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The Most Important Economic Speech of His Presidency

Written By: - Date published: 9:20 am, December 10th, 2011 - 40 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, us politics - Tags: ,

Truth-Out content is licensed for redistribution, so I’m going to repost this excellent piece in its entirety. It’s long, but it’s worth it.  I agree with the author about the importance of the speech, though I might have called a post on this “Is Obama going to grow a pair at last?” — r0b

The Most Important Economic Speech of His Presidency
Tuesday 6 December 2011
by: Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog | Op-Ed

The President’s speech today in Osawatomie, Kansas — where Teddy Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech in 1910 — is the most important economic speech of his presidency in terms of connecting the dots, laying out the reasons behind our economic and political crises, and asserting a willingness to take on the powerful and the privileged that have gamed the system to their advantage.

Here are the highlights (and, if you’ll pardon me, my annotations):

    For most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefitted from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

He’s absolutely right – and it’s the first time he or any other president has clearly stated the long-term structural problem that’s been widening the gap between the very top and everyone else for thirty years – the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity gains.

    For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed.

Exactly. But the first papering over was when large numbers of women went into paid work, starting the in the late 1970s and 1980s, in order to prop up family incomes that were stagnating or dropping because male wages were under siege – from globalization, technological change, and the decline of unions. Only when this coping mechanism was exhausted, and when housing prices started to climb, did Americans shift to credit cards and home equity loans as a means of papering over the new harsh reality of an economy that was working for a minority at the top but not for most of the middle class.

    We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs, homes, and the basic security of millions – innocent, hard-working Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were still left holding the bag.

Precisely – and it’s about time he used the term “wrong” to describe Wall Street’s antics, and the abject failure of regulators (led by Alan Greenspan and the Fed) to stop what was going on. But these “wrongs” were only the proximate cause of the economic crisis. The underlying cause was, as the President said before, the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity.

    Ever since, there has been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness. Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements – from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. And it’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president.

But this isn’t just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.

Right again. It is the defining issue of our time. But I wish he wouldn’t lump the Tea Party in with the Occupiers. The former hates government; the latter focuses blame on Wall Street and corporate greed – just where the President did a moment ago.

    Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

He might have been a bit stronger here. The “they” who are suffering collective amnesia include many of the privileged and powerful who have gained enormous wealth by using their political muscle to entrench their privilege and power. In other words, it’s not simply or even mainly amnesia. It’s a clear and concerted strategy.

    Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.

Amen.

    In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”

Some background: In 1909, Herbert Croly, a young political philosopher and journalist, argued in his best-selling The Promise of American Life that the large American corporation should be regulated by the nation and directed toward national goals. “The constructive idea behind a policy of the recognition of the semi-monopolistic corporation is, of course, the idea that they can be converted into economic agents…for the national economic interest,” Croly wrote. Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism embraced Croly’s idea.

    For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.

Today, over one hundred years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where the workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100, so that layoffs were too often permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. These changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits – especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.

It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.

Obama is advocating Croly’s proposal that large corporations be regulated for the nation’s good. But he’s updating Croly. The next paragraphs are important.

    Remember that in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history, and what did they get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class – things like education and infrastructure; science and technology; Medicare and Social Security.

Remember that in those years, thanks to some of the same folks who are running Congress now, we had weak regulation and little oversight, and what did that get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity, and denied care to the patients who were sick. Mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford. A financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.

We simply cannot return to this brand of your-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and its future. It doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.

Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top one percent has gone up by more than 250%, to $1.2 million per year. For the top one hundredth of one percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade, the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about six percent.

The very first time the President has emphasized this grotesque trend. Now listen for how he connects this with the deterioration of our economy and democracy:

    This kind of inequality – a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression – hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity – that’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars they made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them – that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.

More fundamentally, this kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise at the very heart of America: that this is the place where you can make it if you try. We tell people that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, hard work can get you into the middle class; and that your children will have the chance to do even better than you. That’s why immigrants from around the world flocked to our shores.

And what it’s done to equal opportunity, and how it’s eroded upward mobility:

    And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class.

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. It flies in the face of everything we stand for.

What should we do about this? Not turn to protectionism or become neo-Luddites. Nor turn to some version of government planning.

    Fortunately, that’s not a future we have to accept. Because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country – a view that’s truer to our history; a vision that’s been embraced by people of both parties for more than two hundred years.

It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society’s problems. It’s a view that says in America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.

So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s economy?

    It starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is, we’ll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages or pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win – and shouldn’t want to win. Those countries don’t have a strong middle-class. They don’t have our standard of living.

