Rolling Stone: In Defense of Obama.


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The Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, on why Obama is a historic success

By | October 8, 2014 For Rolling Stone Magazine

 

When it comes to Barack Obama, I’ve always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right. Furthermore, it seemed clear to me that, far from being the transformational figure his supporters imagined, he was rather conventional-minded: Even before taking office, he showed signs of paying far too much attention to what some of us would later take to calling Very Serious People, people who regarded cutting budget deficits and a willingness to slash Social Security as the very essence of political virtue.

 

And I wasn’t wrong. Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically. Furthermore, he came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain; we were saved from significant cuts to Social Security and a rise in the Medicare age only by Republican greed, the GOP’s unwillingness to make even token concessions.

 

But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn’t deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

I’ll go through those achievements shortly. First, however, let’s take a moment to talk about the current wave of Obama-bashing. All Obama-bashing can be divided into three types. One, a constant of his time in office, is the onslaught from the right, which has never stopped portraying him as an Islamic atheist Marxist Kenyan. Nothing has changed on that front, and nothing will.

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There’s a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as, to quote Cornel West, someone who ”posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.” They’re outraged that Wall Street hasn’t been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ”neoliberal” economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have con- strained even his much more modest efforts. It’s hard to take such claims seriously.

Finally, there’s the constant belittling of Obama from mainstream pundits and talking heads. Turn on cable news (although I wouldn’t advise it) and you’ll hear endless talk about a rudderless, stalled administration, maybe even about a failed presidency. Such talk is often buttressed by polls showing that Obama does, indeed, have an approval rating that is very low by historical standards.

But this bashing is misguided even in its own terms – and in any case, it’s focused on the wrong thing.

Yes, Obama has a low approval rating compared with earlier presidents. But there are a number of reasons to believe that presidential approval doesn’t mean the same thing that it used to: There is much more party-sorting (in which Republicans never, ever have a good word for a Democratic president, and vice versa), the public is negative on politicians in general, and so on. Obviously the midterm election hasn’t happened yet, but in a year when Republicans have a huge structural advantage – Democrats are defending a disproportionate number of Senate seats in deep-red states – most analyses suggest that control of the Senate is in doubt, with Democrats doing considerably better than they were supposed to. This isn’t what you’d expect to see if a failing president were dragging his party down.

More important, however, polls – or even elections – are not the measure of a president. High office shouldn’t be about putting points on the electoral scoreboard, it should be about changing the country for the better. Has Obama done that? Do his achievements look likely to endure? The answer to both questions is yes.

 

HEALTH CARE

When Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, an excited Joe Biden whispered audibly, ”This is a big fucking deal!” He was right.

 

The enactment and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has been a perils-of-Pauline experience. When an upset in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy cost Democrats their 60-vote Senate majority, health reform had to be rescued with fancy legislative footwork. Then it survived a Supreme Court challenge only thanks to a surprise display of conscience by John Roberts, who nonetheless opened a loophole that has allowed Republican-controlled states to deny coverage to millions of Americans. Then technical difficulties with the HealthCare.gov website seemed to threaten disaster. But here we are, most of the way through the first full year of reform’s implementation, and it’s working better than even the optimists expected.

We won’t have the full data on 2014 until next year’s census report, but multiple independent surveys show a sharp drop in the number of Americans without health insurance, probably around 10 million, a number certain to grow greatly over the next two years as more people realize that the program is available and penalties for failure to sign up increase.

It’s true that the Affordable Care Act will still leave millions of people in America uninsured. For one thing, it was never intended to cover undocumented immigrants, who are counted in standard measures of the uninsured. Furthermore, millions of low-income Americans will slip into the loophole Roberts created: They were supposed to be covered by a federally funded expansion of Medicaid, but some states are blocking that expansion out of sheer spite. Finally, unlike Social Security and Medicare, for which almost everyone is automatically eligible, Obamacare requires beneficiaries to prove their eligibility for Medicaid or choose and then pay for a subsidized private plan. Inevitably, some people will fall through the cracks.

Still, Obamacare means a huge improvement in the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans – not just better care, but greater financial security. And even those who were already insured have gained both security and freedom, because they now have a guarantee of coverage if they lose or change jobs.

What about the costs? Here, too, the news is better than anyone expected. In 2014, premiums on the insurance policies offered through the Obamacare exchanges were well below those originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office, and the available data indicates a mix of modest increases and actual reductions for 2015 – which is very good in a sector where premiums normally increase five percent or more each year. More broadly, overall health spending has slowed substantially, with the cost-control features of the ACA probably deserving some of the credit.

In other words, health reform is looking like a major policy success story. It’s a program that is coming in ahead of schedule – and below budget – costing less, and doing more to reduce overall health costs than even its supporters predicted.

Of course, this success story makes nonsense of right-wing predictions of catastrophe. Beyond that, the good news on health costs refutes conservative orthodoxy. It’s a fixed idea on the right, sometimes echoed by ”centrist” commentators, that the only way to limit health costs is to dismantle guarantees of adequate care – for example, that the only way to control Medicare costs is to replace Medicare as we know it, a program that covers major medical expenditures, with vouchers that may or may not be enough to buy adequate insurance. But what we’re actually seeing is what looks like significant cost control via a laundry list of small changes to how we pay for care, with the basic guarantee of adequate coverage not only intact but widened to include Americans of all ages.

It’s worth pointing out that some criticisms of Obamacare from the left are also looking foolish. Obamacare is a system partly run through private insurance companies (although expansion of Medicaid is also a very important piece). And some on the left were outraged, arguing that the program would do more to raise profits in the medical-industrial complex than it would to protect American families.

You can still argue that single-payer would have covered more people at lower cost – in fact, I would. But that option wasn’t on the table; only a system that appeased insurers and reassured the public that not too much would change was politically feasible. And it’s working reasonably well: Competition among insurers who can no longer deny insurance to those who need it most is turning out to be pretty effective. This isn’t the health care system you would have designed from scratch, or if you could ignore special-interest politics, but it’s doing the job.

