Yes, Barack Obama Thinks We’re Stupid (Immigration Edition)

Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.  You can follow him on Twitter at

Recently, Barack Obama announced a laudable new policy position on immigration.  His administration will no longer deport undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children by their parents, as long as they don’t get in trouble with the law.  These are people who are essentially Americans without citizenship, and the risk of deportation to a country they don’t really know is a terrifying and unfair.  Aside from this serving the cause of justice and human decency, this is a long overdue move to reward a constituency group, happening in an election year.  It’s worth understanding how this policy change came about, so that one can get a sense of the incentives that animate the White House policy shop.

Here’s White House advisor David Plouffe on CNN describing the change.

Senior White House adviser David Plouffe insisted Sunday that President Obama’s decision to defer deportation of certain illegal immigrants who came to the country as children was “fully within” the president’s authority and not made with the 2012 election in mind.

“This is not a political move. This builds on a lot of steps that we have already taken,” Plouffe said on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

So it’s not a political move.  Ok.  I find that hard to believe, since it’s an election year.  And indeed, this was published in the New Yorker a few days ago.

The White House is so convinced of the centrality of Hispanics to the current election and its aftermath that Plouffe told me he has been preparing for months for an onslaught of advertisements from a pro-Romney group attacking Obama from the left on immigration, arguing that Obama’s deportation and border-security policies have been too Draconian.

David Plouffe thinks nothing of outright lying on CNN about why the administration changed its policy, in one forum describing it as a useful policy change and denying any political incentives and in another more insider-friendly publication making it clear that it was a reelection gambit.  It doesn’t matter whether the politics or the policy were the driving force, it’s a good change.  That Plouffe feels that he can so cavalierly lie shows how dishonestly this administration operates.

There are more political lessons to be drawn, other than the fact that this administration is full of liars and that Obama usually only helps non-wealthy constituency groups when he is scrambling for his own electoral survival.  The political lesson is that pressure matters, but so does leverage.  The overall atmosphere on this particular problem – undocumented immigrants who arrived as kids – came to a boiling point through the actions of an entire activism eco-system.  There were nationwide marches for immigration reform a few years ago, and undocumented college students bravely marched openly to bring this issue to light.  These kids embarrassed the administration, and it must have shown in the polls in terms of dampening enthusiasm to vote in 2012 among Latinos.  But even this was not enough.

It was only fear of the Republicans outflanking Obama to the left that got the administration to move.  When the issue came to a head, and Obama feared that he would pay a political price from the Republicans, all of the excuses – the terrible Republican opposition, a divided country, an intractable Congress with a 60 vote threshold – suddenly evaporated.  Faced with losing his own hide, Obama governed.

This is a reasonable template for how to get the Obama administration to act.  It’s very very hard, and requires a lot of organizing to raise an issue to level where the Obama administration feels heat and embarrassment.  It’s similar to the administration’s stance on gay marriage.  Prior to his announced support for gay marriage, Obama backtracked on an executive order banning discrimination among government contractors.  He promised to sign the order, and then didn’t.  Gay billionaire donors were outraged, and began witholding money from his campaign.  And since Obama needed their money to make up for the general lack of excitement for his reelection on both Wall Street and among his small dollar donors, he acted.  He tepidly announced personal support for gay marriage, with no corresponding legal or political support.  This isn’t a small deal; the President carries moral weight.  But it happened because he needed the money.

There’s one additional constraint on the administration’s range of actions.  Obama will not make policy changes that negatively affect those with money, unless he can’t avoid it or unless he is rewarding a constituency group that has even more money.  Neither gay rights nor immigration will threaten the broad support of the financial services industry and economic injustice, because neither threatens oligarch control of the political system and the economy (marijuana decriminalization is another issue like this).   Corporate America is perfectly happy to see more immigration, because immigration can depress wages.  Rich people are also perfectly happy to support gay rights, because there are enough openly gay rich elites to have turned opinion in that area.  Dick Cheney, for instance, came out for gay marriage years ago.  Politicians like gay rights in particular because there’s less and less risk in taking on the issue, but the PR value of being able to call yourself “progressive” and cover up an agenda of supporting increasing economic inequality is substantial.  It’s why Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs is the face of gay marriage for corporate America, having signed up with a gay rights group to push the issue.  But even within those “safe” issues, as with the executive order on discrimination which might have forced changes among wealthy government contractors, Obama tends to instinctively side with the more corrupt interest groups if there is money at stake.

On the Republican side of the aisle, gay rights and immigration are fairly interesting problems.  Both are issue areas where the funders of the Republican Party are not aligned with the base of the Republican party.  The base of the Republican Party is racist against Latinos as well as generally homophobic, whereas corporate leaders see less and less value in being so antagonistic towards those groups.  Romney, like Obama, is with the funders (as was Bush on immigration).  In fact, one of the largest SuperPAC donors to Romney, Paul Singer, is now launching a pro-gay marriage Superpac to operate within the Republican Party.  Aesthetically, these two candidates might differ, but on the broad thrust of policy, it’s not clear they do, even on many questions around social policy issues.  It’s about the money, and the leverage.

The only reason that Barack Obama will make policy moves in your direction is if he feels he can’t avoid it, or if you’re going to pay him or his administration off somehow.  He’ll pawn you off as long as he can with PR and his own fake inspirational story; the contempt of Plouffe towards the public should show that these guys are entirely about PR.  So if you immediately recognize that the only thing that matters is leverage instead of the stupid consistent appeals to the better angels of their nature or even worse,  electoral advantage (as opposed to a real genuine threat from the Republicans), you’re one step up.  It’s not a novel insight, but it’s worth bringing it up again when the administration reminds us so abrasively of the contempt they have for anyone paying attention to how they operate.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Banana republic, Guest Post, Politics, Social values on by .

About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. Pelham

    Speaking of wages depressed by our open floodgates to illegal immigration, was any thought at all given to the fact that Obama’s move is likely to prove an enormous magnet to still more illegal immigrants? Or are so-called progressives now so implacably opposed to working Americans that they simply refuse to consider such matters?

    1. Cletus

      You might try asking so-called “conservatives“ exactly who is illegally hiring all of these people at depressed wages. There’s your magnet AND your prime example of being against working Americans. Talk about refusing to consider one side of an issue. Sheesh.

      1. Pelham

        Oh I absolutely agree with you about the role of employers in this. They’re first on my list and far more culpable than the illegal immigrants coming in.

        But it’s the sheer availability of illegals (not the illegals themselves but the fact of their presence) that enables these employers. The classic example is the meatpacking industry, which about 30 years ago consolidated and used illegals that the industry bused up from Mexico and Central America to help break the unions. Thus they turned what were good, clean, safe middle-class jobs with decent wages and benefits and turned them into some of the most dangerous and pitifully compensated jobs in the country.

        The employers were primarily to blame, no doubt. But they used illegal immigrants as the bludgeon to beat down American workers. That’s the dynamic, and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have twitched one political muscle for decades now to do anything about it.

        1. Harold Q


          What do you recommend? Nuking them from orbit? People from as far south as Argentina have been coming to the U.S. because there is little hope for a better life from their home nation. And the employers here are ALWAYS looking for a way to cut costs from wages.

          At this point it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. If there’s hope of getting wages even at the risk of deportation, people will keep coming here. It’s only if they know there is ZERO chance of them getting a better life here without going through naturalization that the flow will slow.

