, I wonder if the Obot contigent knew in advance that Obama was a corporate schmoozer and one of the Olympic MBA competition team whether they would have voted for him.  (See Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan for the full description) It seems to me that the self-described “creative class” isn’t as familiar with the type.  The Olympic MBA team flies into a site via expensive helicopters, preferably after they think most of the wretched refuse has left. They view us from a distance, like little zeros on the spreadsheet of life.  They talk amongst themselves and *say* they want our input, but only if it agrees with what they have already decided.  They function at a level of existence that is abstract.  Sort of like modern art.  The Jackson Pollack or Kandinsky variety, not the good stuff like the sublime, luminescent paintings stashed away at Kykuit on the Hudson.  No, the mental art of the Olympic MBA team is definitely $6 a pound variety.  They think we rabble won’t know the difference.

I wouldn’t count on that.

I (half) listened to Obama’s press conference yesterday and thought to myself (not for the last time) that he has a knack for making you think he’s going to do something.  But if you listen more closely, the amount of effort he intends on putting actions to words is minimal, if anything.  It’s a lot like his campaign style, which was a whole lot of nothing.  The NYTimes is catching on:

He resisted calls to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying he would do so only when oil supplies were genuinely threatened [what about when the economy is genuinely threatened?  Doesn’t the president get to make that call?]. He delivered instead a measured tutorial on this country’s need to make itself less dependent on foreign oil, while reminding Americans that a nation that consumes one-quarter of the world’s oil while owning 2 percent of its reserves cannot drill its way to energy independence.

This is what leaders do — seize a moment when something like a spike in prices at the pump has grabbed public attention and use it to instruct on larger issues, in this case the need for a saner energy policy and a cleaner energy future. Mr. Obama is good at that.

But there is another thing that leaders do, and that is to push and pull and knock heads and do whatever else is required to make sure those goals are achieved. And on this score, Mr. Obama often falls short, especially on important energy issues.

Case in point: the climate debate last year, which he framed beautifully in his speeches but then tiptoed away from. A few outgunned senators were left to try to get an actual bill passed and, unfortunately, failed.

A similar test confronts him now. As usual, the president has the music right. He said the only plausible strategy to achieve energy independence is to reduce consumption with increasingly fuel-efficient cars and alternative fuels.

Ok, here’s where the whole Obama phenomenon gets curious and interesting.  The Republicans are determined to make our lives miserable.  They are succeeding brilliantly.  Misery is indeed increasing.  Sometimes, I wonder if Lincoln was right to duke it out with the south, which has apparently never lost it’s fondness for cheap, exploitable labor.  He should have freed the slaves and then jettisoned off Dixie.  “See ya! Don’t take any wooden nickels!”

Pollock: Brooke says it looks like paint spatters but what does she know?

Where was I?  Oh, yes, so gas prices are increasing.  That means every other bloody thing that has to be grown and/or shipped is going to be more expensive too.  So, instead of the crappy 2% seed corn eating payroll tax cut, that got partially gobbled by federal taxes, going into the economy, that money is going to be eaten up by higher fuel costs.  You’d *think* that Obama would see the danger of letting a fragile economy teeter on the brink of a double dip recession if fuel costs go up.  Well, to be complete, he should be worried about the cuts in pay and bennies to federal and state workers and all of the hard working science types who spend 10 years in school getting their PhDs but can’t land a job making more than $37,000/year.   A loud mouth, slash and burn GOP governor here and there adds up.  It doesn’t help that Obama’s mouthpieces keep spouting the Villager’s mantra that spending cuts are necessary but are silent when it comes to raising taxes on millionaires or cutting back on defense spending.

But Obama’s committment to addressing the here and now so that the economy doesn’t sputter and go out, amounts to sternly worded letters to the oil industry and not tapping the strategic petroleum reserve.  No, instead, we are lectured about how unsustainable our oil consumption energy market is.

???

