Galbraith on Obama: For the rest of his life, the eyes of the old, the poor, the jobless, whose hopes he once raised, will follow him everywhere

This analysis of the current situation is strongly critical, to be sure, but also wonderfully well written. You can click to get the full point; it’s along these lines (h/t reader MG1 via email):

The President is not a progressive – he is not what Americans still call a “liberal.” He is a willful player in an epic drama of faux-politics, an operative for the money power, whose job is to neutralize the left with fear and distraction and then to pivot rightward and deliver a conservative result … a long-term lock-in of domestic spending cuts, and a path toward severe cuts in the core New Deal and Great Society insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And, of course, no tax increases at all.

This is Professor James Galbraith, so the details are well mustered. “What Barack Obama got from the debt deal was exactly what his sponsors have wanted” — and he explains in full. There’s a lot in this essay, and it’s worth a full read.

But I want to leave you with his exceptional ending. I think it’s under-estimated how much it matters to men like Obama that they get their families to the next level of society — how much it matters that they enter the aristocratic elite and bring their children with them.

Think of Bill Clinton — he comes from a back-water town, and through really hard work (and exceptional talent) gets his daughter into Sidwell Friends School, where the elite are prepared to be the elite. Next thing he knows, she marries well and works at a big-time hedge fund and venture capitalism shop. The next generation of the family is secure; they’ll all be yachting with princes (so to speak) for a long time to come.

Obama’s on that path, at least as far as the Sidwell Friends School part is concerned. And he certainly loves his family. But will he be loved himself in his retirement? Certainly many in the black community will consider him a saint, for obvious (and good) reasons.

But liberals? Progressives? Anyone with half a mind who knows what an FDR-opportunity, in a world-historical JFK-moment, was thrown away? Will the youth who were shagged in 2008 ever vote again in such numbers, with such enthusiasm and (yes) hopefulness? What about the ex-middle class, fallen from grace without a safety net (or golden parachute) of their own?

Here’s Galbraith on Obama’s post-presidential future:

[O]ur presidencies are short. The professors who joined Obama for his opening act have already gone home. The advisers who remain face dreary futures in think-tanks funded by the likes of Michael Milken, our premier financial ex-felon.

Maybe, if they are especially loyal to their true masters, then like the former budget director Peter Orszag they can go to work for a bank. This surely accounts in part for their present actions.

And the President too is a young man. Unlike say Lyndon B. Johnson or Jimmy Carter, when his term ends he won’t be able simply to go home. He’ll need a big house in a gated suburb, with high walls and rich friends. And a good income, too, from book deals and lecture fees. He may be thinking about that now. …

[But] it won’t save him. For if and when he ventures out, for the rest of his life, the eyes of all those, whose hopes he once raised will follow him. The old, the poor, the jobless, the homeless: their eyes will follow him wherever he goes.

Amen, brother.

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • MoeizW

    “Certainly the black community will consider him a saint, for obvious (and good) reasons.
    But liberals? Progressives? Anyone with half a mind who knows what an FDR-opportunity, in a world-historical JFK-moment, was thrown away?”

    Because blacks and “anyone with half a mind” are mutually exclusive? Let me offer a report from within the black community and add it to this two-year-old article (Thanks, Yves!):

    African-Americans over the age of 50? Almost total fealty to Obama – no criticism allowed.
    African-Americans between 30-50? “Well, he had a lot on his plate, what do you expect?”
    African-Americans between 18-30? Split between “He didn’t do shit for blacks” and the know-nothings who think he’s kewl.

    I think most African-Americans can only come to grips once he’s out of office and the vile nature of the opposition can pick up its’ mask again. His record is clear – you can’t blame Tim Geithner and Larry Summers on Republican obstructionism.

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