Monday, November 17, 2008

What A Mandate For Change Really Means

It is possible to pen left-wing critiques of Barack Obama's policies without resorting to offensive stereotypes, as Ralph Nader did on election night. Two such pieces appeared on the Guardian's Comment is Free site last week.
Sasha Abramsky ( ) highlights an aspect of Obama's stated aim of instituting social reform which the centrists & free market wing of the Democrats would rather ignore, namely, that "broad social reform in America has always involved creating coalitions of interests. Unless [trade] unions are brought back into the dominant coalition, Obama's opportunities for durable social reform will be truncated."
Later on in his piece, Abramsky identifies the contribution labour unions have made, & continue to make, to US political culture. It could easily be transferred to this side of the Atlantic: "They educate ordinary people about how power works. They help people make intellectual connections, understanding the link between, say, the low cost goods sold by Wal-Mart and the low wages paid by Wal-Mart to its employees. In the same way Bush used the religious right to achieve an amplifier effect for his policies, so, too, should Obama be able to use organised labour."
Meanwhile, Naomi Klein ( ) urges Obama to ignore the usual convention of the President-elect, quietly biding his time before Inauguration Day, & act against Wall Street as soon as possible because of the global meltdown they've largely caused. She notes with disappointment the reticence so far shown by Obama's team. Klein asserts:
"I suspect the real reason the Democrats are failing to act has less to do with presidential protocol than with fear: that the stock market, which has the temperament of an overindulged two-year-old, will throw one of its world-shaking tantrums. Disclosing the truth about who is receiving federal loans, we are told, could cause the market to bet against those banks. Question the legality of equity deals, and the same thing will happen. Challenge the $140bn tax giveaway and mergers could fail."
Incidentally, it's amusing to witness the spectacle of US hedge fund managers, normally eager to wrap themselves in the Stars & Stripes, threaten a move to the UK, of all countries, if they're subject to the same rates of taxation as ordinary Americans & held to account via proper regulation ( ).
Klein declares:
"One thing we know for certain is that the market will react violently to anyone likely to impose serious regulation, invest in people and cut off the free money. In short, the markets can be relied on to vote in precisely the opposite way that Americans have just voted. (A recent poll found 60% strongly favour 'stricter regulations on financial institutions', while just 21% support aid to financial companies.)"
The message for Obama is crystal clear, Klein maintains. Strike while the iron is hot. Any prevarication in the face of Wall Street's infantile rage could disillusion the millions of first-time voters who turned out for Obama on November 4th.

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