OBAMA’S FIRST REPORT CARD
For Obama, No Opportunity Too Big To Blow by Naomi Klein The Nation
Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone’s fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China’s fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn’t use it. Barack Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the heavy emitters of the world took their cue from him.
(The “deal” that was ultimately rammed through was nothing more than a grubby pact between the world’s biggest emitters. No President since FDR has been handed as many opportunities to transform the U.S. into something that doesn’t threaten the stability of life on this planet. Obama has refused to use each and every one of them. Let’s look at the big three.
Blown Opportunity Number 1: The Stimulus Package When Obama came to office he had a free hand and a blank check to design a spending package to stimulate the economy. He could have used that power to fashion what many were calling a “Green New Deal” — instead, he reached across the aisle to Republicans, low-balled the size of the stimulus and blew much of it on tax cuts. Highways that perpetuate car culture won big.
Blown Opportunity Number 2: The Auto Bailouts A visionary Obama committed to the fight against climate chaos would obviously have used that power to dramatically reengineer the failing industry so that its factories could build the infrastructure of the green economy the world desperately needs. Instead Obama was down-sizer in chief, leaving the industry unchanged.
Blown Opportunity Number 3: The Bank Bailouts Obama took real effort not to nationalize the banks. He could have mandated the banks to provide the loans for factories to be retrofitted and new green infrastructure to be built. Instead he declared that the government shouldn’t tell failed banks how to run their businesses.
Imagine if these three huge economic engines — the banks, the auto companies, the stimulus bill — had been harnessed to a common green vision.
By the time Copenhagen had rolled around, the U.S. would already have been well on its way to dramatically cutting emissions, poised to inspire, rather than disappoint, the rest of the world.
Few U.S. Presidents have squandered as many once-in-a-generation opportunities as Barack Obama. The Copenhagen failure largely belongs to him.
Research support by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. © 2009 The Nation
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Visit www.naomiklein.org. READ MORE:
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I think Obama should have to have Michelle and the girls sign his report card, don’t you?