Did Obama Let You Down? Thereís Still Hope!
by Bretigne Shaffer: Mere
Anarchy Loosed Upon the World
ago, I wrote an article
in which I made some very specific predictions about the incoming
Obama administration. I wrote the piece in the form of a letter
to my pro-Obama friends and said that by the end of his term, Obamaís
administration would not look very different from that of George
W. Bush. I told them that if I was wrong about my predictions, I
would re-think all of my beliefs about our political system and
about politics generally, and if I turned out to be right, I asked
them to do the same.
I donít know
if any of my friends took me up on my challenge Ė Iím guessing they
didnít, since I never heard from any of them about it. But I do
know that many of them are disappointed in what Obama has done so
far, and that many are feeling hopeless about the upcoming election,
resigned to their belief that there is "no better alternative."
Incredibly, some of them plan to vote for Obama again.
It is for this
reason that I would like to revisit those predictions I made three
years ago. I still have nearly a year to go, but I think it is clear
to anyone paying attention that Obama is not the pro-peace, pro-civil
liberties candidate many of his supporters believed him to be. Nor
is he going to "fix" the economy anytime soon. What may
not be so clear though is that there is a better alternative.
It also may not be clear that there is a way to support that alternative
without sacrificing the option to vote for Obama in the general
So letís look
at those predictions. If weíre already on the same page about Obamaís
presidency, then just skip this part and go to the last section
of this article to read about the better alternative.
my predictions to the areas where I believed my pro-Obama friends
and I shared common ground: A desire to end our countryís wars of
aggression around the world; A desire to see our basic civil liberties
protected; and a desire to have a healthy economy. Here is what
I wrote, and hereís what has happened:
At the end
of Obama's first four-year term:
- The US will
still have an active military presence in Iraq.
the war in Iraq, right? Not
exactly. While the administration may have officially declared
the war to be over (an interesting feat in itself as it was never
declared to have begun in the first place), the US does indeed maintain
an active military presence there. Several hundred military personnel
will remain under the Office of Security Cooperation, the US has
built an embassy the size of the Vatican, with 17,000 employees,
and there are an estimated 3,500-5,000 private contractors who will
be working with Iraqi security forces.
- The US will
have attacked at least one more country that poses no direct threat
to us. (I'm not even going to count his early air strikes
spending will have increased.
At the end
of Bushís term Ė a year that featured the "surge", which
made military expenditures unusually high, the US defense budget
was $667 billion. At the end of 2011, the (estimated) defense
budget was $708 billion. Even adjusted for inflation, this is
an easy one.
significant though, is that under Obama, war funding has also increased.
While this figure did peak at $189.94 billion in Bushís last year,
dropping to $159.21 billion for 2009, total war expenditures under
Bush were $625.41 billion, while in his first three years Obama
has already spent $497.6 billion. He would have to bring war expenditures
down below $127.81 billion for 2012 (from $169.7 billion in 2011)
in order to come in a penny under the George Bush years.
citizens will be no safer from terrorist attacks. I say this because
I believe the (sadly all-too-accurate) perception of the US as an
imperialist warmongering nation will persist. I realize this
one is open to interpretation. I would just ask you to honestly
ask yourselves at the end of these four years whether this is the
I say I got
this one right too. But as I said, itís open to interpretation.
It is perhaps
in this area that it is easiest to see how perfectly seamless Obamaís
administration has been with that of his predecessor. There are
differences to be sure, but differences that are of importance only
to policy wonks, not to the people who are suffering from and paying
for the USís interventionist foreign policies.
As a dramatic
illustration of this cohesion, listen to this video
of US General Wesley Clark (ret). Clark tells of a memo from the
Secretary of Defenseís office in October of 2001, outlining a plan
to attack and remove the governments of seven different countries
in five years. The countries listed were Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Lybia,
Somalia, Sudan and finally Iran. Listen to General Clark and then
try to tell yourself that President Obama is not simply continuing
where the Bush administration left off.
- More than
1% of US adults will still be in prison. This number will
very likely be even higher than it is today, and the black and
Hispanic portion of that population will not have decreased by
any significant amount.
As of August,
2011, the US prison population was an astonishing 2.4 million, or
roughly 1.16% of the adult population, and the
number of black and Hispanic prisoners remains wildly disproportionate
to population ratios.
- We will
still suffer from the kind of police abuse that is becoming more
and more common: military-style raids on unarmed civilians in
their homes; the shooting and tasering of unarmed citizens; and
police and judicial corruption leading to the jailing of many
more innocent people than can be acceptable under any system...
I think itís
hard to argue that these trends have in any way abated. If anything,
law-enforcement has become more militarized, more turned against
the people it is supposed to protect. If this is news to you, you
might want to spend some time here
lists will still be in place, and there may even be more restrictions
What do I even
need to say here? Full-body scanners? Officially sanctioned sexual
molestation forced upon those who do not wish to submit themselves
to the potential health risks and privacy violations of said scanners?
