No Hope and No Change
Barack Obama's campaign slogan in 2008 was Hope and Change. The attitude for the American electorate in 2010 could be No Hope and No Change. There has been no change for the better over the past 2 years and there is little hope for improvement in the near future.
When comparing the Bush and Obama administrations, there has been no beneficial change in these two years.
The Bush 43 administration had two illegal wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. We attacked and invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 even though the government and people there had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11/2001. Then in 2003 we invaded Iraq even though the claims of infamous 'weapons of mass destruction' were fictitious and used only to justify the invasion to America. When no WMD were ever found, no consequences were ever felt by those telling the lies.
The Obama administration escalated our occupation in Afghanistan and then began many, illegal drone attacks into Pakistan. Though there are claims we finally withdrew from Iraq in 2010, many troops and mercenaries remain there. Even though both military invasions into Afghanistan and Iraq were unprovoked and therefore illegal (they are war crimes by the standards set by the Nuremburg trials after World War 2) the administration chose to not prosecute anyone involved in the wars.
Bush had the financial sector collapse in September 2008 just before the end of his term. Apparently the hope of the administration had been to delay the problems until after the election but the problems were so pervasive that it happened sooner than anticipated. The events during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 showed government incompetence in preparing for a natural disaster and then helping Americans in need. Annual military expenditures were approaching one trillion dollars, a substantial drain on the American economy.
Obama brought in as advisors and as cabinet members the same people involved in the economic collapse. The administration chose to not prosecute anyone involved in the collapse, though its roots could be found in the repeal of Glass-Steagal in 1999 (under Clinton). The events of the BP oil spill in the Gulf again demonstrated government oversight incompetence. The administration has done nothing about substantial reductions in the military budget but instead must find other alternatives. Many states are approaching bankruptcy due to financial mismanagement or to lost revenues from the economic decline and no relief is available from that national budget.
Bush installed Roberts and Alioto, keeping the Court moving toward a favorable rulings to business and to the Executive branch.
Obama installed Sotomayer and Kagan to replace two progressive judges, Souter and Stevens. Kagan was a questionable nomination (an academic not a judge) and will probably further move the court toward supporting the Executive branch.
The January 22, 2010 ruling of the Supreme Court claimed that companies can spend as much as they wish to sway voters to their candidates.
Bush did nothing while Israel attempted to destroy Lebanon in 2006, preventing a cease fire until Israel was ready (in other words, done with its unwarranted military actions). When Israel attacked Gaza in early January 2009, he chose to do nothing even though Obama would not take office until a few more weeks had passed.
Obama did nothing as Isreal attempted to starve out the people in Gaza with a blockade in 2010 and as it murdered unarmed civilians trying to bring in supplies to Gaza from Turkey. Israel continues to build settlements in Palestinian lands, in clear violation of Security Council Resolution 242, and continues to persecute the Palestinians but America does nothing to inhibit Israel from its contemptible behaviors.
Bush - Medicare Prescriptions act of 2003 prevented those on medicare from getting less expensive drugs than those from the American drug companies.
Obama did nothing about health care but instead made it almost a crime, a fine, to not pay money to the insurance companies. A majority of Americans wanted single payer to get rid of the inefficiency of the insurance companies (with deductibles and denying coverage due to preexisting conditions) but rather than addressing the needs of the electorate Obama made sure the insurance companies were taken care of.
The Bush administration used the Navy base in Guatanamo to torture without oversight. The inmates were claimed to be terrorists but in fact many were innocents turned in by competing factions in Afghanistan. Torture was also conducted in other bases elsewhere, like the Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan. The administration also used rendition to capture unconvicted people and sending them to other countries to be tortured.
The Obama administration continues to use Guatanamo even though many wanted the base closed during the 2008 elections; torture is still used by American personnel.
In a somewhat related attitude, Obama claims he can order the murder of a us citizen (cleric Anwar al-Alwaki) without a trial to determine guilt (contrary to the Constitutional 6th amendment directing a trial by jury, often called the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty'). The Obama administration would not prosecute anyone in the Bush administration involved with torture.
The Bush administration harassed demonstrators before the RNC conventions in 2004 and 2008. The Bush administration had begun its illegal program of wire tapping Americans long before 9/11. The Bush administration charged a lawyer in 2002 with what amounted to support for a terrorist when she was involved in the defense for an accused terrorist. With that conviction, the American government has directly implied that lawyers should not be involved in the defense of any accused terrorist, an apparent denial that everyone accused of a crime has the right to a trial with competent representation.
The Obama administration has also harassed anti-war activists in September 2010, as if such an activity is now considered terrorist related. The Obama administration took no actions to repeal the repressive aspects of the Patriot Act but instead seems content to further the excessive powers assumed by the Executive branch.
Democracy in Latin America
The Bush administration (and its accomplices in election fraud in the 2004 campaign) helped the right wing candidate win the 2006 election in Mexico. The administration also unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Chavez, the president of Venezuela, in 2002. The administration successfully removed the President of Haiti in 2004.
