The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Could Obama Have Fixed the Economy?

I want to revisit this. Obama was the last person who had a real chance to change and fix things. A crisis is an opportunity. FDR used the Great Depression to change the US. Reagan used stagflation to change the US. Bush used 9/11 to change the US.

Obama could have used the financial crisis to change the US. He did not. That was a choice.

His failure leads straight to Trump and various other pathologies. It is a straight line. Failure has consequences. Belief in the status quo (which describes Obama to the T) has consequences.

So, here’s what I wrote about this November 6, 2014 and many other times…

I’m hearing “Obama couldn’t have fixed the economy.  Wage stagnation is not his fault, it’s been going on for decades!” (For the record it’s been going on for at least 34 years, probably 39, and for some parts of the population, for 46 (that’s when wages for working class white males peaked. Which is why they’re pissy.))

This argument is, to give it more courtesy than it deserves, bullshit. I wrote about this back in 2010, and you can read that article, but let’s run through this one more time, because you will never get good leadership if you keep excusing your leaders for betraying you.

Part of the argument is that Obama couldn’t do almost anything because Obama only controlled the House, the Presidency, and didn’t quite have 60 votes in the Senate in his first two years. Because this is the case, I’ll deal with this argument in two parts.  In part one, we will discuss something that needed Congressional approval.

The Stimulus: Negotiating 101, people, is that you always ask for more than you want. Obama asked for too little, and a huge part of his stimulus was tax cuts. Worse than this, his stimulus was structured terribly. What you do with a stimulus package in a recession and financial collapse is you use it to restructure the economy. That means things like moving the entire federal package of buildings over to solar, and buying from American companies. (Don’t even try to natter on about trade deals, the US is more than happy to ignore trade rulings it does not like.) That means putting aside a huge amount of money to refit every American house to run on renewable energy, which are jobs which cannot be off-shored or outsourced; they must be done in-country.

That also means building high-speed rail, and using eminent domain to get it done. It further means moving money off the sidelines which would otherwise sit there by providing a clear direction for the economy so that private actors invest hire and invest.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

Note that, while Obama did not negotiate properly, he did include a huge amount of tax cuts (right-wing ideology), and he produced a stimulus which did not restructure the economy or get private money off the sidelines. I wrote extensively about this at the time. None of this is post-facto judgement:

January 5, 2009: The day the news leaked that 40 percent of the stimulus was tax cuts, I wrote it wouldn’t work.

January 17, 2009: The full details are out. I write: “For ordinary people however, there will be both wage deflation and real asset deflation…

Now, all the things Obama could have done which DID NOT require Congressional approval:

Prosecute the Bankers: This is an executive decision–entirely an executive decision. There was widespread fraud, and no senior executive on Wall Street could credibly claim to not know about it. Seize their emails, indict them under RICO statutes (i.e., take away all their money and force them to use public defenders), and throw them in jail. Do not let them get off with fines that are less than the profits made, effectively immunizing them. This means they will keep doing fraudulent and destructive things, because doing so made them personally rich.

Oh, also, there are now fewer, bigger banks.

Take Over and Break Up the Banks: The Federal Reserve had trillions of dollars of toxic sewage on its books which it borrowed at par, which could not sell on the market at par. But Ian, you cavil, “the Federal Reserve is independent of the President.” No. The President can fire any member of the Board of the Federal Reserve except the Chairman for cause and replace them. Letting the financial collapse happen might qualify as cause. Even if Bernanke refused to leave, he could have been outvoted on every issue by Obama’s people. Once you control them, you return all the toxic sludge to the banks. They go bankrupt. Which leads to:

Make Stockholders and Bondholders Take Their Losses: Yes. This will wipe them out. That’s the point.  The problem with the rich isn’t primarily that they are rich, it is that wealth allows them to largely control the government (I trust this is non-controversial. If it isn’t, I hope you’re on a payroll and required to believe such sewage.) Making them take their losses breaks their power. Once their power is broken, it’s a lot easier to get everything else done. This is also a popular move. (There are ways to fix the pensions which go bankrupt, another time on that.)

Using the Banks You Took Over and Broke Up, Lend! These banks are now under Federal control. They do what the President wants, when the President wants it done. They start lending to create small business, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, move to renewable energy, and so on and so forth. (Read THIS, for what the US needed to do at the time. Again, it was written at the time.)

This article is not exhaustive

There are many other things Obama could have done, that he chose not to do. It is entirely fair to judge Obama on the economy because not only did he never do what was needed to fix it, he did not even try. Everything he did that was supposedly to fix the economy was insufficient, and he was told so at the time by people who had been right about the oncoming financial crisis, in advance.

Even in small things, like aid for homeowners, the Obama administration chose to do as little as it could–even when it had both the authority and the money for it (which it did).

Obama is a Right-Wing President. That is all. He is a Reaganite, and to the right of Reagan, but somewhat to the left of the Tea Party, which puts him in spitting distance of Atilla the Hun (his record on civil liberties is, according to the ACLU, substantially worse than George W. Bush’s. He deported more Hispanics than George Bush ever did, etc.) Obama had plenty of power to make more of a difference than he did, and he chose not to. In the small things, in the big things, when it came to economic policies and to non-identity-based civil liberties, he virtually always did the right-wing thing.

Obama is the first President in post-war history (and maybe all of history) whose economy gave more money to the top 10 percent than the entire value of all productivity gains in his Presidency. Even George W. Bush didn’t manage that.

Yes, stagnation of wages and wealth, and even the drop of both in many sectors while money concentrated in the hands of the rich is something which has been going on for decades. It is hard to stop.

But, because of the financial crisis, Barack Obama had the opportunity. Calls against TARP were running, according to my sources, 200:1 to 1200:1 against. It failed to pass the first time. Nancy Pelosi said she would not pass it if an equal proportion of Republican House members would not vote for it also. They refused to do so.  It would have died except for one thing: Obama twisted arms to make it happen. As the Presidential candidate (and likely future President), he had the ability to do that, and he did.

Again, Obama did not fix the economy because he did not want to. Or rather, keeping rich people rich was more important to him. You can argue, if you wish, that he was not willing to break up the banks because it would have been catastrophic. That argument cannot be dealt with fully here, without doubling the length of an already long essay, but I will be gauche and quote myself, once more, from 2008:

Now, it’s the US. They can try and sweep this crisis under the carpet and pretend there isn’t a huge overhang of bad loans and worthless securities. If it does so, the best case scenario is that the next twenty years or so will be America’s Bright Depression (Stagnating economy). Best case.

I will tell you now that the best case has not happened. As the charts in this post show, the economy stagnated for ordinary people through the recovery and boom of this business cycle. During the recession, there will be job losses again. Most of them will not come back in the next recovery and boom, and neither will wages.

This is Barack Obama’s legacy. Those like Paul Krugman (what happened to Paul?), who pretend that Obama is a great president are laughable. History does not grade on a curve; “Well, we aren’t all chewing on our boots.” Obama had a historic opportunity to be the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Instead, he chose to save the rich, and let them eat everyone else. This was a choice. He could have done other things.

Nor is this a noble failure; he did not even try. He did not use the real tools he had at his disposal.

I note, finally, again, because I know most readers will have heard over and over again that Obama saved you from Armaggedon, that the US economy cannot be fixed until the wealth, and therefore power, of the very rich is broken. It cannot be done. However bad you think it would have been if that had been allowed to happen, this economy will continue to get worse because it was not done.

The Federal Reserve has printed trillions of dollars, and given them to the rich. Imagine another world, where it had printed that money and used it to restructure the economy for prosperity and growth.

That, my American friends, is the future Obama stole from you. Indeed, because the rest of the developed world would have followed his lead, he also stole the same future from all of us.

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  1. Formerly T-Bear

    Could Obama have fixed the economy?

    Not any more than he can find his anus with two hands, a flashlight and illustrated instructions.

    That is not his job. Obama’s job is to deceive. Obama is very good at his job. You can hardly tell he is at work, unless you see his lips moving.

