11.26.2008

Some recent Obama appointments

Obama builds the third Clinton administration

Economic appointments

President-elect Obama named Paul Volcker as the head of his economic advisory committee (see this, this and this). The Wall Street Journal reports that

The board's tasks will be broad: to help design and implement short-term programs to jump-start the economy, raise wages and living standards and confront the housing crisis. It will also address the delicate task of bolstering Washington's oversight of the financial markets in the wake of a Wall Street collapse that has taken down many of its most venerable institutions.

Economist Christina Romer will chair Obama's Council of Economic Advisors (see this).

Peter Orszag will head Obama's Office of Management and the Budget (see this and this).

National Security-Surveillance appointments

James L. Jones will become the next National Security Advisor, according to reports (see this and this).

Robert Gates will remain the Secretary of Defense pending Senate approval, according to reports (see this, this and this).

* * * *

When asked about his Beltway insider recycling program, the President-elect reportedly indicated

…that the American people would be "deeply troubled" if he didn't hire people with governing experience at a moment of such crisis, said they were merely tasked with implementing his vision, and placed the responsibility for creating that vision squarely on his own shoulders.

"That's my job," Obama said, adding that it "is to provide a vision where we are going and to make sure that my team is implementing it."

Obama added that his administration would "combine experience with fresh thinking."

It's unclear to me whether Obama's "American people" — Everyone? — would feel "deeply troubled" if they knew the candidate committed to change means to rely upon crusty relics and their acolytes when navigating the postmodern wasteland? Would they care that, say, Summers and Geithner, Clinton and Rubin have left their fingerprints all over the current economic crisis, as even the New York Times, the Washington Post and Steve Pearlstein admit (and as Glen Greenwald points out with respect to the Times and Pearlstein)? For the left in general, the Obama administration, as it has taken shape so far, leaves only troubling questions in its wake. For instance: If Barak Obama is so deeply committed to the Clintons and their gang, as he appears to be, why did he run for President against Hillary Clinton? Would not a Clinton make a better Clinton than an Obama? Besides, if the Clinton administration was that great that we just must have another dose of it, why did most Americans opt for Obama over Clinton? Did they err? Will Barack Obama make a better Clinton than would have? More importantly, was the Clinton administration at all successful? No! — unless, of course, you were a member of the special (corporate and military) interests Bill Clinton serviced while in office. Given the many failures of the Clinton administration and the number of Clintonistas set to serve President Obama, I believe it is worth asking whether the new President believes performance in office counts for anything when he selects his appointees? Can Obama find no one who shares his "vision," who lacks damning baggage and who is also willing to serve under him? Or, does his preference for these center-right hacks indicate that he too is, to put it bluntly, a center-right hack?

Where, one might add, may Americans find the change they can believe in amongst these center-right hacks?

Michael Hudson remains doubtful about Obama's commitment to change with respect to reforming the economy and addressing the empire:

Barack Obama was elected with overwhelming approval to inaugurate an era of change. And at his November 25 press conference, he said that his decisive victory gave him a mandate to change the direction in which America is moving. But his recent economic and foreign policy appointments make it clear that when he chose "change" as his campaign slogan, he was NOT referring to the financial, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors, nor to foreign policy. These are where the vested interests concentrate their wealth and power. And change already has been accelerating here. Unfortunately, its direction has been for the top 1% of America's population to raise their share of in the returns to wealth from 37% ten years ago to 57% five years ago and an estimated nearly 70% today.

The change that Mr. Obama is talking about is largely marginal to this wealth, not touching its economic substance — or its direction. No doubt he will bring about a welcome change in race relations, environmental regulations, and a more civil rule of law. And he probably will give wage earners an income-tax break (thereby enabling them to keep on paying their bank debts, incidentally). As for the rich, they prefer not to earn income in the first place. Taxes need to be paid on income, so they take their returns in the form of capital gains. And simply avoiding losses is the order of the day in the present meltdown.

Where losses cannot be avoided, the government will bail out the rich on their financial investments, but not wage earners on their debts.

"Maybe Ralph Nader was right," Nader-critic Robert Scheer now muses, while Robert Dreyfuss announces that he had told us this would happen. Nader looks right, according to Scheer, "in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election." And, in fact, Nader had gotten this matter right. For Americans and those affected by the country, the pressing question is not, "What reforms does America need to implement if it is to survive if not progress?" but, "Is meaningful reform possible in the United States?"

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