The Obama administration completed the work of the Bush administration with the overthrow of the president of Honduras in 2009. The administration has also meddled in the Venezuela elections in 2010 (pushing opposition of Chavez) and in the Brazil elections in 2010 (pushing opposition to Rousseff, who had been jailed and possibly tortured in the early 70's by the American friendly dictatorship at the time) and was involved in the unsuccessful coup attempt to overthrow president of Ecuador in September, 2010. The Obama administration has continued to push the war on drugs in Latin America, especially Mexico which must deal with its accompanying death and destruction from the corruption there.
I have no doubt there are probably even more disappointing similarities between the Bush and Obama administrations but these were the ones that were readily remembered. This web page was inspired by recent events: the targeting of anti-war activists by the FBI (see here and here) and the attempted coup in Ecuador (see here).
There is little hope for the future.
Back in the 1950's, American manufacturing ruled the American economy. The perhaps mythical claim 'What is good for GM is good for the country' reflected the fact America's middle class jobs were primarily in manufacturing, not in agriculture or finance. The 1950's were marked by high tax rates (up to 91%) but the World War 2 debt hampered their reduction. President Kennedy proposed in 1963 dropping the top rate from 91% to 70% and the lowest rate from 20% to 15%; these rates were passed in 1964 after his death. The influence of unions affected the wages (upward, as companies had to justify their wages based on the company's financial performance) and working conditions (40 hour work week, with company contributrions to health insurance and other benefits) of everyone in their markets, even those not in a union (the competition for competent labor). The middle class grew because the workers were sharing some of the wealth their efforts created.
Now the financial sector rules the American economy. Short term financial speculation now drives Wall Street, with derivatives becoming the shaky foundation rather than actual collateral. American workers have become an expense to the corporate bottom line so many of the middle class jobs that provide the wealth and spending capital to a substantial portion of the work force have been shipped over seas. The high unemployment rate has not affected the high levels of corporate profit levels as the wealthy ruling class in this country prey on the working class.
The proposed solution (and a plan approved by many workers) to the current health care nightmare involved a single payer solution, where Americans would pay their premiums to a government entity that dealt with the health care institutions, in a manner followed by most of the big countries in the industrial West. Unfortunately the single payer solution would have taken the large insurance companies out of the health care industry, where their profits come on the management of premiums compared to payments, so denying or limiting coverage improves their profits. The insurance companies serve a strictly parasitic overhead function and have no viable contribution to the actual health and well being of Americans. However their influence over Congress prevents actual health care reform in this country, where people could get the health care services they need.
Though the disaster afflicting the financial sector of the economy actually happened during the Bush administration, the Republican Party has used the Tea Party (which initially was substantially pushed by the Fox News channel (the network that has always been friendly to only the Republican Party) to make it much more prominent) to foment the anger and frustration in the American electorate. The emphasis for the Tea Party extremists has been on the Obama administration and the inept Democratic Party, regardless of whether the Republican Party was involved the circumstances. Whether others agree with these extremist views, their controversy gets play in the media with the intent of affecting other voters. The quite likely result is in the 2010 elections the same Republican Party that was so involved in many of the problems (they held control of both houses from 2002 to 2006 when George Bush was President) will return to control in both Houses in Congress. The Republican Party in recent decades has been the party for big business (in other words, rich white men), not for labor, any minorities or the middle class. The Democratic Party candidates are now frequently barely different than the Republicans in their bias toward corporate concerns in the current recession. The electorate is justified feeling their disenchantment of the American government and its failure to deal with the prominent issues but there are no alternatives in the current restrictive 2-party system.
Competent government oversight is required over corporate behaviors. The repeal of Glass-Steagal unleashed banking initiatives that were easier short term profits but longer term disasters. Similarly the BP oil spill revealed the lack of preparation but the oversight by the Minerals Management Service was found to be too cozy with those supposedly being checked. True effective oversight also requires violations to be punished. Unfortunately punishments are often too slight and are definitely ineffective, with BP (oil) and Massey Energy (coal) the most recent examples. The Republican Party and the Tea Party both push for getting the government out of the way of business when really what the American people need is for the government to prevent business from doing what is hazardous to people, the economy and the environment. The campaign rhetoric is recommending the opposite of what is truly needed.
Some of those involved in the original Constitutional Convention in the 1780s wished for the privilege and power to rest with the property owners, rather than allowing everyone to vote. Over the course of 200 years, Americans have pushed for the right to vote for everyone regardless of their gender or race. Unfortunately, the power of the American government now rests with the rich, privileged ruling class, not with the majority of Americans. It took quite a while but it now appears that the vitality of the American democratic form of government is in jeopardy. The concentration of wealth and power among a few is not healthy for our democracy, as has been demonstrated many times in other countries over the course of history.
Wikipedia has a page about the book Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, first published in 1835. I have never read the book though I have frequently found references to it over the years. I find one sentence rather pertinent:
"Democracy in America predicted the violence of party spirit and the judgment of the wise subordinated to the prejudices of the ignorant."
The current political disarray will apparently lead to the majority of voters actually voting against their own interests.
created - October 2010
last change - 10/11/2010
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