By Linda Winsh-Bolard
Barack Obama 2008 presidential election ran on “Change." As Hillary Clinton said during the election: “Look at us. We don’t look the same, we are not the same (as the previous presidents).” She should have spoken only for herself.
Examination of Barack Obama’s campaign promises might prove to be as embarrassing as the gaffes of the Republicans in the current primaries. I expect that some small, unintentional promises were kept but all major, system affecting ones were not.
Barack Obama continues practically all Republican policies earning a grudging recognition of conservative thinks tanks for his foreign policy tanks that noted that he continues all Bush policies.
These policies include war for oil that run the military spending through the roof. USA currently spends 47% of its budget on “defense”. When the USSR collapsed, her military budget was 50%.
Libya has the largest oil reserve in Africa and the eighth largest in the world.
USA entered a third war for oil in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi did not sell any oil to US. We bombed Gaddafi to his death while our oil corporations were waiting with paperwork and pens ready to get oil leases. Predictably, it was expensive and drove the gas prices up, just as wars on Iraq, Saddam Hussein also did not sell oil to USA, and Afghanistan, which has huge natural gas reserve, did.
Barack Obama cut food stamps and energy help for the poor to offset the cost.
Guantanamo is still in operation despite the international embarrassment caused by imprisoning innocent British citizens who claimed to be tortured there for years.
All the banks, and all their executives, are free, many have joined Obama’s government but Elizabeth Warren is gone and with her any meaningful financial market reform has gone as well. Hedge funds were excluded from the reform anyway because presidential kids, Bush and Clinton’s, live off the profits.
This year banks have posted the largest profits in the last 5 years. Bonuses are abundant, taxes are not. Bank of America, for example, paid no taxes in 2009 and 2010 but spent millions of taxpayer’s funded bailout on bonuses for people who caused the economic meltdown. Their “tax benefit” was nearly one billion in 2010 alone.
Barack Obama kept Bush tax cuts for the rich, and all the corporate loopholes, despite the cost. The tax cuts alone are losing the Treasury 770 billion. USA became a country where taxes regress with income, the more you have, the less your percentile tax. It turns out that IRS is also not collecting due taxes. Under reported income by individual business costs $110 billion in taxes each year, according to IRS estimates. The uncollected taxes were more than the entire deficit in 2001.
To offset these loses, the unemployed tax relief was discontinued. We have, after all, about 17 million unemployed, far more than we have super rich.
The Big Auto.
Then there was the auto industry bailout. The CEOs kept their private jets, cut pensions and doubled the prices of new vehicles while the president helped to raise prices of used cars with his “clunker program”. The program rewarded mostly wealthy by giving them $3,500 for still running older SUV when they bought a new one. The difference in price between a used car and a new one is now about $2,000 spiking new robbers in used car trade.
The “revised” pay for automotive workers is just about half of the old one.
Obama gave as many deep sea drilling permits, with no new safety requirements, after the BP disaster as Bush did before it. Consequently, oil companies post record profits, keep their subsidies, pay little or no taxes and hike prices beyond the limit.
Americans cut on gas consumption only to see the largest amount of oil exported out of the country.
The lynchpin of the “change” was the health care reform.
Health care reform that became a farce.
Barack Obama promised universal health care. Within months of taking office, this promise was discarded to accommodate what seem to be this Administration aim: better healthcare for public employees. Some privately employed workers also benefit by default.
Working health care systems around the world charge the population progressively based on income. Barack Obama’s health care insurance charges progressively based on age and condition. Paradoxically, a disabled person is required to purchase $12,000 health insurance policy while federal disability ceases all payments to person whose income is above $18,000 a year. People with pre-existing conditions are to pay $8,000 a year. Forty years old, healthy, with $30,000 income, is to pay $3,000 before any subsidy might be applied.
On the plus side, all employees covered by their employer plans no longer have a life limit on their care and can keep their kids on their policies until they are one days short the age of 27. Those kids can even have kids on their parents’ policies. Majority of this coverage applies to public employees and their kids. These are natural supporters of Democratic Party and Barack Obama made their life substantially easier. ERISA does not apply to federal employees, so effectively, those in public employment can sue for any treatment at any price, and receive unlimited benefits.
This European type of care comes at very reasonable price to public employees, between 1/10 and 1/5 of the current rate for private person, depending of what is purchased.
The rest of us can’t sue our health care insurer, nor have we any power over the constantly rising rates. Within the 1,300 pages of the health care reform is buried a small item promising that the rates of any privately purchased health care insurance would never be less than what the market charge. Consequently, this “universal health care” starts with leaving 20 million uninsured behind. Medicaid, to be available to all “poor”, removes age requirement but not destitution. I mean destitution, as of having nothing at all to become eligible. Elderly persons wishing to combine Medicare and Medicaid should know that after they are gone, the government will seize all their property to recover the cost of Medicaid.
