Why You Shouldn’t Support Barack Obama
Why I do not support Barack Obama:
A disaffected American’s Litany of Grievances against the Obama/Biden campaign and the so-called Left in America
Change We Can Believe In
(Barack Obama’s Campaign Slogan)
If voting changed anything, it would be illegal.
I saw Obama speak at a rally in early 2008 in Oakland, California. I remember the feeling of excitement I had before the rally—it was hard not be excited, after everything I had heard about this man. People said that he offered change; that he was the torchbearer for the agenda of hope and progress America so sorely needed after the past eight years of systematic mismanagement, aggression, and misery. After all, this was the man Ralph Nader once described as “the first liberal evangelist in a long time” to crop up in the American political scene.
With a buildup like that, perhaps I should have been prepared for the inevitable disappointment. Obama was a mediocre speaker, with plenty of trite platitudes but little substance. When he did bother to address the issues his suggested reforms seemed cautious as best, certainly nothing like the gospel of change I was led to believe Obama supported. I left the rally feeling somewhat disillusioned.
Almost a year later, that disillusionment has grown only more acute. Having looked further into Obama’s policies, I can definitely say that I cannot support him. Despite the media’s portrayal as left-wing candidate, he does not advance anything resembling a “liberal” agenda. And despite his own campaign’s rallying cry he does not represent “change”, but rather a continuation of the same status quo that has ground this once great country down to its present sorry state.
Why don’t I support Barack Obama? Allow me to list the reasons:
“Universal” Healthcare? Think Again
I am writing this as a completely uninsured American. I have no health insurance whatsoever, and I cannot afford health insurance. If I get into an accident, contract a disease, or in any way require medical treatment I have no way of paying for it. I also don’t know anybody who could help me pay for medical treatment—I am completely on my own when it comes to health issues. As such I take health care reform very seriously.
I would support a candidate who endorses a system of single-payer health care—that is, a system of truly universal health care where every citizen of the United States in enrolled in a public plan that is funded by the state. This is the kind of plan they have in Canada and in many European countries. Because every single citizen is covered by default, it can truly be said to be a system of universal coverage.
This is not the kind of system Obama is proposing, even though he bills his plan as “universal health care”. Obama’s health care plan is still based on individuals having to cover health care costs themselves. It is more accurately described as a system of “(Supposedly) Affordable Health Care” not “universal coverage”. Although his plan represents an improvement over the current system, it is actually not guaranteed that everyone will be able to afford coverage. My guess is that even if his reforms go through, they won’t make coverage universal for everyone. And as it is, his reforms are not going to contain healthcare costs. As Robert Laszweski, a noted healthcare specialist notes,
The Obama/Clinton cost containment proposals are only incremental cost containment proposals that are layered over $100 billion of upfront spending to cover tens of millions of more people—far too little cost containment for the new massive injection of money, almost overnight, into the health care system.
Both Clinton and Obama offer us a long list of good cost containment ideas—most of which they share with McCain. Most have been underway in the market for many years with limited success. Undoubtedly, a government infusion of resources or requirements aimed at a more efficient system would have a positive impact but it is hard to see how they would be enough fundamentally alter things and bring the system under real control.
More likely, a $100 billion infusion of new health care spending by an Obama or Clinton plan would actually increase the rate of health care inflation.
I don’t want Obama’s healthcare plan. I want a single-payer plan. And I’m not alone. A majority of Americans want the same thing. And so do a majority of American physicians. So why is it that a plan the majority of the American public supports is not being offered by either Obama or McCain? Can either of them really be said to legitimately represent the people’s interests?
The only legislation which promotes a single-payer healthcare system in the US is HR 676. Neither Obama nor McCain has come out in support of this bill. In fact, the only candidate from the Democratic or Republican Party who supported HR 676 and single-payer healthcare was Dennis Kucinich.
A Militant Foreign Policy
Looking past Obama’s rhetoric about engaging foreign leaders, we see that he supports a very similar policy to McCain and Bush. He supports increased funding to the oversized, wasteful military budget. The current US defense budget currently exceeds the rest of the world’s defense budgets combined, yet somehow we can’t even seem to win the wars we have started during the past eight years. It is clear the conflicts we are engaged will not simply be won by throwing more money at the defense department; what’s needed is a fundamental reassment of our strategy and our priorities. The solution is not to be found in more funding, and it’s certainly not be found by stiring up more trouble across the globe.
Yet Obama has laid out a very militaristic foreign policy agenda, publicly, in Foreign Affairs. He supports a long-term military presence in Iraq. Despite initially voting against the war he has nevertheless voted in favor of funding the war after the fact, voting in more than $300 billion of war appropriation bills during his time in the Senate. And we all know how he feels about Pakistan. He also voted to endorse Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State despite her complicity with the failed policies of the Bush administration. Moreover, he has chosen Joe Biden as his running mate, a militarist who was pushing for war in Iraq long before the Bush administration declared it. As chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, Biden also silenced any voices who spoke out in opposition to the war. Yet Obama/Biden is still portrayed by the Left as the “anti-war” ticket. The truth of the matter is that there is no anti-war ticket from either the Democrats or the Republicans.