In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. …

The fact is, this crisis has left a deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis, and working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house.

I wish the Obama administration had made this a condition for the banks receiving bailouts.

But there’s far more to the speech. Read it in full. It lays out the basis for what could be the platform Obama will run on in 2012 — increasing taxes on the rich, investing in the rest us, requiring corporations and Wall Street banks that reap benefits from being in America create good jobs for Americans, and protecting our democracy from being corrupted by money — a new New Nationalism.

Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008. Since then we’ve had a president who has only reluctantly stood up to the moneyed interests Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin stood up to.

Hopefully Obama will carry this message through 2012, and gain a mandate to use his second term to take on the growing inequities and game-rigging practices that have been undermining the American economy and American democracy for years.

40 comments on “The Most Important Economic Speech of His Presidency”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Obama has certainly named the problem. But the forces aligned against him are immense. In the time of Teddy Roosevelt Conservatives and Liberals could at least agree on what the goal of political life was… the betterment and progress of the nation more or less as a whole.

    And while they may have disagreed on exactly how to achieve that, the real work of politics got done in the country clubs and golf courses where opponents could compromise; to negotiate and horse-trade. Politicians understood that things only got done if you built a broad consensus for them.

    But 30 years of neo-liberal extremism has dismantled not only the social contract, but the political one as well. As Obama states in the speech, Washington is now in a state of permanent grid-lock… nothing significant gets done.

    How can Obama single-handledly break this impasse? The US Constitution explicitly balances the power of Presidency against that of Congress and the Supreme Court…. and both are oburately aligned to the interests of the corporates and wealthy. The sheer impact of the money and power being wielded against Obama compells us to ask … what is the possible circuit-breaker?

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      The sheer impact of the money and power being wielded against Obama compells us to ask … what is the possible circuit-breaker?

      From my point of view in the US, it starts with
      – Getting corporate money out of Washington. For instance, campaign finance reform (public funding of election campaigns, tight caps on donations and strict spending limits).

      – Electoral reform. For instance, increasing the proportionality of their electoral system and taking steps to increase voter participation.

      – Breaking up and regulating the TBTF financial system.

      None of that is ever going to happen IMO. My worry is that there will be a false-flag event and things will actually go the other way in the US.

      • Afewknowthetruth 1.1.1

        Lets face it. When a person most people had never even heard of a year before gets propelled into the top job you know he was put there by the elites to carry out their agenda. (Corporate doantions confirm it.)

        American bankers and corporations have been ‘in love’ with fascism since the 1920s but have had to erode the structure of US society and undermine the constitution gradually.

        They now have the bulk of the American public where they want them -confused, fearful and dependent. High unemployment means military (or private security) recruitment is so much easier than it was. Give a hungry man three square meals a day and a uniform ….

        The next couple of years are going to be rather nasty for most people.

    • Anthony 1.2

      It’s going to be a hard thing to push against because at the same time you have to push against their economic power and idealogical power.

      The good thing is that there are some fairly rigorous critiques being built up of the elegantly simple framework of free market capitalism, so hopefully if they can gain enough agency and form a fairly singular framework that is an alternative to the current one it might have a shot.

      Who knows if it will be too late or not.

      It’s always going to be ideas/people against ideas/capital, at least now there pretty effective ways to get these to a lot of people, it just has to be the right idea – I’m thinking ecological economics etc might have a real shot.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Ahhh, election year, 2012.

    When you examine the detail of Obama’s presidency, including the massive number of drone killings in foreign countries without any oversight or consideration for international law, ongoing trillion dollar support for the bankers while ordinary Americans sink below the poverty line (46M on foodstamps and counting), and the new law just passed allowing for the indefinite detention of any US citizen without charge as a measure of the ‘War on Terror’, I think its safe to say that “change you can hope for” is a long way gone.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      Another measure of the “war on terror” is that fewer people have died in military actions in the last decade than in any prior decade of the last hundred years. Oh look, a change for the better.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        fewer people have died in military actions in the last decade than in any prior decade of the last hundred years.

        Dunno about that, the estimates of increased Iraqi civilian deaths in the years immediately after Iraq was invaded were high. A million plus IIRC. Many of them not due to direct military action, but the ongoing negative effects of US occupation and loss of US control of the structures of Iraqi society.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1

          Yes, it seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? Nonetheless I have found this reported by several different sources within the research community. Debate, of course, continues to rage about methodology, but so far as I can tell there has been no serious rebuttal of the finding. cf: Steven Pinker et al

          • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1.1

            This is forward looking of course, but deep economic, financial and debt crises were a major driver of big wars in the 20th century.

