Monday, 22 March 2010

Obama is wasted on America

Why is is that Americans always seem to end up hating their President? I'm sure we can all understand why you didn't like Dubya, but the mere mention of Obama sends me into quiet frenzy of ecstasy. The USA seems to have ended up with a President with a real desire to improve things, to change things for the better, but at least half of the population seems to have decided they'd prefer Sarah Palin to an obviously intelligent, dedicated, and so far, successful Head of State. Dear US citizens - please send us Obama via air freight - he'd be gladly received, and you lot clearly don't want him any more. Mr President, we won't stop loving you like those fickle fiends across the pond, we promise.

This article aims to briefly (when I say briefly, it means I go off on various tangents and babble on for hours) look at some of the criticisms of Obama that Yankees put forward, and also embark upon an incessant rant about the lack of support for him and his health care reform plans.

I know Americans don't like people from outside of their country commenting on their politics, but bloody hell, when you've got someone like Obama at the helm and you keep attacking them, don't expect us to keep our traps shut. The passing of the health care reform has been a long time coming; a number of Presidents have tried over the years, with the most recent before Obama being the Clinton administration, where Hillary was put in charge of the project (perhaps because Bill was too busy being faithful to his wife and thinking about how he could never possibly lay eyes upon another woman - especially Monica Lewinsky). However, America are now taking a few steps towards modern and fair health care. With the bill in effect, about 95% of American citizens are expected to be covered - the Guardian informs us that a proportion of the remaining 5% consists of illegal immigrants, and others are the very poor who will probably already be covered by Medicaid, where the government pays fully for their health cover.

Stereotypically of America, the final bill, in order to get approval, had to promise that public funds wouldn't be used pay for abortions unless one is desired due to inbreeding or rape. I can see the reasoning behind this, but it smacks of moralistic religious nuts trying to impose their beliefs onto others. Furthermore, the clause about letting people choose between the usual insurance companies or government insurance was also scrapped to help it get approval. Having seen all the opposition to the health care reform plans, I thought I'd take this opportunity to launch into an exploration of some of the arguments put forward by those who don't like the President. I've put these arguments into the wonderfully patronising diagram below:

1. He's a Socialist/Communist/Pinko:

Two statements found on the Internet, regarding why people don't like Obama:
"Because he's a Marxist who has one goal in mind: a one class society ruled by him."

"Look at him.. listen to him, if you can stand to.. He is a communist liar.. not my president!"

I really don't know what to say to these kinds of statements. If some Americans really believe that trying to get more healthcare to those who can't afford it is Communism, then I can do little but despair. Is he nationalising industries? No. Is he preventing private companies setting up? No. Is he taking away the ability of people to purchase land? In some ways,  he's done the opposite - using government incentives to try to keep private businesses afloat. From these types of criticisms, anyone would think that he's planning to launch into a full-scale Communist totalitarian state, which is quite clearly total tosh.

2. I don't want to pay for...

What better place to debate the US President than during a game of Halo online? In between shooting and blowing each other up, a nice little discussion got going about Obama, with only one detractor of Obama being able to muster anything better than the arguments of others, which were largely: "His middle name is Hussein" or "He's a socialist." However, the point that  saddened me a little bit was this:  "I'm on the fast track to being rich, so I don't want to pay for the health care plans." I've paraphrased since I cannot remember the exact quotation. Perhaps this is the epitome of selfishness in American culture.

There seems to be  many people who don't want to pay for anything that doesn't directly benefit them. This came out very clearly in the opposition to the health care reforms - particularly the TEA Party movement (Taxed Enough Already). There seems to be an attitude that goes along the lines of  'If someone's not got healthcare, it must be because they're lazy - why should I pay for it?' Given that there's recently been a pretty nasty recession, a number of people have lost their jobs, potentially making the burden of paying for health insurance even more difficult than it already is. Not everyone who is poor is lazy - there are many unforeseen circumstances that can occur, and I would suggest that those who espouse this argument would not continue with it for long if they and their family are begin to struggle with money after becoming unemployed or suffering from a  similar unfortunate event. I believe part of being a member of society is to be willing to support the weakest, which often takes the form of those who lack monetary wealth. I'm not supporting obscenely high taxation, but the cost of supporting the poor in this area is very minimal, and actually works out cheaper if you believe the claim of the Executive that the cost of inaction will be more than the cost of action:

3. Unemployment is rising

According to statistics, yes, unemployment has risen, but has now fallen slightly. If we have a ponder, what could be the reason for this - perhaps the global recession? We can also compare the rate of job loss, which paints a rather more positive picture, suggesting that the rate at which jobs have been lost has decreased pretty dramatically. To be fair, I don't think this can necessarily be touted as wholly an Obama success and a Bush failure - a recession is going to take its cycle, which will mean more job losses as a recession deepens, and fewer as the economy moves back into growth.

