Obama 2006—”Too many of us have been interested in defending programs as written in 1938″

Obama means the safety net programs, as the following speech makes clear.

This is Obama’s 2006 speech at the launch of the Brooking Institute’s “Hamilton Project” — a NeoLiberal “think tank” created by Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary, and former Treasury deputy secretary Roger Altman. Obama addresses them as “Bob” and “Roger” at the start.

As Politico put it in 2010:

The [Hamilton Project’s] research, so far, would be familiar to students of the first Clinton administration: creative, wonky proposals for softening the impact of globalization without interfering with international trade, most of them crafted with an eye to fiscal austerity and a balanced budget.

The stuff of Clintonion NeoLiberal dreams.

On launch day, enter soon-to-be–presidential candidate Barack Obama to the Robert Rubin–Roger Altman chambers. Remember, Rubin and Altman were Bill Clinton Bigs. Obama felt very much at home in this chamber, with these ideas. Very one of them.

You could call this Obama’s NeoLiberal Manifesto. Watch and see if I’m wrong. It’s not long, it touches most of the bases, and tells you all you need to know about how Barack Obama would govern. (Points if you hear footsteps of 2013 as well.)

Notice his sense of talking with them as equals; he’s not at all put off by the roomful of potential Hillary backers, not at all deferential.

A couple of pull-quotes:

“The forces of globalization have changed the rules of the game.”

“The coming baby boomer retirement will only add to the challenges.”

“Too many of us [on the left] have been interested in defending programs the way they were written in 1938[.]”

“Most of us are strong free-traders.”

And that in just the first few minutes or so. Do listen to the end.

Four small notes from my perspective:

■ The minute he says “I think there is a broad consensus” [3:10] — he’s selling, not describing. If you listen to what follows as a sales pitch trying to make a wish into a fact, he makes perfect sense.

This is the entire NeoLiberal lie — that these are not discretionary decisions about the future, but done-deal descriptions of the present or past.

■ At about 5:00, he talks about stealing ideas from those in the Project. Sounds like fair warning to me.

■ It also sounds like he knows he’s going to run for president. Maybe that’s just me, but listen to the tone. Can you hear the present president in this newly-hatched senator? I can.

■ Note the education point he makes at the end — it accepts the Clintonian lie, that we can somehow over-educate ourselves into what jobs are left behind. Think that through; it’s patently absurd that a Master’s degree will make you more competitive as you man the Fries-With-That Burgerville cash register.

Obama’s quibble is that they should take that lie more seriously — by attempting to actually implement it. A nit, but his own. Everybody has one.

A tip of the hat to Tiny Revolution for the find; well done.

For more on what anyone with eyes could have seen about Obama in 2006, try this. If it weren’t for a certain poster, and a certain soul-vid, we may have seen him differently. Or not.

Obama’s NeoLiberal Manifesto, ladies and gentlemen; archived for your edification.


(To follow on Twitter or to send links: @Gaius_Publius)

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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