            So Obama is not in the clear yet, even on this count.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.1.1

              I’ve given up trying to figure out what Obama’s administration stands for. This speech is all very well, but what (if anything) are they actually going to do?
              The worst possible president apart from all the other ones?

    • Afewknowthetruth 2.2

      CV

      If all goes according to plan O’bomber will soon be able to say: “I didn’t know any of it was happening. There was a communication breakdown between government departments and the private contractors.”

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1

        Well, that would be the case if the world really worked on the basis of a gigantic secret conspiracy, rather than simply being SNAFU.

        • Afewknowthetruth 2.2.1.1

          The idea that wealthy men would conspire to make themsleves and their associates wealthier does not occur to some people.

  3. Afewknowthetruth 3

    This speech is very much like the ‘hope and change’ bullshit that Obama churned out in order to become president -he is from the Chicago ‘school’ after all.

    Sure, the money-lenders and corporations are in control. They are in control throughout the western world. The breakup of the Rockerfeller Standard Oil empire in the early 1900s was only a temporary setback on the path to near-total control they have now achieved.

    What Obama failed to mention is the underlying reason for the fall in the American standard of living and why the American standard of living must inevitably continue to fall. Well, he couldn’t, could he?

    http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2007/05/peak_oil_in_ame.html

    No need to read the text, just look at the graph.

    Money ain’t comin’ out the ground like it used to.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Money ain’t comin’ out the ground like it used to.

      Energy ain’t coming out of the ground like it used to.

      Money still seems to be flowing out of printing presses and electronic accounts fine however. As you well know (but not many others) the former is critical but the latter is fairly useless.

  4. randal 4

    the world is coming to the end of an era if not an epoch.
    the forces at large are beyond the control of mere mortals.
    that might sound pretentious but wait and see.
    Obama is doing the best he can with a deck that is just about stacked against him, especially the noo noo head republicans who think that money equates to intelligence.

  5. Afewknowthetruth 5

    CV

    Good point.

    I tried to simplify it, rather than going into all the details about how the US was the biggest exporter of oil in the world through the 1930s to the 1960s and still had so much oil left over it could be sold domestically for a few cents a gallon, as the prime energy source for citizens and much of industry.

    Ah, the 1950s, when cars began to resemble Flash Gordon space rockets and fuel economy was the last thing on anybody’s mind.

    Jimmy Carter was the last president to speak honestly about the long term energy situation. (He was even honest about the need to for America to take control of Middle East oil.)

    Since his time the world has been subjected to a series of buffoons, sabotuers and criminals of the highest order as presidents.

    I see that the EU has come up with a new scam to restore confidence in financial systems for a few more months (weeks?), while the in the real world ‘everything turns to custard’.

    There’s no getting round declining Energy Return On Energy Invested whatever the clowns in high office might tell the proles.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      I see that the EU has come up with a new scam to restore confidence in financial systems for a few more months (weeks?)

      Perhaps 1-2 weeks. Probably only days.

      You see, all the big market players already know that these bail out facilities are only ‘optical backstops’, mirages in other words, with very little substantial behind them.

  6. lefty 6

    Typical social democrat.

    Identify the problem then do nothing about it.

    This is why people give up on voting. Only the right have the courage of their convictions.

    Whether its in Greece, Spain the US, the UK or here in NZ social democrats have consistently let their supporters down by talking like socialists and acting like neo liberals.

    They act as a roadblock to the formation of political movements that might challenge the ruling class but won’t do the job themselves.

    They are the biggest contributors to alienation from the voting system and undermine democracy far more than the right who at least have the honesty to talk like bastards and act like bastards.

    Its time for the social democrats like Obama and the Labour/Socialist parties in the developed world to either piss or get off the pot.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      +1

      the 4th Labour Government brought in neo-liberalism which is the cause of the countries problems, The 5th Labour Government did SFA to fix to fix the problems and actually actively supported most of them, and the leadership of Labour over the last three years promised more of the same. The Greens are now following the same path.

      The people who want to make a difference and correct the problems caused by over exploitation have no one to vote for.

    • seeker 6.2

      @lefty

      “Typical social democrat.

      “Identify the problem…….”

      At least an American President has’identified the problem’, and given an articulate and powerful voice to it. Big step. One needs to identify the problem before it can be solved. It is more than a Republican would be able, or prepared, to do.