Do you ever wonder why some reporter in the room doesn’t just stand up and say, “Do you have any idea how to do your job, Mr. President?”

Of course an economy based on oil is unsustainable.  We’ve known about that (and heard about it relentlessly) for the past 40 years. But where are Obama’s green jobs?  Where are the plans for mass transit?   Both of those things would have helped stimulate the economy.  When I asked Hillary Clinton about these very same issues back at YearlyKos2 in Chicago 2007, she had a detailed answer with subparagraphs and funding mechanisms and she threw in her goal for wiring the nation up with high speed broadband so we wouldn’t have to do so much commuting.  Her answer took 10 minutes and was so complete that it was clear that she had really thought about the problem from all aspects, studied the parameters, asked a lot of questions and figured out her strategy.  Obama?   Ehhhhh… not so much.

But no, we had to have Obama.  Obama’s approach to the oil crisis, in The GREAT RECESSION, is to lecture us and tell us to hope and aspire to a day when we will have all the biofuel we can eat.  Nevermind that rising energy costs are going to force a lot of already stressed American families to make some really tough choices that will affect the economy in the immediate future.  But maybe Obama feels that we all need to suffer through higher gas prices and pay more of our shrinking paychecks to the oil bidness and drag the economy down and this will serve as a teachable moment for conservation and planning.  If you’re hungry, just have your stay at home wife (who has a law degree and kids in school all day) plant a garden in your yard.  Or better yet, feed those kids a lot less.  They’re too fat anyway.  American parents do not understand nutrition.

The fire?  What fire.  I don’t see a fire.

The fact that Obama has no problems with discretionary spending cuts deserves a post of its own.  His lack of advocacy for funds to Teach for America at the same time he lauds the program speaks for itself.  Not to mention the fact that womens’ rights in Afghanistan, and by extension, anywhere else in the world are just “pet rocks” of some inappropriately principled senior administration officials:

A senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy said changes to the land program also stem from a desire at the top levels of the Obama administration to triage the war and focus on the overriding goal of ending the conflict.

“Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities,” said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.” [Ladies, do not date or vote for these men]

There’s a pattern here, if the Obots actually look at it instead of petting themselves for being the in-group that got it all wrong but still think Obama can be rehabilitated.  Time and time again, Obama has demonstrated quite clearly that everyone, everyone’s rights, everyone’s economic future, everyone’s personal lives, everyone’s American Dream, are expendable and negotiable.  He draws no bright lines.  He protects noone, not even his political allies.  He makes an aspirational speech taking on a controversial issue and makes you think he’s going to do something about it.  But the speech is carefully crafted to give the impression of action when no such action is ever intended. He is the product and protege of the Olympic MBA team and its culture.  He has adopted their values, conformed to their behavior, feels distaste for those outside his milieu and thinks of the rest of us as abstractions.  He is in love with power but not for exercising it.  He simply wants to possess it.  His shareholders are his first priority.  If he keeps them happy, he’s doing a great job.

But shareholders are fickle.  I’ve seen many a schmoozing, ambitious, aggressive guy get to the top after a couple of years of thinking his “work” consists of sucking up to the guy two levels above him and leaving dead bodies in his wake only to be furloughed after a 3 or 4 year term.  The underlings grumble about the clueless management but console themselves that the shareholders will oust him in a couple of years, to be replaced with someone equally cool, detached and clueless.

Because after all, if all you’re doing is keeping the place barely going without actually producing anything innovative, if all you’re doing is giving speeches and providing lackluster leadership, well, any *body* can do that.  It’s easy to build an image out of nothing and sell it.  It’s just as easy to tear it down.  Lack of success is definitely not sexy.  And if Obama doesn’t start leading and bucking the Republicans, that’s where he’s headed.  He won’t be his own man and he’ll be presiding over a failed economy heading into an election year.

At some point soon, the shareholders, the other ones with the millions and millions of little shares, are going to want a change in management.

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