Some Thoughts from an Economist for Obama

A good friend of mine, Shanti Tangri, a Professor Emeritus of Economics, from Rutgers and I were talking about the Republican gains in the House and why the made those gains

Professor Tangri is no Marxist economist or partisan of socialism, but he is no friend of Milton Friedman or the Reagan Bush Republicans either.  He has also been involved in local reform Democratic party activities

He made what I consider to be very good points about what Obama should have done when he became President, and what I think as an historian he can advocate to  begin to rally people around for the 2012 election.

First, he made the point that public anger at the failure and corruption of Wall Street and the banks especially was overwhelming when Obama became President.  He could have acted seriously  to regulate the banks, perhaps even raising the issue of nationalization, in order to connect the "bailout" to investments in what progressive economists call human capital, rather than what appeared to loans to the banks with no real strings attached, which they would repay when they were solvent and go back to business as usual. 

His"bailout program," explainedin the language of Wall Street Journal reporters,  permittted the Right Repubicans to make  their pseudo populist appeals, to pretend that they were against Wall Street and the big investment banks, when what they really were for was and is the Bush admnistration status quo. 

Thse comment were true in my opinion and Obama can, with a deadlock looming with Congress, begin to call for real restructuring of the banking and investment system in order to channel the flow of capital toward peoples need.

This would enable his administration to  seize the initiative from the Republicans, making it clear to everyone that their only serious interest is in protecting the corporations and the wealthy from both taxation and regulation. 

He can run against Wall Street and the transnational banks, even though his administration is associated with "bailing them out" by attacking them for breaking what was in effect a social contract with the administration and the people, hoarding rather than investing capital and using the crisis to profiteer at the expense of peoples needs.

Since organized labor was and is the most solid element in the Obama coalition, he can connect his campaign against Wall Street and the transnational banks with strong and clear support for employee free choice, explaining to the people the necessity of a strong democratic labor movement as not only  to protect workers rights  but also to maintain and raise the real living standards of the people,(both union and non union)  which not only increases the value of their labor but their mass purchasing power, increasing revenues and reducing both consumer and public debt

What the Republicans really represent as the "party of no" is  a recycled version of the Reagan-Bush status quo, which means lower incomes, cheaper labor, and a banking system that will provide much less credit at higher interest rates to both small business and consumers.  In short, a "paradise" for finance capital based on more real privation for  the great majority of Americans then we have seen since the Great Depression, as long as that "paradise" lasts.

 And we can be sure that  with mass purchasing power declining and existing social safety programs flooded with claims from the unemployed and the impoverished, it won't last long

Finally, Obama can begin to address what was really the central reason why Republicans made the gains they did--that is, the failure of his administration to deal effectively enough with the high unemployment, stagnating incomes and inadequate social safety net in the non metropolitan(meaning non big city ) industrial Middle West and areas like central Pennsylvania and West Virginia which in some important ways, resemble the non industrial Middle West in their demography. 

 He can come forward with a pledge to establish a national jobs program, even do perhaps what Truman did in 1948 when he called  the Republican Congress for a special session and came forward which advanced progressive legislation which they angrily voted down(which he expected them to do) and then ran against them as a "do nothing, good for nothing" Congress repreesenting the interests of the rich and the employers. 

The labor movement was much larger in percentage terms then and Truman of course had former Vice President Henry Wallace running to his left as the candidate of the pro peoples movements anti-cold war Progressive party, threatening at the beginning of the election to win millions of labor and minority votes, but the strategy worked to elect Truman and regain control of Congress for New Deal Democrats. 

 That is the only strategy that I see that can work for Obama if he is to save not only his presidency but the coallition that elected him and which was not effectively mobilized in these elections to undetstand what the administration had already done positively and both why and how it had to go much further in order to achieve its 2008 goals.

Marxists especially can say to Obama that his administration needs both vision and a program if it is to defeat a Republican party which has neither.  If it can bring such a vision  program to the people, explaining it in terms that working people can understand, we and it can term the defeat of this election into a major victory in 2012

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  • Excellent suggestions by Dr. Shanti Tangri. Whaterver Republicans may do, they may not be able to defeat Obama, because the people understand that his policies are pro-people.
    Republicans have not yet laid out their plan for moving forward. Shouting the slogan for cutting down taxes on the wealthy is not good enough, unless it is shown how this will energise the economy. What is the route to channelise the extra money left in the hands of the rich for the good of the nation.
    Instead of shouting for reducing the expenditure on running the government , it needs to be supported by citing instances where there is waste. Is it not commonsense that postponing expenditure on repairing/improving infrastructure means much more cost on relaying/rebuilding it later.

