Monday, 2 August 2010

Why the American Working Class Hates Obama

This is an exciting occasion for this blog; and we'll tell you why; a few weeks ago we received a comment from a reader in the US to a post that was published at the beginning of the year, and following subsequent investigation found that the annotator, if that’s the right word; ran and organised a blog in the US which we found to be an exhilarating berth of fresh air, that pulls and perforates no egotistical punches but tells us something about life with a real common sense that's tinged with hummer, of life as seen from one young individual in the US today. We decided to invite this comrade to guest author a post for this blog and we are very delighted to present the following Post, we hope that you enjoy and feel free to post comments, but above all else please visit Not Quite Steinbeck  by clinking on this link.

Jim Lawrie and Brian Hopper

Why the American Working Class Hates Obama

The night Obama was elected; I literally cried I was so happy that an intelligent person was finally going to be in office.  To qualify that remark a bit, George Bush began his first term when I was fourteen, so his was the first presidency that I was ever really exposed to (talk about indecent exposure, huh?).  Anyway, even though I consider myself a socialist and not a democrat, I really, really wanted Obama to be elected.  

The reason I wanted Obama to be elected was because he portrayed himself as antiwar, he made claims that he would put more regulations on financial institutions, he said he'd reform healthcare, improve immigrant’s rights and further the GLBT cause.   

So let’s look at how he's fulfilled his promises.  We are still in two wars.  The banks were given tons of money from the US government but are being allowed to continue the same practices in regards to derivatives that got us into this situation to begin with.  The healthcare bill doesn't do a tenth of what Obama said it would. Obama said that he would improve immigrant rights and instead, during his administration more laws have been added that legitimatize their discrimination. And as far as the GLBT cause, same-sex couples still can't get married or admit their sexuality to the military.   

All of those things make me mad, but don't get me wrong; I am not trying to say that I think McCain or the Crazy Lady (aka Sarah Palin) would have been any better.  In fact, they would have been much, much worse.  Obama has done some stuff that has helped the working class.  After the housing crash, he enacted policies that made it possible for low income and first time homeowners to have governmental assistance to purchase houses.  My father was able to buy a house for the first time and he credits this completely to Obama's new policies. Obama's administration also has done some work in regards to forgiving student loans.  The health care bill passed, although, it still isn't anywhere near where I would want it to be. 

So, is Obama for the working class? After some intense deliberation, my answer is...I really don't know.  He has great rhetoric, he really does.  He claims to want to help the working class and, for the most part, he has logical ideas for how to do this.  In addition to this, the senate and the congress both have democratic majorities.  So if everyone in power claims they want to strengthen the American working class, why isn't this happening? 

In my opinion, you can blame it solely on the right wing. The conservative movement in the United States has gone, for lack of more eloquent phrase, completely eff-ing insane. They have divided the American public into two groups; the patriotic, anti-union, pro-war, pro big business, freedom-loving, “real” Americans and the leftist, Stalin-style psychos who are intent on the destruction of the United States  

I'm not kidding, if you watch most mainstream media in the US right now, they talk about the political scene like everyone who isn't completely on board with the conservative (also called the teabaggers) movement, is secretly working to ruin America. The type of economic policies that got the US in this situation started in the eighties, with neoliberalism and  Reaganomics, but in the last few years the right wing has convinced the working class not only to complacently let the rich rule , but to actually become the foot soldiers for this movement!  

I am not sure how things are in other parts of the world, but over here the majority of working class people think that unionizing, you know fighting for worker's rights, will cause lower wages, unemployment and worse working conditions for the average worker. The working class has become convinced that taxing the rich will end up costing the average worker to lose his or her job. They have convinced the working class that health care reform will make it impossible to see a doctor.  They have convinced the working class that the evaporation of jobs was caused by some immigrants coming here and working illegally (because of course it couldn't have ANYTHING to do with all the jobs being sent to Cambodia or India, which would be crazy, right?).  The media and conservative politicians have even gone so far as to say that unemployment benefits are somehow the cause of unemployment.  And the craziest part of all this is that there are a huge number of working class people that believe this. 

So back to Obama, why isn't his administration getting their laws passed? Because whenever they try and reform anything, the country erupts in a debate over whether regulations on industry or increased social welfare spending will somehow lead to gulags and the complete loss of private property.   

Seriously, if you listened to the dialog happening over here, you would think that not only does Obama want to take over every social institution, all industry, and every small business in the US, but that if you let the reforms happen you will end up living in some dis-utopian dictatorship where baseball and dressing differently than your neighbour will get you thrown in prison.  

Ok, so I might be exaggerating a tiny bit at the end there, but it isn't too far off.   The right wing has a lot of people convinced that Obama is a socialist, and that the word socialist means someone who hates freedom and the American Dream. And it didn't stop there, there were also a lot of people who thought that Obama was not born in the United States but had instead somehow sneaked into our country to take over.  

