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Still Waiting For Obama’s 2nd Term Liberal Paradise (And My Rainbow-Unicorn Pony)

May 6, 2013

Here we are, 106 days into President Obama’s second term. If Republican warnings were correct, we should find ourselves well on the way to some sort of socialist mecca right about now. Let’s check in on that.

Hmm…this doesn’t look a lot like rainbow-sprinkled liberal sunshine:

  • Obama started off his second term by tapping John Brennan to head the CIA. This is a man too controversial for confirmation in 2008, due to his role as a high-ranking CIA official at a time when the agency was getting busy with the water-boarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques”.  As such, he was unpalatable to a party and base eager to put the Bush years of caustic war and aggressive foreign policy behind us. But that was four years ago! Now that we’re all apparently down with the droning to death of terrorists, would-be terrorists, kinda-look-like-they-could-be terrorists, and innocent civilians alike, Brennan is a go.
  • Then the same Barack Obama who told us in 2008 that he would never endorse either a raise in the retirement age or cuts in the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security first floated the idea of an age increase, and then finally settled on a full-force endorsement of ‘chained CPI’ (that’s Social Security benefit cuts through a reduction in the cost-of-living adjustment,to you and me.) In fact, this is one of those times we can be thankful for GOP intransigence — as it may be the only thing saving us from this awful policy. (Which, I hasten to point out, is definitely not a progressive dream come true.)
  • The President continues to lend credence to Republican calls for spending cuts; actually crowing about the rapidly decreasing deficit at a time when the sequester is causing serious harm to the wimpy recovery which we see benefiting no one but the wealthy. But whatever, who cares about a little thing like economic inequality when there are so many other progressive priorities to promote?
  • Priorities like, say, advancing actual net neutrality and insuring that the public interest is protected in the telecommunications industry? Yes. That’s a good one. Too bad Obama has chosen to nominate Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the wireless and cable companies, to the FCC. This, despite the fact that he has no actual policy expertise, and there were several female candidates (no woman has ever headed the FCC)  who were better qualified, and who did not have the conflict of interest inherent in having represented  two different industry lobbying groups. Of course, they were also not large campaign contributors like Wheeler was, so there is that.
  • Most recently, Obama has nominated yet another person who couldn’t pass muster with his base just four short years ago. Penny Pritzker, Hyatt Hotels heir and another large campaign contributor, has been nominated to head the Commerce Department. It’s no secret that Obama has received political support from Labor based more on how bad things could be under a Republican president, rather than on the commitment Obama has shown to the Labor cause. Still, as part of the infamous Hyatt hotel chain, Labor opposition to Pritzker was a key factor in her abandoned nomination to Commerce in 2008.

Back then, Pritzker could plausibly say that she wasn’t involved in the day to day operations of Hyatt, and so wasn’t responsible for their appalling treatment of workers or their anti-union ways. Thing is, since that time she has been named to the Chicago school board:

Since that near-nomination, Chicago’s new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, chose Penny Pritzker to join the mayor-appointed school board—a body, as I’ve been documenting here, that has fanatically devoted to breaking the Chicago Teachers Union, and turning over the system to charter school operators. Their excuse has been the school system’s alleged $500 million deficit. Which is where Penny comes in. For while the city’s budget for schools is alleged to be bare, the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) fund, a slush pile for rich developers, carries a surplus of at least $500 million. What does this have to do with Penny Pritzker? Well, as it happens, on my very street, she is building a Hyatt financed with $5.2 million in TIF funds. As the Chicago Teachers Union points out, the TIF fund is controlled personally by the mayor; members of the school board (from which Pritzker recently resigned ahead of her Commerce appointment), overwhelmingly his rich campaign backers, are personally appointed by the mayor; and nothing’s keeping them from leaning on the mayor to tap the TIF surplus to plug the school deficit—except the fact that this very deficit is the rhetorical foundation for all the things they’re doing to weaken the union. All in all, Penny Pritzker’s relationship with labor has become exponentially worse since her near-nomination in 2008. (Rick Perlstein – The Nation – emphasis mine)


I’m just going to close my eyes… when I open them I hope to find this was all just a bad dream…There will be ponies, and rainbows, and economic equality; pots of gold, moonbeams, and public financing of campaigns; soft fluffy clouds, mermaids, and a renewed commitment to quality public schools, and fair immigration policy, and equal pay for women, and universal healthcare, and child care, and happy, well-adjusted veterans, and, and…

Aww, drat.

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