Barack Obama’s legacy: Daily Bullshit, January 9-10, 2017

Barack Obama

Cornel West cites what “may have been our last [and lost] chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft,” Barack Obama’s failure “to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street,” the lack of “accountability of US torturers of innocent Muslims and the [lack of] transparency of US drone strikes killing innocent civilians,” his silence on stop-and-frisk, his demonization of whistle blowers, and his response to Black Lives Matter and to Israeli attacks on Palestine “with words about the difficult plight of police officers, department investigations (with no police going to jail) and the additional $225m in financial support of the Israeli army. Obama said not a mumbling word about the dead Palestinian children but he did call Baltimore black youth ‘criminals and thugs’.”[1]

Yet the mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.[2]

This is all true, but I would add that after Obama inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we’re still involved, and won the Nobel Peace Prize,[3] “the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries” in 2016[4] and that Obama’s much ballyhooed accomplishment on climate change is, to be generous, an ineffective non-binding half-measure.[5] I would amplify that Obama clearly cared not one whit for ordinary people, except when he wanted their votes, as he declared in 2009 that “[w]e all know that there are limits to what government can and should do [for the unemployed], even during such difficult times,”[6] allowed what should have been a bailout for homeowners blindsided by the crash in real estate values to become a bailout for bankers instead,[7] and used the promise of health care to bail out health insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms that didn’t even need a bailout.[8] Similarly, his disdain for the left,[9] which I guess just wasn’t neoconservative, neoliberal, or corrupt enough for him, should have been a caution about supporting Hillary Clinton.

Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017,

For-profit colleges

Cracking down on ‘for-profits’ is one of the very few accomplishments I think Barack Obama deserves credit for. The trouble for me is the form that the crackdown takes. Education should not be reduced to job-training[10] but in his quest for “accountability,” Obama did just that[11] and he continued a program of further destroying primary and secondary education:

The three most trumpeted and simultaneously most destructive aspects of the united “school reform” agenda are these: turning over public assets and spaces to private management; dismantling and opposing any independent, collective voice of teachers; and reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score. While there’s absolutely no substantive proof that this approach improves schooling for children, it chugs along unfazed—fact-free, faith-based reform at its core, resting firmly on rank ideology rather than any evidence whatsoever.[12]

Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz, “Over 800 Programs Fail Education Dept.’s Gainful-Employment Rule,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2017,


Jenny Gross, “Theresa May Says Britain Will Make Definitive Break With EU,” Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2017,

Mike Bird and Georgi Kantchev, “Fog Around Brexit Causes Pound to Fall,” Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2017,

  1. [1]Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017,
  2. [2]Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017,
  3. [3]Kathleen Hennessey, “Once Lauded as a Peacemaker, Obama’s Tenure Fraught with War,”, October 6, 2016,
  4. [4]Micah Zenko, “Scary Fact: America Dropped 26,171 Bombs in 7 Countries in 2016,” National Interest, January 6, 2017,
  5. [5]Kasia Anderson, “Pre-eminent Climate Scientist James Hansen Calls Paris Deal a ‘Fraud’; John Kerry Begs to Differ,” Truthdig, December 13, 2015,; Marty Lederman, “The constitutionally critical, last-minute correction to the Paris climate change accord,” Balkinization, December 13, 2015,; Arthur Neslen and Karl Mathiesen, “Paris climate pledges ‘will only delay dangerous warming by two years’,” Guardian, June 3, 2015,; David Roberts, “No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously,” Vox, October 4, 2016,; Alissa J. Rubin and Elian Peltier, “Protesters Are in Agreement as Well: Pact Is Too Weak,” New York Times, December 12, 2015,
  6. [6]Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Economy,” White House, November 12, 2009,
  7. [7]Neil Barofsky, Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street (New York: Free Press, 2012).
  8. [8]Brad Jacobson, “Obama received $20 million from healthcare industry in 2008 campaign,” Raw Story, January 12, 2010,; Gaius Publius [pseud.], “Obama Got $20 Million from Healthcare Industry in 2008. Was Killing Single-Payer Part of the Deal?” Naked Capitalism, February 5, 2014,
  9. [9]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Ed Rendell Tells Democratic Base to “Get Over It” on Rachel Maddow,” Firedoglake, September 23, 2010,; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Firedoglake, September 27, 2010,; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010,; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010,; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010,; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015,; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010,; Stephen Stromberg, “Joe Biden scolds progressives — and he’s right,” Washington Post, September 16, 2010,; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010,
  10. [10]Peter Cappelli, “What employers really want? Workers they don’t have to train,” Washington Post, September 5, 2014,; Eric Johnson, “Business Can Pay to Train Its Own Work Force,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22, 2016,
  11. [11]Jack Stripling, “Obama’s Legacy: An Unlikely Hawk on Higher Ed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, September 25, 2016,
  12. [12]Bill Ayers, “Mr. President, Education Is a Human Right, Not a Product,” Truthout, January 10, 2013,

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