Obama, Economics, and Why He Won’t Win

by Jeff Siegel

This summer, we have seen two of the four major U.S. investment banks disappear, with losses in the tens of billions of dollars. The federal government bailed out the quasi-governmental mortgage firms known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which may cost $200 billion. On Tuesday, the government took the unprecedented step of buying one of the world’s largest insurers, AIG, before it had its own meltdown.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has been lending money to banks left and right, terrified that the banks won’t have enough cash on hand to meet obligations.

And Barack Obama remains as befuddled as a baseball fan watching a cricket match.

I have no use for Obama, who is part of the cabal that has sold the Democratic Party’s birthright for a pile of campaign cash. But I do care about the American people, so I’m going to offer Obama this advice: If you want to get elected, you’d better tell us you’re going to fix this problem — and that means renouncing the past 16 years of Republican and Republican Lite financial deregulation, which made this mess possible.

Because it is a mess. It’s the worst catastrophe in the U.S. financial system since the Great Depression, which lasted 12 years and brought the economic life of the U.S. to a standstill. One-third of the country didn’t have jobs, and people starved. Imagine the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina taking place not just in New Orleans for a couple of weeks, but throughout the country for years, and you’ll have some idea of what the Depression was like.

I realize that no one gives a damn about history anymore, and that Sen. Obama (D-IL) comes from a generation of politicians who take it for granted that the U.S. is special, and that nothing bad will ever happen here because they’ve never seen anything bad happen. Well, it’s time to grow up.

This is a crisis — a full-fledged, sound red alert, bad things will happen if you don’t do something crisis. It’s not the time to mouth platitudes like “This turmoil is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.”

It’s time for Obama to say he is going to take the key to the bank away from these criminals, who robbed us blind in the name of deregulation. It’s time to say that the U.S. taxpayer, who has seen real earnings decline in the last eight years, is not going to pay for the continued misrule of the political and economic elite.

Will Obama do it? I doubt it, because he has grown up politically in a culture and an era where the wealthy are honored and venerated. They don’t make mistakes, but are the masters of the universe, the men who make the world work. He has a very McCain-like view of economics, that this disaster was caused by poor judgment and not because the system is shattered and is in danger of collapsing.

Which will be his loss — and ours, because it’s not like anyone else thinks this is a problem.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(Political graphic from StrangePolitics, a website that offers copyright-free political material.)

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