  7. Oh give me a break.

    Obama is financed and owned by Goldman Sachs, is going to sign the S. 1867 act which will turn the entire US of A into a battlefield allowing the army to arrest anyone, anytime and for as long as they want without a trial and has committed more war crimes than Bush. He is not going to do anything his masters don’t want him to do/ In fact I would go as far as saying that he is a narcissistic teleprompter reading puppet while the committee of five including Hillary Clinton and Panetta rule globally with impunity.

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    The underlying cause was, as the President said before, the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity.

    Wrong, the underlying cause is capitalism. Capitalism will always create poverty and thus collapse.

    It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder.

    Not runs the risk, it’s already been sold.

    Meh, A speech that basically promises to keep doing what we’ve always done.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      Meh, A speech that basically promises to keep doing what we’ve always done.

      The speech itself contains little that hasn’t been said elsewhere; it the fact that the President of the USA who is saying it that makes it … almost remarkable.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        The largest investment banks and corporates have already made sure that Obama has far more money in his 2012 campaign accounts than the 8 Republican candidates put together.

        Obama does good speeches; now what else is he going to do.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.2

        Doesn’t matter WTF said it, it promises not to change the status quo and that’s the bit that needs changing.

  9. Galeandra 9

    Maybe Obama offers a final hope before the radical polarisation and disintegration of the American commonwealth?

    As do others, I see little hope for any resolution of the issues he traverses: the opportunity cost of the last decades is yet to be paid in full, and the resources to remediate things have largely been squandered.
    I think that those perceived to be ‘rich mfos’ may soon need more than gated communities to protect their slice of the Dream.

    Heaven forbid we become similarly polarised in NZ.

    • Afewknowthetruth 9.1

      Gal.

      ‘Maybe Obama offers a final hope’

      Did you read the previos comments?

      The neo-fascists have their man in position, and he is doing exactly what anyone would expect a puppet of Wall St to do.

      What Obama says is largely irrelevant. cf. 2008 “hope and change you can believe in.”

      • Galeandra 9.1.1

        Yes I did read the comments.

        I don’t know anyone who’s happy with Obama (no need to denigrate the man by contortions of wit upon his name) but most are able to differentiate the man from the system, and attribute blame accordingly.

        Andif he fails to make others support his change, well, what was it I wrote in the rest of the sentence?….( you know, the bit you omitted that followed ‘hope’?)

        Downthread posts are on the money.

  10. mike 10

    “Here, finally, is the Barack Obama many of us thought we had elected in 2008.”

    So what exactly happened to that guy? Obama seems to have a special talent for making rousing speeches that hit on exactly what people want to hear – come election time. Pretty words are well and good, but actions speak louder.

    My dear mum was so impressed with Obama when he was elected, as if he was the guy that was going to save the world. I pointed out to her then that he hadn’t actually done anything. I thought even he looked a little embarrassed when he accepted his Nobel peace prize before having done anything.

    I seem to recall him promising very similiar hope and change four years ago. Four business as usual years ago. If he gets re-elected on this populist line and nothing changes, I think hope itself will be declared dead in the US.

    This will be a fascinating election for sure. If he’s serious about doing something to fix these problems, he will face very powerful forces against him. If he’s not, if won’t matter much whether the Americans pick the psychopath from the blue team, or the psychopath from the red team.

    • RedLogix 10.1

      Yes the Obama Administration has fallen WAY short of the man’s rhetoric.

      At the same time Obama’s entire Presidency has been blighted, initially by the 2008 fiscal crisis, and then by a Congress unhinged in it’s opposition to him. Even so in the first two years significant health-care reforms were achieved despite a HUGE politial battle that consumed immense amounts of political capital and good will.

      But in the aftermath of that the American public elected a Congress dominated by an insane GOP Party that has not only rejected every possible opportunity for bi-partisanship, but sought at all times to destroy the Obama Presidency. Even to the point of failing to confirm routine senior public service appointments.

      The Republicans have made it virtually impossible for Obama to achieve anything. Their behaviour is unprecendented in all US history; at times bordering on the traitorous. (Consider their attempt to bankrupt the Federal govt by threatening to not vote for a routine increase of the debt ceiling limit.)

      I doubt any President has faced not only such challenging times globally…but certainly none who have had to contend with such a hostile, rejectionist political environment… utterly determined to destroy him regardless almost of the cost… even to the nation.

      • mike 10.1.1

        Yes I agree Red, that’s the narrative that has come out, of a president who can’t pass anything legislation because congress quashes it just because it can. If it’s true it’s borderline traitorous as you say. Not that I have any good reason to doubt it, we just have no real way of knowing what on Earth is really going on there.

        People will say though, “He promised the same change we could believe in in 2008, why should we believe it now?” (Though it’s probably not enough for his supporters to switch their vote to the Republican insanity.) I’m glad he’s saying it, I’m just saying that talk is cheap.