    Great kudos to the Republicans. They stated their only purpose was to destroy the Obama administration. They gained control of the House and turned obdurate. Then they convinced the voters to give themselves complete control of Congress to complete that purpose. They were assisted by the gormless Democrats who proved that party could not govern. This all goes to show that you get what you are willing to support. Democracy was not on that list.

  2. Dave

    Brilliant. I keep trying to make these exact points to my Democrat friends. I now call them Dems for short. Short for demagogue.

    The intractable, fundamental reality is, people are not educated well enough to understand much beyond having a credit card makes it easier to go shopping.

  3. EmilianoZ

    We had the choice between:
    1) Taking a lot of pain in a short time and then have a sound recovery
    2) Taking less pain by diluting it for 20 years

    We only have 14 more years to go.

  4. A little harsh, but accurate.

  5. Bruce

    Excellent post! I do inspire to one day, having a job again. If that happens I will contribute.

    Best Regards,


  6. Citizen Kang

    Obama could have attempted those things, but he would have been publicly executed the same way the last President who stood up to Central Bankers was. Its time to wake up and realize the people who are elected are carefully chosen puppets and the voters are only given the illusion of choice.

  7. reslez

    My breaking moment occurred in summer 2008 when Obama broke his word and voted to retroactively immunize the telecoms for spying. I knew then he was a repulsive sellout. But even so I figured however bad he might turn out, he had to be better than Bush.* I abhorred Bush and still do. But I never imagined Obama would make look Bush look like the good old days!

    This might be a painful comparison for those who cheer for Team D, but nevertheless:

    1) Bush when confronted with financial crisis and fraud prosecuted the execs and sent them to prison! (MCI, Enron)

    2) Bush when facing a severe recession after 9/11 sent checks to every household in the country!

    3) Bush when facing a financial crisis in 2008 cut payroll taxes for every worker!

    4) Under Bush pre-2006 the Democrats actually fought him over things and pretended to care about civil liberties and governance (Katrina).

    5) Bush didn’t give a shit about the deficit (his VP said so flat out) and certainly didn’t alter a whit of his domestic policy over it

    6) Sure it ended badly but at least under Bush there was an economic recovery in which the middle class participated (and not only via home equity loans). As opposed to a recovery only for the rich, in which 99% of Americans grew poorer than before. Unforgivable.

    7) Obama cut food stamps for hungry families. Unforgivable. SNAP rolls boomed under Bush but he didn’t care. Times were tough but hey people had food.

    8) And because it needs to be said for the Team Ds, yes Bush was a terrible disaster of a president. But Obama doubled down. And now he owns it too.

    * Of course, I voted third party both times.

  8. S Brennan

    “he would have been publicly executed”

    Really? I’ve seen them shot; JFK/RFK, shot at; Ford/Reagan, but never executed? Help me here, which President has been executed?

    Now if you are conflating taking a mortal risk…with seppuku…all to exonerate Obama by claiming he is justified in being a coward…while putting himself forward as the bravest of all men…Obama is, after all, commander of the most powerful military force the earth has ever assembled….please say so. I can’t think of anything more uncomplimentary to say of the man, so please Kang, have at it.

    I assume, you will concede that JFK/RFK/Ford/Reagan were superior men, in that they performed their duties without publicly displaying the cowardice you say Obama is entitled to?

  9. Bill Hicks

    It isn’t just Obama, but the whole d–n Democratic Party. This drubbing at the polls has been building up every since the 2006 midterms, when voters voted to punish Bush and his cronies for the Iraq War, only to have Pelosi immediately take impeachment off the table.

    In election after election the Dems turned their backs on their base in favor of their wealthy donors and they have finally reaped the whirlwind for the actions–and yet they right now overwhelmingly favor an even MORE conservative candidate (Hillary) to be their standard bearer in 2016. Well, good luck with that, I’ll be staying home–again.

  10. EmilianoZ

    Obama is just one person. Can one man change the world? I’m more concerned by the whole system that sustains him. Obama is actually very representative of our current society and culture. We’re pretty much corrupt and rotten to the core.

    On the other hand, the fish rots from the head. Does the fish have to de-rot from the head too? The opposite could be true. Maybe the fish has to de-rot from the tail. Maybe we have to change the culture from the bottom up.

    We completely bought into the individualistic claptrap they sold us. ” I’m the most beautiful, most precious thing in the world. My needs take precedence over everything else. I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

    We swallowed the whole thing, hook line and sinker because we loved it. We deserve every bit of pain they’re inflicting us. The rich couldn’t have achieved this total takeover of democracy without a lot of help from us all.

  11. Tony Wikrent

    “Can one man change the world?” Not very often. That is why – meaning we progressive, liberals, or whatever we call ourselves – need desperately to study and read history. Because every once in a while the opportunity arises to change the world. Whether it is one person who stands on a rocky crag and looks out over a battlefield, and sees instantly the doom of an army, a war, and a nation, unless he acts IMMEDIATELY and without orders from on high – as Warren did at Little Round Top, Gettysburg – or someone who spends months and years pondering what happens as matter approaches the speed of light – as Einstein did – the simple fact is, yes, one person CAN change history. And part of our role as sentient human beings, our purpose, is to be familiar with the history of those moments when the scale can be balanced, when the efforts of one individual made all the difference, so that if we are deemed worthy of being given such an opportunity, we will recognize the moment for what it is, and understand what it is we must do.

    There is a book that I believe absolutely and eloquently captures the historic opportunity Barack Obama was given in the first year of his Presidency, and how he failed to recognize the moment, and failed to do what needed to be done, with the talents he had, and all the immense power he had been entrusted with, to make the world a better place. That book is Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President.

    I left this comment a few weeks ago on DailyKos, and it has a small excerpt from Suskind’s book.

    I doubt anyone can fully understand the enormity
    of Obama’s failure unless they understand the the root of our economic problems is cultural. And by this, I do NOT mean to imply the type of “culture wars” over social issues that the Republicans promote. In May 2010, I quoted extensively from Thorstein Veblen and Sheldon Wolin to explain The Obama administration as “managed democracy”:
    According to Wolin,

    Corporate culture might be defined as the norms and practices operative at various levels of the corporate hierarchy that shape or influence the beliefs and behavior of those who work in a particular institutional context. Today corporate culture is not confined to the corporation. Managed democracy depends upon managers, and managers are the product and creators of corporate culture. The question is this: what are the characteristics of the culture that corporate managers bring to government? How are the corporatists likely to approach power and governance, and how does that approach differ from political conceptions?

    Wolin’s approach here is basically that of Veblen’s institutional analysis. Wolin compares corporate culture to the civic culture he discussed above.

    In contrast, the ethos of the twenty-first-century corporation is an antipolitical culture of competition rather than cooperation, of aggrandizement, of besting rivals, and of leaving behind disrupted careers and damaged communities. It is a culture for increase that cannot rest (= “stagnation”) but must continuously innovate and expand. It accepts as axiomatic that top executives have to be, first and foremost, competition-oriented and profit-driven: the profitability of the corporate entity is more important than any commonality with the larger society. “The competitor is our friend,” according to an Archer Daniels Midland internal memo,” and the customer is our enemy.” Enron had “visions and values” cubes on display; its chief financial officer’s cube read, “When Enron says it will rip your face off, it will rip your face off.”

