Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig, where this article originally appeared. His latest book is The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America (Twelve).
Barack Obama’s faux populism is beginning to grate, and when yet another one of those “we the people” e-mails from the president landed on my screen as I was fishing around for a column subject, I came unglued. It is one thing to rob us blind by rewarding the power elite that created our problems but quite another to sugarcoat it in the rhetoric of a David taking on those Goliaths.
In each of the three most important areas of policy with which he has dealt, Obama speaks in the voice of the little people’s champion, but his actions cater fully to the demands of the most powerful economic interests.
With his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, he has given the military-industrial complex an excuse for the United States to carry on in spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined, without a credible military adversary in sight. His response to the banking meltdown was to continue George W. Bush’s massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, and his health care reform has all the earmarks of a boondoggle for the medical industry profiteers.
Health reform was the subject of Obama’s Tuesday e-mail, which proclaimed in its heading, “We will not back down.” Addressing me by my first name, which I assume is in acknowledgment that I, like the millions of other suckers with whom he so intimately corresponds, had contributed to his campaign, he began with a clarion call for yet another contribution, this time to donate.barackobama.com/FinalStretch.
“As we head into the final stretch of health reform, big insurance company lobbyists and their partisan allies hope that their relentless attacks and millions of dollars can intimidate us into accepting the status quo. So I have a message for them, from all of us: Not this time. We have come too far. We will not turn back. We will not back down.”
But we, following him, have already backed down. Does the president not recall that he began his health care reform effort by ingratiating himself with the insurance lobbyists in taking “single payer” off the table on day one? The insurers are not really upset with what may survive as a minuscule public option, for they have won the big prize: Everyone must buy insurance from them under penalty of law, and there will be no built-in requirement for cost control. Their so-called opposition to the current plans has to do with fine-tuning the president’s guarantee of their future profits.