State of the Union: Obama is an Open Failure

Obama is an Open Failure, as a president and as a human being. In the 8 years of his Administration he has delivered on hardly a single promise he has made during his campaigns and in his State of the Union addresses.

Let’s take Obamacare, supposedly his keystone, his signature achievement. It is nothing but corporate welfare for insurance company middlemen that deliver no added value at all and who’s job description is to deliver the minimum amount of health care at the maximum amount of cost to the sick patient, and a license for pharmaceutical snake oil salesmen to gouge the taxpayers with arbitrary and astronomical prices that are non-negotiable for products, developed through government financed research, that are of questionable value because they are not tested for safety and effectiveness except by the companies that make them.

As Lambert put it at Naked Capitalism today-

Here’s the key assumption that Obama (and most economists) make about health insurance: That it’s a commodity, like flat screen TVs, or airline tickets, and that therefore, there exists “a product that suits your budget and is right for you” because markets. Unfortunately, experience backed up by studies has shown that this is not true.

(E)mpirically, these “consumers” just don’t act the way that good neoliberal Obama says they should; they do not comparison shop. That alone is enough to undermine the intellectual basis of ObamaCare. If there’s no comparison shopping going on, there’s no competitive pressure for health insurers to improve their product

In fact, says the study, some of the foregone services were “likely of high value in terms of health and potential to avoid future costs.” And it could be that the lower-income ObamaCare-eligible are smarter shoppers (dubious: Shopping is a tax on time a lot of working people can’t pay). That said, it looks like ObamaCare has replaced a system where insurance companies deny people needed care with a system where people deny themselves needed care; which is genius, in a way. However, if any doctors or medical personnel continue to support ObamaCare politically, they should consider closely whether they’re violating the principle of non-maleficence — “First, do no harm” — and halt their support, if so.

(T)here’s a sizeable population who, if they are rational actors, just won’t buy health insurance at all; the ObamaCare “marketplace” is not capable of adjusting prices to get such “consumers” to enter the market. Second, people don’t comparison shop; they reduce needed care.

So, with ObamaCare, and thanks to the dogmas of neoliberalism, we have a “marketplace” that repels “consumers” from entering it, and repels people from shopping if they do enter.

Health Insurance is NOT Health Care and with sky high deductibles, denial of needed treatment, and costly payments for services limited to the point of uselessness is nothing except a tax on all but the wealthiest to transfer their money to corporations.

The typical defense you hear goes something like this comment-

The author seems to have forgotten that the kludge called “Obamacare” is not the single payer solution that this Obama wanted. What you have is what was able to get past a Congress after intense lobbying by HMOs and insurers. I see little evidence of ideology in the result, “neoliberal” or otherwise. It does nothing to address the insane-and-rising cost of healthcare, because the vested interests are OK with that.

To which the proper response is (from Yves)-

Let me clue you in: the readers here are way WAY too clued in to buy your Big Lie.

1. Obama was never in favor of single payer, ever. Wash your mouth out for even suggesting that

2. He had health care lobbyists draft the legislation

3. He used the “public option” as a bright shiny toy. He was so uncommitted to it he didn’t even trade it away. He gave it up as a free concession. A basic principle in negotiating is you NEVER make a free concession. The fact that he just threw it away is proof he never meant it as anything more than a talking point.

Obama is a neoliberal who campaigned as a leftist but has governed as a right-winger. His apologists have regularly used the meanie Republicans as excuses for his sellouts, when Obama gets what he wants when he wants it, and there’s no evidence that his center-right results are at all at odds with what he intended to achieve.

And this exchange-

(I)t is always the same nonsense about how 0bama was hamstrung by the eevil Congress and HMOs.

(T)he revealing fact that Obamacare was passed without a single Republican vote, which suggest to me that the Democrats could have passed any bill they wanted… and so they did! This is the bill that Obama and the Democrats wanted.

Let’s move on to the rest of the Domestic Agenda.

Where are the prosecutions of the people who committed Bank Fraud during the Financial Crisis?

There are none.

Under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the Justice Department faced repeated criticism from Congress and consumer advocates that it treated corporate executives leniently. After the 2008 financial crisis, no top Wall Street executives went to prison, highlighting a disparity in how prosecutors treat corporate leaders and typical criminals. Although prosecutors did collect billions of dollars in fines from big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, critics dismissed those cases as hollow victories.