    Veblen is particularly powerful on the issue here, when he analyzes how the anti-industrial culture of business managers becomes increasingly barbarian, because 1) the skills of business managers increasingly are concerned with accumulating, aggregating managing wealth, not creating wealth (i.e., being productive); and 2) the accumulation of wealth, in an industrial economy that has come under the sway of management philosophy increasingly depends on the barbarian traits of deception, deceit, and violence.
    Do you think an America dominated by a business culture of “we’ll rip your face off” would have been able to rebuild its war adversaries, Germany and Japan, and turn them into steadfast allies? In this sense, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, with a combined population of 45 million in 2000, did not present the enormity and complexities of the occupations of Germany and Japan, with a combined population of 151 million in 1950. I would suggest that the U.S. can no longer achieve what it did in the 1940s through 1950s simply because the dominant culture is so awful.
    One of the few observers of the Obama administration who understands this cultural problem is Ron Suskind. In his important book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President he discusses the week that Obama met with the heads of the 13 largest banks, and explicitly told them that he would stand “between them and the pitchforks”, then a few days latter forced out Rick Wagoner as head of General Motors. The bankers went into that meeting “terrified” at the weight of public indignation against them, and the enormous power of the American Presidency to direct and channel that indignation; they were ready to literally grovel at Obama’s feet and beg for mercy. Instead of putting them in their place, Obama publicly proclaimed the bankers to be “savvy business men.” On the other hand, the troubles of General Motors were directly a result of the collapse in vehicle sales caused by the economic disaster, caused, in turn, by the bankers and their financial crash. Suskind writes:

    ….Presidents are among the few mortals who are sometimes graced with chances to change a culture. Throughout a windswept March [2009], the country had been working to dislodge some of the era’s prevailing certainties about markets being efficient, about people—economically, at least—getting what they deserve, along with the concomitant belief that financial barons are brilliant and indispensable, and manufacturing executives are dinosaurs.
    With the eyes of the country on him, Barack Obama ended the month by shielding Wall Street  executives against these winds of cultural change, while he fired a man who had effectively managed four hundred thousand workers in their making of seven million cars a year—without ever bothering to meet him

    That week was a historic turning point – or should have been.

  12. Tony Wikrent

    “We completely bought into the individualistic claptrap they sold us.”

    Yeah, we did. I just happened to watch Louis CK on youtube last night give a good thrashing to this problem: Louis CK about Corporate America1 on Opie and Anthony(2011)

  13. Tony Wikrent

    Thank you, Ian, for a hard-hitting reprise. If I may toot my own horn yet again, I also wrote about the same things, as the same time. In fact, I think it was one of your postings in on The Agonist that inspired me to title one of my pieces “Let Wall Street Burn.”

    On January 2, 2008, I argued that The Credit Crises are THE Story of 2007

    Bear Stearns collapsed four months later, and Lehman Brothers nine months later. I think it is interesting how little attention my story received. It is up to you judge whether that is because my writing fails to capture attention, or I am simply too far ahead of the crowd. Of course, I hope that you will see a way to use my prescience to help inform and direct your audience.

    Five days later, I assessed the different Presidential candidates with the goal of determining Who will tell Wall Street to shove it?

    I wrote: “The big problem with Obama is the same problem Hillary has: his economic advisers are Democratic versions of “neo-liberal” radical free marketeers, so it is going to be the major intellectual breakthrough of their lives to have to admit that most of what they know and believe about economics is wrong.”

    On April 22, 2008, I argued that it was necessary to
    Euthanize Wall Street to save the economy

    I cited the Federal Reserve Board’s Report on the Condition of the U.S. Banking Industry for the second quarter of 2006, which showed that derivatives holdings of the 50 largest bank holding companies totaled $117.6 trillion, and that those derivatives had no relationship to their ostensible purpose: to make it easier, or less risky, to provide loans. I cited a February 2007 Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Report, Credit Derivatives and Bank Credit Supply, which reached the same conclusion, though the banking jargon used tried to obfuscate the point. I cited a February 2005 report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Consolidation in the U.S. Banking Industry: Is the Long, Strange Trip About to End?, which concluded that mergers of banks were driven more by “empire building and increased managerial compensation” than economic efficiencies. And I ended by outlining the need for a financial transactions tax.

    After Lehman Brothers imploded in September, I reposted most of that article in Let Wall Street Burn

    Pissing away $700 billion
    posted 10/30/2008 – On how inadequate the “stimulus” was

    Debunking the Great Myth of the Financial Markets posted 05/24/2009 – Presents the evidence that the financial system no longer serves the function of credit mediation for an industrial economy, but in fact is looting the industrial economy

    Roosevelt created 4 million jobs in one month posted 01/08/2010 – intended to show what could be done if there was will to do it.

  14. Trixie

    Fantastic post, Ian. Thanks.

    Also, Marcia!

    (Inside joke people, think nothing of it 🙂

  15. A little harsh, Sterling? Scathing would be more like it, and 100% deservedly so. Elegantly put from start to finish.

  16. Compound F

    Stirling sez, “harsh, but accurate.”

    Compound F sez, “bristling with the anger of unrequited agonistic encounters & righteously so.” Amen.

  17. Ian Welsh

    Note, of course, that the post is could Obama have fixed the economy, not could Democrats have.

    Because Democrats definitely could have, especially if they had been willing to use reconciliation or if they had gotten rid of the filibuster.

    As Reslez notes, and as I have said on twitter, the thing is that Bush’s economy was /actually/ better for most of his term. And before you go screaming “he caused the financial collapse”, note that the most important legislation which enabled that to happen passed under Clinton, with this approval.

  18. SRK

    I believe it is about time the word “communism”starts being thrown around by the masses. Just this alone will scare the rich and their puppet politicians to a certain extent. But guess what, the American people want to remedy this emerging catastrophe with more virus that causes it in the first place.

  19. Formerly T-Bear

    @ SRK

    Think I would go a bit further than that. Any place that puts Karl Marx in the position of being a mild mannered centrist is where we need to be. That alone would generate several generations worth of terrorism (the tactic, not the act). And yes, if a little status quo is good, massive status quo is even better (and stay well away from cliffs and edges).

  20. Formerly T-Bear

    On Further Consideration: Now the nations foreign policy comes under the firm guidance of John MacCainus and removed from the feckless hands of White House or Department of State stooges. This will give said MacCainus (pronounced MaKKK´anus) another chance to sink a magnificent Aircraft Carrier (somewhere in the Gulf of Persia), a feat he nearly accomplished at a much younger state of age in another sea during another war. All our delusions are now safe in those capable hands; whatever was the idea giving such important positions to a farce of people pretending to be liberals and even Democrats. It was so clever for the Duhmerican public to figure this out and vote so cunningly. Can this end in any other way than well?

  21. Petey

    “Part of the argument is that Obama couldn’t do almost anything because Obama only controlled the House, the Presidency and didn’t quite have 60 votes in the Senate in his first two years. Because this is the case…”

    But it’s most definitely not the case!

    The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 carved out an exemption from the filibuster precisely for budgetary matters, called reconciliation.

    By invoking reconciliation, the quite progressive 111th Congress could have passed budgetary stimulus with only 50 votes in the Senate.

    Something like Christina Romer’s $1.8 trillion plan, heavily weighted towards spending instead of tax cuts, could rather easily have gathered 50 votes in the Senate. (Even that would’ve been a bit too small, but it still would have made a genuinely significant difference in the real economy over the Olympia Snowe / Joe Lieberman / Ben Nelson approved stimulus passed under ‘regular order’ in the Senate, with the 60 vote threshold.)

    And why did the stimulus not go on the 50 vote path in the Senate? The WH, of course. In their first week in office, the administration sent a letter to Congress, (under the name of Peter Orszag), pledging not to use reconciliation and the 50 vote path in the Senate for stimulus.

    So a much larger stimulus was available in the toolkit for the progressive 111th Congress in 2009. Multiple reports are that Democratic Congressional leadership was in favor of a much larger stimulus, knowing they’d be on the ballot in 2010. And Obama rejected the plan in a desire for ‘bi-partisan optics’.

    This may seem like a ‘deep in the weeds’ quibble, but it’s the single most important failure in the entire Obama administration’s management of the economy.

  22. Petey

    “Note, of course, that the post is could Obama have fixed the economy, not could Democrats have.
    Because Democrats definitely could have, especially if they had been willing to use reconciliation or if they had gotten rid of the filibuster.”

    While both of those courses were theoretically possible, in practice, not so much.

    – Eliminating the filibuster on January 3rd 2009 simply didn’t have close to the necessary 50 votes necessary, in no small part because reconciliation exists. A few Democratic Senators brought it up, and received almost no support.