    Posted by Baldev Sahi, 03/29/2012 1:58pm (7 years ago)

  • He coulda done a lot of things to the left of Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky, Proyect, but let's try to stay in the real world.

    Posted by Joel Wendland, 11/16/2010 7:01pm (8 years ago)

  • First, he made the point that public anger at the failure and corruption of Wall Street and the banks especially was overwhelming when Obama became President. He could have acted seriously to regulate the banks, perhaps even raising the issue of nationalization, in order to connect the "bailout" to investments in what progressive economists call human capital, rather than what appeared to loans to the banks with no real strings attached, which they would repay when they were solvent and go back to business as usual.



    Posted by Louis Proyect, 11/16/2010 5:53pm (8 years ago)

  • thanks for the fine commentaries, from brother Clay whose comments are always both sophisticated and sensitive in regard to both Marxist understanding and the needs and struggles of the working class, and also to Jim Lane.
    In response to Jim, my point was to provide constructive criticism to the administration and the president. I didn't mean to suggest that he was running on one program in 2008 and cynically pusuing another.
    Our role though should be to encourage the administration to stand firm and prepare for future advances, not to entertain illusions about "bipartisan" cooperation with the Republicans. The only way to successful get anything out of the capitalist class is to combine mass pressure and struggle with inside leadership that convinces capitalists that they must make concessions in order to prevent even greater losses. If we start with the premise that we must make concessions in order to prevent greater losses(and we represent a class without wealth and power) we lose

    Posted by norman markowitz, 11/16/2010 2:55pm (8 years ago)

  • The practical but non-pragmatic politics of the left are what this CPUSA and its history is built on. The left's most massive and non-sectarian traditions,rejecting all forms of racism and chauvinism,have been the ticket. It is outreach to all communities,especially to the working class-in its "rainbow"of color.
    Its history is full of its internationalism-all languages and shades,cultures,the interpenetration of cultures,including,transcending any parochial culture.
    It shrives to achieve something new,positive and beautiful,by,for and of the working people.
    What have these lofty goals to do with this solid article on economics by brother Norman Markowitz?
    It seems we now have a tendency to defend centrist economic positions of the Obama administration,admittedly worlds better than the "Bushes","Clintuns"and "Rayguns",yet,not starting to measure up to our august history.
    This is very understandable,but if we need peace,progress and change,for our working people,we need to hold on to what got us to the dance,our leftist,move the center,move the right,practices of peace marches,hunger marches,homeless campaigns-in a word,broad efforts to help the working people and the working poor,with the sound of our boots in the street.
    It is clear that the Obama administration is not the main problem in making change,peace and progress,but it only becomes our movement's administration if we own it and strongly affect it,side by side with the millions who elected it.
    In line with brother Markowitz's reference to the Progressive Party's pressure in '48 on Truman,it was W.E.B. Du Bois's U.S. senatorial bid in '50 and his Council on African Affairs chairmanship(and struggles likened to it)that showed the country a struggle approach,that pointed to the painful progress birthed, and won,after the horrific,ruthless repression of the '50s,named the second "Red Scare"or McCarthyism,had also been overcome through struggle.
    It is such positive,responsible leftism and mainstream struggle,especially in ecomomics,exposing racist wage differentials,segregation,discrimination in hiring and conditions of work,for African Americans,Latinos,youth and women,which helped fuel and give new life to the heroic Civil Rights movement,in which the Communists played a key role.
    This struggle approach,these ecomonics,against war and repression and for economic security and anti-poverty programs,we must always maintain.
    This how we protect our beautiful working class,in all its variety,this is how we protect and save the good security of the Obama administration,with these sound economics of brothers Shanti Tangri,Markowitz-and Du Bois.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 11/16/2010 11:27am (8 years ago)

  • The professors are certainly right in saying that a more people centered government would probably have been re-elected in 2010. However, President Obama's problems are much deeper than just a matter of choice or personal preference.

    He has to contend with a powerful capitalist class. Whether or not he intends a people-centered government has not been proven, but it is plain that it would be extremely difficult to implement under the present conditions.

    Those who expected the President to act independently of those pressures were naive indeed.

    --Jim Lane, currently in Kentucky

    Posted by Jim Lane, 11/16/2010 10:43am (8 years ago)

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