A criminal case last year against BNP Paribas, France’s biggest bank, demonstrated the gap between charging a bank and its employees. Even as officials extracted a record $8.9 billion penalty and made the company one of the first giant banks to plead guilty to a crime, no BNP employees faced charges. The Justice Department said the bank insulated its employees by withholding records until after a deadline had passed to file individual charges.

While the idea of white-collar investigations may conjure images of raids of corporate offices by federal agents, the reality is much different. When suspected of wrongdoing, large companies typically hire lawyers to conduct internal investigations and turn their findings over to the Justice Department.

They are too big to prosecute said Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder admitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that banks are simply too big to prosecute.

The Justice Department has not brought a single criminal conviction against a Wall Street executive four years after a financial crisis proven to have been precipitated by fraudulent behavior. On Wednesday, Holder admitted that the vast size of major banks and the structural integration in the economy makes criminal prosecutions basically impossible.

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” Holder said.

Yup, even foreign Banks that laundered Billions of Dollars in illegal drug and arms transactions.

For at least half a decade, the storied British colonial banking power helped to wash hundreds of millions of dollars for drug mobs, including Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, suspected in tens of thousands of murders just in the past 10 years – people so totally evil, jokes former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, that “they make the guys on Wall Street look good.” The bank also moved money for organizations linked to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and for Russian gangsters; helped countries like Iran, the Sudan and North Korea evade sanctions; and, in between helping murderers and terrorists and rogue states, aided countless common tax cheats in hiding their cash.

“They violated every goddamn law in the book,” says Jack Blum, an attorney and former Senate investigator who headed a major bribery investigation against Lockheed in the 1970s that led to the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “They took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business.”

That nobody from the bank went to jail or paid a dollar in individual fines is nothing new in this era of financial crisis. What is different about this settlement is that the Justice Department, for the first time, admitted why it decided to go soft on this particular kind of criminal. It was worried that anything more than a wrist slap for HSBC might undermine the world economy. “Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer at a press conference to announce the settlement, “HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

Why, they’re even back to doing business as usual with the Obama Administration and the U.S. Government and they are bigger than ever.

Nothing can touch them under Obama and his bootlicking Wall Street toadies, Holder, Geithner, and Bernanke, and the contributing class of Rubinite acolytes he populated his economic advisors with, not even when they commit provable market fraud to the tune of $879 Trillion or more.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

Why? Because Libor already affects the prices of interest-rate swaps, making this a manipulation-on-manipulation situation. If the allegations prove to be right, that will mean that swap customers have been paying for two different layers of price-fixing corruption. If you can imagine paying 20 bucks for a crappy PB&J because some evil cabal of agribusiness companies colluded to fix the prices of both peanuts and peanut butter, you come close to grasping the lunacy of financial markets where both interest rates and interest-rate swaps are being manipulated at the same time, often by the same banks.

The bad news didn’t stop with swaps and interest rates. In March, it also came out that two regulators – the CFTC here in the U.S. and the Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions – were spurred by the Libor revelations to investigate the possibility of collusive manipulation of gold and silver prices. “Given the clubby manipulation efforts we saw in Libor benchmarks, I assume other benchmarks – many other benchmarks – are legit areas of inquiry,” CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said.

But the biggest shock came out of a federal courtroom at the end of March – though if you follow these matters closely, it may not have been so shocking at all – when a landmark class-action civil lawsuit against the banks for Libor-related offenses was dismissed. In that case, a federal judge accepted the banker-defendants’ incredible argument: If cities and towns and other investors lost money because of Libor manipulation, that was their own fault for ever thinking the banks were competing in the first place.

Yeah, that buck stops at your desk Mr. Obama.

But, but, but… He’s the first “Black” president!

Ok, so what has he done for African-Americans? Give them pride? If so that’s about it. More Black people are in jail, even proportionally, than there were when he took office. More Black people are being murdered by the Police with less prosecutions than before. More Black people are denied the right to vote and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department sits on its thumbs. More Black people are living in poverty and their poverty is deeper than it was because of income inequality.

You’ve even taken away their schools and given the money intended to educate their children to a cabal of con artists and crooks.

Promoters of charter school expansion are calling for an increase in independent authorizers, such as nonprofits and universities. Supporters of charter school expansion believe that multiple authorizers will issue more charters, in part, because they are less hostile to charter schools than school districts. However, our research suggests another reason that multiple authorizers result in more charter schools: multiple authorizers are like mortgage originators with no skin in the game. In other words, these authorizers don’t assume the risk of charter school failure. That means that if something happens with the charter school, the authorizers don’t have to clean up the mess. Multiple authorizers may also weaken screening by giving charter schools the chance to find authorizers who won’t ask questions. In fact, CREDO has found that states with multiple authorizers experienced significantly lower academic growth. CREDO suggested that this finding might be due to the possibility that multiple authorizers gave charter schools the chance to shop around to find authorizers who wouldn’t provide rigorous oversight.

