Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America

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  1. Remarks of President Barack Obama – State of the Union Address As Delivered;
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So you have come of age during a time of growing inequality, of fracturing of economic opportunity. And that growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country—regional, racial, religious, cultural—and made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics. The birth of the new American aristocracy. And then the reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis, 10 years ago this week, a crisis that resulted in the worst recession in any of our lifetimes and caused years of hardship for the American people, for many of your parents, for many of your families.

Millions of people were losing their homes. Many were worried we were entering into a second Great Depression. So we worked hard to end that crisis, but also to break some of these longer-term trends, and the actions we took during that crisis returned the economy to healthy growth, and initiated the longest streak of job creation on record, and we covered another 20 million Americans with health insurance, and we cut our deficits by more than half, partly by making sure that people like me, who have been given amazing opportunities by this country, pay our fair share in taxes to help folks coming up behind them.

And by the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate hit an all-time low and wages were rising and poverty rates were falling. Anyway, I digress. So we pulled the economy out of crisis, but to this day, too many people who once felt solidly middle class, still feel very real and very personal economic insecurity.

Our antibodies kick in and people of goodwill across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fearmongers, and work to compromise to get things done, and promote the better angels of our nature. A politics of fear and resentment and trenchment takes hold, and demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems.

You know, promise to fight for the little guy even though they cater to the most wealthy and powerful. Promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability and try to change the rules to entrench their power further. Sound familiar? The white nationalists are winning. I understand that this is not just a matter of Democrats versus Republicans or liberals versus conservatives. At various times in our history, this kind of politics has infected both parties. Southern Democrats were the bigger defenders of slavery. It took a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, to end it.

Dixiecrats filibustered anti-lynching legislation, opposed the idea of expanding civil rights.

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So neither party has had a monopoly on wisdom. None of this is conservative. This is supposed to be the party of fiscal conservatism. What changed? The only country! There are a lot of countries in the world. They are undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican Party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they are cozying up to the former head of the KGB, actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack.

Remarks of President Barack Obama – State of the Union Address As Delivered |

What happened? Their sabotage of the Affordable Care Act has already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance. They are not accountable. This is not normal. These are extraordinary times, and they are dangerous times. You and your vote. Look, Americans will always have disagreements on policy. This is a big country, this is a raucous country, people have different points of view. I happen to be a Democrat.

I support Democratic candidates. I believe our policies are better and that we have a bigger, bolder vision of opportunity and equality and justice and inclusive democracy. And Democrats talk about reforming our immigration system so, yes, it is orderly, fair, and it is legal, but it continues to welcome strivers and dreamers from all around the world. It should not be Democratic or Republican, it should not be a partisan issue, to say that we do not pressure the Attorney General or the FBI to use the criminal-justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents, or to explicitly call on the Attorney General to protect members of our own party from prosecution because an election happens to be coming up.

I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down, or call them enemies of the people. We are Americans. We are supposed to stand up to bullies, not follow them. We are supposed to stand up to discrimination. How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad? There are well-meaning folks, passionate about social justice, who think that things have gotten so bad and the lines so starkly drawn that we have to fight fire with fire.

We have to do the same things to the Republicans as they do to us, adopt their tactics, say whatever works, make up stuff about the other side.

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In fact, the more cynical people are about government, the angrier and more dispirited they are about the prospects for change, the more likely the powerful are able to maintain their power. How the left lost its mind. We need our civic institutions to work. We need cooperation among people of different political persuasions. And to make that work, we have to restore our faith in democracy. You have to bring people together, not tear them apart. When I say bring people together, I mean all of our people.

I got votes from every demographic.

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It was cultural anxiety that drove white working-class voters to Trump. To make democracy work, we have to be able to get inside the reality of people who are different, have different experiences, come from different backgrounds. We have to engage them even when it is frustrating. We have to hope we can change their minds and we have to remain open to them changing ours. But again, I digress.

Making democracy work means holding on to our principles, having clarity about our principles, and then having the confidence to get in the arena and have a serious debate. And let me tell you something, particularly young people here, better is good. All assets should be held on bank balance sheets and adequate capital must be set aside to support them. Implement a financial pre-cautionary principle. Destructive financial innovations such as collateralized debt obligations CDOs and credit default swaps were major contributors to the development of the crisis.

