Watching the Obama Online "Town Hall"

By David Swanson

Obama’s “town hall” featuring questions submitted online produced some interesting comments from our president. In response to a question from college students he explained that making student loans directly, without passing them through banks and giving profits to banks from public money, makes more sense. But he claimed that giving far more money than we’ve ever loaned to students to banks to loan to businesses is the only way to save our economy.

I missed the beginning and came in as Obama was saying our economy could out-compete anybody else’s. I’d be happy if it just outperformed itself and stopped treating the rest of the world as competition. I started taking notes:

11:55 a.m. Obama’s whole claim for the need to give or loan so much money to very wealthy people is so that they will loan it to small businesses. So, why not just give it or loan it to small businesses? And how many are trying to borrow money without success? Aren’t more struggling to pay the debts they’ve got?

11:58 a.m. Obama doesn’t want outsourced jobs to come back because they couldn’t pay a living wage. They could if we imposed it or permitted unionization.

11:59 a.m. Obama wants to invest in green energy. Great. Let’s do it. He even calls these “union jobs”. They are if unionized. But so are any other jobs. Otherwise they are not. No mention of the Employee Free Choice Act.

12:02 p.m. Obama warns we’ll keep losing jobs perhaps for the rest of the year.

12:02 p.m. Richard in California asks why we can’t have a “universal healthcare system like many European nations.” The term “single-payer” was not included in the question, although it was probably Richard’s point. Obama answered by telling us we have a lousy situation now, as if anyone didn’t know it. But then he blamed Medicare and Medicaid for threatening deficits. Nevermind that Medicare wastes 3% on administration compared to 33% for private health insurance companies. Nevermind that we’re wasting trillions on bankers and wars and weapons. Obama then said he wanted universal healthcare, but not single-payer (he said the word). He claimed it requires high taxes. The problem, he claims, is the legacy of a set of institutions that aren’t easily transformed. (No? Medicare was created pretty easily, and we don’t need the insurance companies transformed, we need them scrapped.) The problem, Obama said, is that people are “accustomed to” the current system, but he asked the people in the room whether they had insurance through their employers, NOT whether they liked it or were emotionally attached to it. No mention of the 2.6 million new jobs we would net with single-payer healthcare.

12:09 Obama mocked the “online audience” for proposing legalizing marijuana, but did not address the proposal.

12:10 Jared Bernstein, who used to work for EPI and help us out when I worked at ACORN, is reading people’s questions. The next one is on veterans suffering more unemployment than others. Obama responds by praising war. Obama said his proposed budget would increase veterans funding more than at any time in the past 30 years. He mentioned services for PTSD and traumatic brain injury. About time.

12:15 The last internet question came from college students asking about college funding. Obama spoke about his proposed service program, and about student loan programs. He said that student loans made through banks profit banks and cost the government. So all student loans should be made directly to students from the government. Perfect. Exactly. Now why can the same logic not be applied to the trillions being dumped into banks in order to create jobs? Why do we have to make sense when it comes to student loans and preach nonsense when it comes to jobs?

Obama went on to stress that investments in education, healthcare, and energy are very small and are not what’s driving deficits. He blames that on medicare, medicaid, and Bush tax cuts. Other than the Bush tax cuts, this is irresponsible nonsense. Our largest expenses are banker bailouts, wars, and weapons.