Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Cartoon for January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009

Obama likes to read up on the Civil War. Compared to Bush, it’s nice to see someone who likes to read. Based on his cluelessness about Afghanistan, however, he needs to expand his reading list.

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THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hopelessness You Can Believe In

January 26, 2009

Why Obama is Scarier Than George W. Bush

Dave Eggers preceded his memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” with a section titled “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of this Book.” It’s a brilliant attempt to disarm the reader and preempt criticism. Among its warnings, referring to chapter four: “The book thereafter is kind of uneven.” (Disclosure: Eggers edited my work at two magazines in the ’90s.)

Barack Obama shares Eggers’ talent for managing expectations. “There will be false starts, there will be setbacks, there will be frustrations and disappointments,” Obama said upon his arrival in Washington. “I will make some mistakes.” In other words, don’t expect much.

The soaring optimistic rhetoric of the campaign (“yes we can”) is no more, replaced by the sober, string-synced cello strains of Yo-Yo Ma. So is Obama’s million-dollar smile. The Dour One is demanding patience. And he’s getting it, for now: “Most respondents [to the New York Times/CBS News poll taken January 19th] said they thought it would take Mr. Obama two years or more to deliver on campaign promises to improve the economy, expand health care coverage and end the war in Iraq.”

Setting the bar low seems to be working. Seventy-nine percent of Americans say they’re optimistic about the next four years under Obama.

Sad, pathetic Americans! Like a dog that’s been beaten eight long years, they’re so psyched about the fact that their new master doesn’t drool and speaks coherent English that they’ll follow him anywhere. The media is in love with The One and so, therefore, is the public. No one questions him.

Frightening but true: Barack Obama is even more dangerous to liberal ideals than George W. Bush. Obama, who didn’t appoint a single liberal to a senior position, has neutered the left. “Protesters, a fixture of every inauguration since President Nixon’s in 1973, were few and scattered on Tuesday as Barack Obama assumed the presidency,” reported the Times.

The antiwar types have thrown away their signs. The sight of the first black president has the fair weather pacifists goo-goo-ga-gaing over a man who plans to transfer U.S. occupation troops and the carnage they bring from Iraq to Afghanistan.

No demonstrators in the streets. No reporters asking tough questions. A political honeymoon based on nothing. Didn’t we learn anything from 9/11, when 90 percent of Americans, and the media, and Congress, issued George W. Bush a similar blank check?

People think things will be better four years from now, but there’s little reason for hope. America faces radical problems. Radical problems require radical solutions. Unfortunately, Obama’s proposals, and the moderates and conservatives with whom he has filled his cabinet, are woefully inadequate to the challenges at hand.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman calculates that there’s at least a $2.1 trillion hole in the economy–an “output gap” between production capacity and consumers’ ability to buy goods. Filling that hole would require direct investment (like Obama’s public works proposal) of at least $1.5 trillion. But Obama’s plan only contains $355 billion, of which only $136 billion would be spent within the next two years. It’s better than nothing, but not by much. Obama wants to plug a gushing artery with a Band-Aid one- tenth the size of the wound.

It’s churlish to predict that Obama’s approach won’t work. But even Obama admits it won’t. He promises to create 4 million new jobs by 2011. But we’re currently losing 4 million jobs every five months. If Obama delivers, 25 million Americans will have lost their jobs by 2011. (The math differential is due to the fact that population growth increases the workforce by 2.8 million jobs annually.) With unemployment figures like that, no one will doubt that we’re in a real Depression: breadlines, suicides, the whole bit.

Obama’s order to close Guantánamo and the CIA’s secret “black site” torture prisons within a year is heartening. But as with his other initiatives, it doesn’t go far enough. The detainees should have been freed, paid a generous compensation package, and received a formal apology by the U.S. government on Day One of his Administration. Gitmo should have been shuttered immediately. All the torture criminals from Bush to the U.S. Navy guards should have been thrown in prison and put on trial.

Instead, Obama’s goons (they’re his now) will keep torturing the detainees for at least another year. Some detainees may still be subjected to kangaroo courts. And Obama’s executive orders contain weasel words that let him take back America’s renewed commitment to constitutional rights with the snap of a finger. The orders, reports the Times, “could also allow Mr. Obama to reinstate the CIA’s detention and interrogation operations in the future, by presidential order, as some have argued would be appropriate if Osama bin Laden or another top-level leader of Al Qaeda were captured.”