    – While the House and Senate can pass reconciliation instructions without a WH signature, in practice, it would have been essentially impossible in the face of strong WH opposition. After the late January 2009 WH pledge to not use reconciliation for stimulus, the WH would’ve whipped Democratic Senators with every tool they possessed to vote against reconciliation instructions, and would have succeeded. There were reports that both House and Senate Democratic leadership urged the WH in March/April 2009 to back off their position, which was the last point to pass reconciliation instructions, and were met with flat refusals. If you look at the Reid/Pelosi joint press conferences outside the WH after meeting with POTUS from the time, their frustration and displeasure with the administration is unmistakably clear.

  23. I find all the right-wingers commenting on this hilarious. This is not an attack on Obama from the right, it’s a salvo from the Left.

  24. blurkel

    Let’s cut to the chase. Obama did what a self-professed “moderate 1985 Reagan Republican” would do – ensure that the biggest corporations the world has ever seen remain viable while sacrificing those that service the lower classes. Everything he has done since has only increased the security of said organizations against the rise of an angry populace. It was what Obama was paid to do with being the first non-100% Anglo to hold office as President.

    Let’s take another glance at American History. After the nation wiped out the Native peoples and stole their lands, there was nothing left within our borders for the wealthy to grow their fortunes to their satisfaction. Enter the Imperialists, delivering new opportunities for exploitation by stealing a major chunk of what remained of Spanish possessions.

    We are at such an impasse again. The nations friendly to corporatist exploitation have essentially been tapped out. Nike shoes are no longer sufficient to keep Vietnam on the side of Uncle Scam, so now the US is supplying patrol aircraft and the latest in electronic surveillance equipment so PRV can sting the dragon for us. The US is waging a “war on terrorism” in order to have an excuse to go after the oil reserves of Muslim nations not friendly to corporatism. The Ukraine has been thrust into the breech as the excuse to attack Russia, whose economic growth threatens to violate the Wolfowitz Doctrine that no nation can be allowed to become more economically powerful than the US.

    There are so many more examples of the US positioning itself to exploit all of the natural resources of the world for the sole benefit of “American” multinational profit. The US is going to war to dominate and control the world, and no one -especially not the lackeys of the EU- will be immune from delivering tribute to Neo-Rome.

    Once this is accomplished, the global thieves will only have each other to devour. Like the elite of the Middle Ages, they will wage war upon each other for increased dominance over the rest. He Who Dies Owning Everything is the goal – and mere humans mean nothing to them.

  25. Formerly T-Bear

    Now that Congress is firmly in the hands of the triumphant Republicans, the final years of this administration promise to be epic, not in what will be accomplished, but what will be destroyed. Lame duck no longer serves its normal function under such conditions as the final input of an outgoing administration. Another term is needed to take its place, therefore maybe: The Quacky Lackey may do in its stead.

  26. This is pretty funny. Elsewhere I’ve been seeing Democrats claim that Obama fixed the economy but the voters stabbed him in the back, the dirty traitors, and now they’re gonna get what they deserve because the Republicans. But until now I thought the Democrats were saying that Obama couldn’t fix the economy, because he’s just one man, he has no power, he’s helpless, the President is an office without power. Only a naive purist would ever have expected Obama to fix the economy, because he never promised to and only a naive purist would have believed him when he promised to because the President can do nothing.

    There’s a similar game about gas prices in the US. When they were higher, the Right blamed Obama, and he and his apologists claimed that the President has no control over gas prices. Now that they’re lower, the Right is silent about gas price and the Democrats are giving Obama all credit for the drop.

    So now Ian writes that Obama could have fixed the economy but didn’t, and Dem loyalists are replying: no he couldn’t, he’s just one man. I love American political discourse.

  27. DCSteve

    The Republicans next year are going to pass a budget reconciliation bill loaded up like a
    Christmas tree. They will do at least every two years while they hold both houses. The Democrats never even considered it when they had both houses. You can’t filibuster a budget reconciliation bill. That’s how Bush got all those tax cuts for rich people year after year. It was political malpractice for the Democrats to ignore the budget reconciliation process. At the the time I thought it was because they were abject cowards. I’m beginning to think that they didn’t though that they didn’t want to accomplish anything. They treated having a majority like a hot potato they couldn’t shed fast enough. That way they can just point he finger and make excuses.

  28. Synoia

    Prosecute the Bankers: This is an executive decision. Entirely an executive decision. There was widespread fraud, and no senior executive on Wall Street could credibly claim to not know of it.

    The Bankers and the DC establishment worked together on the loan bubble.

    Where do you believe the loan underwriting standards were written, for the NINJA loans?

    By the Bush administration for Bush’s reelection? And the Banker’s condition to support Bysh’s reelection was a change to the Bankruptcy laws to prevent home mortgage cram down?

    Or was that all just a coincidence? Obama was a tool of wealth, and did his job superbly.

    There is no shortage of predators in DC.

  29. bruce wilder

    An important post, and particularly good stuff from Tony Wikrent, too.

    There is political realignment going on now, with splits in both Parties. I think the country was ready for realignment in 2006-8, but it is happening now, as a result of Obama’s decision to extend the Age of Reagan past its natural moment of collapse.

    I think realignment will not go well, in part because so many people have no idea about how the political economy works as a system. That widespread ignorance and learned helplessness — which pervades lives due to rapid change and digital upheaval, which buries visible or felt mechanics — reaches from bottom to top. It is the lesson of Trump, who seems to actually understand quite a lot, but is opposed by ineffectual morons who think russiagate is a clever gambit.

  30. bruce wilder

    Ignorance of how things work is particularly evident in the Tory effort to bring about Brexit — matched in many ways by ignorance of many opponents of Brexit about the neoliberal imperatives of the EU. (Corbyn is a notable exception.)

  31. The lesser of evils.

  32. You are overlooking one key point (at least). It wasn’t the banks that were saved that ruined the economy, it was Lehman Bros. going bust that terrified the other banks from lending and thereby causing contagion and the recession. The capital hair-cutting of Greek national debt also contributed to this. Allowing more banks to go bust would only have made matters worse.

    Nor was it the share and bond holders who made stacks of money. It was the employed bank directors who high-jacked shares for themselves, bought back shares into their companies to concentrate value into those shares and generally played Masters of the Universenwh0 made stacks of money. It was the shareholders who lost money as their shares were bought out at the bottom.

    Digging Keynesian holes in the ground (solar energy seems to be your modern equivalent) no longer works. Most of the works is now done by machinery rather than chain-gangs of workers so the expenditures end up in corporate coffers rather than wages. Moreover it only piles up yet more debt for our grandchildren to pay off (gee thanks grandpa!), which becomes yet more expensive as interest rates recover. And once the holes have been dug any effect is over.

    Yes Obama failed, as did the Coalition in the UK. QE was the right stimulus policy but it should have been supported both by guaranteeing bank solvency and by setting up a Sovereign Wealth Fund while interest rates were still on the floor. That way a fiscal deficit and in particular a broad welfare policy could have replaced austerity as the SWF would eventually fund it. Well managed global funds can give an average annual return of 10%, while seed corn funding by 30 year bonds still only costs 3% simple. The window of opportunity is still there, and maybe will remain while trade deficits rule the economy. It’s not too late.

    Latest apparent puzzlement is over the productivity gap – productivity since the crash has been much lower than previously projected. Didn’t anyone pay attention during their economics lectures? It has been understood since pre-Keynsian days that productivity depends on investment, which depends on savings, which depends on higher interest rates. QE undermines interest rates and encourages people to borrow against their future earnings and spend them today thereby offsetting the demand drain from the trade deficit. Without QE unemployment would rocket. But sooner or later tomorrow will become today and we will have a new personal debt crisis on our hands.

    Eliminating our trade deficits must therefore be the core objective on both sides of the water. Trump at least understands this even if he doesn’t have much of a clue how to go about it. In the UK we can leave the EU gaining advantages from import tariffs and devaluation. Except that Theresa May now seems determined to screw that opportunity up as well. Where do we get these people from?