And this big improvement in American society is almost surely here to stay. The conservative health care nightmare – the one that led Republicans to go all-out against Bill Clinton’s health plans in 1993 and Obamacare more recently – is that once health care for everyone, or almost everyone, has been put in place, it will be very hard to undo, because too many voters would have a stake in the system. That’s exactly what is happening. Republicans are still going through the motions of attacking Obamacare, but the passion is gone. They’re even offering mealymouthed assurances that people won’t lose their new benefits. By the time Obama leaves office, there will be tens of millions of Americans who have benefited directly from health reform – and that will make it almost impossible to reverse. Health reform has made America a different, better place.

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FINANCIAL REFORM

Let’s be clear: The financial crisis should have been followed by a drastic crackdown on Wall Street abuses, and it wasn’t. No important figures have gone to jail; bad banks and other financial institutions, from Citigroup to Goldman, were bailed out with few strings attached; and there has been nothing like the wholesale restructuring and reining in of finance that took place in the 1930s. Obama bears a considerable part of the blame for this disappointing response. It was his Treasury secretary and his attorney general who chose to treat finance with kid gloves.

It’s easy, however, to take this disappointment too far. You often hear Dodd- Frank, the financial-reform bill that Obama signed into law in 2010, dismissed as toothless and meaningless. It isn’t. It may not prevent the next financial crisis, but there’s a good chance that it will at least make future crises less severe and easier to deal with.

Dodd-Frank is a complicated piece of legislation, but let me single out three really important sections.

First, the law gives a special council the ability to designate ”systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs) – that is, institutions that could create a crisis if they were to fail – and place such institutions under extra scrutiny and regulation of things like the amount of capital they are required to maintain to cover possible losses. This provision has been derided as ineffectual or worse – during the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney claimed that by announcing that some firms were SIFIs, the government was effectively guaranteeing that they would be bailed out, which he called ”the biggest kiss that’s been given to New York banks I’ve ever seen.”

But it’s easy to prove that this is nonsense: Just look at how institutions behave when they’re designated as SIFIs. Are they pleased, because they’re now guaranteed? Not a chance. Instead, they’re furious over the extra regulation, and in some cases fight bitterly to avoid being placed on the list. Right now, for example, MetLife is making an all-out effort to be kept off the SIFI list; this effort demonstrates that we’re talking about real regulation here, and that financial interests don’t like it.

Another key provision in Dodd-Frank is ”orderly liquidation authority,” which gives the government the legal right to seize complex financial institutions in a crisis. This is a bigger deal than you might think. We have a well-established procedure for seizing ordinary banks that get in trouble and putting them into receivership; in fact, it happens all the time. But what do you do when something like Citigroup is on the edge, and its failure might have devastating consequences? Back in 2009, Joseph Stiglitz and yours truly, among others, wanted to temporarily nationalize one or two major financial players, for the same reasons the FDIC takes over failing banks, to keep the institutions running but avoid bailing out stockholders and management. We got a chance to make that case directly to the president. But we lost the argument, and one key reason was Treasury’s claim that it lacked the necessary legal authority. I still think it could have found a way, but in any case that won’t be an issue next time.

A third piece of Dodd-Frank is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That’s Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild, an agency dedicated to protecting Americans against the predatory lending that has pushed so many into financial distress, and played an important role in the crisis. Warren’s idea was that such a stand-alone agency would more effectively protect the public than agencies that were supposed to protect consumers, but saw their main job as propping up banks. And by all accounts the new agency is in fact doing much more to crack down on predatory practices than anything we used to see.

There’s much more in the financial reform, including a number of pieces we don’t have enough information to evaluate yet. But there’s enough evidence even now to say that there’s a reason Wall Street – which used to give an approximately equal share of money to both parties but now overwhelmingly supports Republicans – tried so hard to kill financial reform, and is still trying to emasculate Dodd-Frank. This may not be the full overhaul of finance we should have had, and it’s not as major as health reform. But it’s a lot better than nothing.

THE ECONOMY

Barack Obama might not have been elected president without the 2008 financial crisis; he certainly wouldn’t have had the House majority and the brief filibuster-proof Senate majority that made health reform possible. So it’s very disappointing that six years into his presidency, the U.S. economy is still a long way from being fully recovered.

Before we ask why, however, we should note that things could have been worse. In fact, in other times and places they have been worse. Make no mistake about it – the devastation wrought by the financial crisis was terrible, with real income falling 5.5 percent. But that’s actually not as bad as the ”typical” experience after financial crises: Even in advanced countries, the median post-crisis decline in per- capita real GDP is seven percent. Recovery has been slow: It took almost six years for the United States to regain pre-crisis average income. But that was actually a bit faster than the historical average.

Or compare our performance with that of the European Union. Unemployment in America rose to a horrifying 10 percent in 2009, but it has come down sharply in the past few years. It’s true that some of the apparent improvement probably reflects discouraged workers dropping out, but there has been substantial real progress. Meanwhile, Europe has had barely any job recovery at all, and unemployment is still in double digits. Compared with our counterparts across the Atlantic, we haven’t done too badly.

Did Obama’s policies contribute to this less-awful performance? Yes, without question. You’d never know it listening to the talking heads, but there’s overwhelming consensus among economists that the Obama stimulus plan helped mitigate the worst of the slump. For example, when a panel of economic experts was asked whether the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus, 82 percent said yes, only two percent said no.

Still, couldn’t the U.S. economy have done a lot better? Of course. The original stimulus should have been both bigger and longer. And after Republicans won the House in 2010, U.S. policy took a sharp turn in the wrong direction. Not only did the stimulus fade out, but sequestration led to further steep cuts in federal spending, exactly the wrong thing to do in a still-depressed economy.

We can argue about how much Obama could have altered this literally depressing turn of events. He could have pushed for a larger, more extended stimulus, perhaps with provisions for extra aid that would have kicked in if unemployment stayed high. (This isn’t 20-20 hindsight, because a number of economists, myself included, pleaded for more aggressive measures from the beginning.) He arguably let Republicans blackmail him over the debt ceiling in 2011, leading to the sequester. But this is all kind of iffy.

The bottom line on Obama’s economic policy should be that what he did helped the economy, and that while enormous economic and human damage has taken place on his watch, the United States coped with the financial crisis better than most countries facing comparable crises have managed. He should have done more and better, but the narrative that portrays his policies as a simple failure is all wrong.

