Today Barack Obama was announced victor of the extensive and corrupted presidential race over his republican contester Mitt Romney. I am not relieved, sad or filled with joy at this result; in fact my response is indifference. Not because I am nihilist or because I don’t care about the elections, it’s because both candidates are representatives of Wall Street, and both candidates will or would have offered little progressive change to Capitol Hill that is necessary in order to create a more sustainable and developing society in the US. I was listening to a debate between students during lunch regarding Obama’s success during the presidency. The students in favor of Obama’s policy claimed that his presidency has bolstered social programs for the underprivileged and unemployed, when in fact Obama’s presidency and social programs favoring the poor are totally irrelevant; policies favoring the poor are even anti-theses of Obama’s presidency.
The only major bill which did favor the poor and underprivileged was the Affordable Health Care Act which was passed November 7th 2009. This act included an expansion of people eligible to Medicaid programs, increasing benefits to low income Americans for healthcare and prohibiting insurance companies from refusing coverage based on one’s medical history. This bill was more an act of emergency than of solidarity considering that 32 million people were uninsured, which is scandalous for a nation with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. However claiming that the bill was merely an act of solidarity for the underprivileged is naïve; in fact the biggest earners from the bill were Wall Street having large investments in HMOs and insurance companies. This is because it brought 32 million people in to the market, increasing profits. If the Affordable Health Care Act was a true legislation of solidarity, then the health care system would be nationalized in order to eliminate health care inequality and increase the quality of healthcare for the poor and low income earners. Public health care could be implemented and financed through military spending cuts by 50% (US would still have the largest military expenditure by 300 billion dollars) and increasing taxes for the rich and incorporating the Tobin Tax for Wall Street fat cats. This would be a truly progressive healthcare system where the rich as well as the poor have access to the same level of healthcare and where quality is favored over profits. Instead Obama is opting for the Wall Street version.
Although the Affordable Health Care Act may seem as an act of solidarity and pragmatism as well as progressivism, the rest of his domestic policy has lacked the same success. His attempt to revive the US from recession through the Stimulus package was successful in retaining economic growth however it did not provide the general restructuring that the economy needed in order to return to the growth before 2008 and reduce unemployment. Through this bill he cut 120 billion dollars’ worth of taxes including income tax credit for middle income earners and low income earners, as well as investments in infrastructure and renewable energy. As much as I believe in relieving tax burden on the poor, the reason why economic recovery has been so slow is because of the household debt which is worth 13 trillion dollars in the US, which is only 2 trillion dollars short of the total economic output. This has serious effects on consumption and is the reason why companies are hoarding 1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of liquid assets, the money is there but businesses are not willing to invest due to the lack of demand from private debt. Only by restructuring debt through buying mortgage loans and eliminating interest rates can consumer confidence increase. Not through measures like Quantative Easing which is only injecting money into Wall Street to serve investors. And especially not through cutting taxes which will only go into savings even though interest rates are at a record low.
Obama’s presidency has done what Wall Street wanted. Preferably the bankers would have liked further extensions to the Bush era tax cuts in order to increase their private wealth; however he has spent billions of dollars on ineffective tax cuts further increasing public debt so that Wall Street can feed off of government bonds, while the federal reserve is buying “toxic” assets from the bankers in order to alleviate and increase their billion dollar profits from mutual funds, hedge funds, increased savings and the bond market. He has however served some of the poor through funding their health insurance, but then again, this has also increased the wealth of Wall Street investors and venture capitalists that get increased returns from their CIGNA investments. All in all the Obama’s first mandate was essentially a mandate serving Wall Street fat cats while doing little to alleviate the increasing private debt of the middle and lower classes. While approaching the “fiscal cliff” in which Bush era tax cuts will be suspended and payroll taxes will rise, as well as huge cuts in public spending, congress and the white house will obviously need to address this issue but not through excessive austerity. The cliff needs to be tackled by progressive tax reform. Considering Obama’s promises of further tax cuts for the middle class and spending cuts, the future looks grim for the US. In any case, I am not looking forward to it.