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PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
Barack Obama: A Foil Against the Public Interest

The King of Empty Gestures

by ROB URIE

In trying to explain the rise in the unemployment rate from 3.2% in 1929 to 24.9% in 1933 the economic mainstream of the day was forced by the limitations of its theories to conclude that one-quarter of the U.S. workforce had quit their jobs to go on vacation. This was in the midst of the worst economic downturn of the twentieth century. As late as 1938 – 1939, ten years after the stock market crash that announced the onset of the Great Depression, New York was still considered the global center of finance capitalism. And while the wealth share of the very richest began to decline in the early 1930s, it didn’t reach its (temporary) low point until the late 1940s.

At the time Barack Obama entered office in 2009 Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. The U.S. economy was in free-fall and financial markets were in chaos in circumstances eerily reminiscent of that earlier episode. With the template of FDR’s New Deal to work from and an electorate looking for bold action to restore the economy, Mr. Obama put forward a milquetoast, quasi-Republican stimulus ‘package’ and went about restoring the fortunes of Wall Street and the reigning plutocracy and their agents, corporate executives, who had sunk the economy. When Mr. Obama had political support for rebalancing the economy in favor of the middle class and poor he chose to keep it firmly in the hands of the very rich.

graf1urie

Graph (1) above: the modern version of the Great Depression era explanation of unemployment is ‘demographics,’ the claim that in 2008 older workers retired en masse coincident with the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. In fact, the percentage of employed workers over the age of fifty-five is higher now than it was when the Great Recession began in 2007. It is younger workers who have borne the brunt of Mr. Obama’s economic malaise. And while Mr. Obama didn’t create the circumstances that led to economic crisis, he restored the forces that created it while studiously ignoring the plight of the unemployed. Source: St. Louis Fed.

When Mr. Obama claimed in his most recent State of the Union (SOTU) speech that the U.S. economy has recovered from the Great Recession he joined Western economists in locating it well away from where most actual human beings live. It isn’t that statistics to support the claim can’t be found. Like any measures, they only reveal what they are intended to reveal. By other measures there has been little recovery from the Great Recession for most people. And it was only after Republicans had regained both...

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