Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama the Centrist

James Call: Expert here! Back again to sock my mildly informed opinion to ya.

DAMN, yo, can I get paid to blog for a living? Good questions keep pouring in. I don't have time in the workday to answer all this shit!

Our next THREE questions come from reader "Zack". I'll break this up into in separate posts as per the popular demand:

Is Senator Obama's "center tack" a temporary election-season tactic--so he can win the presidency and then govern from the left--or has he already abandoned what Paul Wellstone called "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party"? (For me, his vote on the FISA bill was a key moment in the "center tack.")

In a word, Obama's centrism is genuine. Obama is widely, and wrongly, credited with being "the most liberal member of the Senate". He put it himself very well last night: "heh heh, for the most part that's just me voting against George Bush's wrongheaded policies".

Obama's record speaks to a centrism that makes Hillary Clinton look liberal. His record on regulating the nuclear industry, for instance, is a bit frightening. When it came time to pass legislation curtailing the activities of nuclear power in Illinois, Obama talked tough, but at the insistence of power company Exelon, Obama actually turned a draft of a bill he was working on over to Exelon to proofread. Does that sound like a liberal thing to do? Are we gonna let Exxon have a "looksie" at our energy bills in years to come? "Hey guys, just look this over, and if you got any problems with it, just kinda sharpie that shit up, it's cool, add some stuff if you want."

It's not liberalism - it's bullshit. It's Bill Clinton style bullshit, specifically.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still for Obama - there are a lot of good reasons to be so - but it's mostly because he doesn't seem totally off the rails in terms of deregulation, and budget discipline.

But yes, despite the animosity between the Obama and Clinton camps (which I can only image is very personal, at this point), philosophically, they are little different. Obama's "structured" market approach to health care will help the middle class, a -bit-. But in the end, we need a single payer system. FDR called for it; Truman kinda got punked on it as the private sector stepped in, social-contract-wise, to guarantee employment-based health care. McCain's plan might actually destroy this aspect of the social contract, and Obama's will alleviate it somewhat, but the real solution is a single-payer system. Yes, my libertarian friends, this is socialism, and it is precisely what we need.

The FISA bill vote was, I believe, political triangulation. But let's bear in mind that Obama literally comes from the University of Chicago. Sure, he taught law there, but he talked to the economics department quite consistently. There was a great NY Times Magazine about a month and a half ago, with the chief article titled "Obamanomics". I strongly encourage ALL of you to google and read this article - it'll take you an hour to read.

I'd be very concerned about the U of Chicago influence on Obama. Those Friedmanites have had their way with our country and world for over 4 decades now, and the results have not been pleasant. I'm very cheered, however, that Obama seems to have a solid and genuine focus on updating our infrastructure, not only our highway system, but more importantly our power grid. Everyone who reads about the issues knows that oil is on the way out, all rhetoric aside, that drilling isn't going to do shit, and that ethanol... that way lies madness (although the ethanol lobby should become, and remain, very powerful for decades, based on corn production in Iowa and elsewhere. And yes, Obama is in the domestic ethanol industry's pocket. Note his endorsement of corn-based ethanol, with a 2:1 energy yield, as opposed to Brazilian sugar-based ethanol, at a much cheaper 6:1 yield - that is, energy output units for every unit invested). But solar, nuclear, and wind are the way of the future, which poses challenges or our outdated energy grid - remember those rockin' blackouts, a few years ago? Expect way more of those - and Obama understands the importance of not only upgrading the grid, but also, I hope would, protecting the domestic wind/solar/nuclear industries, I would hope. He seems to... we'll see.

Obama also seems to understand that the financial regulatory system of the New Deal is necessary and called for. It certainly is. And I feel he will push for a reinstitution of these regulations.

But on the whole, I would expect Clinton administration II from Obama, not really the change we need but perhaps less overt barbarism than a Republican administration. Certainly we might well have been better off under Edwards, or, you know, the unelectable Dennis Kucinich, who fucking actually gets it, who understands that the "free market" isn't just just because it has the word "free" in it.

In short, I believe Obama genuinely is a centrist/rightist, not the liberal that his foes AND supporters make him out to be. Another nurse coming in to administer a bandage to the bleeding patient who have been hacked to death by Drs. Reagan, H. W. Bush and W. Bush. Not the solution we need to remain the world's economic engine and chief world power, but certainly better than additional hacking and slashing of our nation.

RECOMMENDED READING: The "Obamanomics" article in the NY Times Magazine. Also, a while array of literature on Milton Freidman's monetarist/U. of Chicago teachings vs. Keynesian thought. Just google that shit! A good (if emotional) place to start to is Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. Everyone should read this book! There are problems with it, structurally, that make it open to attack by rightist critics, but it really is an eye opener and a fairly good documentation of why "totally free" markets are completely fucked. But hey, for a totally different point of view, go to and check out the well-educated (but, in my opinion, pretty off base) libertarian POV there.

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