        He’s also up against the Fox news propaganda machine, look for them to amp up the hate coverage to unprecedented levels this year.

        • mike 10.1.1.1

          Also, like most Obama speeches, I see a lot of “Just like you America, I don’t like x, y, and z. What I do like is American ideals and values a, b, and c. In my vision of America blah blah blah” But no concrete pledges or ideas about what exactly he intends to do.

      • Draco T Bastard 10.1.2

        The Republicans have made it virtually impossible for Obama to achieve anything. Their behaviour is unprecendented in all US history; at times bordering on the traitorous.

        And people wonder why I’m so against having a bicameral parliament.

  11. Afewknowthetruth 11

    Derrick Jensen ‘nailed it’ when he said: ‘Hope is the problem.’

    I hope global corporations are not going to log more of the last remaining tropical jungles.

    I hope BP doesn’t start drilling in the Arctic.

    I hope deep-sea trawlers aren’t going to overfish the last of the fish stocks.

    I hope governments decide to do something about global warming.

    Hope is one of the greatest obstacles to personal action ….. especially when you are hoping someone else will do something.

  12. randal 12

    see whether you like him or not, or his party, or his achievements he is the best we have got and he doesn’t fix parking tickets.
    the world is changing faster than mortgage rates and someone has to be at the helm and BO is it and a million times better than the republican party grotesques.

  13. Roy 13

    I wish Obama’s speechwriter would run for the Presidency. He seems like a cool guy.

