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Obama’s “Smoking Gun”: His Hamilton Project Speech shows his links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts (Part 2)

9:34 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

II. The Founding of the Hamilton Project.

That Barack Obama was in bed with Bob Rubin and Goldman Sachs as long ago as April, 2006, is shown by the Hamilton Project and Obama’s speech there. Before looking at that vital speech, we need to know first some of the background about the founding of the Hamilton Project by Rubin and Goldman Sachs. Here is the Financial Times writing on April 6, 2006 about the dangers of populism and what the Hamilton Project is about:

Given the continued absence of credible economic leadership in Washington, it is unsurprising – but troubling – that both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have recently been tempted to fill the gap with populism. In that context, we welcome the launch yesterday by the Brookings Institution of a new platform – the Hamilton Project, named after America’s first Treasury Secretary – to address America’s looming economic challenges. Although composed mostly of Democrats, the group states a clear preference for market-based solutions to America’s problems. It rejects the latent signs of protectionism recently visible on Capitol Hill. But it makes a strong case for the state to play a more constructive role both in improving the efficiency of America’s market economy, but also in addressing the growing inequity of market outcomes.

Yet it would be hard to dispute the recommendation that America should boost investment in the skills of its workforce, both through better technical training and improving the underperforming public school system. Likewise, we strongly agree with the view that the US needs to return to the path of fiscal discipline from which Mr Bush has strayed, even if the group ducked the question of how it would reform America’s entitlement system. Reducing the cost of Medicare and Medicaid is America’s most important long-term fiscal challenge. It is also critical to reverse Mr Bush’s tax cuts.
At a time of economic demagoguery on Capitol Hill and a vacuum of leadership in the White House it is refreshing that rational voices are addressing America’s core economic challenges. Many of the policy details are awaited. But the diagnosis is persuasive.

Wikipedia gives us a quick primer on who set up the Hamilton Project and its overall goals:

The Hamilton Project[1] was set up by former US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.
He set up the Hamilton Group (sic), a think tank aimed at keeping Democrats from spending too wildly and running up dangerous deficits.[2]
See also: Brookings Institution.

That, folks, complete with the 2 references, is the ENTIRE Wikipedia entry on the Hamilton Group but it captures in a nutshell what the group was designed to do: keep progressive Democrats in line.

Here’s how A Tiny Revolution, under the headline "A Winning Democratic Strategy From People Who Hate Democrats" described the foundation of the Hamilton Project (NOTE: this website has a video clip of Obama’s speech at the Hamilton Project):

David Sirota points out here that the Brookings Institution has launched something called "The Hamilton Project" led by Robert Rubin.

Looking at it, you can tell right away who the Hamilton Project is for: Wall Street Democrats. Or as I like to call them, "The Party of Gay Investment Bankers and Corporate Lawyers Whose Grandfathers Worked in the Roosevelt Administration." (In fact, by my count, its advisory council includes twelve investment bankers.) They’re people who should naturally be Republicans, but just can’t bear having to hang out with Pat Robertson.

The funny thing is, they’re apparently desperate to make this clear. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE CALLING THEMSELVES "THE HAMILTON PROJECT."
Let’s ask the Democratic Party’s own website to explain the significance of this:

Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic Party in 1792 as a congressional caucus to fight for the Bill of Rights and against the elitist Federalist Party.
The "elitist Federalist Party," of course, was founded by Jefferson’s chief rival Hamilton.

Moreover, if you only take one thing away from seventh-grade history, it’s that Jefferson was the small-d democrat, while Hamilton famously exclaimed "The People!—The People is a Great Beast!" Hopefully that can be used as the title for all the Hamilton Project’s proposals for free trade, balanced budgets and school vouchers:

Still, it might be nice if the Democratic party didn’t get all its ideas from people who hate Democrats. But don’t get your hopes up.

In the interests of fairness, here is how the Hamilton Project describes itself:

The Hamilton Project produces research and policy proposals on how to create a growing economy that benefits more Americans. The Hamilton Project’s economic strategy reflects a judgment that long term prosperity is best achieved by making economic growth broad-based, by enhancing individual economic security, and by embracing a role for effective government in making needed public investments.

Since its launch in April 2006, The Hamilton Project has undertaken a significant policy agenda with input from leading thinkers in academia, business and public policy communities. The Project has released over 50 policy papers on subjects ranging from energy policy to health care to economic security.

