|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Ten things you should know about Obama
BARACK OBAMA has tapped into the anger of millions of Americans who want real change. He often speaks eloquently against the Iraq war, inequality and injustice while emphasising hope and change. But would an Obama presidency bring the change we need? Is he really different from the rest of the corrupt, corporate-controlled politicians? A deeper look reveals that Obama does not deserve the support of workers, progressives or youth. Here are ten reasons why:
His biggest contributors are Wall Street banks and corporate law firms
Seven of his top ten donors are some of the world’s biggest banks and financial institutions that are behind the subprime mortgage crisis and are now looking for big bailouts and corporate welfare from the federal government, while the rest of us are left with the bill (see www.opensecrets.org for a list of Obama’s donors).
He won’t end the US occupation of Iraq
While Obama says he would end the war in 2009, like Clinton, he has been very careful to call only for the removal of combat troops from Iraq. His position might look good when compared to McCain’s statements about staying in Iraq for 100 years. In reality, Obama’s plan would also maintain tens of thousands of troops, special operations forces, and bases – as well as private mercenaries like Blackwater – in Iraq for years to come.
He promotes the expansion of the US military
Like Bush, Obama has called for increasing the size of the US military by 92,000 troops. He calls for redeploying thousands of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to strengthen the US occupation there. Obama said, "we will probably need to ‘bump up’ the military budget in a new administration". (Foreign Policy in Focus, William Hartung, 21 February) At $614bn (not counting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!) the proposed US military budget for 2008 is already larger than the rest of the world’s military spending combined.
He has repeatedly voted to fund the war in Iraq
While he spoke out against the war before entering the Senate, as a Senator Obama has voted for over $300bn in funding to continue the war.
He supports the continuation of the for-profit healthcare system
Michael Moore’s film Sicko has provided ample evidence to show the key problem with the US healthcare system is that it is controlled by big, for-profit insurance companies and HMOs, yet Obama wants to leave power in their hands. Moore points out that Obama is "now the second largest recipient of health industry payola after Hillary", and now takes "more money from the people committed to stopping universal healthcare than any of the Republican candidates". (michaelmoore.com, 4 January)
He supports NAFTA and corporate free trade
In the Ohio primaries, Obama decried how corporate free trade deals like NAFTA have hurt millions of working people. Yet within days, it came out that his top economic advisor was telling the Canadian government not to take it seriously – it was "more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans" (AP, 3 March) This hypocrisy is not new. The Associated Press reported, "In his 2004 Senate campaign, [Obama] said the US should pursue more deals such as NAFTA". (26 February)
He voted to re-authorise the Patriot Act in 2005
As Ralph Nader’s running mate, Matt Gonzalez, points out, this was "easily the worst attack on civil liberties in the last half-century. It allows for wholesale eavesdropping on American citizens under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts". (The Obama Craze: Count Me Out, beyondchron.com, 27 February)
He voted for the 2006 bill to build a 700-mile fence on the US-Mexican border
This racist, anti-immigrant, nationalistic bill will force immigrants to cross in even more dangerous areas. Around 500 immigrants die each year attempting to cross the border, a number that has soared since the early 1990s owing to the growing militarisation of the border.
He supported Bill Clinton’s ‘welfare reform’
This bill disproportionately hurt poor blacks and Latinos by cutting off guaranteed federal aid to families with dependent children. Poor single mothers were forced to look for jobs to qualify for aid under the guise of ‘personal responsibility’. But the government failed to take responsibility for providing them with decent, living-wage jobs, meaning many have sunk even deeper into poverty, stuck working minimum-wage jobs, or been forced out onto the streets.
He is not campaigning against the racist criminal injustice system
While Obama calls for the elimination of sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine, he has spent very little political energy speaking out on this or other issues relating to the racist criminal injustice system. In March 2007, Obama voted to reinstate $1.15bn for the COPS programme. This Clinton-era program put 100,000 more cops in the streets, leaving many inner-cities feeling like occupied territory and contributing to the massive growth in the US prison population, currently at 2.3 million, the highest in the world by far.