While America remains an incredibly unequal society, and we haven’t seen anything like the New Deal’s efforts to narrow income gaps, Obama has done more to limit inequality than he gets credit for. The rich are paying higher taxes, thanks to the partial expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the special taxes on high incomes that help pay for Obamacare; the Congressional Budget Office estimates the average tax rate of the top one percent at 33.6 percent in 2013, up from 28.1 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the financial aid in Obamacare – expanded Medicaid, subsidies to help lower-income households pay insurance premiums – goes disproportionately to less-well-off Americans. When conservatives accuse Obama of redistributing income, they’re not completely wrong – and liberals should give him credit.

THE ENVIRONMENT

In 2009, it looked, briefly, as if we might be about to get real on the issue of climate change. A fairly comprehensive bill establishing a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse-gas emissions actually passed the House, and visions of global action danced like sugarplums in environmentalists’ heads. But the legislation stalled in the Senate, and Republican victory in the 2010 midterms put an end to that fantasy. Ever since, the only way forward has been through executive action based on existing legislation, which is a poor substitute for the new laws we need.

But as with financial reform, acknowledging the inadequacy of what has been done doesn’t mean that nothing has been achieved. Saying that Obama has been the best environmental president in a long time is actually faint praise, since George W. Bush was terrible and Bill Clinton didn’t get much done. Still, it’s true, and there’s reason to hope for a lot more over the next two years.

 

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First of all, there has been much more progress on the use of renewable energy than most people realize. The share of U.S. energy provided by wind and solar has grown dramatically since Obama took office. True, it’s still only a small fraction of the total, and some of the growth in renewables reflects technological progress, especially in solar panels, that would have happened whoever was in office. But federal policies, including loan guarantees and tax credits, have played an important role.

Nor is it just about renewables; Obama has also taken big steps on energy conservation, especially via fuel-efficiency standards, that have flown, somewhat mysteriously, under the radar. And it’s not just cars. In 2011, the administration announced the first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for medium and heavy vehicles, and in February it announced that these standards would get even tougher for models sold after 2018. As a way to curb green house-gas emissions, these actions, taken together, are comparable in importance to proposed action on power plants.

Which brings us to the latest initiative. Because there’s no chance of getting climate-change legislation through Congress for the foreseeable future, Obama has turned to the EPA’s existing power to regulate pollution – power that the Supreme Court has affirmed extends to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And this past summer, the EPA announced proposed rules that would require a large reduction over time in such emissions from power plants. You might say that such plants are only a piece of the problem, but they’re a large piece – CO2 from coal-burning power plants is in fact a big part of the problem, so if the EPA goes through with anything like the proposed rule, it will be a major step. Again, not nearly enough, and we’ll have to do a lot more soon, or face civilization-threatening disaster. But what Obama has done is far from trivial.

NATIONAL SECURITY

So far, i’ve been talking about Obama’s positive achievements, which have been much bigger than his critics understand. I do, however, need to address one area that has left some early Obama supporters bitterly disappointed: his record on national security policy. Let’s face it – many of his original enthusiasts favored him so strongly over Hillary Clinton because she supported the Iraq War and he didn’t. They hoped he would hold the people who took us to war on false pretenses accountable, that he would transform American foreign policy, and that he would drastically curb the reach of the national security state.

 

None of that happened. Obama’s team, as far as we can tell, never even considered going after the deceptions that took us to Baghdad, perhaps because they believed that this would play very badly at a time of financial crisis. On overall foreign policy, Obama has been essentially a normal post-Vietnam president, reluctant to commit U.S. ground troops and eager to extract them from ongoing commitments, but quite willing to bomb people considered threatening to U.S. interests. And he has defended the prerogatives of the NSA and the surveillance state in general.

Could and should he have been different? The truth is that I have no special expertise here; as an ordinary concerned citizen, I worry about the precedent of allowing what amount to war crimes to go not just unpunished but uninvestigated, even while appreciating that a modern version of the 1970s Church committee hearings on CIA abuses might well have been a political disaster, and undermined the policy achievements I’ve tried to highlight. What I would say is that even if Obama is just an ordinary president on national security issues, that’s a huge improvement over what came before and what we would have had if John McCain or Mitt Romney had won. It’s hard to get excited about a policy of not going to war gratuitously, but it’s a big deal compared with the alternative.

SOCIAL CHANGE

In 2004, social issues, along with national security, were cudgels the right used to bludgeon liberals – I like to say that Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists. Ten years later, and the scene is transformed: Democrats have turned these social issues – especially women’s rights – against Republicans; gay marriage has been widely legalized with approval or at least indifference from the wider public. We have, in a remarkably short stretch of time, become a notably more tolerant, open-minded nation.

Barack Obama has been more a follower than a leader on these issues. But at least he has been willing to follow the country’s new open-mindedness. We shouldn’t take this for granted. Before the Obama presidency, Democrats were in a kind of reflexive cringe on social issues, acting as if the religious right had far more power than it really does and ignoring the growing constituency on the other side. It’s easy to imagine that if someone else had been president these past six years, Democrats would still be cringing as if it were 2004. Thankfully, they aren’t. And the end of the cringe also, I’d argue, helped empower them to seek real change on substantive issues from health reform to the environment. Which brings me back to domestic issues.

As you can see, there’s a theme running through each of the areas of domestic policy I’ve covered. In each case, Obama delivered less than his supporters wanted, less than the country arguably deserved, but more than his current detractors acknowledge. The extent of his partial success ranges from the pretty good to the not-so-bad to the ugly. Health reform looks pretty good, especially in historical perspective – remember, even Social Security, in its original FDR version, only covered around half the workforce. Financial reform is, I’d argue, not so bad – it’s not the second coming of Glass-Steagall, but there’s a lot more protection against runaway finance than anyone except angry Wall Streeters seems to realize. Economic policy wasn’t enough to avoid a very ugly period of high unemployment, but Obama did at least mitigate the worst.

And as far as climate policy goes, there’s reason for hope, but we’ll have to see.

Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don’t care about the fact that Obama hasn’t lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn’t quite say, a big deal.

 

Thank you  &  Rolling Stone Magazine

 
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Sometimes: “Just An Image Says It All™”


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The Last 24™


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West Wing Week: 9/26/14 or “Stronger When We Stand United”

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

This week, the President unveiled the “It’s on Us” campaign, signed the America’s Promise Summit Declaration and headed to New York City for the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

 

 

 

President Barack Obama speaks at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.