In 2008 we have focused significant attention to our nation’s current economic challenges, starting in January with a public forum on the need for fiscal stimulus, which accompanied the release of a new Hamilton Project policy memo, a fiscal stimulus primer. In March, the Project tackled questions relating to the mortgage market in an event aimed at addressing the national foreclosure crisis. More recently, we focused our attention on the current crises in the housing and financial markets. Our September 23 event featured a high-level discussion on the current state of the financial markets with FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and Hamilton Project Advisory Council members Lawrence Summers and Eric Mindich. The Hamilton Project also released proposals for new types of mortgages and for alleviating problems in the low-income housing market.

And this from the Hamilton Project:

Leaders from the business, academia, and the public policy community have joined together to launch The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. Consistent with its broad economic strategy, the Project will put forward innovative policy ideas from leading economic thinkers—ideas based on evidence and experience, not ideology and doctrine.

The Project’s economic strategy is built on three principles: that broad-based economic growth is stronger and more sustainable, that economic security and economic growth can be mutually reinforcing, and that effective government can enhance economic growth.

III. Obama’s Speech to the Hamilton Project.

Here is then-Senator Barack Obama’s speech at the opening of the Hamilton Project back in April, 2006 as taken from that original Firedoglake diary. Note again that a video clip of Obama’s speech can be found here:

I would love just to sit here with these folks [Bob Rubin, Roger Altman, Peter R. Orszag] and listen because you have on this panel and in this room some of the most innovative, thoughtful policymakers, people who have both ideas but also ways of implementing them into action. Our country owes a great debt to a number of people who are in this room because they helped put us on a pathway of prosperity that we are still enjoying, despite the best efforts of some. (Laughter)

I want to thank Bob [Rubin] and Roger [Altman] and Peter for inviting me to be here today. I wish I could be here longer. I am going to have to run after a few minutes because we do have an important issue relating to U.S.-India relations. But when Roger originally called to invite me, not only to this forum but to invite me to engage in this project, I couldn’t help but think that this was the sort of breath of fresh air that I think this town needs.

We have all known for some time that the forces of globalization have changed the rules of the game—how we work, how we prosper, how we compete with the rest of the word.

We all know that the coming baby boomers’ retirement will only add to the challenges that we face in this new era. Unfortunately, while the world has changed around us, Washington has been remarkably slow to adapt twenty-first century solutions for a twenty-first century economy. As so many of us have seen, both sides of the political spectrum have tended to cling to outdated policies and tired ideologies instead of coalescing around what actually works.

For liberals, and I include myself in that category, too many of us have been interested in defending programs the way they were written in 1938, believing that if we admit the need to modernize these programs to fit changing times, then the other side will use those acknowledgements to destroy them altogether. On the right, there is a tendency to push for massive tax cuts, as Peter indicated from my speech at Knox College, no matter what the cost or who the target is, a view that stems from the belief that there is no role for government whatsoever in the challenges we face. Of course, neither of these approaches really works.

[snip]

That is what I hope we will see from The Hamilton Project in the months and years to come. You have already drawn some of the brightest minds from academia and policy circles…. So I know that there are going to be wonderful ideas that are generated as a consequence of this project.

Not every idea will I embrace, and I hope that one of the roles that I can play, as a participant in this process, is to not only encourage the work but occasionally challenge it. I will give one simple example. I think that if you polled many of the people in this room, most of us are strong free traders and most of us believe in markets. …So, hopefully, this is not just going to be all of us preaching to the choir. Hopefully, part of what we are going to be doing is challenging our own conventional wisdom and pushing out the boundaries and testing these ideas in a vigorous and aggressive way.

But I can’t think of a better start, given the people who are participating today. I am glad that Brookings has been willing to provide a home for this wonderful effort.

Obama lays it all out: his ties to his friends (Bob Rubin, head of Goldman Sachs; and Peter Orszag of the Hamilton Project who now works in the Obama administration as Budget Chief); his belief in unfettered free trade (making a mockery of his NAFTA renegotiation pledge 2 years later in the heat of battle with Hillary); and, the need for cuts in entitlements.

Paul Street, in a brilliant analysis over at ZNet, shows exactly who Obama is and how he could make such a rapid ascent from obscurity to the Presidency:

I was not alone in seeing Obama as enjoying more than an outside chance at the White House in the near future. Other Left observers knew about Obama’s longstanding outsized ambition and his related "deeply conservative" ideological orientation and power-accommodating nature. We were aware of his early (late 2003-2004) and close vetting by the national political and financial class and of who really selects viable presidential candidates and winners – the corporate and imperial establishment. And we knew also that, as the brilliant left commentator and author-filmmaker John Pilger noted last June, Obama’s racial identity could be a "very seductive tool of propaganda" working on behalf of the ruling class.

