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Change we should forget about
|Opinion||Sun, 01 Jul 2012||Tweet|
Note: All articles in the Opinion section are the views of the individuals expressing them and do not represent The Stand's official stance on anything.
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."
- Groucho Marx
Change, the token slogan of the past few years, seems to have run out of steam. As Obama begins his 2012 presidential campaign with the new, less convincing, buzzword, ‘forward’ it is perhaps worth looking at the demise of ‘change’ over the past 18 months or so. In Obama’s case it was always going to be tough to live up to his promise of a new beginning in the dirty business of Washington politics, where meaningful reform runs up against loyalty to the medical establishment and Wall Street. A battle-hardened Obama who, like Blair, seems to be gaining grey hairs by the minute, began his campaign for a second term in Ohio a few weeks ago on a platform of 'Give me a second term, it won’t be anything different but I’ll try to push some things through and, hey, well I’m not the other guy'. And hell, why wouldn’t you vote for him? The other guy is just plain dull.
But the fact that Obama is even having to think about a challenge from Mitt Romney just shows how far we have come from ‘change’ in the past 4 years. A clean cut, multi-millionaire, who seems to flip-flap between long-held views and those which will win him the votes of middle America, is actually a serious contender for President in 2012. Obama faces a less than ideal approval rating of 48%, not disastrous but not great either. He will campaign on the heavily watered down ‘successes’ of healthcare reform, where there is still no public option; financial and tax reform where the super-rich still pay less in federal taxes, as a portion of income, than the middle class; and the foreign policy success that accompany withdrawal from Iraq, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the beginnings of disengagement from Afghanistan…no actually, probably best to avoid that one.
Meanwhile, the current scandal gripping Barclays and its CEO shows how far we have come from popular calls for change in how the financial community operates following the disastrous credit crunch of 2007. The banking industry continues to press western governments not to implement regulations that would prevent individuals like the so-called ‘London Whale’, Bruno Michel Iksil, from taking the risky outsized trading positions that have led to a $2bn loss for one of the world’s supposedly more responsible investment banks. The widespread call for further regulation of Wall Street and the City of London, which were adopted by liberals and fiscal conservatives alike following the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the realization that the world was witnessing the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression, have come up against a powerful coalition of bankers and political libertarians.
The blame for the credit crunch has somehow shifted from the financial industry and its excesses towards government and the public sector. The slogan ‘the only good government is no government’ is symptomatic of the dramatic lurch to the right that has engulfed the US since 2008. Somehow the Tea Party and its wealthy backers, the Koch Brothers, have managed to re-invent the history of the past 4 years, and one could be mistaken for thinking the current economic sluggishness facing the US is in fact the fault of ‘Obamacare’ and supposed state socialism. For House Republicans, like John Boehner, the problem lies with ‘bigger government’, which naturally makes the people ‘smaller’, whatever that means. According to this logic, the world would have been better off if western governments which, lest we forget, included the neo-conservative Bush administration, had let other banks collapse in the same manner as Lehman Brothers. Oh how better off we’d be in such a scenario…I, for one, know I’d be a damn sight fitter if I’d been forced to sprint to my local Halifax branch during a run on the bank.
Well what about the Arab Spring? That at least gave us optimism and some hope for meaningful change in 2011. And yet, Egyptian and Syrian calls for change also appear to have hit a brick wall. Destined, perhaps like Obama, to be quashed by the forces of old, it too seems to be in the midst of a fight for its survival. The hope for ‘change’ that accompanied the protests in Tahrir Square and the de-crowning of Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali, looks to be in peril due to the powerful armed forces continuing to inhibit the move towards democracy in Egypt. The banning of political parties and their candidates has been met with further protests calling for freedom, which has in turn been met by further bloodshed and human rights abuses by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf).
And what does the West have to say? Well if the recent decision to resume arms sales to the repressive Bahrainian monarchy is anything to go by, Washington seems quite content to return to an era of uncomfortable but strategically necessary bedfellows. Call me a cynic, pessimistic or a bleary-eyed liberal but in 2012 it is probably best not to get one’s hopes up for any meaningful change. Those in power seem to want us insulated - not aware. So expect a return to business as usual, and instead wait for 2013 and the release of the iPod 5.
Image © Shepard Fairey.
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