Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama’s Shock(er) Doctrine

Obama’s Shock(er) Doctrine
January 16, 2009

Category: 2008 election, Barack Obama, Congress, Democrats, George W. Bush, Republicans, blogosphere, corporatism, credit, credit card, disaster, downturn, economy, openness, outsourcing, progressivism, stupid things I read on the Internets, technology

Despite the best effort of David “Diapers” Vitter, the Senate voted to release the second half of the allocated bailout money for President-elect Obama’s usage when he takes office. At the same time, Obama’s team has released their draft of the much-ballyhooed economic stimulus package designed to jolt our economy back into at least a semblance of life.

The problem is that, well, the stimulus package isn’t very stimulating at all. In fact, it’s quite stingy and extremely lowballed (Only $6 billion for improving our broadband Internet infrastructure? Please!). I am at a loss as to why Obama and his team went so low-rent on this when they had the political capital–and the high-minded rhetoric–to be so much more innovative.

What this essentially means is that unless Obama and company commit to using the remaining $350 billion of the TARP funds for more infrastructure spending and direct aid to beleagured states (like California, which may go bankrupt without direct, guaranteed injections of capital), Obama’s stimulus plan is going to, at best, help us limp back to where we were prior to the ravaging of our economy by the Bush regime. At worst, it’s a band-aid on cancer–a temporary fix that does nothing to solve the long-term, fundamental flaws of our country. We need heavy alternative energy investment, modernized roads and bridges, and a total commitment to expanding Internet access for every American. This certainly is better than nothing, but it just doesn’t match Obama’s inspiring speeches.

Worse, with megabanks like Bank of America already banging at the doors to be given more money to fatten their golden calves (literally, in BoA’s case–they’re trying to digest Merrill Lynch), the possibility exists that Obama’s team will simply let the remaining billions be siphoned off to banks to keep them from crumbling due to their own malfeasance, while forcing states, local governments, national agencies, and private innovators to make do with table scraps. Obama’s calls for urgent, immediate aid are, to me, echoes of the exact same rhetoric Bush used just a few months ago. It’s pure shock doctrine–using the invocation of looming disaster to scuttle any potential oversight.

We can’t let that happen again, particularly when the guy who’s going to be in charge of managing these funds can’t figure out how to pay his own taxes.

Then again, there are encouraging signs–the guy who, by all accounts, is really in charge of the Obama economic platform, Mr. Larry Summers himself, has publicly committed to enacting much stricter oversight provisions for the use of the second half of the bailout money. Chris Bowers at OpenLeft is launching a push to get Senator Chris Dodd to commit to introducing even stronger oversight provisions in the Senate. And SEIU is taking on Bank of America in an effort to drive attention and awareness to how this megabank is demanding even more of your taxpayer dollars to make itself richer–while cutting back your credit lines and raising your interest rates, I might add.

If you thought we wouldn’t have to fight these fights when Obama was elected and it would all be magically better, you were fooling yourself. Obama is a technocratic centrist whose primary purpose is to restore America’s faith in existing systems. He is bringing change, yes, but it’s as much of a change back a it is a path forward. I knew that going in, and I knew it would still be better than the alternative.

But fearmongering is fearmongering, and we can’t let any President–even the ones we like–use unfettered power to dole out billions to banks who don’t deserve to exist, while refusing to even address our long-term development in a serious manner. Otherwise, we’ll all be in for a rather painful shock when we find out our problems are worse than ever.

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