No price control on care, rates or medications is part of this “reform”. Barack Obama even rescinded the promise of imported, much cheaper drugs. The price of health care rises three times faster than inflation. Families often face health care insurance premiums higher than their mortgage. I don’t see any change in this despite yapping about “exchanges”. Health care exchanges really provide only comparison of prices and services.
For the first time since 1973 women face governmental intrusion into their health care on a scale that makes the rest of developed world gasp. Denying part of health care based on ideology, contraceptives, is a handy opening for health insurance corporations and health care providers to cut the health care to the bone. If some health care can be denied, than other treatments can be cut as well.
Meanwhile health insurances profits rise. In 2010 Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means health subcommittee said "On average, your profits (health insurances) have gone up 41 percent from last year.”. According to Forbes 500 UnitedHealth had 28.4% increase in profits over the past 2 years, WellPoint 90.5%, Humana a nearly 61%, Cigna’s nearly 346%. Drug companies also do remarkably well; Johnsons and Johnson posted over 12 billion profits in 2010. Hospitals are shy to admit profit. Yet, according to Forbes, Flowers hospital, Dothan, Ala. made $389 million net profit. The hospital for-profit owner is Community Health Systems, Brentwood, Tenn. with 53% operating margin; it is not alone in doing really well on your pain. They might do even better when health care insurance is mandated.
Newt Gingrich pushed the same health care mandates that the Republican Party now so hotly disputes in 1993 and 2005.installed the mandates in Massachusetts. Mandates deliver profits to health care insurance by forcing people to buy their product with no competitions or price control. Gingrich pushed mandates under the disguise of hate for “freeloading”; he demanded that everyone participates in cost sharing. The same rhetoric is now used by Obama’s Administration. It seems likely that Republicans oppose Democratic President, not mandates.
Republicans are now saying that they would not have bailed “Detroit”; yet Republicans passed the extremely expensive bank bailout, cost over trillion by now, that resulted in concentration of all financial power among five large banks, owners are all white, Republican and in stud book.
Bank bailout did not even provide the meager jobs that auto industry’s does. Indeed, Bank of America fired thousands of low wage workers since, although the pay on top keeps growing.
Republicans looks after corporations, it’s likely their actions would be similar to Obama’s.
The minimal mortgage “help” that Obama Administration pushes, while irritating to all responsible home owners and buyers, probably changed little. Banks keep large stock of properties because their financial security is now backed by federal government. Banks don’t need to sell at low prices to people, they sell to speculators. Single family houses now cost nearly twice what they cost in 2000, while wages are, at the best, stagnant. Of course, many families have half of the income they had 12 years ago.
Growth for us and for them.
Despite recent ‘growth” and fall in unemployment, many of us realize that the “growth” is mostly on Wall Street and unemployment fell because we do not count people who fell of the unemployment rolls as “unemployed” even if they have no work. We also don’t see low wages, part time and temporary jobs as any different from full time, living wage work. Not a single unemployed person I know have found a job. All have university degrees, many also postgraduate. Some are unemployed since 2008.
Part of this problem is the prevalent nepotism. Governments have little control over private hiring but should exercise control in public employment hiring. None does. Both parties use public service as place where to park their helpers, giving them titles, pay, benefits and pension comparable with private corporate CEOs. In exchange , government close its governmental eyes to nepotism ruling in hiring for all posts, however small.
Federal, state, county and city’s budgets now groan under the burden of public pensions, pay and benefits. Universities hike tuitions beyond the means of majority of population to accommodate the astounding cost of their administrations.
Obama did nothing to change this. I doubt any Republican would do better. UC Berkeley, for example, hired both, Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in Clinton’s Administration, and, Deputy Assistant Attorney General and author of “torture is allowed” in Bush’s administration. Both were tenured with remarkable speed. Top administrators at UC quadrupled their own pay while also quadrupling the tuitions. I expect that they see this as fair exchange of favors.
Any discussion of change is always about future hires; the people not responsible for this financial mess but already burdened by student loans, overpriced housing and inflation. Current employees intend to keep their benefits under all systems.
The cost is passed to taxpayers. At the moment, the unholy alliance of politicians, corporations and public employees is squeezing every penny out of the economy leaving about 75% of Americans in lurch. Hundred million Americans earned less than $40,000 in 2010. That is 66%. Contrast it with the 72 Americans who earned 6 billions. Less than 2 million earned between $201,000 and million, about 13,2%. We have 13,6% public employees.
Is Obama going to change this? I doubt it. Obama has flexible spine; it bents to his own profit.
When Barack Obama came to office, Democrats had majority in both houses and the president. They failed to pass any meaningful system change. They also failed to pass any reform that would benefits majority of Americans.
Frankly, my dears, Obama’s biggest asset in this election is The Republican Party. Don’t underestimate their talent to embarrass themselves, provoke voters and look both, uniformed and utterly selfish. Republican’s ability to do all of the above is boundless.
Barack Obama needs to do little but look good in his suit and keep his mouth shut about controversial issues.
How is that for “deserving” anything, re-election incuded?