By Zach Carter
The rumors are true: Former President Barack Obama will receive $400,000 to speak at a health care conference organized by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald.
It should not be a surprise. This unseemly and unnecessary cash-in fits a pattern of bad behavior involving the financial sector, one that spans Obama’s entire presidency. That governing failure convinced millions of his onetime supporters that the president and his party were not, in fact, playing for their team, and helped pave the way for President Donald Trump. Obama’s Wall Street payday will confirm for many what they have long suspected: that the Democratic Party is managed by out-of-touch elites who do not understand or care about the concerns of ordinary Americans. It’s hard to fault those who come to this conclusion.
It’s easier for Democrats to denounce Trump supporters as morally unworthy individuals than to consider whether governing failures in the Obama era contributed to Trump’s popularity. …the disconnect between this progressive vision and his Wall Street record is not trivial. The Obama foreclosure plan hurt families. Refusing to punish financial crime has encouraged more of it. Workers are still digging out from the economic wreckage caused by too-big-to-fail banks in 2008, and those banks are bigger today than they were during the meltdown.
Obama refused to prosecute the rampant fraud behind the 2008 Wall Street collapse, despite inking multibillion-dollar settlement after multibillion-dollar settlement with major firms over misconduct ranging from foreclosure fraud to rigging energy markets to tax evasion. In some cases, big banks even pleaded guilty to felonies, but Obama’s Justice Department allowed actual human bankers to ride into the sunset. Early in his presidency, Obama vowed to spend up to $100 billion to help struggling families avert foreclosure. Instead, the administration converted the relief plan into a slush fund for big banks, as top traders at bailed-out firms were allowed to collect six-figure bonuses on the taxpayers’ dime.
Nothing forced Obama to govern this way. Had he truly believed that prosecuting bankers for obvious criminal fraud would cause an economic collapse, Obama would, presumably, have tried to radically reshape the financial sector. He did not. His administration’s finance-friendly policies damaged the economic recovery and generated a new cohort of Trump voters. As Nate Cohn of The New York Times has demonstrated, nearly one-fourth of Obama’s white working-class supporters in 2012 flipped for Trump in 2016. Racism and misogyny were surely part of Trump’s appeal, but not all two-time Obama voters turned to Trump out of bigotry alone.
It’s easier for Democrats to denounce Trump supporters as morally unworthy individuals than to consider whether governing failures in the Obama era contributed to Trump’s popularity. …
Yes, Barack Obama Has A Powerful Voice. He Shouldn’t Use It For Paid Speeches
By Jill Abramson
The Guardian (4/27/17)
t’s still early, but so far Barack Obama’s post-presidency has been a disappointment. On Monday – during his first public appearance since Trump’s inauguration – Obama touched on income inequality. But as is becoming glaringly obvious to all, Obama is now firmly in the 1% himself – thanks in no small part to corporate America.
The optics of some of Obama’s decisions since leaving office have been damaging. We learned this week that he will be paid a whopping $400,000 speaking fee from Cantor Fitzgerald LP, a bond firm known for dealing in credit default swaps, the fancy financial instruments that helped trigger the 2008 financial meltdown.
Then, there are the vacations. Of course, the former president did deserve a holiday. But did it have to be with the Billionaires’ Club? There was a widely reported visit to Richard Branson’s place in British Virgin Islands for kitesurfing, photos of which went around the globe. In French Polynesia, this was followed by a jaunt on David Geffen’s 45ft yacht with celebrities including Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Bruce Springsteen.
The habitual kowtowing of senior Democrats to the billionaire class has left their party close to morally bankrupt.
Post-White House greed has become customary and speaking fees have become accepted tips for retiring public servants, tracing back to Gerald Ford. A Japanese communications conglomerate paid Ronald Reagan $2m for speeches.
The Clintons were the champions of buck-raking, together fetching more than $158m in speaking fees. They also loved rubbing shoulders with billionaires and sailing on glitzy yachts. George W Bush made 200 paid speeches and received what now seems a paltry $7m for his memoir, Decision Points.
But we are in a different era right now. On Monday, in Chicago, Obama had his first post-presidential speech and did not utter a single word about his successor, who recklessly and falsely accused Obama of spying on him and has set about reversing almost all of his policies.
Explaining why the former president will remain silent on Trump for the time being, his aides said he was replicating the gentlemanly behavior of W, who refrained from criticizing him. (W reportedly resented that Jimmy Carter criticized his father after losing to the Reagan-Bush ticket.) But these are not gentlemanly times and these customs should all be broken.
The habitual kowtowing of senior Democrats to the billionaire class has left their party close to morally bankrupt. Bernie Sanders was right to hammer Hillary during the primaries for her speaking fees from Wall Street. Even her most ardent supporters found these speaking fees indefensible. They were certain to be fodder for her opponents. …
Cornel West & Former Sanders Staffer On Movement To Draft Bernie For A New “People’s Party”
Democracy Now! (4/25/17)
As Donald Trump approaches his 100th day as president on Saturday, his approval ratings are the lowest any president has had at this stage in generations. A recent poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found just 40 percent of Americans approve of his job performance so far. Trump took to Twitter to call the poll “totally wrong.” This comes as former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has emerged as one the country’s most popular politicians. The Hill reports a Harvard-Harris poll shows 57 percent of registered voters view him favorably. Meanwhile, some former Sanders supporters have launched a movement to “Draft Bernie for a People’s Party,” urging him to start a new progressive party and run for president again in 2020. We speak with Nick Brana, the former outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University. His new piece in The Guardian is headlined “The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment.”