  33. Ché Pasa

    Gee, if only Obama were still president and criticisms of his failures then were able to influence what he would do now…

    Someone else occupies the Oval Office now I’m told, someone whose ideas about economic issues seem to be even more favorable to banks and banksters and other gangsters and con men than Obama’s were, and even less favorable to ordinary schmucks who have to try to live in this world. It might be more useful to deal with current errors of judgment that have effects now than to continue to fret over what Obama (or Clinton or whomever) didn’t do when time was.

  34. It would not matter – Obama wanted to be rich.

  35. “Obama is a Right Wing President”

    President Obama describes himself as a “blue dog” ie a conservative:

  36. Darius

    The great thing about Trump is that he excuses the Democrats from blame. The Democrats are A-OK with power bouncing back and forth between horrible Republicans and worthless Democrats. So, go Trump.

    The Democrat donor class is doing just fine. What’s not to like?

  37. Darius

    Obama’s an Eisenhower Republican and proud of it. He also tried to fence off anyone to the left of himself. So in USA USA, you can range anywhere from center-right austerity advocates to far right authoritarians.

  38. Willy

    Hold on a sec. To what degree was Obama influenced? Not excusing him, but I can’t imagine somebody whose credentials include “community organizer” and “choom gang” being an expert on much of anything economic. I’ve known managers, leaders, etc. who must rely on trusted experts. And I know that politicians tend to sing to the wings then ‘govern’ from the center. Did Obama come to trust (or was conned by) the wrong people, or was he just another narcissistic asshole?

  39. Darius

    Willy. The answer to your last question is yes.

  40. different clue

    Obama is an Eisenhower Republican? Reagan Republican seems more appropriate. Obama tried to destroy the last vestiges of the New Deal which Eisenhower accepted as a civic and economic fact. Obama created the Catfood Commission to destroy Social Security. Obama conspired with Boehner and McConnell ( and the Clintonite Democrats) to make the Bush Tax Cuts permanent. Obama supported the Mulroney-Reaganite Free Trade Conspiracy against America.

    Obama did not “fail”. Obama’s Administration was a multiple and powerful success in terms of the agenda he actually supported and advanced. He will be paid hundreds of millions of dollars by his private sector owner-sponsors in the decades to come.

  41. Hugh

    I agree with Ian. It is amazing how quickly we forget and how quickly self-serving revisionist histories become received wisdom. Ideologically, Obama was in line with or slightly to the right of Ronald Reagan. His chief economic advisors were architects of neoliberalism and the policies which produced the 2008 financial meltdown, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, Bill Clinton’s first and second Treasury Secretaries, respectively. So even before the start of his Presidency, Obama made it clear that his was very much not going to be a transformative Presidency and would be a more of the same one. Still it was funny. Rubin was too toxic to be the outward face of Obama financial policy so that role was given over to Larry Summers. Summers in turn was too toxic either for Fed chair (the position he coveted) or Treasury Secretary (which he had been) so Bernanke whose continuation of Greenspan’s easy money, no regulation policies did so much to create the environment for the collapse was kept in place and Timothy “foam the runway” Geithner, a Summers protégé, was put in at Treasury. Geithner had been head of the New York Fed and as such had the primary responsibility for limiting the activities which led to the meltdown but instead of reining them in he championed them and was one of their biggest cheerleaders. Character is destiny and personnel is policy. So it was clear from the getgo that Obama was never going to take down the banksters, break up the banks, or stand with the American people against them.

    John Poynton, the chronology is like this. On Sunday September 7, 2008, Henry Paulson, former CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs and Bush’s then Secretary of the Treasury, took over the huge mortgage GSE’s Fannie and Freddie. The following weekend of the 13th and 14th, Paulson and Bernanke put together a plan to bailout the insurance giant AIG which was to be announced Tuesday the 16th. The bailout of AIG was also a bailout of Goldman, Paulson’s former company and AIG’s biggest trading partner. The 4 remaining investment banks (the smaller Bear Stearns had gone belly up in March) were the other theme of that weekend. With the AIG deal, it looked like Goldman was taken care of. Morgan Stanley looked OK, too. Merrill Lynch was more or less ordered to sell itself to Bank of America. And then there was Lehman, a competitor and rival of Goldman that Paulson had always had a thing against. So lo and behold on this weekend when he and Bernanke are slinging tens of billions of dollars around and just the weekend after dealing with the multi-trillion dollar GSEs, suddenly, so the story goes, they were “too tired” to deal with Lehman, the fourth of the remaining investment banks. So the next day, Monday September 15, 2008, Lehman went bust and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy setting off the great financial meltdown. It was a cascade of events that went like this. When Lehman went splat, money markets who were the big lenders for short term paper suddenly lost money, i.e. “broke the buck.” They stopped lending and this froze credit markets. This led to further losses triggering credit default swaps (CDS). Since CDS represented multiples of nominal losses (essentially being lots of bets on the same credit event), they increased losses exponentially, and put at risk huge pools of different derivative types. All this fed on itself and took out the financial system. It also threatened to take out the last two free standing investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Except that, mirabile dictu, the Fed came through on Sunday September 21, declaring that it would open regular credit lines to them. So the question that has never been answered, indeed never really asked in official circles, is that if the Fed could do this on the 21st for Goldman and Morgan Stanley, why could it not do this for Lehman on the 14th? Why could the Fed and Treasury bail out Goldman, the most predatory of the IBs, not once but twice in a single week, and yet fail to throw a life line once to Lehman? Even though they had been dealing with systemic threats to the financial system (the GSEs, AIG, the other IBs) nonstop since the 7th.

  42. Ché Pasa

    Obama was criticized at the time of his election campaigns, at the time of his elections, and throughout his terms of office for his innumerable failings, particularly his fealty to the neoliberal economic paradigm that has caused so much economic anxiety and suffering in the US and abroad.

    These fields have been plowed over and over again. Nothing new has been unearthed. The criticisms of Obama’s economic policies are the same today as they have been for almost a decade.

    Someone else is in the Oval Office and Obama is no longer responsible for the economic policies of the United States.

    Someone else is, and his policies and actions (what we can make out of them) are far more favorable to the moneyed classes, the banksters, and all manner of con artists and gangsters than Obama’s were.

    If there were any particular interest in fostering more positive economic policies for the majority of Americans, not simply serving the pecuniary interests of the already rich, what Obama did or didn’t do would be of much less interest than what is going on under the current regime and what should be done instead.

  43. Donald

    “If there were any particular interest in fostering more positive economic policies for the majority of Americans, not simply serving the pecuniary interests of the already rich, what Obama did or didn’t do would be of much less interest than what is going on under the current regime and what should be done instead.”

    Utter nonsense, but I knew that some comment like this was coming.

    It is nonsense because it is not enough to say Trump is bad— you have to have an alternative that will actually make people’s lives better and to do this you have to confront the failures of the Democrats and understand where they went wrong and what their motives were and are. This is so obviously true you have to be missing the point deliberately. I knew some comment like yours was coming because one sees it so often. It is the tyranny of the false dichotomy. We can’t possibly think of more than one thing at a time. I have been around religious fundamentalists and people who are dogmatic in their politics and the political types are easily as rigid as the fundies.

  44. Willy

    Democrats (leaders I assume) are slicker at serving the establishment. Or are better at rationalizing such. It’s easier to imagine Trump hawking snake oil from the back of a wagon.

  45. drfrank

    In the lame duck period of Bush’s presidency, Obama stepped up and supported the stimulus/rescue package proposed by the “team” then in charge–Paulson and Bernanke. And Obama then carried on with what’s his name who was heading up the NY Fed and then became Obama’s Treasury secretary, Geithner.

    Given that Obama made a decision not to take the opportunity presented by the crisis, the question is why.

    I think the answer is that Obama decided that health care reform was more important. Why? 20 million people gained access to health insurance.

    Oddly, one never sees a demographic breakdown of who these beneficiaries are or were.