There is an intense push to increase the number of charter schools in Black, urban communities, where they’re very popular because of the dissatisfaction with traditional public schools. Because of this desire for more educational options, these communities are more likely to support policies that could lead to charter school bubbles forming. In fact, I would argue that we are at Ground Zero for the formation of such bubbles. Supporters of charter schools are using their popularity in Black, urban communities to push for states to remove their charter cap restrictions and to allow multiple authorizers. At the same time, private investors are lobbying states to change their rules to encourage charter school growth. The result is what we describe as a policy “bubble,” where the combination of multiple authorizers and a lack of oversight can end up creating an abundance of poor performing schools in particular communities.

In New Orleans, for example, charters have been sued for failing to provide students with disabilities with an education. This is such a problem that the US Department of Education issued a guidance letter last year reminding charter schools that if they receive federal money, they also have to comply with federal statutes such as Section 504 or Title 6. You may also start seeing state constitutional challenges, like we saw in Washington state. Where I see this playing out is that if you have too many charters or options that aren’t public having a negative impact on the education system as a whole, you may start seeing challenges in these communities saying that the state is failing to provide children with a system of public education, or that the options provided aren’t of sufficient quality to satisfy the state’s obligation to provide a public education. The assumption is that if kids fail to get an education in a charter school they can return to the traditional system. But what happens if you don’t have that option? You may soon see that develop in all of these urban settings. The really scary scenario that I could see happening is that you end up with all of these options that aren’t traditional public schools with insufficient oversight by the authorizers and no real pressure to get these schools to perform well.

Yes, this is exactly the same kind of looting Banks did with programs intended to facilitate affordable housing. Also, they don’t work.

(P)ublic schools are not as much the perpetrators of failure as they are victims of resource deprivation, inequity in the system and undermining forces driven by corruption and greed. In other words, it wasn’t schools that needed to be made more accountable; it was the failed leadership of those in the business and government establishment that needed more accountability.

But the trouble with the ASD (Achievement School District) isn’t purely “political.” The takeover effort is also in trouble because it doesn’t work. The EdWeek article points to a recent Vanderbilt University study (.pdf) that showed district-led turnaround efforts had performed better than the the ASD. The study concluded, “Until the state-run district can begin to show academic progress, it shouldn’t be allowed to take over more schools.”

The scandals and malfeasance associated with charter schools rose to levels in 2015 beyond what emerged in 2014.

Early in the year, a report from the Center for Popular Democracy looked at charter school finances in Illinois and found “$13.1 million in fraud by charter school officials … Because of the lack of transparency and necessary oversight, total fraud is estimated at $27.7 million in 2014 alone.”

One example the CPD report cited was of a charter operator in Chicago who used charter school funds amounting to more than $250,000 to purchase personal items from luxury department stores, including $2,000 on hair care and cosmetic products and $5,800 for jewelry.

In April, another report from the Center for Popular Democracy, along with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), uncovered over $200 million in “alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement” committed by charter schools around the country.

Authors of the report called $200-plus million the “tip of the iceberg,” because much of the fraud “will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud.”

Then, in October, the Center for Media and Democracy published a new report revealing that the federal government has spent over $3.7 billion in taxpayer money on charter schools with virtually no accountability for the funds.

According to the report, the federal government, state governments and charter authorizers have generally not provided the public with ready information about how federal funds for charters have been spent. Attempts to trace federal grant money to recipients are apt to encounter “substantial obstruction” from states reluctant to reveal how charter money is spent and how state government handles charter oversight.

The report contends, “Unlike truly public schools, which have to account for prospective and past spending in public budgets provided to democratically elected school boards, charter spending is largely a black hole.”

In Michigan, for instance, where four out of five charters are run by for-profit management companies, CMD found “ghost schools“ that had received millions in federal funding but either never opened or were quickly closed with no account for the money. Some charter operators in the state have been accused, and convicted, of crimes, including felony fraud and tax evasion. But most often, no perpetrators of the malfeasance are brought to justice.

In May, an Ohio paper began its news story about Ohio charter schools, “No sector – not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals – misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.” Reporter Doug Livingston wrote, “State auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival the worst in the nation.”

Charter school malfeasance in the Buckeye State has gotten so bad it’s even drawn the attention of FBI investigators.