A regulatory precautionary principle should be implemented for new financial products and services similar to the one used by the US Food and Drug Administration to determine whether new drugs should be allowed on the market. Regulators would determine whether proposed innovations were likely to increase systemic fragility. In many cases, the regulatory authority would tell financial institutions that their innovations could be implanted as long as held adequate capital to support them. However, there would be important innovations that the regulatory authority would prohibit on the grounds that even with more capital they would have serious negative spillover effects on the system.

Move most important financial security transactions onto exchanges. Eighty percent of all derivative products and one hundred percent of the complex CDOs, credit default swaps and other exotic financial instruments implicated in the current crisis are not traded on markets, but rather in private over-the-counter transactions. If regulators insisted that all derivative securities must be exchange traded, those OTC securities that could be simplified and commoditized would shift to exchanges where they would be transparent, involve less counter-party risk, and could provide a less expensive source of credit.

The most complex products, including many CDOs and credit default swaps, cannot be sufficiently simplified and would likely disappear from the market. Restrict the growth of debt through counter-cyclical capital requirements. The first five reforms should help reduce the excessive growth of debt in the boom, but will not eliminate the inherently pro-cyclical nature of financial asset creation.

As asset prices rise, bank capital rises as well, creating new capacity for credit creation. More bank lending leads to a rising demand for securities and thus higher security prices, which allows the process to continue. To assure control of the rate of expansion of financial assets, regulators should impose counter-cyclical capital-asset ratios or reserve provisioning. So here again, there seems to be a much weaker commitment to confronting Wall Street and grappling with serious financial reform than there is in other areas.

Among these, the only one Obama has addressed so far is the desire to see surplus countries, and especially China, to increase domestic demand, reduce reliance on exports, and become more of an engine of global economic growth. At the same time, the Obama administration has not proposed any new initiatives to institute such a new global model of growth. He has only been in office for several months. In some ways, his administration has taken major steps away from the neo-liberal approach of the Bush and Reagan administrations and toward some highly significant policies, especially with respect to addressing climate change.

But in the area of financial crisis management and financial reform, the Obama administration seems oddly stuck in the prior regime. But, so far at least, their focus has been more on trying to preserve the prerogatives of finance in the face of strong political and economic forces demanding that they control these forces.

Equally if not more important, though, is that Obama finds himself stuck with a democratic coalition that, at least since Bill Clinton and almost certainly before, had a very strong Wall Street constituency eg. Epstein, ; Ferguson and Rogers, ; Pollin, The political power of the finance lobby in the United States is significant. For example, a recent study described the twelve key steps of financial de-regulation in the US that significantly contributed to the crisis.

Groups of economists such as those that met in New York in November, , must mobilize to keep the pressure on the Obama administration. For example, these organizations are very active in writing policy papers and promoting their ideas in the press and at meetings and conferences and can have a significant impact. However, as is well known from history, severe economic crises can also strengthen the forces of the right, and only time will tell how these pressures will play out.

What we can say is this: unless the Obama administration is able to move forward quickly and change their approach to finance by developing a financial strategy that is seen as fair, equitable and can also work to get finance flowing to the real economy, then more radical forces are likely to gain increased power. And, one should remember that in the US, we are coming out of a long period in which it is the radical forces of the right, rather than of the left, that have tended to prevail.

Buiter, W. Center for Responsible Lending, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Credit Suisse, Crotty, J. Epstein, G. Ferguson, T. Galbraith, J. Griffith-Jones, S. Guttmann, R. Kuttner, R. McNichol, E. Obama, B. Ocampo, J. Physicians for National Health Care, Pollin, R.

Reich, R. Sachs, J. South Centre, US Budget Watch, A journal promoting research on regulationism, evolution of capitalism and institutional change. Despite promising a sharp break from the Bush Administration, Obama has found himself constrained by the realities of the international system; a deeply ingrained mistrust of the United States, resistance to US power, and the rise of emerging power centres have all served to expose the challenges of translating rhetoric into reality.

Nye Jr, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs in which he argued that with the end of the Cold War concepts of power in world politics were changing with less emphasis on military power, and more on technology, education and economic growth. The critical problem facing the US at the end of the Cold War, Nye argued, was not how to control resources - a traditional barometer of global power - but how to control the political environment by influencing others. Nye identified five principal trends in world politics at the end of the Cold War: economic interdependence; a growth in transnational actors; nationalism in weak states; the spread of technology; and changing political issues.