Forcing a terminally ill cancer patient to remove her adult diaper
in order to board her plane? Spilling a bladder cancer survivorís
urine all over him? Forcing a disabled six-year-old to take off
his braces in order to walk through the metal detector? I would
ask "how much worse can it get?" but Iím afraid I might
- There will
be more restrictions on gun ownership and the right to self-defense.
This one hasnít
yet come to pass. Second-Amendment activists insist that it will,
but weíll have to see.
- The police
tactics and suppression of dissent at the 2012 RNC and DNC conventions
will be just as brutal as they were in 2008.
But given the treatment of "Occupy" protesters around
the country, and that Congress has just passed a law
that would outlaw any protests near certain government officials
Ė whether or not the protesters are even aware that the officials
are there Ė Iím fairly confident this prediction will turn out to
surveillance of US citizens will continue...
Not only is
the Obama administration intent on spying on US citizens, it has
asked for legislation requiring all communications devices to allow
"back-door" government access to private communications.
It has also
"...asked Congress that new and expanded power be given the
FBI in accessing Internet customersí records without first obtaining
a court order if the agency views the information involves terrorism
or intelligence issues."
makes this trend all the more pernicious is that at exactly the
same time that the Government is demanding greater and greater
access to what you do and say, it is hiding its own conduct behind
an always-higher and more impenetrable wall of secrecy.
Everything you do and say must be accessible to them; you can
have no secrets from them. But everything they do Ė including
even criminal acts such as torture,
surveillance Ė is completely off-limits to you, deemed "state
secrets" that not even courts can review in order to determine
When I wrote
my predictions for the Obama administration, I bent over backwards
to give him every benefit of the doubt in the arena of civil liberties.
to admit that this is the one area where Obama's presidency is already
looking different from that of his predecessor. In his first
few days in office, President Obama signed executive orders to 1)
close Guantanamo within a year; 2) officially ban the use of torture
in the military; 3) close the CIA-run secret prisons around the
world; and 4) review detention policies and procedures and review
individual detention cases. He has also suspended the military
trials at Guantanamo for 120 days, and has acted to combat government
secrecy. These are all good things and Obama is receiving
well-deserved praise for them."
I now feel
like a fool for having written those words. Not only is Guantanamo
still open, not only does torture and indefinite detention continue,
not only is Government secrecy as bad or worse as under Bush but
Obama has signed into law one of the most heinous pieces of legislation
imaginable, the National
Defense Authorization Act, granting the government the right
to detain, indefinitely and without trial or charges, any American
citizen. He has also claimed for himself the right to assassinate
an American citizen, and has in fact carried out at least one
such assassination Ė again without a trial or any charges being
I should really
just stop here. The NDAA by itself makes the case that the Obama
administration is at least as bad as the Bush administration. Thereís
nothing more I need to say. However since I did include a couple
of predictions about the economy, letís go there:
- The US will
have massive inflation. The dollar will lose at least 50%
of its value against most goods and services, and certainly against
the goods and services most people use every day. This is
a very conservative estimate. It will probably be much worse.
OK, this clearly
hasnít happened yet. And if it hasnít happened before the end of
Obamaís first term, I will admit I was wrong about this. However
I still maintain that it will happen Ė and fairly soon.
just some random prediction. Since the housing and stock market
collapses of 2008, the government and the Federal Reserve have been
pursuing even more inflationary policies than those that caused
the problem in the first place. The graph below helps to illustrate
the magnitude of just how much new money has been put into the economy
through government stimulus and bailouts. This shows the level of
excess reserves Ė reserves held above the required ratio to deposits.
This excess is currently just sitting there Ė it has not yet been
lent out. But when the banks start lending it out (and it looks
like they are starting
to), it will create massive inflation. (For a more scholarly
understanding of how creating more money is inflationary, see this
in the US will be worse than it is now. It will be at least
in the double digits.
I should have
been more specific with this one. The official
unemployment rate in January of 2009 was 7.8%. It is now 8.3%.
So I got the first part of this right. Iíll concede the second part,
but not because unemployment isnít in the double digits Ė it actually
is. Official unemployment measurements do not include either short-term
or long-term "discouraged workers", nor do they include
those who work part-time because they cannot find full-time work.
Once you include these groups, the current rate of unemployment
is around 22%, putting it in the double digits. But real unemployment
was already in the double digits back when I made this prediction,
at around 16.5%. So I say that I got the first part of this right
but not the second.
As a relevant
aside: In promoting its 2009 stimulus plan, the Obama administration
claim that without the stimulus, unemployment would rise. It
presented a graph to illustrate its projections for just how bad
unemployment would get unless government spent hundreds of billions
of dollars stimulating the economy. Well, government DID spend hundreds
of billions of dollars stimulating the economy and guess what? The
unemployment rate rose even
higher than the governmentís worst-case scenario projections
Thereís no better alternative to Obama.
passed the NDAA bill, it gave me chills. Not because of the terrifying
implications of the bill itself, but because I really believed he
might veto it Ė not on the grounds he had stated when he threatened
to, but in order to placate those of his supporters who are rightly
concerned about the erosion of civil liberties. When he did not,
I realized Ė more clearly than I ever had before Ė that he feels
no need to placate anyone.
