First posted 12/28/2009 2:57 p.m.
Every president in the age of television has a defining image that symbolizes their legacy.
When we think of President Richard Nixon we are reminded of the famous two “V” salutes he gave to the crowd as he left office shammed by the Watergate scandal. When we think of Jimmy Carter, we think of his pained expression during the “Malaise Speech” which, along with the Iran hostages, effectively signaled the demise of his presidency.
The watershed for President Barack Obama could have come last week when, during an interview in which he spoke about a recent meeting he had with Wall Street bankers, he chastised the “fat cats” for not, among other things, offering more loans to small businesses.
It was a moment of stunning grand-standing and emblematic of what has gone wrong for his administration thus far: he has shown no regard for the middle- to lower-class Americans who elected him. He has spoken critically about the Wall Street Bankers without actually going to Congress and demanding legislation to regulate them. Obama has only paid lip-service to average, struggling American families.
All of his political capital in this first year has benefited the wealthy and set-back the blue collar worker. Take for instance, one of his first duties when he entered office.
He needed to “stabilize the banking industry” courtesy of bailout money from the taxpayers. He made no demands on the banks to lend. Obama did not assure that the banks would not give billions of dollars in bonuses to the same corporate executives that caused the crisis. And, there were no incentives for the taxpayers who owned a part of these banks. Eventually, the banks rebounded and went back to the same risky practices that caused the collapse of the financial system.
Fat Cats: 1 Middle Class: 0.
Then there was the witch-hunt perpetrated by the Right against community organizing group, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Many Right-Wing bloggers and commentators argued that the group is rife with corruption, voter fraud and shady Washington tides.
The criticism of the group hit its apex when two kids, dressed as a pimp and prostitute, entered ACORN offices and wanted information about opening a brothel using underage prostitutes and avoiding Uncle Sam. It was just the ammunition critics needed to put Obama on the defensive and force him to sever his ties with the misunderstood group.
While I will admit that ACORN is not without its bouts of un-professionalism, no one associated with the group has ever been accused or charged with anything. The party line stance that it is “filled with voter fraud,” is a complete fabrication. Still, Republicans took strides to eliminate any further funding for the group, and Obama supported their efforts.
I would love to have seen Obama come out in support of a group that actually helps the poor and under-served. For 40 years ACORN has assisted home owners in refinancing their homes to avoid foreclosure and encouraged apathetic individuals to vote. But even if Obama agreed with Congress about no longer funding the group, he, being a lawyer, should have known that it was flagrantly unconstitutional to do so without a hearing, especially since the group has never been convicted of anything.
Once again Obama went against the poor and supported Washington’s special interests who don’t want ACORN assembling poor people who might influence the election.
Fat Cats: 2 Middle Class: 0
Finally, the health care debate has slowly begun to whimper to a close.
After promising “universal care” and “an end to health care industry abuses” on the campaign trail, the insurance companies have assured that nothing that threatens their bottom line makes it to the final bill.
So, no public option to compete with the insurance industry. No Medicare buy-in for people 55 and over. No public option “opt-in,” which would have given the states the chance to have one if they wanted it. Instead, we have a thoroughly watered down bill. While they will claim a victory for eliminating pre-existing conditions, the insurance lobbyists have eradicated any real “reform” from the bill.
Obama calls the current version of Senate’s bill, “monumental reform.” But he obviously knows something that even the insurance companies don’t as insurance stock value has currently reached a 52-week high. Insurance companies will have 30 million new customers mandated by the government minus all that bothersome reform that will prevent them from gouging consumers.
Fat Cats: 3 Middle Class: 0
Obama still has three years left in this term and I hope he begins to become reacquainted with the average Americans who were responsible for his historic victory. Otherwise, that “fat cat” line could be the moment of malaise that sinks his presidency.