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration creeps who personally ordered the murder and torture of innocents kidnapped by the military, including young children, will not face prosecution.

During the campaign, Obama promised there would be “no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens.” He has since changed his mind. Obama will keep the USA-Patriot Act. Habeas corpus, eliminated by the Military Commissions Act, won’t come back.

The biggest reason hope doesn’t stand a chance is Afghanistan, where Obama plans to send the soldiers he wants to pull out of Iraq. The international community, which understands that the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had no more to do with 9/11 than the war against Iraq, will not take kindly to this escalation. Moreover, the war against Afghanistan is even less winnable than Iraq. At a time when we can least afford foreign adventurism, Obama plans to pour billions of dollars and thousands of lives into an Afghan charnel house with no prospect of victory.

Bush faced energetic opposition. Obama, on the other hand, is adored by the very people who should be shouting at him the loudest. Conservatives lost their credibility by supporting Bush, leaving Republican voices out in the cold.

Give the man a chance? Not me. I’ve sized up him, his advisors and their plans, and already found them sorely wanting. It won’t take long, as Obama’s failures prove the foolishness of Americans’ blind trust in him. Obama isn’t our FDR. He’s our Mikhail Gorbachev: likeable, intelligent, well-meaning, and ultimately doomed by his insistence on being reasonable during unreasonable times.

COPYRIGHT 2009 TED RALL

Cartoon for January 22, 2009

January 22, 2009

So much for change you can believe in: the torture continues at Gitmo and will continue at least another year. And nary a word about the NSA’s despicable warrantless wiretapping and espionage program against American citizens.

Unimpressed in Advance

January 20, 2009

Like all sane people, I am relieved that that worthless shit-for-brains is leaving office tomorrow. It wasn’t always certain, you know. After he all, he did steal the presidency in the first place.

But I am not likely to be thrilled by Obama, either. Tomorrow, we will no doubt hear an excellent speech, maybe even a great one. We will also read about some presidential executive orders, including one to close Gitmo, that will give cause for optimism to many Americans.

But it shouldn’t.

Pretty words are nice, but the facts belie them. Every indication is that Obama is a DINO–Democrat in name only. His cabinet, which doesn’t contain a single liberal, makes centrist Bill Clinton look like a Marxist in comparison. Conservatives and centrists are not going to be able to deliver the radical solutions needed to solve our many radical problems.

Obama’s economic program only promises to create 4 million jobs by 2011–when we will have lost about 29 million at current projections. By 2011, if Obama gets his way, we will be in a deep, deep Depression. We will be lucky if the country still exists in its present form if that happens.

The Gitmo closing is nice, but Obama doesn’t plan to prosecute those who ordered the torture and other war crimes that occurred there. Moreover, he doesn’t plan to release all the inmates. Gitmo could stay open another year or more. The CIA secret prisons could stay open. CIA torturers won’t be prosecuted. Neither will Bush and Cheney, who ordered it personally.

You get the idea.

Pretty words. Not much meat.

Don’t be taken in. Take it out–to the streets. Now, more than ever, is the time for intelligent Americans to speak out and be heard.

Cartoon for January 10, 2009

January 10, 2009

There’s no reason to be hopeful. Obama’s economic program is too little, too late. His cabinet is too moderate, too in-the-box to understand that he may well end up being the last president of the United States. There’s no dot-com-type event on the horizon that could rescue our overextended asses. And yet, despite everything, hope persists for the rats in the cage.

THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: Eat the Rich

January 6, 2009

Soak the Rich, Corporations

A moratorium on housing foreclosures and evictions is a good idea. So is making the tax code more progressive. Obama’s plan to build new public works is smart. But those are half-measures. Even if they don’t come out of Congress watered down and wankified, they’ll come too little and too late to kill the rapidly metastasizing disease that threatens to kill the U.S. economy: income inequality.

Employers are shedding jobs at a breathtaking rate: more than 560,000 per month. The rate of job losses could soon hit a million. People who still have jobs are being squeezed by pay cuts and freezes; even those who have yet to be affected are closing their wallets out of fear that they’ll be the next to get chopped. So consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, is plunging. Moreover, millions of individuals and businesses have lost access to credit and thus the movement of capital that might have pulled us out of this tailspin.

“The key is that the consumer is in the worst condition since the Great Depression,” retail consultant Howard Davidowitz told NBC News. Boarded-up shops will abound. Experts expect 73,000 retail locations to close during the first few months of 2009. Between 20 and 40 percent of national retail chains will shut down. This isn’t a recession. It’s a depression, and it could destroy the country.