 

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The President Delivers Remarks at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

President Obama addressed 44 nations gathered at the White House for the Global Health Security Agenda Summit on September 26, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's Raining Videos™

It’s Raining Videos™

 

FAA: Fire at facility stops Chicago air traffic

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

Chicago air traffic has been stopped due to a fire at an FAA facility in Aurora, Illinois, according to an official.

 

 

 

NRA Women Love at First Shot | Ep. 1 Bonus Clip: Being Responsible

 

 

I believe you can’t see ignorance & dumbfuckery unless you see ignorance & dumbfuckery.

 

 

With cuts to similar programs, the Common Pantry feeds more New Yorkers

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

New York’s millionaires have increased cost of living, leaving many residents struggling to pay for both shelter and food.

 

 

 

Pierre Boussaguet Quartet – Live at The New Morning 2003 [Full HD]

 

 

 

President Obama Speaks at Meeting of the Open Government Partnership

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a meeting of the Open Government Partnership in New York, New York on September 24, 2014. A text transcript can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-o…

 

 

 

Muslim Cleric from Contentious Fox and CNN Interviews Arrested in Counterterrorism Raid

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

The Muslim cleric featured in heated interviews on both CNN and Fox News last month was arrested Thursday as part of a London police counterterrorism raid.

 

According to The Guardian, Anjem Choudary was among nine Islamic men arrested on suspicion of “being members of a proscribed organization, or supporting a proscribed organization, as well as encouraging terrorism.”

 

Choudary was once spokesman for al-Muhajiroun, a radical group now banned in England. The organization has reformed under various aliases, officials allege, while the cleric himself has denied ever supporting acts of terror.

 

Mediaite readers may be familiar with Choudary from his appearances on Fox’s Hannity and CNN’s Reliable Sources. Both TV hits were shouting matches: In the latter, host Brian Stelter confronted the cleric for making an off-color 9/11 joke during soundcheck; in the former, Sean Hannity shouted at the cleric, “Are you that dumb or ignorant?” during a discussion of “Sharia law.”

 

 

 

The Daily Show: 9/25/14 in :60 Seconds

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

Lindsey Graham worries about the safety of Americans, Native American activists protest the Redskins logo, and Steven Johnson discusses “How We Got to Now.”

 

 

 

Yes Please Comedy: Automated Teller Assholes

 

 

 

Top 5 Reasons to Prosecute Bush and Cheney

 

 

 

President Obama Addresses Deadly Ebola Outbreak

 

Published on Sep 26, 2014

President Obama urged nations to aid in the efforts to prevent the spread of ebola in West Africa during a speech at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit from the White House.

 

 

 

Ferguson Missouri Police Chief: I’m truly sorry the Michael Brown shooting saga

 

 

 

Arrests in Ferguson Missouri Following Police Chief’s Apology

 

 

 

Ferguson Police Chief & Ferguson Police Have Shoving & Riot Starts

 

 

 

‘Why did you shoot me?’ video shows police shooting unarmed man

 

 

 

South Carolina Officer in Dash-Cam Shooting Video Faces Charges

 

 

 

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The MilitantNegro Potpourri™


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Charles Barkley on Peterson: ‘We all spanked our kids’…BUT we didn’t ALL break the skin Charles, or leave bruises. Remember your ad that you’re no role model? You are right, so shut the hell up.

Charles Barkley on NFL Today with Jim Rome | LIVE 9-14-14

Charles Barkley defended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and shared sentiments on former Ravens running back Ray Rice’s case during an interview with Jim Rome onThe NFL Today Show Sunday.

Barkley expressed optimism on Rice’s case, hoping that his mistake would help raise awareness on domestic violence. Rome then asked the former NBA player for his thoughts on Peterson’s indictment for child abuse.

Barkley said that he understands the outrage towards the football player but added that if child abuse charges were formalized against Peterson, “every black parent in the South is going to be in jail.”

Rome vehemently disagreed with Barkley’s thoughts, saying, “It doesn’t matter where you’re from: Right is right and wrong is wrong.”

“I don’t believe that because, listen, we spank kids in the South,” Barkley replied. “I think the question about did Adrian Peterson go overboard…. Every black parent in my neighborhood in the South would be in trouble or in jail under those circumstances.”

Rome maintained that there is a big difference between child discipline and child abuse, to which Barkley said this was acceptable, saying that he went through pretty much the same thing when he was a child.

“I’ve had many welts on my legs. I’ve gotten beat with switches,” Barkley said. “But as far as being from the South, we all spanked our kids.”

He also added that he and his brothers were constantly spanked growing up.

He then ended the conversation by saying that people need to really be careful in teaching other parents how to discipline their children.

Peterson is alleged to have beat his son with a tree branch last May in Texas, after the boy pushed one of his children. He was recently indicted by a grand jury for reckless or negligent injury to a child, concluding that the use of a switch to repeatedly hit his son was a form of unreasonable discipline.

The incident left his four-year-old son with several bruises and open wounds, which were documented in photographs.

If found guilty, Peterson could face $10,000 in fines and two years in prison.

Asking this dumbass his opinion of most anything not related to eating or saying stupid shit, is like asking Ike Turner his thoughts on domestic abuse. EPIC Failure Jim Rome.

ViolBord

Posted By: Everytown for Gun Safety (campaign leader)

Friends –

Volunteers from Everytown and Moms Demand Action are getting ready to deliver petition signatures to Kroger-owned stores across the country.

The company’s execs hope we’ll just go away, but you and I know better. 

Together we’re going to raise the volume on this campaign and demand that Kroger change its dangerous policy that lets customers openly carry loaded guns in its stores. We’ve almost reached our first round goal of 250,000 signatures — and once we do, we’ll deliver the petitions to Kroger.

Can you help us reach our goal by adding your name to the Groceries, Not Guns petition today?

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More than 150,000 people have already signed the petition asking Kroger to stop allowing the open carry of guns in their stores. The message is simple: We deserve to feel safe where we shop and dine.

Sign the petition for safer stores — and we’ll deliver it once we reach our goal of 250,000 signatures.

We’re going to keep the pressure on Kroger until they join the list of major companies with Gun Sense, like Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle, Target and more who’ve stopped letting people openly carry guns in stores.

Thanks for adding your name,

Shannon Watts
Founder
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

ViolBord

Today’s White House Schedule

All times are Eastern Time (ET)

9:15 AM: The President meets with Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL General John Allen and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk; The Vice President also attends.