          1. rotter

            I dont think it has to be zero. Maybe if theres 100 percent chance of “obtaining a better life” than 100 percent will come. maybe if theres only a 5 or 6 percent chance then 5 or 6 percent will come. There was a story I read recently in the Baltimore Sun about a Guatemalan govt. repatriation center for deported Emigres. It sounded really nice, they give them clothes, money and other services, and they have counselors to cheer them up by telling them “we want you here” ” no one will deport you from your home”…While reading this i thought. jeez thats great, why the fuck would anyone leave guatemala? – before anyone answers with some pat comment remember they didnt have YOUR life wating for them here. They had unventilated freight containers under the 105 degree Texas summer sun. They had Hiding in filthy warehouses and depending on sub-human predators for food and water and IF they “made it” they had a hard and uncertain life in the slums of Dallas, or LA, or the Bronx. A Guatemalan man interviewed claimed that “only the greedy emigrate”..meaning that, in his opinion, they were emmigrating to obtain empty consumer garbage – a fantasy “lifestyle” and were in many cases driven by a misguided (to say the least) belief that American women are sexual carnivores just waitng to gratify them. Is life in the US so much better ? For EVERYONE?

          2. dSquib

            Why not then focus on the reasons for this country-to-country disparity? Immigration factors seem to me to be more push than pull, much as many like to flatter their nationalism by thinking otherwise.

            It’s about much more for most immigrants than opportunities. Migrating is a wrenching act, to leave your family, friends, community behind, and move to a country with a very different way of life. Hundreds of millions of people around the world could increase their opportunities by moving to any number of places, but they largely do not. It takes rather extreme conditions of poverty or war to get people to move in large numbers.

            Instead of ceding the immigration debate to neo-liberalism, which merely desires cheap labour, in the face of a worse right-wing alternative, these things should be the main concern of any lefty or liberal.

          3. Francois T

            If hiring illegals would cost a business its senior officers being “offered” a visit to the slammer, how many illegals would said bosses bus from South America?

            The truth is simple: 50% of voters don’t even bother to show up every 4 years, yet, corporations ALWAYS are present in DC. Hence, Congress does what corporations tells them to do.

          4. Nathanael

            Certain people in the 19th century and early 20th suggested that the solution was murdering the business bosses who engaged in such practices.

            I don’t think that’s the solution, if only because there always seem to be more such bosses.

        2. different clue

          Its the employERS who are primarily responsible for engineering the problem to begin with, both by aggressive hiring of illegals and by instructing their pet butler government to abjure all meaningful anti-employER enforcement action . . . such as long hard-time sentences in America’s worst Federal Prisons.

      2. Will Nadauld

        These hard working Americans that you speak of arent applying for jobs in the trades. You will find very few american plumbers, electricians or carpenters under the age of thirty. They cant even keep trade schools for plumbers open due to non existent enrollment.

        It isnt the undocumented driving down the wage. An entry level construction job pays twice what a young person can earn at a call center or working retail. Young americans should be filling these jobs, but they arent at all interested. This trend will continue untill we are importing all our skilled tradesmen from other countrys. Our youth would rather make half the money folding shirts.

        1. Thorstein

          It seems to be principally in the larger cities housing bubble boom towns that minorities have entered the trades–wherever tradesmen can only afford to live six to a bedroom.

        2. enouf

          the real shame is; a skilled craft, either self-taught/talented/self-helped throughout the years, with field experience taught via a mentor …or whether vocationally trained is worth next-to-nothing in the financial spector twisted and distorted are the *egalitarian* principles (basic; i’m not entirely certain i wholeheartedly agree with present rendition), and wealth-creating/fostering/promoting forces of such individualism — and yet it allows itself to be usurped ..and succumbs to such deceipt (violence) and shortcomings (intimidation and coercion) — it’s truly disheartening to say the least.


        3. stripes

          Almost all the kids who grew up with my kids are now working in the trades and got in because of connections..

      3. Dave

        Be serious, if you have 800K of these people in the country and able to work at much cheaper wages, any one employer who decides to take advantage gains an advantage (and eventually puts out of business) any employer who sticks to their principles. This is precisely the reason why the government has a role in immigration, it’s a natural market failure.

        1. Nathanael

          That’s what minimum wage laws are for, but of course the minimum wage is kept artificially low, *and* the government often looks the other way when employers pay illegal immigrants less than the minimum wage.

    2. TimR

      Agree. I think there was a post on NC a while back where someone talked about how liberals used to oppose illegal immigration as a matter of support for American workers. But liberals and/or Democrats abandoned the working class over the years as they shifted to identity politics and appealing to upper middle class corporate white collar types. Leaving the working class easy prey for a superficial populist rhetoric from the right that glosses over real economic and class issues.

      I think I have a novel take on this particular Obama move though. First, I’d prefer whatever is done be done through Congress or whatever the proper channel is, but that said, since apparently nobody can do anything about the abuse of executive power, then IMO exutive power ought to be abused thusly: Keep Obama’s current proposal, but in addition, to satisfy the outrage from the right about rewarding lawbreakers (and the outrage of one or two liberals who still support better wages for blue collar Americans), all government officials from the past 30 years in a position to make sure immigration laws are enforced, who failed to do so, should be assigned to landscaping duties at their nearest trailer park. In addition, their only entertainment shall be soccer matches and telenovellas. If they protest that they were only carrying out the orders of business interests who bought them off, they can get their sentences cut short if they give up the names of all lobbyists and corporate executives who “influenced” them, who will then receive similar penalties..

    3. Smithers

      What? Are you daring to suggest that amnesties or partial amnesties might encourage more immigration?

      Do you think these had anything to do with the waves of human worker-voter-cannon fodder union busting ants coming north from Central America?

      1. Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.7 million illegal aliens.

      2. Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens.

      3. Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994.

      4. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America.

      5. Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti.

      6. Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty, an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens.

      7. LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens.

      It’s not like our schools are underfunded and overcrowded or we don’t have plenty of jobs for lower income Americans. We can easily absorb 800,000 more job applicants, students and their children and their children and further magnetize the American border to the rest of those who haven’t decided to come north.

      1. YankeeFrank

        The irony here is that, if we had a decent government that actually looked out for the economy of the 99% we could easily absorb that number. Since we don’t, and they don’t, we’re screwed either way.

      2. Doug Terpstra

        Release the hounds, Smithers! Thanks for the chronology; it almost looks like a deliberate effort to depress wages and destroy the middle class, doesn’t it? If you can’t outsource the jobs, then insource the peons, through amnesty or elaborate visa programs.

        The cannon-fodder angle is another MAJOR BIG deal seriously overlooked. This could not possibly have been better designed by military recruiters as a backdoor draft, and the young muchachos might as well bend over now and grab their ankles. The limited age demographic and the false, either-or choice between unaffordable education and the killing fields is just way too transparent. Beyond the vote-pandering, this is a big reason the GOP is mostly silent about it. Both parties have always been on board for slave labor and cannon fodder.

        Obama always said he wanted to bring the parties together. It’s the one campaign promise he has conspicuously kept, giving the Nneoliberals and death merchants everything they want and more.

      3. Nathanael

        We could easily absorb those numbers. They’re tiny.

        The problem is that rather than supplying government services to the 99%, the government prefers to prop up the bonuses of corporate CEO billionaires.

        1. Nathanael

          Um, by tiny: please note the population of the United States. These numbers are in the 1-2% range.

    4. tom allen

      You do realize there’s a shortage of migrant workers in many areas, rather than a surplus, don’t you? The “taking American jobs” line is mostly bullshit.

      “Crops are rotting on the vine in the United States, thanks to a shortage of workers to pick them, resulting in substantial losses for farmers and their communities at the same time that people in the United States are going hungry….”

      “As a state with an economy based on agriculture, the exodus of skilled, Hispanic migrant workers has left Alabama crops unharvested, which has resulted in multi-million dollars losses.”

      “The climate of fear so crudely cultivated by the law even before it goes into force has driven undocumented and documented immigrants alike out of Georgia, and the result is a critical shortage of agricultural workers. Crops are rotting in the fields for lack of farmhands, giving the lie to the suggestion that undocumented immigrants are out to “take American jobs.”