Obama was understood early on to be a distinctly possible if not probable next president – despite or even because of his race. We felt that he offered the U.S. power elite and its authoritarian business and military order and global empire a much needed re-packaging – a symbolic overhaul and "re-branding" – that none of the other serious presidential contenders in the mix could safely provide to the same degree required in the wake of the Cheney-Bush nightmare. For me and a few other lefties I knew/know, there was little all that unlikely or surprising or remarkable about Obama’s rapid climb to the top of the American Empire. It all made perfect sense. The same goes for Obama’s performance as U.S. president so far.

…Obama, it seemed to me, was poised to profit from a killer combination in U.S. politics. He joined widespread popularity and a related illusory progressive identification among the citizenry to strong approval from elite financial, corporate, and military elites who determined his basic safety to existing dominant domestic and global hierarchies and doctrines. Sophisticated corporate and military power brokers, I was sure, calculated that his deceptive (as they knew, after vetting him) progressive imagery and related newness would be useful when it came to "managing [popular] expectations" that were certain to be heightened by the passing of the Cheney-Bush regime and era. "Who better," I thought I could hear members of the political and investor classes saying…. "who better than Obama – with his outwardly progressive credentials, his ‘community organizing’ past, and his non-traditional racial identity – to be the public face for the long-predicted massive taxpayer bailout of high finance? Who better than Obama (with his supposed ‘antiwar’ record and his Islamic-sounding name) to provide cover for the reconfiguration of U.S. military control of strategically hyper-significant Middle Eastern oil resources in the wake of Bush’s Iraq fiasco? Who better to safely channel popular angers and to attach alienated segments of the citizenry to the corporate and imperial state and to refashion America’s image around the world?"

Obama’s predictable (and predicted) betrayals of his more leftish campaign rhetoric and imagery have met only minimal and half-hearted opposition from what’s left of a U.S. left. Unjust wars and occupations, mega-bankers’ bailouts and other regressive policies that were seen as intolerable under the nominal rule of a boorish moron from Texas (George W. Bush) have become acceptable for many "progressives" when carried out by an eloquent and urbane black Democrat from Chicago (Barack Obama). A recent pathetic example – one of many – comes from the so-called liberal-left journal The Nation, whose bourgeois editor Katrina Vanden Huevel proclaims the following in an editorial titled "Obama, One Year On:" "Whatever one thinks of Obama’s policy on any specific issue, he is clearly a reform president committed to improvement of peoples’ lives and the renewal and reconstruction of America… Progressives should focus less on the limits of the Obama agenda and more on the possibilities that his presidency opens up"
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Ms. Vanden Heuvel announces here that she has fallen prey to what Chris Hedges, author of the recent book Empire of Illusion, calls "Brand Obama." As Hedges wrote last May:

"Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest."

"… The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertiser wants because of how they can make you feel [or because of crass and calculating motivations related to funding and perceived access to power at the upper ranks of the liberal Establishment - P.S.]."

Street’s entire analysis is quite long and may be the best expose of Obama in writing. When one reads it and couples it with David Sirota, Obama’s speech to the Hamilton Project then one can understand that Obama really was the perfect stealth candidate. Not only is he NOT a progressive, he is an ANTI-progressive who represents Goldman Sachs and the power elite of this country. After the bailouts, after the trillions given to Wall St. and the banks (Goldman got its investment in Obama repaid in the billions), after the escalation of war in Afghanistan, after Obama’s health "insurance reform", after the false unemployment summit, we likely will get what Bob Rubin also wants: an attack on entitlements.

Obama’s own words at the Hamilton Project opening show what he’s all about and it ain’t pretty and it ain’t progressive. Obama is Goldman Sachs’s salesman for the bailout for the escalation of an unpopular war and for a "limited government approach" to average Americans. Obama = antiprogressive.

Obama’s “Smoking Gun”: His Hamilton Project Speech shows his links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts (Part 1)

9:30 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

It’s the "smoking gun" that links Barack Obama with Bob Rubin-Goldman Sachs, free trade and cuts in entitlements. It’s the young Senator Barack Obama’s little commented on and little-known speech to the Hamilton Project in April, 2006, well before he became president.

