New York (AHT) – One of the most positive aspects of the 2016 election period was the exposure of the Democrats as nothing but shills for Wall Street. Hillary Clinton entered the race as the Presidential favorite only to lose a significant number of Democratic voters to a self-identified socialist in the primary. Senator Bernie Sanders ran a popular campaign that criticized Clinton for making high-paid speeches to Wall Street firms. Clinton’s connections to Wall Street hurt her credibility among struggling voters. Her campaign forced the Democratic Party onto life support. And it appears that former President Barack Obama may help pull the plug.
A recent article in Bloomberg reported that Obama is following Hillary Clinton’s footsteps. In his short time away from political office, Obama has cashed in on his diligent service to Wall Street. Obama has given speeches to prominent Wall Street hedge funds and equity firms such as the Carlyle Group and Northern Trust Corp. Some of these speeches have netted Obama upwards of $400,000. Obama’s Wall Street speeches come after the former President acquired a 60-million-dollar book deal earlier this year.
Obama’s seamless transition from political office to Wall Street’s motivational speaker should come as no surprise. His Presidency protected Wall Street from its most volatile self-imposed crisis to date. The very bankers responsible for the massive increase in poverty in the US were rewarded with the largest transfer of wealth in US history from the 99 percent to the 1 percent. Obama then helped create a health care reform bill that boosted the profits of Wall Street’s health insurance and pharmaceutical giants. Public education was nearly eradicated under his guidance and wars were expanded all around the globe.
The cost of Obama’s Presidency has been the rise of Donald Trump to Presidential office. Yet few have made the connection between Obama era policies and the Trump Presidency. An atmosphere of fear has clouded the objective situation in the United States. Figures, like Ta- Nehisi Coates, have made a career out of whitewashing Obama’s crimes. Trump’s Presidency has been labeled everything from the second coming of fascism to an agent of the Kremlin in an attempt to legitimize the US political apparatus.
The political climate in the US has not lent itself to a public critique of the transition Obama has made from Washington to Wall Street. Yet it is not uncommon for US politicians to find themselves in corporate boardrooms after their term limit ends. This has been labeled the “revolving door” (see here, here, and here). What makes Obama different than others is that to this day his Presidency is viewed from the lens of decency. There is a qualitative difference in how many react to Trump in comparison to Obama. Such difference has the potential to give the Obama-wing of the ruling class an opportunity to recover from its weakened state.
Much work remains to be done to pierce through the mythology surrounding the Obama period. The election of Trump made it clear that the voting population was fed up with the two-party duopoly. However, resentment was not enough to articulate a concrete vision for a transformative movement. As Obama profits from his gigs on Wall Street, Washington is crumbling under the weight of its own contradictions. Wall Street fears that Trump is merely a reflection of the crisis of legitimacy that afflicts Washington. The best that Wall Street can hope for is that Trump acts more like Obama and less like himself.
Only a mass movement can dash any hope that Wall Street and the corporate oligarchy will restore legitimacy to the US political apparatus. Humanity may be doomed to extinction if the ruling system gets its way. This is not a defense of Trump. Trump’s racist posturing and warmongering speech at the UN General Assembly makes it perfectly clear that he is an enemy of the people. But Trump is visible to the naked eye. It is Obama and his neo-con partners that remain shrouded in mystery.
Racism and race relations have dominated political conversation regarding Trump, and rightfully so. However, the conversation has been limited by a narrow definition of racism. Obama’s connections to Wall Street and the war machine should not be seen as “less” racist than Trump just because Obama is more tactful with his words. Wall Street is a creation of the slave trade. Wall Street’s current location began as the first slave market in the New York City area. The first traders on Wall Street exchanged human chattel. Political servitude to Wall Street thus remains a staple of the nation’s racist past and present.
Furthermore, while Trump has threatened the annihilation of the DPRK, it was Obama that successfully decapitated the African nation of Libya in 2011. This led to the destruction of a socialist country and the death of at least 50,000 Libyans and counting. Obama’s policy of arming terrorist rebels in Syria that same year led to the death of a half million Syrians and the displacement of many more. Amid Trump’s demand for a wall between Mexico and the US, it must be recalled that Obama successfully deported over 3 million undocumented immigrants. Obama era policies led immigrant rights activists to chant “all of us or none of us” during a press conference held by Nancy Pelosi in mid-September of this year.
All of this is to say that Obama’s seamless transition to Wall Street is a reflection of the racist, capitalist structure of the US. A hyper-focus on the individual personalities of Trump and Obama has produced a false dichotomy. Trump plays the role of the evil bigot while Obama is given the part of professional broker. None of this changes the fact that the system itself is evil when viewed from the lens of the poor and oppressed. Obama’s new role as Wall Street’s motivational speaker should be cause for just as much outrage as Trump’s Presidency. That is, of course, if we are truly serious about the future of the human condition.