This fact was
driven home to me when I spoke with some of my friends who had supported
Obama in í08 and were disappointed with what theyíve seen so far.
One said to me that despite her disappointment, she was probably
going to vote for him again because she feared it would be "worse"
with whoever the Republican nominee was. I have come to realize
that, for those who are immersed in the two-party system and who
truly believe there is a difference between Republican and Democrat,
there is literally nothing their candidate can do that will cause
them to withdraw their support. Like a battered spouse who simply
canít imagine anything better than what theyíve got, they cling
to their man because they believe that the other side can always
produce something worse.
The truth is
that we live in a one-party state. And until more people come to
realize this and to reject the Partyís rule over their lives, its
grip will just continue to tighten. So it probably seems odd that
Iím going to recommend that you vote, and even odder that I ask
you to vote for a Republican candidate. But I am.
Ron Paul has
a thirty-plus year history of opposing aggressive wars, violations
of personal freedom and the government spending and monetary policy
that are now bankrupting our country. He also has a thirty-plus
year record of keeping his word and voting his conscience, which
is more than I can say for any other politician.
Maybe you donít
want to vote for Ron Paul because you object to some of his policy
views. I think writer Anna
O. Morgenstern addressed this concern quite well when she said:
you're going to slag off on Ron Paul for his (admittedly flawed)
domestic policy views, then you're sort of missing the point. His
main appeal is that he's the only anti-war candidate, and the war(s)
are one of the few things that are directly under a president's
control. So if you vote for someone else, you're basically saying
"I'm willing to sacrifice innocent foreigners to have a better domestic
And keep in
mind that under Obama, or for any of the establishment candidates,
"a better domestic policy" includes a massive transfer
of wealth from ordinary Americans to big financial corporations,
arresting and jailing people indefinitely without charging them,
and maintaining the highest prison population in the world.
The best part
about what Iím suggesting though is that you donít have to give
up your option to vote for Obama in the presidential election in
order to support Ron Paul. You can vote for Ron Paul in the Republican
primaries (which are going on right now) help him to win the Republican
nomination, and in no way be bound to vote for him in the general
election. Should he not win the nomination, or should you just decide
in November that you still prefer Obama, you can still vote for
Obama. But think about it: A presidential race between Barack Obama
and Ron Paul. Would you really choose Obama? If yes, Iíd really
like to know why.
There are ten primaries and caucuses, eight of which are open or
"semi-open", meaning that you donít have to register Republican
in order to vote. (To find out whether your state has open or closed
primaries, go here.)
If you live in one of the Super Tuesday states, please think about
going out and voting for Ron Paul. And please ask everyone you know
to do the same.
When I made
my predictions three years ago, I wrote:
I have said that real progress towards peace, freedom and respect
for individual rights cannot come from working within the very system
that sustains itself through war and the expansion of state power
over people's lives. If in fact the Obama administration does
herald great and significant change in these areas that we agree
upon, then I promise to rethink these beliefs... If I am wrong about
this, then I promise to re-think everything. But if I am not,
then I hope you will do the same. Let's talk again in four
my beliefs about political systems have only been reinforced by
what Iíve seen these past three years: That political systems and
politicians serve only their own interests, that they cause the
problems they purport to cure, and that there is no significant
difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, both of
which serve to expand the state at our expense.
should of course be wary of placing our hopes for "change"
in a politician who will rule over us. Any politician. Even
Ron Paul. If we want to live in peace, then we must reject the coercive
violence upon which a political system is built. We cannot continue
to grant individuals the right to rule over others, the monopoly
to both make and enforce laws, the monopoly on "justice"
and on defense Ė and then act surprised when those individuals use
their powers to their own benefit and to our detriment.
Ron Paul is
the "anti-politician". He is the anomaly, the exception
that proves the rule that politicians cannot be trusted. I donít
support him because I believe he is the answer to all of our problems
Ė weíre going to have to dig a lot deeper for that. I support him
because I believe that if elected, he stands a good chance of putting
a halt to the bloodshed that is US foreign policy and to putting
a big dent into the massive injustice that is our justice system.
I believe that he would do everything in his power to restore habeas
corpus, and to put the brakes on the government spending, corporate
bailouts and inflationary policies that are running the economy
into the ground.
If any of these
are things that you care about, then go and vote for Ron Paul in
the Republican primaries. Register Republican if you have to, just
do it! If you donít, fine. Thatís your choice and I guess youíve
got your reasons. But donít come running to me when your man disappoints
you once again.
Bretigne Shaffer [send
her mail] was a journalist in Asia for many years. She
is the author of Memoirs of a Gaijin and Why
Mommy Loves the State. She blogs at www.bretigne.com.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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