Senator Barack Obama ran a stealth campaign for the presidency in which he took positions on issues that he obviously didn’t believe which explains why he jettisoned them early on (FISA; NAFTA renegotiation; DADT; DOMA etc.). But the REAL, unvarnished Obama was unveiled in a speech he gave as a Senator from Illinois in 2006. He spoke at the request of "my friend" Bob Rubin whose Goldman Sachs had just funded the Hamilton Project, a free trade think tank embedded in the Brookings Institution./>

I. Background: Why the Hamilton Project is Important.

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Obama’s Hamilton Project speech is vital to understanding the man since:

1) it shows the real Obama before his p.r./propaganda team repackaged him;

2) it shows his links, at an early age, to Bob Rubin and Goldman Sachs; he’s been owned by Goldman ever since;

3) it shows Obama has long been a free trader and lied to get votes when he promised to renegotiate NAFTA. He had no such intention and is philosophically opposed to such a renegotiation. He made that promise (and flip-flopped on it) to pander for union votes in Ohio while fighting Hillary for the nomination;

4) it shows Obama is in the bag for what Goldman really wants: free trade AND cuts to entitlements (including social security and medicare).

Before we examine Obama’s Hamilton Project speech, let’s pay tribute to a much earlier diary right here at Firedoglake which exposed this years ago. Hats off to Kirk James Murphy, M.D., whose diary, "The Hamilton Project: Same Corporatist Whine in New DLC Vessels" spelled this out back in February 13th, 2008. Dr. Murphy wrote in his diary this about the opening of the Hamilton Project:

Oh – the Senator who made time for the christening of the new corporatist think tank… the love child of the Clintons’ BFF Robert Rubin?
Sen Barack Obama.

The Hamilton Project was also written about even earlier by David Sirota (but he missed the Obama speech). Back in April, 2006, Sirota noted:

Wall Street Dems Unveil Plan to Undermine Progressives

Here’s a big shocker – the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party today announced it would be beginning its new war in earnest on the grassroots elements of the party that are demanding serious public policy changes. As the Financial Times reports, Citigroup Chairman Bob Rubin held a press conference at the Brookings Institution to announce the formation of the so-called "Hamilton Project." After paying lip service to various economic problems afflicting the country, Rubin and his former Treasury colleague Roger Altman quickly let it be known exactly what they are up to.

Here’s the key excerpt:

"At a time when Democrats have become more aggressive in voicing concerns about the foreign ownership of US assets, Roger Altman, former deputy Treasury secretary under Mr Clinton, added that more inclusive economic growth could also ‘blunt the political demands for protectionism’…[The group] said it was willing to take on entrenched Democratic interests, such as teaching unions. Policy papers unveiled on Wednesday proposed vouchers for summer schools…"

There it all is. First there’s the dishonest name-calling aimed at those courageous Democrats who are challenging the free trade orthodoxy that is destroying the lives of millions of American and foreign workers. Then there is the promise of an ensuing attack on the labor movement – a reflexive move, of course, for a bunch of corporate executives. And finally, the nod to efforts to defund public education through "vouchers."

None of this is surprising, of course. As head of Citigroup, Rubin has a financial interest in the agenda he’s pushing. And he’s made no apologies for the brazenness with which he pushes his corporatism. Remember, it was Rubin during the debate over the Central American Free Trade Agreement who demanded that congressional Democrats back off their efforts to include labor, human rights and environmental protections in the pact. He and his pals are the same people who rammed trade deals like NAFTA, WTO and China PNTR down the throats of Americans, and then left government service for the high life of the corporate boardroom. There, they reaped the rich financial rewards of the very sell-out policies they used public office to push, while millions of Americans saw their jobs outsourced, their wages frozen and their benefits slashed.

Oh sure, the group claims it is going to look at critical issues like income inequality – but you can be sure they will look at that issue without looking at issues like "free" trade that are fueling that inequality. Because make no mistake about it – this move today is nothing more than the beginning of a frontal attack by Corporate America on the progressive movement, using the Democratic Party as an all-too-transparent cloak of legitimacy.

I added emphasis to that last section because it is so important and has been proven to be what happened under Obama:

>"this move today (the founding of the Hamilton Project) is nothing more than the beginning of a frontal attack by Corporate America on the progressive movement, using the Democratic Party as an all-too-transparent cloak of legitimacy."

(to be continued)