      1. Peripheral Visionary

        If there is a shortage, I don’t think it has as much to do with immigration policy as much as it has to do with the fact that agriculture has come to expect that it can get away with minimum wage pay for difficult manual labor work that very often comes with long hours – often with no overtime pay – and no benefits. If you’re offering $7.25/hr, or per-unit pay that comes to even less than that, and sixty plus hours a week, with no benefits, and the only available housing being nearly unlivable trailers and shacks, don’t be surprised if there’s a shortage of labor.

        It’s not that these are jobs that only illegal immigrants will work – it’s that illegal immigrants are the only population that can be exploited in such a shameless way. Employers (which, let us remember, include not just farmers, but also small business owners and individual households) don’t want immigration enforced, but neither, I suspect, do they want immigration fixed.

        Employers, by and large, want things to stay just the way they are now, with ready access to a vast population of easily exploited illegal laborers. Deportation of those workers is bad news for them, but so too would be full legalization that would bring unwelcome demands for things like higher wages, benefits, workplace safety, overtime pay, etc.

        So the larger picture is not some cruel campaign to persecute illegals – it is a cynical attempt to freeze the current system in place for the benefit of employers and high net worth households, while making noises about fixing it to fend off anti-immigration sentiment in the working class. There is no real intention to fix the situation, and this move by the President – which effectively changes nothing as far as the status of the illegal immigrants goes – is just the latest shameless pretense at progress.

        1. Alan H

          Absolutely correct about why “migrant” labor is so desired. But there is a flip side to this issue: The US has been buying peace for decades by not requiring that unemployed workers seek farm labor jobs. That was too much for the collectors of poor unskilled citizen votes. Too hard to say “there are jobs. They just required hard work and travel.” Of COURSE we have to simultaneously require that farm labor be brought under ‘normal’ labor laws. The farmers have to pay and the unemployed have to work. People tend to glorify the works projects of the depression era as salvation for the poor or unskilled workers, but those jobs required much greater sacrifices in many cases than taking buses to farm labor jobs. BOTH sides need to get off the gravy train. Immigration costs are enormous when you realize they are merely a path to appease those laborers used to a softer life. We pay twice, the social costs [schools, emergency rooms, Supplemental Security Income] for the recalcitrance of labor, much of it feeling entitled not to have to take farm jobs. Those folks and the farmers win. The taxpayers lose.

          1. darms

            I’m 55 & unemployed but there is no way in hell I could do farm labour – I simply lack the physical stamina and the tolerance for heat. While I have no fear of ‘hard work’ there is no way I could take one of those jobs & hope to survive it.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Perhaps a compromise is for the younger unemployed to join the Farm Corps, to be set up like the Peace Corps, for a couple of years at exotic farms (to them anyway) around the country.

            That ought to free up more city jobs for those 50 and over…in theory anyway.

          3. different clue

            The only way farmers could afford to pay American wages to American citizen farmworkers would be to charge enough for food-product so as to have the money to pay the wages.
            Are American non-farmers prepared to pay enough for food so that farmers will have enough money to pay American wages as per this suggestion?

      2. Salamader

        And you know what… if those responsible for enforcing the law had the sack to do so, those agricultural interests would raise wages, accept a reduced profit margin, and those crops wouldn’t rot in the field.

        But they’ve always got folks like you who apparently farmers completely incapable of playing politics or crying wolf.

        1. different clue

          Why should farmers accept a reduced profit margin? Why shouldn’t you accept a higher food price?

          Food for pay, not for free. The farmer is not your slave.

          1. Salamander

            And the worker, sir, is not yours.

            I’ll tell you what: let’s make a deal, you and I.

            You employ only those legally entitled to work here.
            You meet the minimum wage and work standards required by law.

            I’ll happily pay whatever the market commands at that point. If that means that food prices go up, so be it.

        2. different clue

          That deal could work as long as we re-protectionize American agriculture to prevent you from buying cheaper foreign food grown by foreign slaves if you don’t like the higher price American food would reach if the American farmer pays American workers an American wage.

          (And by the way, I too would be paying the higher price of wage-fairness to American farm workers under such a deal.
          Because I am a wage-earning worker and not a farmer. Yet you thought I was a farmer. That’s because it is taken for granted by almost all the non-farmers in America that only a farmer would care about fairness to farmers. Interesting, yes?)

          So yes. Food for pay, not for free. Those who do not want to pay . . . should not get to eat.

      3. Nathanael

        I kind of approve of bankrupting those rural Alabama and Georgia farmowners who have been voting Republican from Reagan onwards, and screwing the rest of us by doing so.

      1. enouf

        erm … wages are (for atleast the last 35yrs) depressed and have been intentionally suppressed due to Greed — there is no other possible motive ..other than self-aggrandizement .. which is rooted in “Lust”, but is also inexorably tied to “Pride” — yep, those se7en nasties keep rearing their ugly heads, in their utterly profound and yet prophetic ways, eh?


    5. Jasper Frerichs

      Yet another naked capitalism article. Obama does a great thing. Therefore he thinks we must be stupid. How long can you keep this up?

    6. Nathanael

      “was any thought at all given to the fact that Obama’s move is likely to prove an enormous magnet to still more illegal immigrants?”

      It’s not going to happen. People from Mexico are not interested in coming to the US any more. People from Canada never were. People from most of South America prefer to stop in Mexico (where everyone speaks Spanish).

      And people from other countries have to actually cross the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, so the volume of illegal immigration there is controlled by natural borders.

  2. Dirk77

    Matt, by your argument I’m not sure why it has taken Obama so long to do this. If his corporate overlords want more labor to depress wages, and his brain-dead liberal base have been beating their chests for awhile about amnesty to foil all those “racist” Americans that lurk in every corner, it seems like a win-win. Must their be something else going on?

    1. wunsacon

      >> If his corporate overlords want more labor to depress wages

      Maybe they were getting all the illegal/refugee help they wanted, up until the last couple of years when the ratio of illegal refugees coming-and-going fell to 1:1. The corpocrats want to jump-start another influx of illegal refugees.

      1. Nathanael

        I like this idea. It won’t work, though. The main reason people have stopped coming from Mexico is that the US, with its 15% U6 unemployment rate and fascistic police forces, is no longer the land of opportunity, while Mexico has been enjoying a bit of an economic boom, and Mexico City is getting to be a very nice place.

        (Incidentally, Mexico City is having some problems with immigration from less happy parts of Mexico. They are addressing it by, you know, welcoming them and building more infrastructure.)

    2. Harold Q

      Could it possibly be that there are racists actively opposing any non-white crossing the border for any reason…?

      1. Dirk77

        Well, since there are no polls, all I can go on is my own experience. On the other hand, how many birther nuts are still around? A small percentage of the total?

    3. Doug Terpstra

      “I’m not sure why it has taken Obama so long to do this.”

      Timing is everything. Attention spans are short. “An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.” (T.S. Eliot?)

    1. Cletus

      The precedent for ignoring laws predates Obama. That is not a power that anyone holding the office of President gives back, unless confronted with enormous and unyielding political pressure to do so. Welcome to governance by whim of the Unitary Executive.

      1. jake chase

        ‘The only reason that Barack Obama will make policy moves in your direction is if he feels he can’t avoid it, or if you’re going to pay him or his administration off somehow.’

        It seems to me that this is the essence of our democratic Republican system. But perhaps you can identify a politician (even one) from the past 223 years who was different?

        1. Nathanael

          Off the top of my head: Jefferson (everything he did practically), Lincoln (preserving the Union), FDR (a very long list of things), Truman, Carter (environmental & energy policy).

          Lots of Presidents have been willing to help the country by doing popular things — without being forced to it by mass protests and people chaining themselves to fences.

          Obama is frankly insane. It appears that the only way to get him to do things which are (a) good ideas, and (b) extremely popular is for people to chain themselves to the White House fence.