    It would be interesting to know how those who gained access to health insurance under “Obamacare” voted in the last election.

    What is it about “Obamacare” that the Republicans hate so much, after all?

  46. Hugh

    Republicans hate Obamacare because it has a Democrat’s name attached to it even though it is simply a redoing of a Republican program, Romneycare in Massachusetts applied to the whole country, and also because they like to portray it as at odds with their spurious free market religion. Most of the rest of us hate it because having insurance is wildly different from actually having healthcare. Demanding that people have insurance even if that insurance is too expensive to use, and even reduces real access to healthcare is nothing to brag about. And it radically increased insurance rates for most, to the benefit of insurers, Big Pharma, and Big Medical.

  47. Ché Pasa


    And given the continuing obsession with Obama’s failures, Clinton’s failures, and Democrats’ failures to the exclusion — yes, exclusion — of consideration of what is going on now I knew a comment like yours was coming.

    Donald, the Democratic failures, bad judgment, and service to the self-proclaimed masters of the universe have already been thoroughly examined and discussed in exhaustive detail — for years and years and years. Ian’s article was written in 2014, and many, many similar articles preceded it. Hugh has been making essentially the same points since before Obama was elected the first time. Some of us were well aware then what was coming. We know — or at least we ought to know — how bad the Dems are and how many failures to take the right path there were under Obama.

    We need to pay more attention to what’s going on now and to develop alternatives that go well beyond ineffective party politics and electoral charades.

    In effect, we are being ruled by a junta put in place by the current occupant of the Oval Office, acting in service to a faction of the Overclass. This is like the failures of the previous regime on steroids.

    Is that OK with you?

  48. edmondo

    Ian gets it right. 2008 was 1932 redux. We needed an FDR – what we got was Al Smith.

    We shall pay the price for the remainder of my lifetime, and probably my childrens’.

  49. Darius

    Che Pasa. Democrats love to be out of power. That way they can just whine and point fingers and not be responsible for anything. It’s actually wielding power that Democrats can’t stand, because they’re so bad at it. And conflicted. The Awesomely Awesome One mastered the art of creating the illusion of acting in the public interest when he really was just serving the rich and powerful whose acceptance and praise he was desperate for. But most Democrats run around like chickens with their heads cut off.

    BTW. I think Obama is much more motivated by a craving for status than a craving for money. Money is nice, but Obama really wants to be counted among the global elite. He’s fantastically successful in this but it’s never enough.

  50. Darius

    It doesn’t take a genius to see that Trump is a catastrophe. But a lot of people can’t acknowledge that Obama was bad, and his misrule led directly to Trump. Obama’s embrace of austerity ensured wage stagnation, galloping inequality, deaths from despair, etc. It should come as no surprise that the result is the exploding cigar of Trump.

  51. different clue

    The reason for hashing and rehashing and re-rehashing the evil and immoral successes of Clinton and Obama against the American people is to reach the tens of millions of worshipful cultists who worship one or the other of these two figures. The forlorn hope is that some of these Clinton or Obama cult worshippers may be reached and somehow assisted to begin thinking again.

    Why would that even matter? Because the Democrats plan to run another Obama-type figure next election. They have a deep bench full of such people . . . Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, etc.
    People who don’t know or understand what Obama’s true policies were and why they were bad . . . will not be equipped to understand what the Democrats’ next Obama 2.0’s policies will be, or why they will be bad. The Democrats’ Obama 2.0 figure will run as “not as bad as Trump” and “maybe even better than Trump”. The more people understand exactly how Obama made America a worse and poorer country for most Americans . . . the less chance that the next Obama figure will get itself elected. If enough Clintobama-type Democrats can be defeated, purged, burned and destroyed; then perhaps the Democratic Party will finally run out of such people to offer up for nomination.

    Until the DemParty can be stopped from running Clintobama-type figures, the Republicans will win over and over again with Trump after Trump after Trump.

  52. Ché Pasa

    @dc et al

    Those “millions and millions” don’t read this blog and they’re not going to. If you actually want to do something positive about the future, then continuing to bash the Clintons, Dems, and Obama is a waste of time. They aren’t in power, their influence on those who are in power is scant to non-existent, and those who admire them are not going to change their minds because you say so any more than Trump admirers and Republican adherents are going to change their minds because some random libtard on the internet says so.

    They might change their minds if they see that their personal interests and those of their families are harmed by what is being done to them by this government and those this government serves — which BTW is not the People. But even that is close to impossible when what is being done to them is always the Other Guy’s fault. Shatter that paradigm and you have a chance of moving forward.

    Even then, it’s a long, drawn out process. Simply declaring the current regime a catastrophe and moving on to regurgitating the same criticisms of previous regimes we’ve been hearing and reading forever may feel good in a tribalistic sense, but it’s essentially nothing more than self-satisfaction.

    What’s your vision for the future, beyond petty politics? Do you have one? Or are you the kind of nihilist and declinist who sees no future and believes the sooner everything goes to shit the better?

    Is it up to some Great Man to come along and fix what’s wrong? What happens when you find out the Great Man is flawed? Do you paper over those flaws (as Obama cultists and Trump cultists do — in fact all religious cultists do) or do you question the premise of the Great Man and find a different and more complex solution?

    Is it more important to stay stuck in a political shadow play or is it better to move on to seek and find viable solutions to the real problems of human society in the current context of ever-looming catastrophe?

  53. realitychecker

    @ Che Pasa

    “What’s your vision for the future, beyond petty politics? Do you have one?”

    That’s an excellent question, Che.

    Care to answer it?

    And, how will you get from here to there?

  54. Donald

    “Those “millions and millions” don’t read this blog and they’re not going to. If you actually want to do something positive about the future, then continuing to bash the Clintons, Dems, and Obama is a waste of time. ”

    This doesn’t make very much sense on its own terms. If what we say here makes no difference, why are you upset about anything that is said here? You should be going to every blog that isn’t explicitly organizing an anti-Trump demonstration and telling them that, and not just the political blogs.

    The issue concerning what to talk about at a political blog is fairly simple. You talk about the sorts of things Ian writes about and if someone (whether Ian or a commenter) has any bright ideas about practical organizing then throw that in there as well, but it is not one vs. the other. We need to understand how the Democrats need to improve if we want them both to toss out the Republicans and actually help build a better society once they are in power.

    If you want to talk about practical things to do right now against Trump, nobody is stopping you from doing that in the comments. You could also start your own blog or if you have one, link to it (assuming Ian is okay with that.)

    As for Trump’s idiocy, I assume virtually everyone here sees endless accounts of that everywhere and that is as it should be. Trump has a core group of supporters who will back him no matter what–the majority of Americans and certainly the overwhelming majority of people from center to far left know the guy is an idiot. There is some disagreement about how dangerous he is. That has a practical side. Would we actually be worse off if Trump were removed from office and Pence put in power, if Pence was more likely to get things done? Or is Trump so dangerous we should take that risk? I would be open to that kind of discussion at this or any blog My own opinion changes from day to day. But it shouldn’t rule out criticism of the Democrats. I think this mentality that we should not criticize the Democrats and only think about one thing at a time is part of the problem.

  55. Donald

    \”Those “millions and millions” don’t read this blog and they’re not going to. If you actually want to do something positive about the future, then continuing to bash the Clintons, Dems, and Obama is a waste of time. \”

    This doesn\’t make very much sense on its own terms. If what we say here makes no difference, why are you upset about anything that is said here? You should be going to every blog that isn\’t explicitly organizing an anti-Trump demonstration and telling them that, and not just the political blogs.

    The issue concerning what to talk about at a political blog is fairly simple. You talk about the sorts of things Ian writes about and if someone (whether Ian or a commenter) has any bright ideas about practical organizing then throw that in there as well, but it is not one vs. the other. We need to understand how the Democrats need to improve if we want them both to toss out the Republicans and actually help build a better society once they are in power.

    If you want to talk about practical things to do right now against Trump, nobody is stopping you from doing that in the comments. You could also start your own blog or if you have one, link to it (assuming Ian is okay with that.)