12:20 PM: The President arrives Joint Base Andrews.

12:25 AM: The President departs Joint Base Andrews.

1:30 PM: The Vice President delivers remarks at a conference marking the 40th Anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation WATCH LIVE.

1:55 PM: The President arrives Atlanta, Georgia.

2:35 PM: The President participates in a briefing at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

3:25 PM: The President meets with Emory University doctors and healthcare professionals.

4:05 PM: The President delivers remarks WATCH LIVE.

5:35 PM: The President departs Atlanta, Georgia.

6:50 PM: The President arrives Tampa, Florida.

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The White House Week Ahead

On Tuesday, the President will travel to Atlanta, GA to visit the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he will receive a briefing on the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, discuss the U.S. response and thank the scientists, doctors and health care workers helping those affected by disease at home and around the world. The President will also receive an updated on the respiratory illness reported in several states in the Midwest.

In the evening, the President will travel to Tampa, FL, where he will remain overnight.

On Wednesday, the President will visit U.S. Central Command at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL.  CENTCOM’s area of responsibility includes 20 countries in the Middle East and Central and South Asia, including Iraq and Syria. The President will receive a briefing from his top commanders at CENTCOM, and thank the men and women who will partner with others in the region to carry out the President’s strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL.

In the afternoon, he will return to Washington, DC.

In the evening, the President will host a picnic for Members of Congress at the White House.

On Thursday morning the President will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office. At this event, the President will receive the credentials from foreign Ambassadors recently posted in Washington. The presentation of credentials is a traditional ceremony that marks the formal beginning of an Ambassador’s service in Washington.

In the afternoon, the President will host President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the White House. The visit will highlight the United States’ firm commitment to stand with Ukraine as it pursues liberal democracy, stability, and prosperity. President Obama looks forward to discussing with President Poroshenko efforts to pursue a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine as well as our continued support for Ukraine’s struggle to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the evening, the President will attend a DNC event in Washington, DC.

On Friday, the President will participate in an event with the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, DC.

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Racism Does NOT Exist In A Post Racial AmeriKKKa….

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1. Was Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson justified in shooting Michael Brown?
Whites: Yes (62%)
Blacks: No (65%)

2. Who is most responsible for the violence in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death?
46 percent of whites blame organized street gangs for the looting and chaos that gripped Ferguson for days after the shooting. Blacks blame law enforcement and community activists, both with 27 percent. Only 7 percent of whites said law enforcement was to blame.

3. Was Michael Brown targeted by Officer Darren Wilson because of his race?
Whites: No (77 %)
Blacks: Yes (64%)

4. Should Officer Darren Wilson be arrested and charged with a crime?
Whites: No (72%)
Blacks: Yes (71%)

5. Can Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch fairly prosecute the criminal case against Officer Darren Wilson?
Whites: Yes (71%)
Blacks: No (60%)

Is any one surprised that the county prosecutor, Attorney McCulloch, has been reelected to his post for decades by the county’s majority-white voting base, while black community leaders have organized protests, boycotts and a highway shutdown to get him thrown off the case? What #Ferguson residents need to do is get off their lazy asses AND VOTE ON “NO”vember 4th, Beat ‘Em With The Ballot Box.

6. Do police target black people because of their race?
White: No (61%)
Black: Yes (70%)

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Read this entire study at Ferguson Public Opinion

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An Interview With The President: Barack Obama Talks To The Economist.


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AS HE prepares to host a summit in Washington, DC, that will bring together leaders from across Africa, how does Barack Obama see the continent’s future (see article)? Does he feel let down by Vladimir Putin? Could he have designed a more elegant health-care law? And why don’t more business leaders admit that they have lunch with him?

 

In his cabin aboard Air Force One, returning to Washington from Kansas City, where he had been speaking about economic policy, the president talked with John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Edward Carr, our foreign editor. The prompt for the interview was the Africa summit, but the conversation ranged widely through the emerging world, China and Russia and the principles underlying his foreign policy. It ended with a lengthy riposte to those, including The Economist, who have criticised the White House for its treatment of business. Mr Obama was unusually relaxed and contemplative, buoyed by the recent economic numbers and looking towards his legacy as well as the mid-term elections and his wrangles with Congress.

 

Because the interview took place on board a plane with three people hunched round a microphone, the sound quality is less than perfect. You can listen to edited highlights of the president’s thoughts on Africa, Russia,China, multilateralism and American business, or listen to the full interview here. A full transcript, lightly edited for clarity, is available below.

 

Barack Obama talks to The Economist

 

Published on Aug 2, 2014

An interview with the president. The Economist’s editor-in-chief and foreign editor talked to Barack Obama aboard Air Force One on August 1st, 2014 as he returned to Washington from Kansas City. The conversation ranged widely through the emerging world, China and Russia and the principles underlying his foreign policy. It ended with a lengthy riposte to those, including The Economist, who have criticised the White House for its treatment of business. You can listen to the full interview here or view the transcript via our website: The Economist.

 

 

 

The Economist: Our starting point, on Africa, is we think Africa is the next big emerging opportunity. You don’t have to convince us at all that the narrative has changed, that this is a completely new thing. And we’ve been writing about that a lot. But it strikes me that in Africa you have an opportunity. You have Lagos, an amazing place, full of entrepreneurs, but you also have northern Nigeria, where you’ve got threats aplenty. I look back at American foreign policy in the past—at emerging Asia. Asia came out, but America really guided it—Kissinger went to China, he helped move it. Do you think America is up for Africa? Do you think America is able to guide it through the next period?

 

Barack Obama: I think America is not going to do it alone, but I think America can be central in moving Africa into the next stage of growth and integrating it into the world economy in a way in which it’s benefitting the people of Africa and it’s not just a source of natural resources.

 

And there are a couple of reasons why I think America can be central in this process. First of all, American companies continue to be an enormous force in the global economy, and in talking to US companies, there is a real recognition of opportunity there. Secondly, I do think that the American traditions of transparency, accountability, rule of law, property rights are ingredients that are critical to unlocking Africa’s future. Third, America was, and continues to be, an economy based on ideas, and as we move deeper into the 21st century, our emphasis on developing human capital is something that Africa very much wants and we’re good at it.

