Townhall Talk and a New Way Forward

By David Swanson

Obama’s Thursday “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 from the government, 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 in hopes that they will loan it to businesses is the only way to save our economy.

President Obama’s claim for the need to give or loan so much money to very wealthy people is 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?

Obama went on to stress that investments in education, healthcare, and energy are very small and are not what’s driving deficits. He blames deficits 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. And it is not something to be proud of that our investments in education, healthcare, and energy are so small by comparison. Investments in those areas produce more and better paying jobs than investment in the military, and — I’m guessing — than investment in Wall Street.

Asked about outsourced jobs, Obama said that he didn’t want many of them to come back because they couldn’t pay a living wage. But, of course, they could if we imposed it or permitted unionization. The president said that he 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. There was no mention of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would enforce the right to unionize. Obama warned that we will keep losing jobs perhaps for the rest of the year.

Richard in California asked by internet 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. Never mind that Medicare wastes 3% on administration compared to 33% for private health insurance companies. Never mind 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 that single-payer 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 at the townhall whether they had insurance through their employers, NOT whether they liked it or were emotionally attached to it. Nobody mentioned the 2.6 million new jobs we would net with single-payer healthcare.

There are a lot of steps we can take to shift Washington-corporate attitudes. But in the background of all such discussions is the trillions of dollars flowing from our grandchildren’s future pockets to today’s robber barons on Wall Street. How does the following sound as the outline of a solution?

NATIONALIZE: Experts agree on the means — Insolvent banks that are too big to fail must incur a temporary FDIC intervention – no more blank check taxpayer handouts. (see Krugman on nationalization)

REORGANIZE: Current CEOs and board members must be removed and bonuses wiped out. The financial elite must share in the cost of what they have caused. (see Simon Johnson on reorganizing)

DECENTRALIZE: Banks must be broken up and sold back to the private market with new antitrust rules in place– new banks, managed by new people. Any bank that’s “too big to fail” means that it’s too big for a free market to function. (see Mike Lux on decentralization)

If you like the sound of that, you’ll be pleased to know that it is the agenda of rallies happening everywhere on April 11th and that you can sign up to take part at

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