          The last President who required this much pushing, and yet actually reacted to the pushing, was probably Woodrow Wilson (on the issue of women suffrage).

    2. run75441


      Ignoring laws or changing them was well established before Obama and I believe granted by the constitution. Bush junior had ~260 executive orders, Clinton had ~360 executive orders, Reagan had ~380 executive orders, and Obama is at ~130 executive orders. The all time Champ was FDR with over 3500 executive orders. It appears Obama will do less than the other presidents in ignoring or deciding what part of the law and acts passed by Congress he will follow.

      1. jamienewman

        Oh, c’mon people. Without selective law enforcement, every penny of government spending would have to be devoted to nothing but law enforcement. We’d have to have cops on every streetcorner issuing citations for jaywalking; cops on every street and highway issuing tickets for speeding and illegal u-turns; cops in every bar busting underage drinkers and the bartenders who serve them; cops in every doctors’ office and hospital to prevent overbilling of Medicare and Medicaid; and so on ad infinitum. And then we’d need thousands of new courts, and judges, and court officer and prisons to prosecute and detain offenders. And then, when the entire economy was devoted to the prosecution of crime and the punishement of offenders, we’d all quickly starve to death.

        The Obama administration’s only mistake here was to bring to light an uncomfortable truth about law enforcement: It’s always, everywhere, and necessarily selective.

        1. run75441


          Go to trial and see what happens to you when they have to work after you refuse a plea bargain.

        2. Nathanael

          No, it’s not. Selective enforcement is an artifact of having *too damned many laws*.

          In a country with a lot fewer things illegal, you don’t need selective enforcement.

      2. Nathanael

        The executive orders by every President prior to Bush Junior were made under the authority of laws passed by Congress.

        Bush Junior & Obama have been using executive orders to ignore the law and the Constitution, quite often. This is different.

    3. MikeJake

      Its only fair to note that if we had a Senate that was functional, the DREAM Act might have passed and Obama wouldn’t have needed to resort to executive order.

      1. Ms G

        DREAM Act — You’re referring to Obama’s “Jumpstart Bucket Shop Act”? See full NC story here:

        Arguing, as you do, that the Bucket Shop Act would have actually created jobs (rather than simply encouraged green shoots full of fraud-shops) lines up with your evident purpose of parroting the Poor Obama Means So Well But Thos Terrible Republicans Just Won’t Let Him do Any of The Good Things He REALLY REALLY Wants to do for US.

        That ain’t what’s been going on and most readers on this blog are hip to that.

        Obama couldn’t have revealed his contempt for US workers or immigrants for that matter, more blatantly than through this latest election-year PR maneuver.

        It’s right up there with that joke/fake Mortgage Fraud Taskforce he “unveiled” earlier this year.

        I do think he believes most of his constituency are morons and could not care less about those who aren’t because he’s pretty certain they (we) won’t get in the way of his numbers.

  3. Eric377

    The President has gone public telling the courts not to interfer with the laws passed by the legislature (ACA). But when the DREAM act wasn’t passed did he thereby conclude that maybe the executive shouldn’t take action either? Or how about deciding that DOMA shouldn’t be a law? I think the ACA is a first step, that something like the DREAM act should become law and that DOMA should be repealed. But is the next President going to issue orders not to collect taxes he/she disagrees with, not to enforce environmental laws, not to collect oil lease royalties that his/her support find a drag on their interests, etc.? Why did the President wait so long to do this? Because his administration believed it was the job of Congress, that’s why. It is ironic that the Supreme Court has in its hands the most emblematic law enacted during his Presidency and its defense hinges on the argument that the inaction of people not buying health insurance is a type of action, but when Congress does not enact DREAM, well that inaction is just inaction.

    1. Salamander

      Yours is possibly the most insightful commment I’ve read under this most tortued and intellectually dishonest post to appear in this blog for some time.

      Here’s another irony for you: most of the readership here – including me and, I imagine, you – is outraged at the failure of the SEC and other regulatory agencies to prevent, prosecute, or even consistently censure the grossly fruadulent behavior of some of our largest financial institutions over the last decade. After all, that’s the government’s job: enforce the law.

      But present those same readers with a president – the POTUS! – directing immigration officers to ignore the law and the result… is this pablum. Ya, we don’t have the resources… besides, all right-thinking citiens agree that immigration law is bad. And oh ya – there’s actually a labor shortage. The farmers say so, and I hear it on NPR.

      As always, it’s a question of who’s ox is being gored.

      And please don’t get me wrong. What’s going on in the world of finance these days is a corruption of our capitalist system so grave that it threatens its very survival. Granting amnesty to a couple hundred thousand illegal aliens – a number that will ultimate be in the millions, if the administration can make this stick – will cause nowhere near the same magnitude of damage. But the allegory is only labored in scale; it is perfect in principle.

      Both “non-actions” are unethical for the same reasons. And they reflect the lack of civic virtue which drives the increasing failure of our democratice institutions.

      I’d be willing to bet – based on life experience – that most of the crowd here applauding the non-enforcement of a law that they consider bad are breaking it. They’re not bad people… but they’re getting a really good deal on a nanny, a gardener, a roofing job, perhaps they’re small business owners who really like paying less than prevailing wage to grateful, hard working immigrants, and they’d rather not ask probing question about their employees’ status.

      These are the people who will choose the euphamism “undocumented worker” over the more precise term of illegal alien every time. They are the same people who are convinced that there are a whole host of jobs out there that Americans “won’t do,” as though we were the first nation in history incapable of feeding itself, caring for its infants, framing a house, cutting its lawns without aliens from hundreds of miles away.

      They might have a nagging sense that their actions contribute to the growing inequality around us… or at least fit the pattern. But hey, what are they going to do? Change the world?

      Regulators who don’t regulate. Immigration officers who don’t enforce immigration law. Presidents who don’t hold their officers accountable in enforcing the laws – all the laws – passed by the legislature. Representatives who are more concerned about a baseball player taking performance enhancing drug than whether the President is actually fulfilling his obligations and respecting the division of powers. And a Supreme Court that does its best to ignore both branches’ most flagrant abuses of the constitutional order for fear of embarrassing itself with a public ruling.

      And citizens who despise all of this… unless of course they can participte in and benefit from the same kind of behavior.

      Thanks, Eric, for being exceptional.

      1. Nathanael

        You haven’t been reading my comments, clearly!

        The rule of law went out the window in 2000 when the election was stolen by the Supreme Court, and the federal government hasn’t looked back since. The Supreme Court is the most flagrant of the three branches in its constitutional violations at this point, but all three of them are breaking the law and their oaths routinely.

        I’d love to see the rule of law come back. But *as long as* we have a de facto dictatorship, the next-best thing would be to have a benevolent, competent dictator who was doing things in the country’s best interest.

        Instead, Obama, much like Bush, has selectively chosen to enforce many of the *worst and stupidest* laws on the books, while selectively choosing to not enforce the *good* laws. This is a disaster.

        But it gets worse. Suppose we have a President who doesn’t care about the rule of law (this is true), and who also doesn’t seem to have any intention to do what’s good for the people of this country (this is also true). The least you could expect is that he would do what would benefit him personally and politically — things which would make him popular and powerful.

        Nope, on the whole he doesn’t even do *that*. This immigration “policy change” is a rare example of doing something in his own self-interest.

        And that’s quite extraordinary. A President with near-dictatorial powers who chooses to use them in ways which hurt the public in general *and* don’t benefit him personally — what do you call that? I call it either “stupid” or “crazy”. And we’ve had two Presidents in a row like that now. Bush was both stupid and crazy. I think Obama isn’t stupid, so that means he’s crazy.

        1. Salamander


          What to say? Everything that Obama does makes great sense so long as the nation chooses to be trapped in a two-party system.