If you think THAT'S crazy, there were also a lot of people, not the majority by any means but still a lot of people that thought he was...the antichrist.  That isn't a joke.  The conservative movement and the religious right actually propagated the idea that not only is Obama a bad politician, but that he is LITERALLY the devil.  Soak that in for a minute. The devil.  Political debate has gone from discussion about fiscal, social and foreign policy to conservative nut jobs calling the president the Antichrist. And people believed them! I have actually been asked by people I know whether I think that Obama might be the son of the devil.  

So, getting back to my original question, is Obama for the working class? I am still not sure.  I think that even if he was able to pass every law that he wanted, there would still be quite a few in there that helped corporations.  I don't think that his administration would be willing change the United States to a socialized democracy, but I do think that if things were being done his way that things would be a little better for the working class.   

But things aren't being done that way, instead witch hunts have replaced political discourse and liberal politicians are thrown out of office if they even start to lean towards any kind of socialized welfare reform.  The first problem with this is that nothing is being done to help the working class over here.  The second problem is that the media is so focused on covering this craziness, that things like the systematic repression of the entire working class is being ignored.  Even when the media does cover something about it, it tends to get blamed on regulation of industry instead of the real cause.  

Because the news is covered, or rather NOT covered, in this way, regular working class Americans aren't being shown the cause of the depression.  Instead, they are being told that the reason they are poor, unhealthy, losing their homes, unable to afford an education and unemployed is because the United States isn't capitalistic enough.  And almost everyone here believes that.  

So, to sum up this long rambling rant, I'm going to point blank answer the questions that the writers of this blog asked me. Is Obama doing a good job? No, but whether this is because he doesn't want to or because he isn't being allowed to is hard to say. Will Obama be re-elected? I hope so, because maybe then he won't be so afraid to make unpopular decisions, but in this political climate, I really doubt it.  

And the final question, what are the social conditions of people in the United States? Not great, that’s for sure.  I will use myself as an example, I have a bachelors degree and while in college, I had an A average, did a lot of volunteer work at charitable organizations, conducted international research and published an academic article about my work in China.  (Geez, that sounds like I am bragging but I am just trying to paint a picture of what employment opportunities are like in US). 

Anyway, with all that hard work I put into my education, I managed to snag a sweet job that is considered part-time even though I typically work 40+ hours a week, don't get any health benefits and where I make eight bucks an hour.  Did I mention the education that got me this sweet job cost me $40,000 all of which I am in debt for?  So yeah, as far as working class people go, if that is what it is like for someone with a college degree I am sure you can all imagine what it is like for someone without a degree or someone that has a family to support.  Basically, it is a pretty dire situation over here and no one seems to see the cause of all of it.  

I think that conditions over here are going to get worse before they get better. People in the US are still too focused on the “American Dream” to realize that it doesn't even come close to resembling the American reality.  I thought Obama was going to improve the situation, but his election has only served to polarize the county even further.  My greatest fear is that because people are so convinced that he is to blame for the economic situation, that during the next election Sarah “crazy lady” Palin will be elected.  If that happens, I may just get a chance to meet the writers of The Socialist Way in person, because if she gets into office I will be on the first plane out of this place. 

Post By: Not Quite Steinbeck USA


Chris H said...

Do they hate Obama? I don't think they do, but I do believe that the expectations of what Obama could or will do have been overhyped.

Whatever Obama's personal politics he is just one man in a very big system, in a party committed to maintaining the tight status quo.

American politics and American big business have the show stitched up and nothing's going to change without changing the system. And that I believe has to come in though a dedicated political party or through some form of disaster.

Norbert said...

Hi Chris,

I'm hopping that the author will come in before I make a comment, but for now I think your last polarograph is interesting and I would like to say something about this latter:

"American politics and American big business have the show stitched up and nothing's going to change without changing the system. And that I believe has to come in though a dedicated political party or through some form of disaster."

j. said...

No, I don't think that they all hate him, the title was just referencing the way that the media manipulates public opinion about him and his administration.

I agree with you about the current system. However, I am not sure that even the most dedicated political party could make much of a difference because it is so entrenched in the American psyche that there are only two parties, the democrats and the republicans.

I guess maybe if either party went through some sort of transformation where the people in power decided to become altruistic then change may occur...but I doubt that is going to happen.

Right now, the lobbyists for the national association of broadcastors has made it so that there is no way that a candidate can get free air time to campaign, so I think that internal reform in this country won't be able to happen until that changes because the only people that can get elected are those that can get air time, the only ones that can get air time are people rich enough to afford it or capitalistic enough to have corperate backing and neither of those two kinds of people usually care much about the working class.

As far as a disaster goes, have you ever heard of disaster capitalism? Logically, one would assume that things like Katrina would make the public start to question the status quo but it only led to even more neoliberal policies being enacted. (the same system can be seen at work in the areas affected by the Haiti earthquake, the 2005 tsunami and even September 11th.)

I get what you are saying though, like if the system was broken down enough people might be able to restructure it, I am just not sure how that would happen.

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