By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I had an interesting, though brief, discussion with a rich friend about President Obama. He is quite conservative, politically. He made the point that this has been the longest economic recovery since World War II. His point was that this was President Obama’s fault.
I have many criticisms of President Obama, as you know. But what unsettles me about conservative criticisms of Obama revolves around issues of context and facts. Anyone who has been watching the price of oil drop over the last weeks may have guessed that the global economy is having a great deal of difficulty recovering from the Great Recession. In fact, some parts of the world remain in recession or have returned to recession. Japan, for instance, has been economically stagnant. The U.S. has edged out of the recession.
The problem in the U.S. goes beyond any one presidential administration. Since 1975, the living standard for the average working person has been stagnant or dropping. This is a documented fact. It relates to several factors, including the changes in the global capitalist economy (specifically what we refer to as globalization); changes in economic policies, e.g., privatization; and de-unionization, i.e., the attacks on workers and their right to organize. The combination of these factors has led to an economic malaise.
As you will probably remember, when President Obama came into office in 2009, the economy was in free fall. He successfully, helped to stop that. But, because of excessive caution on the part of his administration plus his allies on Wall Street, his administration was not prepared to carry out the sorts of profound economic initiatives necessary to lead to a full recovery, e.g., a greater commitment to investment in infrastructure rebuilding. By “full recovery” I mean putting people back to work on the scale that is necessary. Thus, Wall Street recovered; all of the economic figures have been up; but for most working people, there remain on-going challenges due to home foreclosures and the failure of our incomes to rise.
My rich friend does not believe in anything approaching wealth redistribution, but that is precisely what we need. As the Occupy Movement pointed out, the wealthiest 1 percent are seizing a vastly disproportionate share of the wealth of the country. That happens when workers don’t have unions. That happens when politicians are elected based on whoever can pay them the most for their campaigns. That happens when people despair and, instead of struggling collectively, struggle against one another, such as falling prey to the race card.
People like my rich friend have done very well under President Obama, which is what makes it ironic that they hate Obama as much as they do. I guess they feel that they are actually not wealthy enough? Go figure.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.