Obama’s First Year–A Story of Failed Promises: Financial System Reform

January 3, 2010

2009 Year in Review: Obama and Failed Promises Part 1, Financial Reform

Reminiscing about 2009 and looking ahead to the brand new decade ahead, Few American political institutions will endure the decade in a form easily recognizable to Americans with vivid memories of the inauguration of the 21st century on New Years’ Day 2000.  The decline of American political influence on the global stage and the resulting perturbations and instability in geopolitics has cast a pall over the 2010s.  Although personally I am quite pessimistic about the fate of America in the next decade, all hope is not lost.  I am no naïve optimist, and readers of these posts will find the analysis detailed and based in both facts and upon very reasonable assumptions and accurate readings of the signs of the times.

2009 began with the momentous inauguration of America’s first African-American President, Barack Obama.  President Obama inherited a mushrooming financial crisis that significantly magnified structural economic problems stemming from three decades of Reaganomics—neoliberal politics, financial deregulation, ideological opposition to taxes (regardless of the government’s needs), economic growth fueled by unsustainable credit growth, structural wealth and income inequalities, and an absolute aversion to employing the government to help facilitate the maintenance and rebuilding of social programs and public infrastructure.  President Obama also inherited two unwinnable wars, a failing health care system, a continuing crisis in energy policy as declining fossil fuel stocks and dependence upon imports threatens the economy, a water crisis in the western half of the United States that threatens the very existence of thousands of communities, a crumbling physical infrastructure dramatically highlighted by the failure of New Orleans’ levees thanks to Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, and the lurking specter of climate change (that, in the words of top NASA GISS scientist Dr. James Hansen, threatens to transform Earth into a “different planet”).  As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama’s vague promises of post-partisan politics rooted in promises of “Change We Can Believe In” and “Hope” inspired something of a messianic civic cult around the persona of Obama.  After eight long years of misrule and endemic corruption of the Bush-Cheney Administration, the throngs of people packed onto the Washington Mall awaiting the inauguration of Barack Obama reflected the overwhelming desire for a fundamental redirection of the ship of state.  No President had been inaugurated under such a gloomy economic climate since FDR at the height of the Great Depression.

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