          I’ll be chastised for voting for a third party candidate by those who see it as “irresponsible,” because I should be voting for the lesser of two evils that has a shot at winning.

          I’ve read enough of you to know that you’re not likely deceived by any perceived difference between both parties.

          What to do? How to fight for the Republic?

  4. run75441

    Good morning Matt:

    “Dick Cheney, for instance, came out for gay marriage years ago. Politicians like gay rights in particular because there’s less and less risk in taking on the issue”

    Yes Dick came out for gay marriage in 2009 and AFTER he left the Vice Presidency. Old Dickie-boy came out for Gay Rights and/or marriage when it was safe to do so and when his commitment would not impact Bush’s presidency. During the 2004 campaign he avoided the issue and side stepped Edwards.

    While it is politically expediant to do so during an election year, Obama made his statement while still in office. I agree, the presidency is about wheeling and dealing. Obama is adept at making the opportunistic moves and decisions when it is politically favorable. By the way, what is the alternative to Obama? Romney? I hope not.

    Interestingly enough, two heavyweights of the Senate can not agree on economic policy; but kazaam, they did finally agree on something to distract John Q. Public and keep them entertained and distracted from the real issues of the day. Both McCain and Reid agreed Boxing needs to be cleaned up and together are favoring a commission to monitor the sport (they are both former boxers). Seems like the Manny Pacquiao – Timothy Bradley fight had a serious impact in politics and on the economy.

    Matt, these are politicians.

    1. MacCruiskeen

      My recollection is that when Cheney was VP, his position was that it was a state issue.

      “That Plouffe feels that he can so cavalierly lie shows how dishonestly this administration operates.”

      In what way is this different from the way past administrations have operated? Politicians have a) always manipulated policy positions for electoral advantage and b) never say in public that’s what they’re doing. So what? There’s plenty of stuff to be legitimately mad at Obama for; there’s no reason to come off sounding like a Fox News guy criticizing him just for the sake of being critical.

      1. run75441


        Cheney did claim it was a state issue and sidestepped supporting gay marriage at a fededral level because Bush junior had plans for a constitional ammendment. In an interview with Cokie Roberts, Elizabeth Cheney denied her daughter declared she was a lesbian. Cheney is a politician of convenience and will not take a bold stand if it conflicts.

        As an Obama and an ACA supporter, I do support Obama over Romney. Again, what are the choices for presidency here? Not sure where you picked up I am a non-supporter.

          1. run75441


            NP. I did not think my post was unclear; but then, I have had others misunderstand. Just a matter of being poiote.

    2. joel3000

      “Seems like the Manny Pacquiao – Timothy Bradley fight had a serious impact in politics and on the economy.”


  5. joel3000

    “It was only fear of the Republicans outflanking Obama to the left that got the administration to move. When the issue came to a head, and Obama feared that he would pay a political price from the Republicans, all of the excuses – the terrible Republican opposition, a divided country, an intractable Congress with a 60 vote threshold – suddenly evaporated. Faced with losing his own hide, Obama governed.”

    Bingo Matty, Bingo!

  6. Lambert Strether

    And assuming that the Obama campaign believes, as they say, that the election will be a close one, now is the time to threaten them, because now is the only time there’s leverage; after the election will be too late. Here again the “progressives” are 180 degrees wrong, unless you regard “right” as tribalist adherence to the leader.

    1. petridish

      This was my take on this commentary EXACTLY. Apparently the only leverage left for the morts is the the threat of no second term.

      That threat goes away in an Obama second term. It’s the ONLY reason to vote for Romney, but to my mind it’s ONLY one left.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If my theory about the rich controlling the world is correct, and if we assume first term presidnets are more pliant, then we should not see many 2-term presidents.

  7. Timothy Gawne

    “It may appear to be the interest of the rulers, and the rich of a state, to force population, and thereby lower the price of labour, and consequently the expense of fleets and armies, and the cost of manufactures for foreign sale; but every attempt of the kind should be carefully watched and strenuously resisted by the friends of the poor, particularly when it comes under the deceitful guise of benevolence…”
    T.R. Malthus, “An Essay on the Principle of Population”, 1798

  8. Blurtman

    Yes, Plouffe is a psycho and can lie without blinking. Tnat’s a surprise?

    One real problem with uncontrolled immigration is the uncontrolled load on community resources, schools and hospitals, to name a few.

    Children always pay for the poor choices of their parents. What is so special about this situation?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


        If someone occupies the front lawn of the city hall with his family, should they evict the audlts and let the children stay? Should the whole family be allowed to stay? Should they evict the whole family so they stay together as a family?

      2. Doug Terpstra

        Yes, indeed. But if el niño can’t pay for student loans, then send him to the front lines in Afghanistan. That’s the real intent of Obama’s humanitarian immigration ploy, not unlike the “humanitarian” war on Libya and the one now beginning on Syria.

    1. Nathanael

      Whatever. Immigration can’t be controlled unless you’re on an island, and trying to control it is frankly stupid.

      It took me a while to realize that immigration controls are a modern invention; even in the US, we barely had immigration controls at all in the 18th century and most of the 19th.

      What those earlier societies do have is a rule regarding how long you have to be resident and working (and perhaps paying taxes, etc.) before you have the protection of the laws, access to social services, etc.; and rules regarding swearing of allegiences before you received protection. Et cetera.

      That, honestly, would be more humane and sane than the bullshit we have now, where people move in, are productive members of the community for 20 years, and are then dragged out in wasteful make-work violence by ICE.

  9. Shutterbuggery

    He doesn’t think we’re stupid, he KNOWS we’re stupid.

    Making people stupid has been official government policy for the past 35 years.

  10. Dave of Maryland

    Obama did not govern, he pretended to govern. And you’ve wet yourselves, exactly as you did four f*cking years ago.

    Get down in the trenches and get a good look and confirm what’s really going on. I’ve seen this sleight of hand too many times before. What’s Joe Arpaio think? What’s he doing?

  11. John

    This government, especially on the state level, does not want to support unemployed Americans in any way, shape or form so NO foreigners, legal or illegal, should be in this country taking American jobs until all Americans who want a job have one.

  12. JoblessInJersey

    Why does a person have to be a racist to be against illegal immigration?

    Why are we continuing to allow over a million legal immigrants into the country at a time when job creation is so low that since 2009 we’ve had more new immigrants each year than net new jobs?

    Why is it that whenever I ask people who are in favor of American jobs going to foreign workers if they are willing to give their job to a worthy immigrant, I never get an answer?

    1. F. Beard

      A better question is why inexpensive foreign labor benefits only a few of us instead of all of us? Why the capital of this country is so narrowly owned?

      1. Nathanael

        Because uncontrolled capitalism, like an uncontrolled closed-money poker game, inevitably ends up with all the money in the hands of one person. Who then stops the game.

        The fact that the people who tend to end up with all the money are mostly psychopaths creates further problems.

    2. CB

      If you don’t mind, I’ll borrow that line: Are they willing to give their job to a worthy immigrant? Great argument! I’m guessing the answers are always silence.

    3. Rick

      It seems to me that the only goal of continued immigration is to continue to increase the labor supply and cut worker pay even more. You can be against ECONOMIC HARDSHIP immigration without being a flaming bigot. Nobody should have to leave the only place they’ve called home for their entire life because their simply is no way to make a living. And why put them in the middle of a nation with millions of desperate jobless people, who have every right to be resentful about it.

      We also need to address the class based nature of the kind of labor immigration that is and isn’t allowed. Doctors and lawyers are protected from the kind of earning power reducing immigration that so called “low skill” laborers must put up with. These professions have political clout and get their interests represented in government. I mean how could lawyers not have their professional interests represented, since on their jobs is to influence peddle in government? This is an aspect of trade policy that economist Dean Baker brings up a lot, but is usually missing from mainstream discourage about immigration and trade.