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    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Families need more money to reduce child poverty
    Prime Minister John Key is mistaken to rule out extending the In Work Tax Credit to all poor children (The Nation 11th Oct) and Child Poverty Action Group challenges government advisors to come up with a more cost effective way...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Kelly Ellis – Don’t shit on my dream
    Once were dreamers. A large man, walks down the road and, even from 200 yards there’s light showing between his big arms and bigger body. It’s as if he’s put tennis balls under his arms. Two parking wardens walk out...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Labour and ‘special interests’
    The media narrative of Labour is that it is unpopular because it’s controlled by ‘special interests’. This ‘special interests’ garbage is code for gays, Maoris, wimin and unionists. We should show that argument the contempt it deserves. The next Labour...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Ru...
    . . Continued from: Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi) . National’s housing development project: ‘Gateway’ to confusion . Perhaps nothing better illustrates National’s lack of a coherent housing programme than the ‘circus’ that is...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Here’s what WINZ are patronisingly saying to people on welfare when they ...
    Yesterday, a case manager from WINZ called to tell me that I needed to “imagine what I would do if I did not have welfare”. I replied “Well, I guess if I couldn’t live at home, I would be homeless.”...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • David Shearer’s ‘no feminist chicks’ mentality highlights all that is...
    Mr Nasty pays a visit Shearer’s extraordinary outburst last night on NZs favourite redneck TV, The Paul Henry Show, is a reminder of all that is wrong within the Labour Caucus right now… He said the current calls for a female or...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Greenpeace 1 – Shell 0
    Greenpeace 1 – Shell 0...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Kate Davis – A Tale Of Two Cities
    Sunday was surreal. I went for a drive and ended up in a different country. It wasn’t intentional but those days of too many literally intertextual references seldom are. There is no doubt that the Sunday drive this week had...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Key raises terror threat level to justify war in Iraq and now the SIS need ...
    Have we learned nothing from rushing into war? It’s embarrassing Key has raised our terror threat from ‘very low’ to ‘low’ so he can justify military action in Iraq. Watching him pimp for an American war is as sick as...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Socialism? in France; Austerity in Europe
    On Sunday I stumbled upon this recent New York Times column The Fall of France by Paul Krugman. Then I caught BBC’s Newsnight interview with France’s ‘Socialist’ Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Krugman notes that the Socialists came to power on an anti-austerity mandate, but completely squandered their opportunity...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • So Snowden and Greenwald were right – again – NZ Embassies spying for A...
    Well, well, well. What do we have here… NZ embassies involved in covert intelligence work for US – reportsNew Zealand’s embassies have been involved in covert intelligence gathering work on behalf of the United States, a fresh batch of classified...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Curwen Rolinson – Why David Parker *isn’t* a credible choic...
    The one electoral contest this year that a Labour leader is sure to win heated up over the weekend with the late entry of Finance Spokesman (and interim caretaker leader) David Parker into Labour’s leadership race. I’d blogged late last...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Fran O’Sullivan’s extraordinary column
    Note how the carefully constructed flow chart above ignores the mainstream media’s complicity with Slater and Dirty Politics    I am no fan of Fran O’Sullivan’s politics and would argue long into the day against her on many of the...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Final salute to Cunliffe
    Final salute to Cunliffe...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • David Cunliffe’s statement
    I am today announcing that I have decided not to nominate for the 2014 Labour Party leadership contest. It has been a hard decision to make but it is one that I believe is in the best interests of the...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Cunliffe to quit leadership race – the losers are the Labour Party member...
    That’s all folks   And so ends the first ever Labour Party member/affiliates choice for leadership. David Cunliffe is standing down at 2pm and is supporting Andrew Little instead. What a perverse turn of events. Cunliffe was punished by an angry Labour leadership forced...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Want to see new Nu Zilind? Read the comments section of Andrea Vance’s co...
    Andrea Vance is no stooge. She is one of the few mainstream media voices who has challenged power and authority, her latest column on the outrageous attempts by Key to use fear mongering to  spook the sleepy hobbits into war...
    The Daily Blog | 12-10
  • Humanity calling Government – anyone with empathy home?
    On Friday night groups of Invercargill activists and plain ole people who care took part in the 14 Hours Homeless event – sleeping out in the balmy southern climate on cardboard and couches at our Salvation Army Citadel. It’s a...
    The Daily Blog | 12-10
  • Labour, leadership and White blokes
    David Shearer said on TV3’s The Nation this weekend that he appreciated the support Labour’s received from Maori and Pacific communities over the last few elections, but that it was important to again, secure the votes of ordinary white blokes...
    The Daily Blog | 12-10
  • Wrong priorities in media coverage of Ebola crisis
    The experts have told us that there is very little likelihood of a serious Ebola outbreak in any Western nation – unless the virus changes so that it can be spread through the air rather than just via bodily fluids....
    The Daily Blog | 12-10
  • John Key uses the same old warmongering recipe
    Less than three weeks after the election Prime Minister John Key wants New Zealand to join a war in the Middle East and extend the powers of our US-focused spy agencies the SIS (Security Intelligence Service) and the GCSB (Government...
    The Daily Blog | 12-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Anjum Rahman – shifting focus: towards building an effective ...
    It has now been three weeks since the election, and we on the left are still in the phase of trying to figure out what went wrong.  That can be a useful exercise depending on how it’s done, especially if...
    The Daily Blog | 11-10
  • iPredict New Zealand Weekly Economic & Political Update
    Andrew Little’s probability of being the next leader of the Labour Party has reached 70% and Jacinda Ardern is favourite to become his deputy, according to the combined wisdom of the 8000+ registered traders on New Zealand’s predictions market, iPredict....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Prison Drug Treatment Unit marks a milestone