 

And finally, what’s fascinating about African development is the opportunities that they have to leapfrog certain technologies and skip certain phases of development, and we are very good at the technologies that allow countries to potentially leapfrog development. So a classic example being in the telecommunications sector. We invented smartphones and there are smartphones everywhere in Africa.

 

The Economist: They’re very good at doing mobile money, though, aren’t they? They’re much better at banking than—

 

Mr Obama: Well, when we were out the last time—I started in Senegal during my tour, and talking to small farmers about how they’re now getting weather reports, market reports, information on the latest seed technologies, all through their smartphone—those are the kinds of things that we excel at. And to meet a woman who started off with a small plot, who’s able to leverage that into a thriving—still small, but profitable operation, those are the kinds of things that I think we can do better than just about anybody else.

 

The Economist: Your second point about what the US has to bring in, in terms of governance—of course, one of the big factors in Africa and the economy’s emergence has been Chinese investment. And they bring a different model. They don’t have governence. Is that something that—on the other hand, is that a problem for you? Is that something that you need to confront, or is—actually, at this stage, just the capital and the foreign direct investment all that really matters?

 

Mr Obama: My view is the more the merrier. When I was in Africa, the question of China often came up, and my attitude was every country that sees investment opportunities and is willing to partner with African countries should be welcomed. The caution is to make sure that African governments negotiate a good deal with whoever they’re partnering with. And that is true whether it’s the United States; that’s true whether it’s China.

 

And I do think that China has certain capacity, for example, to build infrastructure in Africa that’s critical. They’ve got a lot of capital and they may be less constrained than the United States is fiscally in helping roads get built and bridges and ports. On the other hand, China obviously has a need for natural resources that colours their investments in a way that’s less true for the United States.

 

And so my advice to African leaders is to make sure that if, in fact, China is putting in roads and bridges, number one, that they’re hiring African workers; number two, that the roads don’t just lead from the mine to the port to Shanghai, but that there’s an ability for the African governments to shape how this infrastructure is going to benefit them in the long term.

 

And one of the interesting things we talked about at what was then a G8 summit—the one in Northern Ireland—was how the G7 countries could assist African governments who do have natural resources to build in transparency mechanisms that ensured any infrastructure and any architecture for extraction, in fact, redounded to the benefit of the populations.

 

The Economist: The other advantage the Chinese have is they don’t have Congress. Well, they have a congress but it’s somehow more compliant, to use your word this morning. We could both agree that one of the great things would be to have more free trade in Africa if you could push people. But you face the danger that Congress may give up on the Export-Import Bank and may also get in the way of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). These could frustrate your policy.

 

Mr Obama: There’s no doubt that—

 

The Economist: You’d rather be a dictator. (Laughter.)

 

Mr Obama: Let’s just make sure that we note that that was not my quote. (Laughter.)

 

There is no doubt that a thread has emerged in the Republican Party of anti-globalisation that runs contrary to the party’s traditional support for free trade. How the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) became targets for Tea Party wrath is a little strange to me. But I do think there remains a consensus within the American business community that ultimately we benefit from trade. I am confident that we can get AGOA reauthorised and refined, given the lessons learned from the first round of AGOA. And the truth is that the amount of trade between the United States and Africa is so small relative to our overall economy that in no way should it be perceived as a threat.

 

I am more concerned about the prospect, for example, that Ex-Im was not reauthorised because I think it will hurt US companies. I’m less concerned about its impact on Africa because I guarantee you that there will be German companies and Chinese companies and Indian companies who rush to fill that void. So when you’re talking about a continent with six of the ten fastest-growing economies, we would be cutting off our nose to spite our face to not be engaged and not to encourage strong trade relations. And the business community understands that.

 

Now, one thing that I want to make sure we emphasise, that multilateral institutions emphasise, and that African governments emphasise is not just trade with the advanced economies but intra-African trade. It is easier now to send a shipment of goods from Nairobi to Amsterdam than it is to send those goods to many parts of Africa. And that is an impediment to trade.

 

You mentioned Asia as a model. Part of what Asia was able to do was not simply open up markets to the West for cheaper goods, it was also able to foster homegrown businesses in Asia with regional markets that gave an opportunity for businesses to get better, to develop better products, to in some ways avoid competition on the global scale right away. Essentially, you can operate off-Broadway before you open the show on Broadway.

 

And so the more we can do to also encourage intra-African trade, the better. And we’re experimenting with that with the East Africa Trade Initiative that we are helping Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and other countries move forward on—synchronising their regulatory schemes, reducing some of the bureaucracy and paperwork between borders, planning for joint infrastructure, planning for joint power generation.

 

We’re really excited about Power Africa as a potential transformative effort—the idea that we can double the amount of electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, which can transform everything from businesses to schools.

 

And there are a whole bunch of different models for generating power. In some cases, particularly in rural areas, if we’re building a small power plant, the key is going to be making sure that Kenya and Tanzania, for example, have some sort of cooperative agreement, so that like the Tennessee Valley Authority, it’s helping a region and you’ve got enough customers to justify the economics of the investment. That’s the kind of effort that, again, I think America can play a unique role in.

 

The Economist: The other bit where it could play a unique role is security. I mean, you are the main provider. I’ve seen a couple of European leaders recently who’ve said that they think that you see African security as their area, as their backyard, they should be dealing with it. Is that fair or is that the wrong way to depict it? That you would be prepared to expend blood and treasure to help create this new Africa in the same way as America did for Asia?

 

Mr Obama: It’s interesting. The US security presence is always a source of ambivalence everywhere in the world. If we’re not there, people think we’re neglecting them. If we’re there, then they think we’re militarising a region. Right now I think we got it about right. Our theory is that we very much need to partner with African countries, first and foremost, and regional African organisations.

 

And one of the main topics in the summit will be finding ways to strengthen peacekeeping and conflict-resolution efforts by Africans. There are certain countries that carry a very heavy load when it comes to peacekeeping and conflict resolution. And for us to engage in the African Union and ECOWAS to find ways to improve their capabilities so that they are able to police their own neighbourhood can make a huge difference.