      1. Nathanael

        Don’t worry. Immigration has reversed, and now people are moving out of the US to Mexico.

        People who treat immigration as a “problem” are missing the point.

        The problem we are having is that this country is becoming so unattractive that people don’t want to immigrate.

        1. Nathanael

          FYI, all the best doctors are trained abroad now. Sigh. This is because medical school in the US is massively overpriced and operates a punishing workload. No sane person would actually go through it. In contrast, medical schools abroad are generally reasonably priced, and may even have less abusive workloads.

          1. Nathanael

            And yes, the government lets doctors immigrate, as “highly skilled workers”. Not that most of them want to these days, but some do and the government takes all it can get.

  13. Lafayette

    David Plouffe thinks nothing of outright lying on CNN about why the administration changed its policy, in one forum describing it as a useful policy change and denying any political incentives and in another more insider-friendly publication making it clear that it was a reelection gambit

    And so? Where’s the lie?

    Yes, it’s an election year. So what else is new?

  14. acmerecords

    it appears that all those job stealers are actually controlling that oh-so pernicious ‘uncontrolled immigration’ themselves – see news from 2 months ago –

    .. do people still really believe that undocumented workers are to be blamed for the all too apparent American facts of stagnant wages for 40 years, the death of the middle class and the end of class mobility, declining health care and educational options, the end of vacations, benefits and pensions in the workplace, the decline in family net worth, that there are 5 job seekers for each job opening in the US, that the government itself reports (U6) that unemployment is 15 percent ?

    ‘when i ask why they are poor, they call me a communist’ bishop camara

    1. petridish

      NO KIDDING! And any American that thinks that loading undocumented teenagers who have spent virtually their entire lives in the US onto a bus and dropping them off in Juarez is going to solve our economic problems should be loaded on the bus with them.

      (Just as soon as they finish rhetorically fellating Jamie Dimon for being the handomest, smartest and most successful banker the world has ever seen.)

      The herd definitely needs to be thinned.

  15. jsmith

    Although some people are taken aback by the global aims of certain forms of socialism – ie., Trotskyism – people have to start realizing that only through the raising of a global worker awareness/consciousness will the common person people able to defeat the sociopathic elite who currently lord it over us all.

    The elite have been globally-minded for decades and this philosophical “head-start” has allowed their class to turn the world into the neolibearl sh*thole it is today.

    Ask yourself: why have the elite spent so much time denigrating and maligning socialism all the while they have been aggrandizing their power/wealth?

    Because the one thing that can really stand in the way of their global blueprint is for workers all over the world to begin to realize that they are all victims of the neoliberal murder and threat that is being perpetratied against humanity.

    Gee, I wonder why all the free trade agreements never really allowed for the free flow of labor, huh?

    Workers in Latin America, the Greeks, the Chinese, the Spanish, Americans…all may be at different socioeconomic levels but they all – to a person – are being viciously exploited by the neoliberal monsters who inhabit the upper echelons of transnational society.

    Just as it’s way past the time for the Greeks, Spanish, Irish, et al, to abandon their fear of destroying the Euro and forge ahead into uncharted territory, so it is with all the rest of humanity.

    Humanity needs to stop listening to the fears that have been propagandistically ingrained into our minds as concerns abandoning the captialist model.

    There must be a better way, as the path we’re on is destined to destroy us all.

    1. Salamander

      “Gee, I wonder why all the free trade agreements never really allowed for the free flow of labor, huh?”

      One suspects that there is a fundamental difference between inputs to production or products, on the one hand, and people on the other… particularly in any society which provides welfare benefits.

  16. CB

    I read some time ago that the demographic pressures that have driven immigration from Mexico are sharply diminishing. The birth rates among Mexican women have dropped dramatically and in 15 or so years, the effect will be to eliminate the population push against the border. Mexicans won’t need to come here and supply our cheap labor pools. That will be interesting. You only have to look at the faces of the property maintenance crews and the trash collection crews to know what an end to immigration will mean–and that’s not even counting the myriad other industries that depend on cheap, unprotected workers for production capacity. I hope I live long enough to see it.

    1. Nathanael

      The population push is gone ALREADY. The net migration between the US and Mexico is zero, trending towards migration from the US TO Mexico (mostly among people whose families are of Mexican origin, of course).

      Mexico still has problems with illegal immigration (from Guatemala), but then Guatemala is a military dictatorship with routine coups and the occasional death squad. In contrast, who in their right mind would move from Mexico to the US now?

      Employment opportunities are frankly better in Mexico, the government is approximately as clean (what with the US degeneration), welfare is better in Mexico, health care is better — all we have going for us here is infrastructure (deterorating here, improving there), environmental protection (deteriorating here, improving there), and a more northerly location to deal with climate change (but if you’re going to move north, why not head for Canada?).

      1. ctct

        the guatemalans i’ve worked with are more scared of mexico than guatemala/// especially the northern highways…

  17. churn

    Threaten him, pry it out of him, corner him? For contemptible scraps of rights? Not worth the trouble. Gonna let him lose.

  18. TK421

    “This is a reasonable template for how to get the Obama administration to act.”

    Yes it is, but he’s not going to be running for re-election again after November.

    1. CB

      So the “window of opportunity” is a very short four and a half, almost five, months. One wonders what can be accomplished in that kind of time. I certainly wouldn’t race around trying to pull something together that isn’t already well underway.

  19. F. Beard

    This is all so predictable. During the boom immigrants are no problem but during the bust they are villains.

    One would hope that people could stay focused on the root of the problem which is the counterfeiting cartel, the banking system, instead of blaming their fellow victims.

  20. docG

    “Obama will not make policy changes that negatively affect those with money, unless he can’t avoid it or unless he is rewarding a constituency group that has even more money.”

    This is patently untrue. Obama has consistently campaigned for higher taxes on the wealthy and in fact risked his presidency over this issue by alienating many of his well-heeled supporters. Where do you get this stuff — and Yves, why do you tolerate and even encourage it. Obama has his flaws for sure, but he is probably the most liberal and forward leaning president we’ve had since Roosevelt. Give him a break, OK?

    1. Lambert Strether

      “forward leaning”? I always wonder why people think that’s a positive. It give — and oh so appropriately for Obama — a visual impression of motion where none is actually made.

      Perhaps you’ve got NC confused with MSNBC?

    2. Hugh

      Obama put together the Bowles-Simpson aka Catfood Commission and favored its recommendations. One of these was to cut the top tax rate for the rich and corporations from the current Bush tax cut level of 35% to 23% for the rich and 26% for corporations while eliminating some of their deductions. Overall, it would be yet another windfall for them.

      Late last year, he tried to get the Republicans to sign off on a Grand Bargain that would slash Medicare and Social Security in exchange for the elimination of only a few tax perks for the rich. The Republicans refused. Now some key Republicans have softened their position and there is a real likelihood that should Obama win reelection there will be a Grand Bargain struck in the lame duck session after the election.

      We are far enough along in this that you really should stop believing all the partisan nonsense. It’s just atmospherics. Democrats are every bit as corporatist and pro-rich as the Republicans. Any differences are rhetorical and meant to confuse the rubes.

      1. Nathanael

        Correction: Obama put together the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which *made no recommendations* because it could not come to agreement (because there were too many sane people on the commission to agree with the insane Simpson and Bowles).

        Simpson and Bowles then got together and made a private set of recommendations. Obama dishonestly passed this off as the “Commission” recommendation, and has been pushing it ever since.

        Lying scum.

    3. Mark P.

      docg wrote: ‘he is probably the most liberal and forward leaning president we’ve had since Roosevelt. Give him a break, OK?’

      [1] Historically, this is ignorant nonsense. On their records, Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson were certainly far more liberal — and effective — presidents.

      Johnson’s record, re. the Civil Rights Act and his Great Society initiative, is well known.