    As for Trump\’s idiocy, I assume virtually everyone here sees endless accounts of that everywhere and that is as it should be. Trump has a core group of supporters who will back him no matter what–the majority of Americans and certainly the overwhelming majority of people from center to far left know the guy is an idiot. There is some disagreement about how dangerous he is. That has a practical side. Would we actually be worse off if Trump were removed from office and Pence put in power, if Pence was more likely to get things done? Or is Trump so dangerous we should take that risk? I would be open to that kind of discussion at this or any blog My own opinion changes from day to day. But it shouldn\’t rule out criticism of the Democrats. I think this mentality that we should not criticize the Democrats and only think about one thing at a time is part of the problem.

  56. nihil obstet

    @Che Pasa

    There still needs to be some (admittedly slight) legitimation of the government through elections. The “millions and millions” are too involved with real life as they define it than to spend a lot of time on politics, so enough of them vote for whoever is presented to create a pretense of legitimacy. The process does depend on small armies of the politically engaged: the ones who go to rallies, who put signs in their yards, who make literature drops and canvass neighborhoods. They’re the ones who do read blogs, and who need to be reached to convince them not to support any tribal candidate. It’s part of the long, drawn-out process.

  57. realitychecker

    @ Donald

    Mostly, I agree with your comment above, but every time I see someone assert Trump’s supposed stupidity, I am reminded of this:

    “Captain Renault: We musn’t underestimate American blundering. I was with them when they blundered into Berlin in 1918.”

    When one man triumphs so thoroughly over the entire Establishment and all its supporters, other possibilities than stupidity should be considered by the intelligent. IMHO

  58. Billikin

    Could Obama have fixed the economy? Well, fixing the economy is a big and ill defined task. However, he could have led a real recovery. But he did not try to do that.

    FDR had his “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech, Obama had his “Yes we can!” speech. He had the political momentum for change. What happened to Yes we can! in 2009? It disappeared. What we got was enough of a stimulus to prevent another Great Depression, but not enough of one to prevent a lesser, but long depression. Obama also embraced austerity. The failure to bail out Main Street was an important factor in the rise of the Tea Party. The Tea Party Congress squelched any possibility for further stimulus, even if Obama and the Democrats had had a change of heart.

  59. Billikin

    On Trump’s intelligence

    Trump has a certain kind of intelligence. He thinks with his gut and his dick. They, plus his inherited wealth, have made him quite successful.

  60. Willy

    As a kid looking for self-improvement, I once bought a copy of Dianetics and brought it home to read. The cardboard display it sat in had been impressive, much more than the rows of PhD authored self-help books. Plus that book was way thicker. After the first few pages I got pissed off, shouted “CRAP!” and hucked it under the bed.

    My father the Christian minster found it and panicked. I soon found myself sitting in a Christian counselors office for some kind of attempt at deprogramming. My dad had ignored all the obvious clues: the dent in the book, that only the first few pages had been turned, and that it had been gathering dust under my bed for some time. He also never bothered to ask why I would buy such a book when his Holy Bible held all the answers.

    I puzzled over the psychology behind this. I came to the conclusion that I was a born skeptic. I was different from the rest of my family, different from Scientologists and different from the many Christians who surrounded me. I now believe these people are hardwired to ‘want’ to do the best for their tribe, whatever they’ve determined that tribe to be, and will blindly do whatever the sanctioned tribal leader has decreed to be “best”. And ever since I’ve continuously observed that this kind of susceptibility to cult thinking is quite common.

    I assume most of here are reasonably immune to cult thinking. We need the facts to jibe. But we struggle with understanding how cult thinkers can be persuaded to be more skeptical.

  61. Willy

    I don’t think it’s possible to do the POTUS job without having a certain degree of callous narcissism. The stress could break somebody with normal integrity and empathy. Trump has an overabundance of callous narcissism. In my previous corporate life (and as a born skeptic), I noticed that these ubermensch were far better at manipulating than they were at knowing the everything which they were always selling. In fact, mano a mano, I found them to usually be technical idiots. With Trump we get to see this in full public view.

  62. different clue

    Che’ Pasa,

    Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns.

  63. realitychecker

    @ Billikin

    That’s just silly. And lazy.

    Hope it made you feel good, though.

    He is on top of the world, and you are commenting on small blog. Ruminate on that awhile.

  64. Willy

    A common bank robber pretty much once owned the entire Eastern Bloc. A poor little horse clan asian man once owned almost all of Asia. Both caused millions of common people under them extreme misery and hardship. I guess there was Jesus, but I don’t go that way. And he didn’t own squat.

    I assume, RC, that there’s much more to discuss about acquiring great power than just gut, dick and inherited wealth?

  65. Donald


    I think Trump happened to be the man of the hour, unfortunately. I underestimated his likely success like most people. Initially I was amused and delighted at how he chewed through the ranks of the Republican candidates, making them look like idiots. I sort of laughed all the way to election night.

    I don’t think he is especially smart. A large number of people wanted to give a giant middle finger to the Establishment and he was perfect for that.

  66. realitychecker

    @ Donald, Willy

    Trump is in a tough game, with everyone trying to take him out, and he is not losing.

    You guys need a better explanation for that.

    He might know things you don’t know. He certainly knows how to expose the foolish players in the media and the political correctness cult. That is an unmitigated good for the society overall. He certainly makes thoughts of a third party seem more plausible. Also an unmitigated good.

    None of us knew how to accomplish what this ‘idiot’ has accomplished in two years.

    Never underestimate people you don’t like.

  67. Ché Pasa

    Our electoral system is a bad joke, a farce and it managed to elect a clown, an abuser, a con man, and a bully all rolled into one. It’s done so repeatedly. Trump is by no means the first. A majority of the voters didn’t elect him but that doesn’t matter because the system ensures that the voters’ choice can be and too often is dismissed, overruled, voided, so as to emplace… someone else on the the throne. It’s set up that way, but as long as your tribal preference is the one it chooses, it’s all good. When in 2000 it looked like there might be yet another problem with the farcical electoral system, the Supreme Court lawlessly intervened and a majority of the Court picked its partisan preference.

    The fact that there was no uprising then shows you how easy it is for the voters’ interests to be subverted in our ridiculous system.

    So if you’re thinking that our electoral system will produce the outcome you desire you’re badly mistaken — unless your desire happens to coincide with that of those who can — and will — jigger the results to suit their desire.

    Thus, there will be no postal banking, no tuition free higher education, no Medicare-for-All (to use NC’s triad of issues) via the electoral system. You can’t vote for them in any case.

    You vote, if you can vote — and for many, it is becoming more and more difficult or impossible — for and against personalities and propaganda. What happens after an election is something else entirely.

    Whether or not Obama could have fixed the economy is essentially irrelevant. The fact is that he didn’t do so on behalf of the many, but he sure did a wonderful job of fixing the economy on behalf of the few. Wow. Herbert Hoover on steroids. I called him Barack “Hoover” Obama even before he ascended the throne. In some ways Hoover was more inclined to aid the many in the face of financial collapse than Obama was.

    But he’s not the President now, and his failure to do what a whole lot of people wanted while doing some things a few people wanted, is not the present issue we face as a nation. My own sense is that the nation as we’ve known it is not likely to endure much longer.

    The experiment set up a couple of centuries ago is reaching its conclusion.

    So what do we do?


  68. Willy

    RC, you’re not much of a believer in Occam’s Razor, are you?

    Trump may be exposing the foolish players in the media, and the political correctness cult, and is making thoughts of a third party seem more plausible. But I very highly doubt he actually planned all that. That would take integrity, and he has left a very slimy slug trail of carnage behind him. Integrity usually lives their lives that way. Ducks usually quack and waddle. The Donald has been more like The Blob. I’ve known his kind up close and personal. They’re far better at making use of cultural trends than they are at actually caring about them.

    If that’s by design, and the end of the day we see he’s been hiding and is really some kind of establishment-punking master-genius, or he had a sudden epiphany from God or something, I think that’d make history. I guess well see. But it’s looked pretty slimy so far.