 

We also think that we need to have a much more intentional, explicit plan for NATO to engage with African countries and regional organisations, not because the United States is not prepared to invest in security efforts in Africa, but rather to ensure that we are not perceived as trying to dominate the continent. Rather, we want to make sure that we’re seen as a reliable partner. And there are some advantages to some European countries with historical ties being engaged and taking advantage of relationships—

 

The Economist: So France might be able to—

 

Mr Obama: France—the Francophone countries—obviously is going to be able to do certain things better than we can. And one of the things we want to make sure of, though, is that when the average African thinks about US engagement in Africa, I don’t want them to think that our only interest is avoiding terrorists from spilling out into the world stage. Rather, we want them to see the partnership as comprehensive, and security being one part of our broader agenda.

 

The Economist: Can I push you a bit on that—using Africa as an example for a thing about general foreign policy? You worked really hard on this idea of getting responsible powers to work together. And I suppose as you look back, you might say the two problems you’ve had are, first, dealing with people who aren’t rational or are extremely difficult to deal with—like Mr Putin—or secondly, the problem is allies who aren’t prepared to put stuff in. And South Africa would seem to be emblematic of other new emerging powers. You’ve got South Africa, you’ve got Indonesia, you’ve got India. A lot of things you’ve tried to get them to back, they haven’t. And why do you think that is? Is that a phase they’re going through? What’s changing?

 

Mr Obama: Well, look, there’s no doubt that a robust, interventionist foreign policy on behalf of certain principles, ideals or international rules is not a tradition that most countries embrace. And in the 20th century and in the early stages of the 21st century, the United States continues to be the one indispensable power that is willing to spend blood and treasure on that. And part of my job has been to try to persuade countries that the United States will always shoulder a greater burden than others, but we still cannot do it alone given the complexity and
interconnectedness of today’s world.

 

So when it comes to South Africa, we recognise a suspicion they may have about meddling too much in the affairs of Zimbabwe, for example. But my argument to them would be, ultimately, as a key regional power, if they fail to invest in the kind of international order or regional order that helps ordinary Zimbabweans thrive, then they’re going to have an immigration problem—which they already do. That, in turn, is going to put more pressure on them and their economies. And ultimately, those chickens will come home to roost.

 

I think there’s a recognition that that may be the case, but I think there’s still a worry on the part of many regional powers that if they are too meddlesome then they’re also exposing themselves to criticism from the outside. And so there’s a little bit of a north-south, traditional, non-aligned culture that dates back 20, 30 years that may take some time and may require a new generation of leadership to discard so that they can move forward in a more effective way.

 

The Economist: It’s kind of depressing, because you don’t see those powers, not even regionally, but globally, standing up to clear abuses and unravelling of the norms. And, in fact, you see countries like China creating a BRICS bank, for instance—institutions that seem to be parallel with the system—and potentially putting pressure on the system rather than adding to it and strengthening it. Now, China you can understand. But India, Brazil, South Africa—those are countries that really belong in the system, that benefit from the system.

 

Mr Obama: Well, this is why I say there may be some generational shifts that need to take place. I mean, if you think about a Brazil, an India, a South Africa, much of the leadership in those governments came of age when those countries had very different attitudes towards the global economic system. To their credit, they have made incredible adjustments. If you think about somebody like former Prime Minister Singh of India really dragging this massive, incredibly complicated but incredibly innovative society kicking and screaming into the world marketplace, and below him, though, you’ve got an entire bureaucracy that was trained in thinking that—

 

The Economist: By the British? (Laughter.)

 

Mr Obama:—well, but also that may have been schooled by economists who were experts on dependency theory but not necessarily on how are we going to unleash innovation.

 

The Economist: What’s their incentive to learn?

 

Mr Obama: So there will be time I think for that to happen. Their incentive is that—is what you just identified—they benefit from the global system.

 

I mean, ironically, today, if India, Brazil, Indonesia—these emerging countries are to succeed and to absorb very young populations that are seeing what’s possible through the internet and have ambitions of the sort that their parents and grandparents never had, the only way to meet those expectations is to dive head first into a global system that is organised, that is fair, that is transparent. And that means that these emerging powers have to be partners in underwriting that order.

 

Another way of thinking about it is, is that the post-World War II order was necessarily a creation of the United States. There had been times where the United States took advantage of that post-World War II order to extend the reach of its companies and to extend the reach of its products, but now it really belongs to everybody. It’s an ecosystem that’s been built for everyone.

 

And when we look at something like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, yes, we think it’s good for the United States, but we also think it’s good for a country like Vietnam who, in the absence of these kinds of rules, is going to have a very difficult time negotiating with its giant neighbour and getting decent terms of trade. We think it’s going to be good for a country like Malaysia that has an interest in maintaining navigation and freedom of movement in the South China Sea.

 

And I do think that what’s happening in the ASEAN countries and their concerns about the Chinese posture on maritime issues is instructive. You’ve seen many of those countries say, we want great relations with China, we don’t want to have to choose between China and the United States; on the other hand, we don’t want to be bullied just because we’re small.

 

The Economist: Because that is the key issue, whether China ends up inside that system or challenging it. That’s the really big issue of our times, I think.

 

Mr Obama: It is. And I think it’s important for the United States and Europe to continue to welcome China as a full partner in these international norms. It’s important for us to recognise that there are going to be times where there are tensions and conflicts. But I think those are manageable.

 

And it’s my belief that as China shifts its economy away from simply being the low-cost manufacturer of the world to wanting to move up the value chain, then suddenly issues like protecting intellectual property become more relevant to their companies, not just to US companies.

 

One thing I will say about China, though, is you also have to be pretty firm with them, because they will push as hard as they can until they meet resistance. They’re not sentimental, and they are not interested in abstractions. And so simple appeals to international norms are insufficient. There have to be mechanisms both to be tough with them when we think that they’re breaching international norms, but also to show them the potential benefits over the long term. And what is true for China then becomes an analogy for many of the other emerging markets.

 

The Economist: What about the people who are just outright difficult? Russia being the obvious example at the moment. You tried to “reset” with Russia. Angela Merkel spent the whole time telephoning Vladimir Putin. To what extent do you feel let down almost personally by what’s happened?

 

Mr Obama: I don’t feel let down. We had a very productive relationship with President Medvedev. We got a lot of things done that we needed to get done. Russia I think has always had a Janus-like quality, both looking east and west, and I think President Putin represents a deep strain in Russia that is probably harmful to Russia over the long term, but in the short term can be politically popular at home and very troublesome abroad.

