Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Who will be the real winner if Obama is re-elected?

Last week, a gaggle of Republican presidential wannabes gathered for a New Hampshire debate that kick-started the Grand Old Party's drive to evict Barack Obama from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in November 2012.

White House spin-doctors have dismissed Republican candidates as the 'seven dwarves' and a 'freak show' more suited to a 'Star Wars bar' than the highest echelon of US politics.

Clever put-downs aside, Obama's camp knows well that Republicans now have two huge advantages: an unemployment rate north of 9% and the fact that sizable sectors of the American electorate seem afflicted with amnesia as to how things got so bad.

If the tale told by Republicans in New Hampshire is any measure, one could be forgiven for thinking that Barack Obama has spent his time in office trying to pitch as many Americans as possible into joblessness.

According to the narrative of the now-dominant Republican ultra-Right wing, this 'Son-of-a-Kenyan' is so hell-bent on foisting socialism on America that he and his minions are constantly dreaming up new ways to shackle and strangle the corporate and financial-services sectors.

Who cares if any of this resembles reality? Taking a page from Bill Clinton's 1992 "It's the economy, stupid" playbook, Republicans seem to have hit on a 'It's the narrative, stupid' mantra for 2012.

Armies of unemployed Americans are roaming the streets and the internet trying to salvage some sense of respect by pulling in a living wage. Meanwhile, year-by-year, they watch Wall Street kingpins and their underlings haul down record-setting bonuses and salaries.

Republicans insists that Main Street's mountains of misery stem from too much 'job-killing' regulatory interference from Washington. And, with the country's 15 million unemployed desperate for answers, that narrative is hitting home with many.

It's as if the American population has a mass case of Attention Deficit Disorder. Forget the fact that it was George W Bush who first bailed out the banks in autumn 2008. And never mind that Obama's subsequent financial rescue moves, together with 2009's $787bn stimulus package, likely averted a re-run of the Great Depression.

Still, in spite of Republican efforts to paint him as such, Barack Obama is no flaming Lefty. Nor is he dedicated to challenging America's culture of corporate supremacy.

During his historic 2008 campaign to win the White House, Obama pulled in huge amounts of Wall Street-linked cash that helped him vanquish both Hillary Clinton and, later, John McCain.

Upon taking office, Obama did make a few well-publicised speeches in which he chastised Wall Street's "fat cats" for failing to support financial-sector reform legislation. His speeches made for some valued nightly news footage, but Wall Street's titans seemed unimpressed.

Meanwhile, it's believed that the price-tag for Barack Obama's re-election campaign will run in the neighbourhood of $1bn.

As such, it's no surprise that his fund-raisers have begun cosying back up to Wall Street's Lords of Finance. There's little surprise in that, given that the financial sector gave almost $10m to Obama's campaign during his 2008 showdown with McCain (to whom they gave $7m).

But the question is: if Wall Street ponies up big-time for Obama again in 2012, and he gets re-elected, who'll benefit more: Wall Street or Main Street?

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