Criticizing Obama from the Left

In the exceedingly narrow frame of reference for US party politics, Obama is commonly described as left of center. What is ignored is that the entire set of policy positions considered “Left” across the world are beyond the scope of anything Obama talks about or cares about.

In fact, US politics have moved so far to the right that Nixon’s positions on health care and Reagan’s positions on taxes are to the left of Obama.

Debate about politics in the US is a debate that removes from the discussion an entire range of ideas and policy options.

To give an idea, following are some of ideas and topics that simply never get discussed, even though they have currency within the US public:

dismantling the 1000+ US foreign military bases or a substantial portion of them;
democratizing the workplace by promoting work-owned cooperatives instead of corporations;
unilaterally dismantling the nuclear program or a large portion of it;
bringing the military budget down to pre-WWII peacetime levels;
nationalizing major banks and any industry that has consistently relied on public funding to remain viable (auto industry; semi-conductors and other high tech;
aerial technologies; etc.);
taxing oil industries to divert monies toward green technologies (or simply nationalizing them to control consumer gas prices);
dismantling and restructuring any industry that cannot meet stringent anti-pollution requirements;
redefining the laws permitting corporations in order to subordinate them to the public good (as they were originally intended to be);
diverting military deployments to instead build low-income housing in the US;
initiating a full-employment scheme to end the current economic recession by instantly funding a massive slate of state jobs focusing on infrastructure renewal and updating, public transit (currently at third world standards), green technology, public education (fast approaching third world standards), and housing development;
seriously reforming the electoral campaign system to create true equality of opportunity so that everyday people could actually run for office at no disadvantage due to their income level;
creating legislation tying management pay in any firm to never exceed a certain proportional ratio to worker pay.

It is not that the ideas listed above are all perfect ones. The point is that they aren’t even allowed to be discussed.

You don’t know what you think about these ideas because you don’t ever hear them get debated. You simply can’t talk about them, let alone debate them on the floor of congress or in a presidential debate. So the full range of options are not set before the public. Instead, only a tiny, pre-selected set of options are placed before the public, which can ratify either one–both of which are acceptable to the business elite.

This shows the severe limits of discourse and policy discussion in the US. The state is controlled by a broad coalition of business interests–a state capitalist ideology differentiated between various business models and profit structures. The various interests between these business structures reflect almost exactly the range of policy options allowed into public discussion. The interests shared by all business structures are off the table and out of the debate–they just aren’t options for the American people to choose from. It doesn’t come down to what people want. It comes down to which of the pre-selected business options the people prefers.

For this reason, the debate between Republican Party leaders and Democrat Party leaders is like a debate over having coffee with milk or milk with coffee. National policy is set to reflect business model A or business model B–all other options, C-Z are left off the table, out of the discussion.

In reality, these are coalitions of businesses with similar policy interests that “invest” in the policy makers by funding their campaigns. The policy-makers in turn, if elected, offer an excellent return on investment by promoting the legislation and policy mandates that the successful business coalition demands. Once this is pointed out, it starts to become plain as day–you simply look at who funds the candidate, and what policies that candidate produces once elected. But it all gets blurred in the campaign publicity, which diverts attention away from policy discussion and instead focuses, like a reality TV show, on social issues or trivial factoids.


Below, as a refresher, is an interview unlike anything one ever hears in the mainstream media. It is between a mainstream American liberal, Georgetown professor of sociology Michael Eric Dyson, and an articulate voice on the Left, Glen Ford. The exchange speaks for itself, and it is immensely refreshing to hear a true variety of opinions, so that the viewer, hearing all sides, can decide which position is most compelling.

Dyson begins his part of the interview by asserting that Obama’s convention floor speech was “electrifying in the sense that Obama had before him the task of repudiating all of the myths and the lies and the deceptions and the deliberate distortions generated just a week earlier in the Republican convention.” Obama, Dyson suggests, had the task to “organize his resistance to the Republicans, galvanize the base, give a speech flowing enough in poetry but rooted enough and public policy,” something he accomplished “with aplomb, with verve and with oratorical flourish.”

While Dyson was focused on Obama’s ability to “galvanize his base,” Ford was more interested in talking about “what history-making events have gone down under his presidency.” He summarizes these as follows:

He’s, first of all, created a model for austerity, a veritable model, with his deficit reduction commission. He’s introduced preventive detention, a law for preventive detention. He’s expanded the theaters of war in drone wars, and he’s made an unremitting assault on international law. And I think that possibly the biggest impact, … and I’m not talking about his—all this light and airy stuff from the convention, but actual deeds—I think probably what will go down as his biggest contribution to history is a kind of merging of the banks and the state, with $16 trillion [in interest-free Fed financing] being infused into these banks, into Wall Street, under his watch, and the line between Wall Street and the federal government virtually disappearing.

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