Sunday, August 09, 2009

Obama and His Ethical Dilemmas

In the New York Times, on Sunday, August 9, 09, Frank Rich raises some provocative issues about Obama's broken promises and whether or not he is capitulating to the corporate establishment. You can read the article here.

Obama, and any reformer who has political power, faces a difficult moral and ethical quandary: in politics, money always talks. In Western law, corporations are legally considered to be single individuals, and as such retain the rights of individuals to free speech and access to lawmakers so they can influence their opinions and laws in their favor. In the United States, campaign financing has been the accepted form of legal bribery. This is why the efforts of various citizens groups, such as Common Cause, to control and eliminate corporate campaign contributions have always stalled.

Back to Obama's quandary: how will he make fundamental changes when the corporations control the elected officials who ultimately decide on the changes? Obviously, he has to find ways to work with the corporations. The questions are: how many goals do you sacrifice in order to obtain your highest goals? How many concessions to big business do you make before you simply arrive at the status quo that Business prefers?

As Frank Rich points out, in the battle to reform health insurance, almost every Representative and Senator in both parties have accepted large bribes, er, “campaign contributions” from the health insurance industry. Obama, himself, appointed many of the good ol' boys from the financial industry–men who were at least complicit in the financial collapse–in the reconstruction efforts we know as the bail-out and stimulus packages.

Obama is a brilliant men, so he certainly was or is aware of the roles his appointees played in the collapse. Does this make him (Obama) a part of the solution or part of the problem? I believe he is a highly ethical person as well as being a shrewd politician, so I imagine that these thoughts are not new to him. He is also very aware that Jimmy Carter tried to clean up government but without engaging the Establishment, so he had only one term, and the effects of his efforts evaporated almost as soon as he left office.

Bill Clinton found himself in similar positions on a number of issues, however he faced a hostile Republican Congress. The results of his quid-pro-quo were that the country had the largest and longest period of economic growth in recent history, and two major mistakes: NAFTA and the “reform” of welfare that, in fact, broke a well-run system. The middle-class continues to pay the price for both of these mistakes, particularly NAFTA.

Many of us are working hard to support Obama's efforts at health insurance reform. Whatever passes into law will be a major advance. Let's just hope that he does not give the farm away to the corporations in the process.

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