Such trends meant that the reliance on traditional concepts of power were no longer relevant and that a more attractive option for the United States would be to set the agenda in world politics by getting other nations to want to follow the United States, in contrast to ordering other states to do what the US wanted it to do. Indeed, between the US undertook 48 open military interventions, compared to just 16 during the Cold War. For Andrew Bacevich, the respected US political scientist and Vietnam veteran, the very idea of America has become inextricably interwoven with notions of militarism, what he defines as a romanticized view of soldiers, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and outsized expectations regarding the efficacy of military force.

Nye, like Bacevich, saw US Cold War policies as driven by hard power, but unlike Bacevich, Nye believed that an increasingly chaotic and unstable post-Cold War environment was characterized by two forces that would diminish the utility of hard power: globalization and interdependence. What Nye successfully captured in was the changing context within which US policymakers had to operate and the challenges they faced. In an increasingly interdependent world, the US had an opportunity to use its culture, values and policies to attract others and generate support for its goals and aspirations, and to shape others preferences through leading by example.

In focusing attention on the role of ideas, values and culture, Nye made a seminal contribution to the debate over US foreign policy and offered a welcome corrective to a debate dominated by Realist discourse, with its emphasis on states, power and military force. Very often it is US policies and actions that are the source of discontent, but as Barber rightly notes, the exporting of US values and culture have not been universally welcomed. Despite lacking foreign policy experience, Clinton was a president who intuitively grasped the changed context of the post-Cold War era, and the challenges posed by globalization and interdependence.

The problem for the Clinton Administration was that it found multilateral endeavors. Bush and the neo-conservatives. Wright Mills had spoken of during the Cold War, seemingly still exerting a profound influence on US policymakers. But the militant imperiousness of the Bush administration is fundamentally inconsistent with the ideals they claim to invoke. Rumsfeld himself was famously ignorant of the concept.

Although the Bush Administration did engage with the UN, it was evident that it was paying only lip-service to an institution that Republicans had constantly derided through the s. On 7 February, , President Bush signed a secret order suspending the Geneva conventions.

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In April , the 82 nd Airborne division shot a group of demonstrators who had gathered to protest the presence of US forces, killing 17, and in another incident two days later, shot three protestors. James T. US actions also precipitated an influx of foreign jihadis which further fuelled the insurgency, and gave rise to the Al Anbar Awakening of Francis Fukuyama, a former neoconservative who opposed the Iraq War, argued the Bush Administration had failed to understand the adverse reaction its policies had generated, claiming.

Legitimacy is important to us not simply because we want to feel good about ourselves, but because it is useful. Other people will follow the American lead if they believe that it is legitimate; if they do not, they will resist, complain, obstruct or actively oppose what we do. In this respect, it matters not what we believe to be legitimate, but rather what other people believe is legitimate. US policymakers have a tendency to assume US power is benign and that US global leadership is actively desired by many around the world. In some instances, such as Bosnia or Kosovo for example, the projection of American hard power was seen as vital in stemming gross violations of basic human rights.

Despite this, others saw the US-led NATO intervention as a violation of international law, and one which caused the unnecessary deaths of civilians. The point here is that American power is inherently subjective, with perceptions of it as benign or malign wholly dependent on the different interpretative lenses through which it is viewed. Perceptions matter, however, and whilst there has been a tendency for successive US administrations to disregard how others view American power, it was a problem particularly prevalent within the Bush administration.

It presents overwhelming problems for you and overwhelming problems for your allies. Majorities in 19 of the 24 countries in the survey had little or no confidence in President Bush, including Britain, Germany, France and Spain. Obama made clear his intentions by surrounding himself with former Clinton-era advisers, schooled in the art of diplomacy and negotiation.

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Such an approach derived from a view of the world far removed from that of George W. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. Obama asserted the American narrative and was unabashedly proud of it; he was an authentic American nationalist. But he did not imagine that he could make progress with the rest of the world dependent on the world sharing that narrative.

Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America
Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America
Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America
Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America
Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America
Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America
Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America
Promoting Decline:  Obama vs. America Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America

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