    Christchurch Men’s Prison’s Drug Treatment Unit (DTU) celebrated the completion of its 50th six month Drug and Alcohol Programme today, with the graduation of a further twelve offenders....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Security Council seat a chance for NZ to empower women
    The UN Women National Committee Aotearoa New Zealand (UN Women NCANZ) welcomes New Zealand winning a seat on the United Nations Security Council and is calling on New Zealand to use its position to proactively promote effective implementation of the...
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Waipareira and ACC sign Partnership
    Waipareira and The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Whanau Centre, Henderson – marking a special day for the West Auckland Urban Maori organisation....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Humanitarian aid desperately needed in Iraq and Syria
    Global Peace and Justice Auckland is calling on the government to provide humanitarian funding for non-aligned NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in the Middle East rather than give any support whatever for the US-led military campaign in the area....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Court Judicial Decision: Dotcom v The USA: 17 October 2014
    The United States of America is seeking the extradition of Messrs Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann and Van Der Kolk. The matter has been before the Courts on numerous occasions, and no further recitation of the facts is needed....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Marshall Island poet speaks at UN climate summit
    “The fossil fuel industry is the biggest threat to our very existence as Pacific Islanders. We stand to lose our homes, our communities and our culture. But we are fighting back. This coming Friday thirty Pacific Climate Warriors, joined by...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Many tourist car accidents preventable
    Simple steps could dramatically reduce the number of accidents involving tourists, says the car review website dogandlemon.com ....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • RainbowYOUTH: 25 Years, 25 More
    In 1989, a group of young people in Auckland got together to form a support group for LGBTIQ youth. They called it Auckland Lesbian And Gay Youth (ALGY). After 25 years, several location changes, a name change, a brand reboot...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Outdated Oath shows need for Kiwi Head of State
    MPs are sworn in today and New Zealand Republic has written to MPs asking them to talk about why 121 New Zealanders elected by the people of New Zealand and standing in the New Zealand Parliament swear allegiance to another...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Council shouldn’t revenue grab from windfall valuations
    Auckland Council should state clearly they will not try and capture revenue as a result of the latest valuations and needs reminding that the City’s skyrocketing property values doesn’t change the level or cost of Council’s services, says...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • EPMU endorses Andrew Little for Labour leadership
    The National Executive of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union unanimously endorsed Andrew Little for the role of Labour leader, at a meeting held yesterday. “I have been speaking to our workplace delegates at forums across the country over...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • World Food Day promotes Agroecology not GE technology
    The UN has stated that agroecology is a major solution to feeding the world and caring for the earth....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Labour Names Review Team
    Labour’s New Zealand Council has appointed Bryan Gould as Convenor of its post-General Election Review. He will be joined on the Review Team by Hon Margaret Wilson, Stacey Morrison and Brian Corban....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Contenders for Labour leadership debate for first time
    The contenders for the leadership of the Labour Party debated for the first time on TV One’s Q+A programme today....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • UN Ambassador Jim McLay on TV One’s Q+A programme
    New Zealand's United Nations Ambassador Jim McLay on TV One’s Q+A programme....
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • The Nation: RSA President BJ Clark & Ian Taylor, New NZ Flag
    Lisa Owen interviews RSA President BJ Clark and tech innovator Ian Taylor about changing the NZ flag...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • The Nation: RSA President BJ Clark & Ian Taylor, New NZ Flag
    Lisa Owen interviews RSA President BJ Clark and tech innovator Ian Taylor about changing the NZ flag...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • Lisa Owen interviews Foreign Minister Murray McCully
    Murray McCully says New Zealanders can expect a 5-10 year engagement against Islamic State if we join military action in Iraq and the government will take that “very carefully into account”...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • Lisa Owen interviews Julia Gillard
    Julia Gillard says there is “sufficient evidence” to fight Islamic State and does not think it will increase the risk of a domestic attack...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • NZ businesses to make child abuse a priority conversation
    Many leading New Zealand businesses have partnered with national child advocacy organisation Child Matters to participate in the fourth annual ‘Buddy Day’ - New Zealand’s only child abuse prevention awareness day....
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • Tribunal decision significant for SMEs
    The Human Rights Review Tribunal decided this week in favour of an employee’s right not to work on Saturdays for religious reasons. The decision may still be appealed but the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Kee,...
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • On The Nation this weekend
    This weekend on The Nation… New Zealand has been elected to the United Nations Security Council, but what happens next? Lisa Owen interviews Foreign Minister Murray McCully from New York about our goals for reform, what America wants from us...
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • 1000+ supported by Te Arawa Whanau Ora
    Over 1000 individual whānau members are leading happier, healthier, more successful lives as a result of eight passionate and committed Māori organisations working at the coalface to help whānau find success....
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • Nomination for Board Members Now Open
    CRF’s objective is to create opportunities for people from refugee backgrounds to lead fulfilling lives and contribute to every area of New Zealand society. It is an organisation that undertakes advocacy work using the strengths-based approach,...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Anglican Family Care Otago staff to take industrial action
    Social workers, family workers and support staff working for Anglican Family Care in Dunedin and South Otago will take industrial action after their employer refused a pay increase that would keep up with the rising cost of living....