More recently, Florida press outlets reported the state has given about $70 million to charter schools that later closed and returned virtually none of the money to taxpayers. While the state is able to recover computers and other equipment these schools purchased with taxpayer money, the far more substantial costs for purchasing and improving property and making lease payments stays in private pockets after the schools close.

In one of the more bizarre schemes the authors examine, charter operators use third-party corporations to purchase buildings and land from the public school district itself, so taxpayer dollars are used to purchase property from the public. Thus, the public ends up paying twice for the school, and the property becomes an asset of a private corporation.

In other examples, charter operators will set up leasing agreements and lucrative management fees between multiple entities that end up extracting resources that might otherwise be dedicated to direct services for children.

These arrangements, and many others documented in the brief, constitute a rapidly expanding parallel school system in America, populated with enterprises and individuals who work in secret to suck money out of public education.

Well, maybe Obama’s better with Latinos and Hispanics.

I dunno. It’s hard to say that about a man who just promised to send everyone he could find without proper documentation back to war torn Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua where they will most likely be killed.

Not that a little killing ever bothered Obama. In addition to Afghanistan and Iraq where he flat out broke his promise to end the (undeclared) wars (of aggression, you know- we hung people for that, called it ‘The Good War’) we have now added more troops in harm’s way and more undeclared wars in Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, and a bunch of other places in the Middle East and Africa that I’m forgetting because the complicit and corrupt U.S. Media never reports the true extent of our Military criminality. It makes real ‘Murikans has sad.

Obama and our “Allies in the War Against Of Terror” have a special fondness for blowing up Hospitals, particularly those run by Médecins Sans Frontières, which they have done 3 times, in Afghanistan, Syria, and, just recently, Yemen. As we might expect from such a great champion of justice as Obama not a single buck private has been held accountable, not even reprimanded. Heck, even George W. Bush had the decency to throw Lynndie England and 10 other grunts in the stockade.

I’ll get to the torture that has continued under Obama, but before I do some thoughts on Targeted Assassination. “Home of the Brave?” Well, I suppose if it makes you feel brave to sit in an air conditioned office 7,600 miles away and blow up wedding parties, birthdays, and first responders trying to save people’s lives just because they happen to live in the wrong part of the world and look, you know, “Mooslim”. I mean, it can’t just be bigoted lynching because Obama’s Black and he would never do that.

But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that Obama has decided that he or his flunkies (so many to murder, who has the time to waste thinking about that?) can condemn a United States citizen to death without evidence and without a trial. Frankly it goes against everything the Revolution and Constitution stand for and institutes a “Star Chamber” kangaroo court of death by decree.

Back to torture. It hasn’t stopped you know. People in Guantanamo are tortured all the time by methods that are clearly against United States law and International Conventions. Do you think Anal Hydration and Anal Feeding are medical procedures? They are rape pure and simple. Oh, and we continue to kidnap people and ship them off to Black Sites so we can pretend that they’re not being tortured while under our custody and at our direct orders.

And you’re going to close Guantanamo when Mr. Obama? When the war ends which as we’ve seen will be never? Ah, eeevul Republicans. And you had a Democratic majority in both houses for how many years? I see, just upstanding law makers bowing to the will of their bigoted and craven constituents in the face of Islamic Super-terrorists who haven’t killed as many U.S. citizens in 14 years as your out of control Cops. I guess it’s just the price we pay for free-dumb.

Speaking of freedom there is the spying, incessant, pervasive and entirely, utterly ineffective. There is not a single instance in which it has prevented an attack, but it’s not intended to. The goal is simply to intimidate the people and make them compliant.

Not content to act the lawless Despot himself, Obama has decided to sell what remains of our democracy and sovereignty to the highest bidder. Investor State Dispute Settlement has already led Congress to repeal our Country Of Origin Labeling law (which Obama dutifully signed instead of vetoing because- democracy) which might tick you off if you own a dog and it dies because of Ethylene Glycol poisoning, not that those things ever happen (it’s not all that good for humans either, nor is “Mad Cow Disease”). Recently we’re being taken to ISDS (doesn’t deserve to be called a court) by Trans-Canada for not just the $3 Billion of sunk cost in their continent spanning death funnel, but an additional $12 Billion of “expected revenue”.

Perhaps you can stand to watch that strutting popinjay take the Well one last time to lie to us again, but I’m sick of it and I’m sick of him.

You can’t leave office soon enough for me Barack. Good riddance.

I’ll be watching Curse of Oak Island. Consider this an Open Thread.

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