Obama’s appeasement of the all-powerful Israeli lobby and its mouthpiece, AIPAC, is another area in which Obama represents the status quo. For decades now billions of US dollars have been poured into the region supporting the most reactionary right-wing hawks of the Israeli government. Obama is so beholden to the AIPAC lobby that Jimmy Carter was not allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention for fear that he might mention the plight of the Palestinians. Obama/Biden have made it clear they support contined occupation, apartheid, and genocide in Palestine. Aside from being ethically obtuse, this policy is also a strategic failure since it ensures we will continue to have a strained relationship with the Middle Eastern, South Asian and Muslim worlds.
Short-Sighted, Lackluster Energy Policy
Obama’s history on energy policy contradicts his rhetoric about seeking clean alternatives. He supported the horrendous Bush-Cheney Energy bill in 2005, which was a major setback for environmental standards across the nation. He also has a long history of supporting ethanol, an extremely polluting, inefficient and costly alternative fuel. Obama also has declared his support for pollution-heavy coal power and has now stated that he supports offshore drilling. Also, rather than seeking a long time solution to our energy problems, Obama has stated that he will open the emergency petroleum reserves, a short-sighted quick fix we will surely regret when an actual emergency occurs. Obama also supports nuclear power, but apparently can’t be bothered to ensure adequate safety measures in nuclear plants in his own home state.
Civil Rights—Or Lack Thereof
It’s well known that Obama voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, and that more recently he has voted in favor of the FISA bill granting telecom companies immunity despite their role in the illegal surveillance of countless Americans. Both measures ensure that the government will continue to snoop on millions of people without any warrant or other authorization. Obama’s actions, which are clearly against the civil liberties of all Americans, speak much louder than his words.
Although he pledged to renegotiate and reform NAFTA—an unjust and inefficient economic agreement that has resulted in the exploitation of millions of workers across the Americas—Obama has apparently changed his mind.
The Public Betrayal of Reverend Jeremiah Wright
Despite having married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptizing their children, and acting as a spiritual adviser to Barack for decades, Obama had no trouble cutting Reverend Wright loose at the first sign of trouble. What does that say about his character? If Obama is not willing to stand by somebody who stood by him for so long, can we really trust him?
I should also add that nobody with any knowledge of American history could have decried the Reverend’s comments as being out of place. 9/11 was a case of chickens coming home roost—we supplied Osama bin Laden and the Taliban with funds and training, played a dangerous game of real politik in the Middle East for decades. The foreign policy decisions we made were the direct causes of the 9/11 tragedy, and Wright should be commended for speaking the truth.
The Appointment of Joe “Credit Card Whore” Biden
Last but certainly not least, Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as his Vice President undermines anything Obama has to say about “change”, since few people represent the corrupt status quo more eminently than Biden. This man’s ties to the credit card companies are a slimy example of everything that’s wrong with Washington. His son, Hunter Biden, was paid to the tune of $100,000 by credit card giant MBNA for the hard work his father was doing fighting for the credit companies’ rights to gouge ordinary Americans. Not only that, but the same son was given a prestigious position as the Senior Vice President of MBNA immediately after graduating from Yale. The Biden family is truly the epitome of political and corporate nepotism in America. Yet Obama sees no irony in appointing this Washington sleezeball as his vice president, even after he attacked McCain for supporting the same bill as Biden did. But then perhaps Obama is worried that exposing Biden’s cozy relationship with corporations will in turn cast attention on Obama’s own handouts from Corporate America; handouts he received after stating he would not receive them.
Biden’s extremely hawkish stance on foreign affairs, which is akin to that of many Republicans, has already been discussed in the section on the militant foreign policy of the Obama/Biden ticket.
It should be obvious from my critique of Obama that I am not a supporter of McCain or any other Republican. It should probably be equally obvious that I was not a supporter of any of the mainstream Democratic candidates. I loathed Hillary’s policies and personality even more than I dislike Obama’s plan of action. In my opinion only Democrat who truly offered any kind of progressive change was Dennis Kucinich.
The problem, as I see it, is that there is simply no such thing as a viable progressive politics in the United States. Both Democrats and Republicans endorse policy plans that are shockingly similar when it comes to foreign policy, energy policy, health coverage, defense spending, and corporate welfare. Much of the problem, I believe, strems from the two party system. Increasingly this looks less like a two party system more like a one party system with two heads: the puppet on the left and the puppet on the right, with the puppeteer being the military-industrial complex.
In looking at the Political Compass breakdown of the 2008 election, it is quite telling to note that nearly all of the candidates are in a single quadrant. What is considered “left wing” in America would often be considered “centrist” or even “center-right” in many other countries across the world.
As progressives we cannot be afraid to endorse candidates who fall outside the mainstream. In this case, it is only non-mainstream candidates who support a progressive agenda. If the system itself is rotten to the core, we stand nothing to gain by supporting it.
(Image c/o Fogster and Wikimedia Commons)