Photo Credit: Brendan SmialowskiFor most Americans, Friday was not a very good day. Sequestration kicked in amid a drumbeat of reports about the pocketbook hits that we would take and the illegal immigrants released because of the cuts, the Commerce Department announced that personal income took its biggest hit in 20 years, and the Performance of Manufacturing Index reported a drop. Oh, and earlier in the week, fourth-quarter GDP growth was revised to a paltry 0.1 percent. Unemployment has remained up, the ranks of the poor have swelled, existing small businesses are staggering, and few new ones are being created.
But, for the privileged few at the high-end of President Obama’s coalition, things look far less bleak. The stock market yawned at sequestration and then rose. The S&P is near a five-year high and is up by 10 percent over the past 12 months.
How concerned is Obama by the bad news and the sequester cuts that on Friday he termed “dumb,” “unnecessary,” “arbitrary,” and “inexcusable”? Not very, one would think, since his own 2012 budget forecast projected the very cuts in discretionary spending that the president now abjures, and described them in glowing terms. As Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs recently pointed out. “the level of spending for fiscal year 2013 under the sequestration will be nearly the same as Mr. Obama called for in the draft budget presented in mid-2012.” Indeed, the White House budget forecast boasted that it would “bring domestic discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration.”
For some reason, none of this feels like government by or for the people, and it isn’t. Rather, it seems as though “crony capitalism” is the watchword for this administration. Strip away Obama’s showmanship and scolding, and the president has done just fine in protecting the interests of the top 1 percent, especially among those who were his contributors and the right kind of 1 percenters.
Take green energy, the holy grail of the high end of the president’s base. Solyndra, the now-bankrupt manufacturer of solar panels, received more than half a billion dollars in government-guaranteed loans. One of the company’s key backers was billionaire George Kaiser, a 2008 Obama fundraiser—small world.
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