      On Eisenhower’s watch not a single uniformed U.S. serviceman died in a foreign war, IIRC. Eisenhower “Cross of Iron” speech from 1953 remains one of the most chillingly specific arguments made against conflict made by a leader and, if I had my way, would be taught in grade schools alongside Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Eisenhower’s health care proposals were blocked by the AMA and UAW, but would have had the Federal government pay health care costs for all US citizens when those costs exceeded 10 % of their annual incomes.

      [2] Obama deserves no break.

      At almost every stage, he’s protected and assisted the financial criminals who funded him and who have committed — and are continuing to commit — the largest white-collar crime in history.

      Whereas even the Bush 2 administration had more ethics because — despite the fact that it was an energy administration, as this administration is a financial industry administration — it prosecuted and sent to jail top figures at Enron for their crimes.

      1. different clue

        Maybe the Bush Admin. viewed the Enroners as really just financialist scoundrels under energy cover?

    4. Liverpool kiss

      “Why do you tolerate…” Note the run-to-Mommy instinct, the classic kissup/kickdown authoritarianism of the Dem apparatchik: Here is what you get, be grateful!


      You meet the minimal standards of the civilized world, or go lose in disgrace. CCPR or GTFO. CESCR or GTFO. Rome Statute or GTFO. Can’t do it?

      Get The Fuck Out.

    5. Doug Terpstra

      “Obama has consistently campaigned for …” fill in the blank.

      Doc, are you really that naïve or are you paid to comment? And just how many breaks are you willing to give him?

      Please read Hugh’s list of Obama’s scandals. The list is seriously in need of updating since 2009, with many impeachable crimes since. I suppose one reaches burnout at 300+.

      1. docG

        The statement is very simply untrue. Patently so. Feel free to bash Obama, I’ve certainly done so many times. Assuming Yves is moderator here, it’s her responsibility to sift truth from falsehood.

        I’d think that anyone following US politics during Obama’s first term should have some understanding of the opposition he’s encountered from intransigent Republicans congressmen. I too would have preferred that he take a tougher stance, but he chose to compromise — and it backfired on him.

        As far as the money is concerned, it should be clear by now that it takes big money to win a presidential race these days. Obama recognizes that and has been forced to act accordingly. Whether this is something he wants to do, whether he’s being manipulated or whether he’s doing it against his will is something neither I nor anyone else not close to him is in a position to answer. As I see it, I’d rather see a Democrat in office than a warmed over George W. Bush and if it takes big time fund raising to do that, then so be it.

        If you can think of a better bet for the Democratic party this time round, please offer us a name. I can’t think of anyone at the moment, sorry. Not anyone with any chance of winning.

        Go ahead, folks, bite off your nose to spite your face. Maybe no one will notice.

        1. Nathanael

          Obama *is* a warmed-over George W. Bush when it comes to every issue I’ve looked at!

          Glenn Greenwald can update you on all the civil liberties, Constitutional violations, foreign wars, imprisonment without trial, illegal spying stuff.

          Obama actively continued the illegal government funding of right-wing churches under the “faith-based initiatives” program.

          Honestly, Obama is *funding the people who hate him*. How much more of a mole can you have?

          Obama’s “health care plan” is the Heritage Foundation plan proposed by Bob Dole in the 1990s, and passed in Massachusetts by Romney.

          Then there’s the environment: just look at the way he deputized the entire government to cover up for BP after BP poisoned the Gulf of Mexico.

          Women’s rights? Well, some massive fighting has seen some Obama position reversals, but at first he was set to cave to the Republicans on practically everything.

          I could go on and on and on. Even Obama’s Supreme Court appointments are right-wing by any normal standards.

          I’ll give him this: he’s been more interested in protecting black voting rights than Bush was. I guess that’s a difference.

    6. different clue

      Obama has pretended to support higher taxes on “the wealthy” in order to prevent the Bush tax cuts from simply sunsetting altogether. The “higher taxes on the wealthiest” is a cynical Apple of Discord designed to galvanize Republican prevention of passing those “higher taxes on the wealthiest”. Obama does this because he supports the Bush tax cuts in their entirety, as do Boehner and McConnell. Boehner and McConnell are Obama’s secret co-conspirators in this little charade.

    7. Nathanael

      “Obama has consistently campaigned for higher taxes on the wealthy”

      But when push came to shove, he extended the Bush tax cuts on the superrich in exchange for some crap which has already expired.

      His campaigning for higher taxes on the wealthy is transparently phony.

  21. S Brennan

    The take away lesson from this is:

    When negotiating from a weak [non-wealthy] position with a corrupt politician like either [Bush/Obama]…what they will do for you is done just before the election…never after. Holding somebody’s feet to the fire AFTERWARDS is comically ineffectual.

    The folks that bought into the hokum and hype in 2008 have a chance for payback Obama…but like good little sheep, they will be sheared for slaughter.

  22. Jimbo

    Pfouffle is not the only member of the Team who lies spontaneously as necessary to cover-up the truth. It’s the whole game plan. (see: “no laws were broken” and then there is Fast and Furious…

  23. Hugh

    “The political lesson is that pressure matters, but so does leverage.”

    “This is a reasonable template for how to get the Obama administration to act.”

    “There’s one additional constraint on the administration’s range of actions. Obama will not make policy changes that negatively affect those with money”

    This is “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” repeal all over again. For purely tactical reasons, Obama will act on a few tangential issues of a few specific groups and only for the next 4 months. That is a template, a template on how to get progressives and members of these groups to drink the koolaid one more time. You would think after 3 1/2 years we would have learned something about Obama and the Democrats, but apparently not.

    1. Nathanael

      It is indeed a template. I would suggest applying the template to marijuana legalization, as it’s a weak point already, and legalization would boost the economy while breaking the back of the prison-industrial complex.

  24. S Brennan

    Was Caesar Chavez a self loathing racist? Did Caesar Chavez hate Mexicans and wish to see them mired in poverty?

    To the clueless, claiming racism anytime somebody asks to enforce immigration laws against employers, Caesar Chavez asked for as much and argued that it depressed wages!

    To the clueless, shortly after 1964 civil rights legislation, the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act was signed into law. With dicrimination against blacks illegal, US employers needed a new underclass that had no employmment rights.

    Please read this old article:

    Tracing Liberal Woes To ’65 Immigration Act

    1. Punta Pete

      S Brennan. Thanks for the link.

      I agree whole-heartedly with the points that Graham makes in his article. As for those in this blog who disagree on the importance of the flood of immigration – legal and illegal – in suppressing wages and contributing to record levels of income inequality, I ask, “what planet are you living on?!” One blogger mentioned the destruction of the unions in meatpacking by illegals. The destruction of the building trade unions is another example.

      The law’s provision for bringing family members is another example of good intentions gone horribly wrong. Our schools are inundated and over-burdened with kids from many non-English speaking cultures. Elderly parents are brought in and find jobs behind the counter or the local gas-and-go, putting in the minimal work time to qualify for Social Security, and thus putting more pressure on that social service.

      Plus, how many native-born white working-class whites have gone to a hospital emergency room, worrying whether or not their health insurance (if they have any)will pay for the large expected medical bills and then see the friendly signs in dozens of foreign languages telling the immigrants that they are welcome for (free) treatment. I will wager that their next stop in many, many cases is the Republican Party voter registration booth.

      I could go on to talk about the rapidly diminishing supply of resources, especially oil, whose consumption is increased by the flood of immigrants. But, hey, I’ve said enough and if I haven’t convinced anyone. Well, isn’t that the problem that we liberals have when trying to reason with folks who watch Fox News?

      1. Nathanael

        The immigrants have to pay just like everyone else in hospitals.

        Unless, of course, they have health insurance from their native countries.