If broke consumers are the problem, shoveling money into their pockets is the way to get them spending again. Where do get it? The reason Willie Sutton robbed banks, he supposedly said, was because “that’s where the money is.” These days, the money is the hands of corporations and rich individuals.

(Warning: boring economic statistics and analysis follow. But stick with me. You could get a check!)

Tax returns give only a partial picture of a nation whose riches have been aggregated in the hands of a tiny elite. “The Internal Revenue Service,” reported The New York Times in 2007, “captures only about 70 percent of business and investment income, most of which flows to upper-income individuals, because not everybody accurately reports such figures.” So actual income inequality is bigger than IRS data indicates.

Even so, the IRS finds a huge pay gap between the very rich and the rest of us. “The wealthiest one percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005,” the most recent year for which IRS data is available, according to a 2007 piece in The Wall Street Journal.

What if we played Karl Marx and left that one percent of the population (people who earn over $350,000 a year) with their fair share–one percent of national income? If we divided the rest of the loot equally, everyone else–99 percent–would get a 20.2 percent pay raise.

I don’t know about you, but I could use it. And because I’m a patriot, I pledge to fritter away half of my 20.2 percent windfall on wine, women and frivolous American-made consumer goods.

What would happen if we adopted the communist principle of total income equality? That would require closing the gap between median (the halfway mark of income distribution) income and average income. Due to wage inequality, the average worker earns 40 percent more than the median. Close the gap, and two-thirds of Americans get a raise. One-third gets a cut. But only a small group, the top five or ten percent, would feel significantly pinched. Most of the third wouldn’t lose much. And everyone would benefit from the increased economic activity that would result from equal income distribution.

Call it trickle-up economics.

Wouldn’t socialism remove people’s incentive to work hard? Though not a perfect economic model, the Soviet experience seems to disprove the idea that you can’t find good CEO help for under a million bucks a year. Soviet physicists, athletes, filmmakers, novelists, composers and other innovators led their fields, yet were rewarded with little more than a medal and a puff piece in Pravda. Mikhail Kalishnikov invented the AK-47, the world’s most popular firearm. He was never paid a dime, and never cared.

Here in the U.S., brilliant people become schoolteachers and priests. Salary isn’t the biggest motivation for most people.

Another thing to bear in mind is an aspect of wealth Americans don’t usually think about: assets. Eliminating income inequality wouldn’t address asset inequality. The rich, who’ve had years of high income with which to save and invest, and have inherited assets from parents and grandparents who did the same, would still be rich. A truly efficient attempt to put more money in the average person’s pocket would require redistribution of these accumulated assets.

If Willie Sutton were still around, however, he might find it easier to go after biggest 4000 U.S. corporations than its richest 40 million households. So let’s look at big business income.

After-tax 2007 profits for U.S. corporations totaled $1.8 trillion, up 10 percent since 2001. (Bear in mind: this figure doesn’t include CEO salaries, capital reinvestments, and the acquisition price of other corporations.) The effective average corporate tax rate in the U.S. is about 13 percent–one of the lowest in the industrialized world. If we were to double the effective tax rate to 26 percent, the U.S. would remain a tax haven compared to Germany and other major European countries.

Let’s say the IRS took that extra 13 percent corporate profits tax and cut a check to the American people. Why not? Without us, the U.S. consumer, these companies wouldn’t be in business. In 2007, every worker in the U.S. would have gotten a check for $12,000. That’s a lot of xBoxes, not to mention mortgage payments.

There’s plenty of cash left in the U.S. economy. Sooner or later, the tiny minority of corporations and rich individuals who are hoarding our nation’s wealth will be forced to share it with the rest of us. The question is when, and how.

COPYRIGHT 2009 TED RALL

Cartoon for January 5, 2009

January 5, 2009

Read to the tune of The Kinks’ “Low Budget.”

Cartoon for January 1, 2009

December 30, 2008

Now that the U.S. is used up like an old crumpled piece of tissue paper, they hand it over to a black guy.

Cartoon for December 15, 2008

December 15, 2008

Barack Obama’s cabinet is widely praised by the mainstream press is diverse. But ideological diversity doesn’t seem to be part of it. If this is a cabinet that looks like America, then America is 80% conservative Democrat, 20% Republican.

Cartoon for December 13, 2008

December 13, 2008

The One is calm. Very, very calmmmmmmmmzzzzzzzzzzzzz…