With the American Presidential election almost upon us, I thought it might concentrate some minds to go back some two and a half years ago to this Slogpost from June 9th 2010. It does make you wonder why on earth Barack Obama is even in the running, let alone likely to win, this contest.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Is he a jerk?
I’m told by one in a position to know that Barack Obama’s first congratulatory phone call to David Cameron had the shine taken slightly off it by a fairly repetitive reference to getting the UK’s deficit down.
I’m further told by a senior Brussels mole that when the Euro started to plummet, Obama rang quite a few people up and said, more or less, did you know that your currency is falling off a cliff and you know what, I think it might have something to do with your deficit: so you guys need to kick some ass, am I right?
Then today, Fed Chairman Benny the Benanke told the world that “the U.S. economy should grow this year and next, but the pace won’t be strong enough to fix the job market and cut the budget deficit”. And as Obama let him stay in the job he made such a pig’s ear of under Bush, we have to assume that Ben and Barack shoot the breeze now and then.
President Obama also gave Israel something of a brush-off about its soldiers boarding a ship illegally present in its own waters, a vessel the CIA had already told him was owned by mad people close to Hamas.
And for the last week, the Prezz has been displaying his cojones at BP’s expense: he’d fire the CEO, he’d make the bastards pay, he’d show these goddamn ecological criminals just how tough he could be.
In 1967, the Torrey Canyon broke up off the British coast and spilled more oil onto the UK coastline than any other disaster before or since. The boat was American built, and owned by Standard Oil of California Inc. None of we Brits over here remember Harold Wilson threatening to sue Exxon…or Esso as it then was.
Then of course, talking of Exxon, we had The Exxon Valdez, a major oil spill that took place on March 23, 1989 at Prince William Sound in Alaska, and knackered the wildlife there for two decades afterwards. Second only to the Torrey Canyon, it too was American owned and caused.
Just this year – with the US deficit at a record high and showing signs only of going up – Obama introduced a national health care system free for Americans. Astonishingly, this will add massively to the debt in 2011.
When FDR became President in 1932, he closed all the banks for 72 hours and passed eleven emergency bills in nine weeks. He got all the banking heads into the Oval Office sooner rather than later, and told them one by one “no more foreclosures, or no more Mr Nice Guy from me”.
He organised a revalued dollar and gold relationship over the first weekend of his Presidency, and by the end of 1933 had rooted out every crooked practice on Wall St.
So far, tough-guy Barack has done nothing to the banks (2009). Then last January he made some threatening remarks about the banks: “If these folks want a fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have.” In the same week last January he also called them a rude name – ‘fatcats’. He has proposed ‘extensive new curbs’ on the banks. He has proposed the banks pay the taxpayer back $117 billion. He has said he thinks senior bank executives should forego their bonuses this year.
On 21st May this year he got the Senate to pass the principle of banking reform. To back this up, the White House issued an eight-point plan. This contains zero hard detail, and lots of maybe: banks may be banned from proprietary trading; credit default swaps may be walled off from retail; and there may be new powers to break up some unspecified institutions somewhere. Somehow. Whatever.
Of the other points in the master plan, ‘there will be a powerful new consumer protection agency’ (sounds good but vague); there’ll be ‘a new multi-authority oversight of the risks’ (sounds sensible, but even more vague); and the Fed will be a super-power ‘although the precise scope of its remit remains to be defined’ (sounds, well, just vague I guess).
For the last three weeks, US money-supply has been falling at a faster rate than 1929, bank closures have been running at a higher than ever pace, and both exports and job creation are below expectations. I’d say the US is heading for double-dip and another financial crisis. And I wouldn’t be the only one saying it.
With respect for the Office, President Obama is in no position to preach; and it’s a very unwise man who talks big (and down) to the closest allies and markets he has in the world.
As a man who wanted Hillary in the White House, after Obama’s election I was pleased for Black America, but still wrote on this site, “Where’s the beef?”
Eighteen months on, it’s a question I’m still asking – along with another one: is President Obama a jerk?