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Use UN Security Council role to overcome inaction and injust
    Amnesty International welcomes New Zealand winning a seat on the UN Security Council and is calling on New Zealand to use the role to ensure the body lives up to its role of safeguarding global peace and security....
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Grisham’s ‘child porn’ comments ignorant
    World-renowned author John Grisham has come under fire by advocacy group Stop Demand Foundation, for comments it says trivialises the global child sex abuse trade....
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Latest leak of TPPA intellectual property text confirms risk
    On the eve of the latest (non)round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) yet another version of the intellectual property has found its way to Wikileaks ....
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • New Zealand awarded UN Security Council seat
    International aid agency Oxfam New Zealand welcomes New Zealand’s election to the United Nations Security Council, saying it gives an extraordinary opportunity to make a lasting contribution to international peace and security and improve the lives...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • 40 more jobs lost to cheap imports
    40 more jobs lost to cheap imports Another New Zealand manufacturer is closing its doors, giving the lie to the idea that we have a “rock star” economy or any strategy for jobs growth. Wellpack is a paper bag manufacturer...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Pink Batts manufacturer to cut Christchurch jobs
    Pink Batts manufacturer to cut Christchurch jobs 29 roles are to be cut at the Christchurch manufacturing facility of Tasman Insulation, the company which manufacturers the iconic Pink Batts brand of products. The company is proposing to consolidate its...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Kellogg cereal donations help the Sallies feed those in need
    Kellogg New Zealand commits 64,000 serves of breakfast cereal during World Food Day Coinciding with World Food Day this year, Kellogg New Zealand and The Salvation Army are reaching out to less fortunate Kiwis with the donation of 64,000 serves...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • National Slips, Labour Hits Lows
    National fail to get post-election bounce but leaderless Labour Party crash to lowest ever support...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • NZ parents hope for more than just happy and healthy babies
    Auckland, 16 October 2014 – What do expectant mums and dads hope for their children? According to new research from Growing Up in New Zealand , a baby’s health and happiness may be high up on the list, but today’s...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • NZPI backs Minister’s affordable housing stance
    NZPI backs Minister’s affordable housing stance NZPI is supportive of Hon. Dr Nick Smith’s, efforts to use the RMA as a mechanism for taking the heat out of the housing affordability challenge in New Zealand. “As Minister for Environment...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Prime Minister’s OIA Admision Disturbing
    The Taxpayers’ Union is calling for answers after it was revealed on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report that the Prime Minister’s office routinely flouts its obligations under the Official Information Act. Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Ben...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • NZDIA forum press release
    NZDIA forum press release Wellington - The New Zealand Defence Industry Association, with the support of the NZ Defence Force and the Ministry of Defence, will be holding a two-day international forum on October 21-22 at the Michael Fowler Centre...
    Scoop politics | 15-10
  • BPW NZ calls fashion industry to account
    The New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW NZ) joins the call for action on the use of skinny models and mannequins as it is directly affecting the self-esteem and health of many of our young people....
    Scoop politics | 15-10
  • Electoral Commission introduces Extra Touch for Blind NZers
    The Electoral Commission was presented with the Extra Touch Award by the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand (Blind Citizens NZ), in recognition of its successful implementation of Telephone Dictation Voting ahead of its commitment to do so by...
    Scoop politics | 15-10
  • Auckland move for KiwiRail health and safety team questioned
    The Rail and Maritime Transport Union is questioning a KiwiRail proposal to progressively relocate its Zero Harm personnel from Wellington to Auckland....
    Scoop politics | 15-10
  • Redundancies a result of putting profit over good business
    Heinz Watties redundancies a result of putting profit over good business Heinz Watties workers are shocked by the announcement made late last night that up to 100 jobs are being cut from the company’s New Zealand operations. No information was...
    Scoop politics | 15-10
  • Injuries at work show many sectors are too dangerous
    Workers are deeply concerned about the research Statistics New Zealand have released today showing that almost one-quarter of agriculture, forestry, and fishery workers had a work-related injury claim accepted by the Accident Compensation Corporation...
    Scoop politics | 15-10
  • Chatham Rise seabed hearing: the absence of evidence
    The phosphate on the seabed, 450m down on the Chatham Rise, has a particular quality that other phosphate doesn’t have: uranium....
    Scoop politics | 15-10
  • Office of Ombudsman making sure people treated fairly in NZ
    The Office of Ombudsman has told Parliament that it has made significant progress in effectively managing its work to make sure people are treated fairly in New Zealand....
    Scoop politics | 14-10
  • Food Matters Aotearoa Conference Press release
    This year the UN World food day theme is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”, chosen to highlight and raise awareness of the problems worldwide and the solutions to food security and ridding the world of hunger. The...
    Scoop politics | 14-10
  • Support from Production, Recreation and Environment.
    When it comes to water quality not many organisations can claim to have the support of major bodies representing production, recreation and the environment, yet this is exactly what NZ Landcare Trust has achieved. The Trust's upcoming 'Communities...
    Scoop politics | 14-10
  • Law Society supports Malaysian Bar Peace and Freedom Walk
    The New Zealand Law Society has expressed its support for a planned Walk for Peace and Freedom by Malaysian lawyers protesting against continued use of the Sedition Act 1948 by the Malaysian government....
    Scoop politics | 14-10
  • Bunnies Offered Protection With New Technology
    SAFE is announcing the spring launch of its “bunny protector” – a new mobile phone app that will help shoppers on the go avoid animal-tested cosmetics products. Suitable for both iPhone and android, the ‘SAFEshopper Cruelty-free NZ’ app will...
    Scoop politics | 14-10
  • Maori Wellbeing – Defying the Oxymoron
    When Mother Teresa was asked how do you achieve world peace, she said, go home and love your family....
    Scoop politics | 14-10
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