 

But I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking. And so we have to respond with resolve in what are effectively regional challenges that Russia presents. We have to make sure that they don’t escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy. And as long as we do that, then I think history is on our side.

Anything on the US economy? I noticed the occasional cover story saying how unfriendly to business we are.

 

The Economist: Yes, tell us about that. We see a lot of business people and they do complain about regulation.

 

Mr Obama: They always complain about regulation. That’s their job. Let’s look at the track record. Let’s look at the facts. Since I have come into office, there’s almost no economic metric by which you couldn’t say that the US economy is better and that corporate bottom lines are better. None.

 

So if, in fact, our policies have produced a record stock market, record corporate profits, 52 months of consecutive job growth, 10m new jobs, the deficit being cut by more than half, an energy sector that’s booming, a clean-energy sector that’s booming, a reduction of carbon pollution greater than the Europeans or any other country, a housing market that has bounced back, and an unemployment rate that is now lower than it was pre-Lehman—I think you’d have to say that we’ve managed the economy pretty well and business has done okay.

 

There are always going to be areas where business does not want to be regulated because regulations are inconvenient.

 

The Economist: When you look at things like Dodd-Frank and health-care reform—both of which we supported in principle—that they could have been much simpler?

 

Mr Obama: Of course. This goes back to the old adage of Churchill—democracy is the worst form of government except for all the alternatives. (Laughter.) It’s messy.

 

And so could we have designed a far more elegant health-care law? Of course. Would I have greatly preferred a blank canvas in which to design financial regulations post-2008 and consolidated agencies and simplified oversight? Absolutely. But the truth of the matter is, is that we saved the financial system. It continues to be extraordinarily profitable. And essentially, what we did was to provide an additional cushion so that if and when people make bad decisions with large sums of money—which they inevitably do—the risks to the system are reduced.

 

And on health care, as messy as the whole process has been, here’s what I know—that we have millions of people [insured] who didn’t have insurance before, and health-care inflation is the lowest it’s been in 50 years, for four consecutive years, corresponding to when we passed the law.

 

So my belief is that if, in fact, we can see a reduction in some of the political temperature around Obamacare or around Dodd-Frank, then it’s an iterative process. We can go back at it and further refine it, learn lessons from things that aren’t working as well, make it simpler, make it better. That does require, though, an attitude on the part of Congress, as well as on the part of the business community, that says you don’t just get 100% of what you want.

 

The business community does have broader responsibilities to the system as a whole. And although the general view today is that the only responsibility that a corporate CEO has is to his shareholders, I think the American people generally sense—

 

The Economist: Do you really think that’s true? Because when I talk to corporate CEOs, that’s one of their complaints. If you ask for a complaint about the White House, they’ll say it is the attitude. Every CEO nowadays is involved in nine different social responsibility things—it’s ingrained in most public—

 

Mr Obama: Well, I think—here’s what’s interesting. There’s a huge gap between the professed values and visions of corporate CEOs and how their lobbyists operate in Washington. And I’ve said this to various CEOs. When they come and they have lunch with me—which they do more often than they probably care to admit (laughter)—and they’ll say, you know what, we really care about the environment, and we really care about education, and we really care about getting immigration reform done—then my challenge to them consistently is, is your lobbyist working as hard on those issues as he or she is on preserving that tax break that you’ve got? And if the answer is no, then you don’t care about it as much as you say.

 

Now, to their credit, I think on an issue like immigration reform, for example, companies did step up. And what they’re discovering is the problem is not the regulatory zealotry of the Obama administration; what they’re discovering is the dysfunction of a Republican Party that knows we need immigration reform, knows that it would actually be good for its long-term prospects, but is captive to the nativist elements in its party.

 

And the same I think goes for a whole range of other issues like climate change, for example. There aren’t any corporate CEOs that you talk to at least outside of maybe—no, I will include CEOs of the fossil-fuel industries—who are still denying that climate change is a factor. What they want is some certainty around the regulations so that they can start planning. Given the capital investments that they have to make, they’re looking at 20-, 30-year investments. They’ve got to know now are we pricing carbon? Are we serious about this? But none of them are engaging in some of the nonsense that you’re hearing out of the climate-change denialists. Denialists?

 

Eric Schultz (deputy press secretary): Deniers.

 

The Economist: Deniers.

 

Mr Obama: Deniers—thank you.

 

The Economist: Denialists sounds better. (laughter.)

 

Mr Obama: It does have more of a ring to it.

 

So the point, though, is that I would take the complaints of the corporate community with a grain of salt. If you look at what our policies have been, they have generally been friendly towards business, while at the same time recognising there are certain core interests—fiscal interests, environmental interests, interests in maintaining stability of the financial system—where, yes, we’re placing constraints on them. It probably cuts into certain profit centres in their businesses. I understand why they would be frustrated by it, but the flip side of it is that they’d be even more unhappy if the global financial system unravels. Nobody has more of a stake in it than them.

 

Last point I’ll make on this: If you look at what’s happened over the last four or five years, the folks who don’t have a right to complain are the folks at the top. Where we have made less progress than I would like, and is my obsession since I came into office and will continue to be my obsession until I leave office and afterwards, is the broader trend of an increasingly bifurcated economy where those at the top are getting a larger and larger share of GDP, increased productivity, corporate profits, and middle-class and working-class families are stuck. Their wages and incomes are stagnant. They’ve been stagnant for almost two decades now. This is not a phenomenon unique to the United States, but it is global.

 

And this to me is the big challenge: How do we preserve the incredible dynamism of the capitalist system while making sure that the distribution of wealth and incomes and goods and services in that system is broadly based, is widely spread?

 

And the reason I’m concerned about this is not in any way a punitive notion. Oftentimes, you’ll hear some hedge-fund manager say, ‘Oh, he’s just trying to stir class resentment’. No. Feel free to keep your house in the Hamptons and your corporate jet, etc. I’m not concerned about how you’re living. I am concerned about making sure that we have a system in which the ordinary person who is working hard and is being responsible can get ahead and are seeing modest improvements in their life prospects, if not for themselves, then certainly for the next generation.

 

And I believe that that’s the big challenge, not just for the United States, but that’s the big challenge for everybody.

 

And we got to go because we’re all parked. Alright?

 

The Economist: Thank you.

 

Mr Obama: That was a good conversation. I enjoyed it.

 

 

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