4. What about the constitution?

If there's a great argument against a codified constitution, it must be that all the anti-progressives come out of the woodwork to bemoan the fact that someone who wishes to change anything got into power, and get tremendously upset that there are people who are not sleeping with a copy of the constitution under their pillow and reciting it every morning. The crux of this constitutional-based argument seems to focus primarily upon the health care reforms. There are concerns that the government is growing too large, and is taking too much of a role in the lives of people, and that the Bill results in most being being required to be covered in terms of health care. Firstly, a government looking out for the welfare is not a sign of a growing totalitarian state which wishes to control and interfere in the lives of everyone; it's a sign of a compassionate society that will support its poor and make sure that people will not suffer or die because of a lack of money to buy insurance. As for the second point about forcing people to get health cover, this is perhaps a more fair argument. However, from what I can work out, the reasoning behind this is to lower the cost to the taxpayer - by ensuring that those who can afford health insurance or who can get it through their employer do so, the taxpayer can be saved money money by not having to give subsidies to so many people - only those who cannot afford to purchase it or cannot get it from their employer will be given assistance by the government.

5. He's taking away my rights

The only argument I can see that would support this view is the above outlined requirement for more people get health cover. If we want to talk about taking rights away, let's take a very brief look at the record of Bush in this area:
  • Guantanamo Bay - The infamous prison was used by Bush to house suspected terrorists. It uses such techniques as waterboarding to attempt to get confessions out of the detainees. Obama has pledged to close this facility, but he's faced opposition which is making it more difficult.
  • Gay/lesbian rights - Bush supported unsuccessful amendment to ban same-sex marriage at a national level
  • Patriot Act - New powers for police to pursue suspected terrorists such as wiretapping, seizing business records, and spying on non-US citizens who are suspected of citizens.

It should be noted that am not seeking to condemn the Patriot Act, as it is clear that greater power was needed for law enforcement to tackle suspected terrorists. However those who believe it damages the rights of citizens have a point in that Obama has largely supported the Patriot Act's continuation.

6. Healthcare is great as it is

WHO - the World Health Organisation - last ranked worldwide healthcare in 2000, with the USA being placed in 37th place in a total ranking of 190 countries. To put this into perspective, the UK was ranked 19th, and the top three spots were filled by France, Italy, and San Marino respectively. So, when nutcases like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck say that the US system is the best in the world, it seems they may be wrong.

Even if you do manage to get wonderful health cover, what about those who currently get left out? What about those who can't afford care or can't get insurance because no-one will insure them due to a pre-existing medical condition?

Finally, the extent to which Americans don't deserve such a great President is evidenced by the Pastor who hates him, and prays for his death. How very Christian of him. Oh, but it's okay, because "God hates Barack Obama". You can hear him spreading his vile idiotic fundamentalist shit in the video below.


One of my politics tutors today raised the very valid point that I have tarred all Americans with the same brush. It wasn't intentional that I portrayed all US citizens as being the same, but it would get very tiresome saying "Some" all the time. Furthermore, recent events, such as the voters of Massachusetts breaking with a long history of voting democrat, and electing republican candidate Scott Brown to the Senate, would suggest that America is lacking in support for their President. According to a recent Gallup poll, the ratings are largely split for Obama, with 48% approving of him and 46% disapproving. Another poll recently conducted put the percentage of Americans who consider Obama to be a socialist at at whopping 40%. It's true that that would mean 60% don't believe he's a socialist, but almost half of the population thinking he follows socialist policies and has a socialist plan for the USA is pretty disturbing for me.

Nonetheless, to clarify: I am aware that not all Americans hate Obama, but from what I can gather, the country as a whole lacks support for him, which is why I said, and stand by my statement, that he would be better supported and more welcomed in the UK, where we could really do with a leader like Obama.

Fainlly, some statistics to leave you with. Again, the point can be made that the statistics for the USA overall (the ones in brackets) are consistently less than 50%, but it's a pretty large amount of people to believe these things. If the poll is correct, it's incredibly worrying, especially the 14% who think he's the devil incarnate.
  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
  • 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."

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