Recall that back in 2008, Barack Obama won the White House on a wave of anger at the incumbent president, and he took office under similar crisis conditions. And yet, despite Democrats winning large congressional majorities, Obama’s administration used its power to merely tweak the economic status quo, but not really change it.
From the get-go, the new White House brushed off progressives and championed a stimulus package that many economists said was far too small to quickly right the economy.
While Obama’s Affordable Care Act created some long-overdue consumer protections, it ultimately strengthened the power of private insurers. Despite Obama campaigning for a public insurance option, his administration dropped it, Democratic senators helped Republicans initially vote it down and then refused to ever bring it back up to force the issue, even though there was a good chance it would pass. The result: Millions have lost their health insurance and millions more are paying ever-higher premiums, while insurance companies have booked huge profits – and now support for the ACA is soft.
Similarly, Obama backed off his promise to pass new union protections for workers, and he reversed his promise to reform bad trade deals, instead pressing even more of those pacts that have become a symbol of a corrupt Washington more interested in enriching CEOs than helping workers.
Obama’s administration also refused to prosecute bankers and its Wall Street reform package was pathetically weak. Its Treasury Department helped kill an initiative to break up the banks, while it approved and defended big bonuses for Wall Street executives who engineered the crisis. The moves were a boon to a financial industry that bankrolled Obama’s campaign, but political poison.
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