    A third party who’s primary goal is to replace (by making illegal) corporate-government establishment creeps with actual public servants, imperfect as they may be, who actually focus on solving real life national problems, dogma-free, would be welcome.

  69. realitychecker

    @ Willy

    Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

    It does not matter one bit whether the horse knows he is a gift. Not one bit.

    It is unlikely that we will ever see a guy at the top who cares about any of us as individuals. That is the world. Better learn to live with that reality.

  70. Willy

    Maybe. But I’m still stuck on Trump’s continuously stating that one of his very favorite TV shows and primary sources for ‘real’ news, is Fox and Friends.

  71. Ché Pasa

    The internet likes to proclaim the imminent collapse of The (US) Empire. I’ve argued for years that that’s not what’s happening. The Empire, per se, is doing just fine.

    The collapse that’s been happening is rather that of The Republic, starting with institutional collapse in the Nixon/Ford/Carter/Reagan era. The experiment is coming to an conclusion, and the transformation that’s s been under way is from a self-governing constitutional republic to an authoritarian and in many ways autocratic imperial government.

    It really doesn’t matter whether we, the Rabble, disagree with whomever sits on the throne of the Empire. Our excoriations don’t matter, but if we should get too uppity about it, we’ll be punished or exterminated no less efficiently than the residents of dozens of cities have already been punished/exterminated overseas. The pattern is set. We’ve seen the results over and over and over again. Cities obliterated, populations annihilated. Or have we not noticed?

    That’s the thing. Once it’s all normalized, we don’t notice any more. We may be too busy fighting over the past to notice the present or envision a future.

    If we use Rome as a model, the final end of The Republic may not turn out so bad at all. Leastways the Romans apparently didn’t think the advent of Octavian/Augustus’s role and “restoration” of the Republic was such a bad thing — at least not for a very long time afterwards.

    The US may go through a brief civil war before consolidation of Imperial rule, and if there is one, the upshot is likely to be regional autonomy. There will not be a revolution along the lines of 1917 or 1789 or 1776 or what have you. That’s just silly.

    Regional autonomy within the borders of the United States means that essentially the “united” and the “states” cease to exist. Rather, a tributary relationship between the regions and the center is established, with considerable liberty for the regions to develop independently of one another. Over time, a very different US emerges.

    I’m too old to live through much of what is to come, but the outlines are clear enough to recognize the future path (of course barring the unforseen…;-)


  72. Peter

    Trump has been exceptionally effective in dismantling Obama’s globalist legacy and agenda but he also knows that Obama left him a functioning economy even a growing one. Along with the other rot Obama will be remembered for his part in avoiding a worldwide depression will also be part of history.

    The commies among us have little new to offer and spend most of their effort selling victimhood and whining about lost causes few people care about anymore.

  73. realitychecker

    @ Willy

    You may choose to stay “stuck” there, but then you will continue to miss the big picture that is much more important than personalities.

    Stuckness and growth are mutually exclusive.

  74. Willy

    I’m not sure which direction to grow in. Peter says Trump is wizard who outfoxes everybody, especially the red queen establishment and her commie minions. You seem to agree with me that he’s a stupid asshole but then state that his simply being there is what’s really important. Maybe you two can duke it out for a bit of clarification?

  75. Peter


    It has proven to be a waste of energy to try to communicate rationally with the snowflakes who’s altered state slips further and further from reality. They will continue to flail about striking out at anyone who won’t join them in their slide to permanent loser party.

    I see the third party plea as another lost cause unlikely to emerge but if it did it would only make the Clintonites weaker because it could only emerge from their ranks. Trump probably wouldn’t care because the only people blocking his agendas are the republican elites who are feeling the heat of populism and nationalism on the move.

  76. Willy

    It’s the corruption Peter.

  77. realitychecker

    @ Peter

    I think that 75 years of TV has everyone convinced that there will be a happy ending, so why should they trouble themselves to think hard or clear about the evidence of what is going on.

    I have no such optimism, so, yes, there is a built-in communication problem.

    Reality-checking will compel me to stop trying soon. I’m tired.

  78. Billikin


    “Trump is in a tough game, with everyone trying to take him out, and he is not losing.

    “You guys need a better explanation for that.”

    I know that was not addressed to me, but I was talking about Trump’s intelligence. Intelligence is generally correlated with success, but the kind of success that Trump has had has little to do with intelligence.

    At the moment, Trump is not losing, but he is not winning, either.

  79. realitychecker

    @ Billikin

    How many guys can you take on simultaneously?

    Trump is taking on every Establishment-oriented power player there is. And they are all willing to fight dirty to take him down.

    You know, even extremely intelligent people have weaknesses in some areas. As Trump certainly does.

    But it’s just silly to think he could have accomplished everything he has accomplished without a high level of intelligence.

    And it’s just silly to ignore that we desperately need some pushback against many of the trends of the last few decades. The level of stupid about many things that shape our belief systems has clearly been pushed way beyond any reasonable limits.

    Who besides Trump is going to deliver that pushback, in your opinion?

  80. Ché Pasa

    He’s not pushing back against systems, he’s primarily attacking people — so that he can replace them with his people.

    He’s profiting from the systems.

  81. realitychecker

    @ Che

    Belief systems, Che, belief systems.

    You do know what those are, don’t you?

  82. Peter


    I have a darker view of what is driving the snowflakes to their madness and they don’t seem to care about happy endings just commie dominance and Borg like submission. They have thrown off much of their moderate reformist persona and shown their true and darker colors.

    A few of the true believers have become conscious of what is really happening but most just respond to stimulus and parrot the party line. That probably won’t change but their groupthink must be confronted.

    It’s easy to forget how close the Clintonite/globalists were to enacting their agendas from a position of ultimate power. All the exposure of PC behavior, identity politics, fake news, the NWO and much more would have faded away, drowned out by the smiling Newspeak talking heads.

    This is why there is so much hate in the snowflake rhetoric because they were so close and then denied their assumed right to rule.

  83. Willy

    Peter, nobody gives a flying fuck about what you say.

    Lots of the others here have a theme, or a schtick, or a set of core beliefs that don’t usually change (Hint: mine involves spotting, discussing, and fighting systemic corruption).

    But your opinions just flop around in the breeze. One day you bitch about sanctuary cities. The next day you brag about hiring latinos because anglos are just too damn lazy. Then you bitch that a couple latinos tried to break into your bathroom window with knives in their teeth. Maybe you’re pissed that all the good latino help is in the sanctuary cities, but I think you’re just plain goofy. Plus you may need to be paying your help better.

    Stereotypical namecalling is a sad sign that one has nothing else to say.

  84. realitychecker

    Willy, hate to tell you, but if your brain was placed inside Peter’s brain, it would look like a BB in a boxcar.

  85. Peter

    Poor Willy, he has a pretty good memory but his ability to comprehend what he remembers is retarded. This is probably due to the effects of corrupting snowflake conditioning or poor blood flow to the brain.

    Because you have this handicap I’ll just state the fact that sanctuary cities/states are harboring criminal illegal aliens. They are releasing them onto the streets and protecting them from deportation by ICE which is insane snowflake behavior driven by their Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  86. hidflect

    What happened to Krugman? You can almost pin it down to the day. In a few of his posts came creeping in anecdotes about how he’d been gifted entre to a concert of a band he admired and how thrilled he’s been. Then the story of such-and-such event where he’d been schmoozed to the point of embarrassment. Basically, someone on a chart somewhere identified him as “important” and Operation Beguile swung into action. Hillary’s minions, at a guess, given ho much money and effort is required to honeypot someone.

  87. Willy

    “criminal illegal aliens”

    Gotta love it. Maybe Trump can help you sort that one out.

  88. Willy

    I disapprove of all illegal aliens, and that goes double for criminal ones. With Peter’s faulty memory creating the usual sad (but comical) GIGO outputs, anybody deviating from his “subtle” positions regarding illegals has to be a snowflake.

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