Editor’s note: if the truth be told, I’ve spent the past couple of nights agonizing over how to approach this post and indeed whether or not to even write it all; every time I write about either former US President Barack Obama or racism in America my inbox fills up with angry people and today’s Brief Thought touches on both subjects – albeit, primarily within the overall concept of defending Wall Street corruption.
Unfortunately however, the recent unconscionable behavior of several prominent liberals while attempting to defend the former President (by evoking the specter of racial bias) is at once far too disingenuous and far too dangerous to ignore – as such, today we’re going to be talking about Barack Obama’s disturbingly close relationship with Wall Street and why being upset about that doesn’t make you a dirt-bag racist:
Note: Please be reminded that if you’re having trouble reading this info graphic, you can right click on the picture and select “view this image” to pop out a larger version. Additionally, don’t forget to check out my comments after the sources section of this article.
As I touched on in the above info-graphic, I find it hard to believe that any serious person engaging in honest discussion would object to the characterization of Barack Obama as a fundamentally pro-Wall Street president; when you make more money for the industry in two years than George Bush made in his entire eight years in office while simultaneously protecting bankers from prosecution for the 2007-08 Financial Crisis, it’s pretty hard to argue otherwise.
Furthermore, while mainstream liberal defenders of the president have argued that the services rendered for the financial industry have nothing to do with why Barack Obama is collecting just shy of a half million dollars (almost twice as much as either Clinton) for an hour long speech at a Wall Street firm; I think that too fails to qualify as an impartial, adult argument – this is what a quid pro quo relationship looks like in real time and the fact that the “bonus” is coming after Obama has left office simply makes it impossible to prosecute anyone for bribery; friends don’t bribe friends, they merely do each other “favors” after all.
I suspect the fact that these two observations are largely unassailable is ultimately why lazy, disingenuous neoliberal acolytes across multiple forms of media have turned towards a cynical and misguided attempt to weaponize identity politics in defense of former president Barack Obama; although each individual devotee adopts minor variations on the theme, ultimately the argument boils down to suggesting that privileged white leftists are throwing a fit because they hate seeing the first African American president get paid.
Even setting aside the fact that this analysis pretends that it is somehow unreasonable for non-bigots to be angry with Obama for pocketing an extra $400K after helping bail out the financial industry with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars while letting millions of Americans lose their homes, jobs and savings; there are still are still an absurd number of logical holes in these arguments:
- When Marcus “Smooth Kobra” Johnson tells you that the far left has a double standard about corporate donations because Obama is black, he’s purposely ignoring the fact that the former President first gave Wall Street more than 700 billion dollars of everyone’s money and the existence of grassroots, “far left” movements to get money out of politics; movements that were highly critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton who (despite the wishes of many) are white as fuck.
- When Amanda Marcotte compares outrage that a former President just took a $400K bonus from an industry he utterly failed to punish for the greatest financial crime in US history to hypocritical bitching about the salaries of professional athletes, she’s willfully leaving out the part where Tom Brady didn’t hand Hank Paulson the keys to the Treasury while millions of families sunk into poverty.
- When Trevor Noah asks why “the first black president must also be the first one not to take money afterwards” he’s ignoring both the exemplary post-presidency activism of Jimmy Carter and the fact that while not illegal, Barack Obama’s prior activities on behalf of Wall Street make accepting $400K for a one hour speech highly goddamn unethical. As one clever poster on Twitter pointed out, Noah might just as well be asking why “the first black president must also be the first one not to commit war crimes” in reference to Obama’s objectively imperialist warmongering.
- When neoliberal media drones ask why few were as angered by speaking fees for prior presidents, they’re ignoring the reality that Barack Obama was the first president after a worldwide financial crisis that blew the lid off collusion between western governments and the financial industry – as well as the fact that none of those presidents had given Wall Street a $700B bailout before collecting (mostly) smaller fees.
Frankly, I could go on but at this point any reasonable person should be able to see that these arguments simply don’t hold water; are neoliberal Obama hagiographers seriously suggesting that “far left” Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren aren’t really concerned about an issue that may well have cost the Democratic Party the last presidential election but are instead secretly just trying to “keep a black man down?” Does that strike you as even remotely fucking rational? Me neither.
Unfortunately for us all however, the willful ignorance that fuels these arguments is only one very small part of the problem; when “credible” figures in the American media adopt the absurd tactic of weaponizing serious accusations of racial bias for the purposes of defending the richest, whitest and most male-dominated industry in America – they create distortions around and steal power from legitimate discussions about and applications of identity politics across the nation. In a country where it’s commonly understood that many whites are confused about or completely oblivious to even overt racism, it strikes me as a particularly bad idea to cry wolf about racial bias to defend the (already shaky) legacy of a millionaire president who’s clearly enjoying more than a little bit of “the good life” now that he’s moved into the private sector.
The simple truth that even the most disingenuous Democrat apologists must eventually come to grips with is that Barack Obama was a very good president for rich American corporations while actually being a horrible POTUS for poor people of virtually all ethnic backgrounds; the fact that he was also the first African American president doesn’t excuse this, but instead makes his presidency all the more a tragic betray for the millions of American leftists who voted for him – pointing that out doesn’t make you a racist; it makes you honest.
- Nina Illingworth
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