  25. Another Gordon

    Chris Hedges has argued that the last really democratic president was Nixon because he was the last one to be frightened of the electorate. It’s a fair point.

    1. Hugh

      Nixon was the last of the New Deal Presidents, a sad and scary end to that era but still very much a part of it. Ford was just an incidental postscript. The next significant era is that of kleptocracy and it begins with Carter.

      1. ctct

        when Nixon admitted he was a ‘Keynesian’ that should have been the proverbial ‘writing on the wall’… it’s the equivalent of Ted Kazcynski breaking down and finally buying a ‘smart phone’…

  26. Hugh

    If employers in the US were required to pay a living wage and respect workers rights, the wage and rights arbitrage that fuels the market for illegal immigration would disappear. Vegetables, fruit, meat and poultry, hotel rooms, and basic construction would cost more, but A) Americans would be holding those jobs and B) a major source of downward pressure on wages and rights would be gone, and C) more people would have more money to afford these increased costs.

    This would not be a panacea. It would not affect job offshoring. But if the 99% ever had enough political power to enact a living wage, it would have the power to curb shipping jobs to China as well.

    There are workable solutions to essentially all of the problems we face, and they would create a fairer, juster society for us all, but none of them will happen unless and until we overthrow our elites and the kleptocrats they serve. Compare that to the crumbs that Obama is offering select groups and you see how far we have to go.

  27. Paul Tioxon

    So Matt, any traction on the October surprise legalizing pot as Harold and Kumar Go To Washington Totally Baked? If not us who, if not uh um uh something profound.

  28. kevinearick

    Egypt: The Pharaoh & The Tailor’s Kid

    Do you remember that episode where the little bug projects itself to be a big monster, and gets the populants to kill each other out of allegiance and fear? That’s Chicago Business, Tammany Hall, Obama, and the United States.

    The problem for the underlings, the “new” China, Russia, Germany, ad infinitum, is that they are jockeying to be the replacement with a cheap replicate projector, which is why you hear the false assumption echoing in the background with increasing frequency: the US has the largest consumer base, and, in an empire of import/export co-dependence, that is what counts.

    Yes, the statement is correct, but it only applies within the empire, from which all real investors have emigrated, and, as History attests, they do not re-incorporate under the FLAG of sunk cost empires. That would be stupid.

    At the end of the day, which is quickly approaching in relative terms, somebody with a clue has to do, and all the consumption addicts get paid to talk, in a buy-what-we-tell-you-to-buy and we-will-promote-you-to-make-payments-on-the-debt, ponzi credit economy. Real labor, which is always working on the next bridge, except to watch the sh-show on its breaks, is going to determine the outcome, like it always does, but…prove me wrong.

    It’s a MAD world, the empire, which is what you should expect when lawful passive aggressives lead unlawful aggressive ignorants around by the nose, all of which can only see their own puffed up, artificial demand forward, projection, isolating you. Quantum change occurs when the false assumptions in one dimension collapse, revealing another dimension, readied for the occasion.

    Accelerate time, when all the robots have taken up residence on the bridge, over the DNA churn pool. Empires are built to be destroyed. We now return you to the broadcast, IN PROGRESS, new empire same as the old empire, with a new dress. Make-up!

    Sometimes you wear a dead man’s pants, until you learn to tailor a suit for yourself. That’s life, a blessing, not a curse, for those who seek it. Do your part and allow space for others to do their part. Make yourself and your community, and everything else will take care of itself. Some people’s money is worth more than others.

    Remember when you could work on your own car and everyone customized their own? Think about the effect of infrastructure. Jump the computer, by overloading the bridge, and look forward.

    Just because the previous generation paid down all its wealth to busy itself talking and pushing paper doesn’t mean that you must. Let them argue and go about your business. It will pay off, usually when you least expect it. That’s the nature of the unknown.

    You don’t need a missile to take out the drone bees. Take the Queen off the board, refashion her, and place her back on the throne. The Queen is not the one with the crown warming the seat; it’s the pawn you escort to the prom. It’s a chess game of chess games. That’s all you need to know to build a fusion/fission reactor.

    Kids drop out when they reach their consumption interest. What’s so difficult to understand? What kind of kid wants an android for a parent?

    The empire is constantly programming your subconscious. Put it to work yourself. Make sure it always has a problem to solve. The enemy of the enemy is your friend. The empire breeds fear, anxiety, which is a social, not an individual, State of Mind. Let the robots misdirect themselves. Gravity is not a scarce commodity in the universe. You are.

    The point of the Internet was to let everyone, who wanted a seat, see the sh-show for what it is. The uniform makes the empire, not the man or woman. Now, get back to work, tailor your own suit, and build the next bridge out.

    All the Fed can do is wait for death rate recognition, the President’s only card is entitlement growth, Congress is lost in space, and the Supreme Court is locked up on Family Law, all embedded, courtesy of the robot scientists at DoD, from which the reserve currency empire bet derives. Wake me up after the war over non-performing assets, once the mob gets tired of looking from the outside, into empty promises on every event horizon, inflated by ponzi politburo pension promises, which cannot be kept.

    Get on the elevator kid. Let’s see the universe. Where are we going? Where do you want to go? Push a button and let gravity do the rest.

  29. rotter

    That last paragraph is historic. It sums up the obama administration so totally and perfectly that it should be an encyclipedia entry, or perhaps etched into a granite monument somewhere. Trying to “figure out” obama and interpret or predict that administrations motives is a complete waste of time. Its so simple that a single paragraph defines them. They are just milking every advantage their good fortune provides them with,making sure the wealth harvesting and grinding machines are kept oiled and running, and this term they will all be sandbagging for the future – thier own futures of course, not ours.

  30. Jeff N

    Two things:
    1. big business likes illegal immigrants (to hire cheaply, and to buy their products). the repub base voter does not.

    2. Obama usually does the right thing for issues which don’t have much of a dollar impact on the 1%.

  31. MLS

    “The base of the Republican Party is racist against Latinos as well as generally homophobic”

    I’d like to see Matt defend this line without using anecdotes, because it’s way over the top. It’s equivalent to saying “everyone in San Francisco is a tree-hugging hippie”. Are there elements, perhaps even large swaths? Absolutely yes, just as you will find narrow-minded thinkers in any large group. But to say the entire GOP base is racist against Latinos and/or generally homophobic? GMAFB

  32. Cujo359

    The only reason that Barack Obama will make policy moves in your direction is if he feels he can’t avoid it, or if you’re going to pay him or his administration off somehow.

    Glad to see this thought being expressed by progressives not named after rabid fictional characters. It’s a concept that progressives generally seem to be slow to learn.

  33. JohnB

    Work! for what? I say fuck it, a hammock and a cold brewski is enuf for me. Cheers!

    1. F. Beard

      Sound like you could use a Sabbatical


      The concept of sabbatical has a source in shmita, described several places in the Bible (Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year). In the strict sense, therefore, sabbatical lasts a year.

  34. Doug Terpstra

    Scorchingly accurate post, Matt, WRT Obama’s cyncial political calculus.

    But Hugh makes a vital point. Obama is only susceptible to pressure on tangetial issues that do not inconvenience his core constituencies, Wall Street, Israel, and the merchants of death in the War on Terra. DADT, gay marriage, and (tentative) amnesty for military draftees are cheap pandering tricks, but pressuring him to do the right thing on anything of real substance is a fool’s errand.

    Worse, as Hugh notes, it tempts people to drink the koolaid of lesser-evilism. Maybe, just maybe, Obomney will be ever-so-slightly better than Robama.

    But say adios to Social Security if Obama is re[s]elected. He is the quintessential serpent-for-hire hawking snake oil, and his duplicity and manifest war crimes make Machiavilli look like a saint.

  35. Man+steel

    So, the man who promised change in DC, who did not tackle Wall St, who eroded the dollar and the middle class with it, who put more soldiers in Afghanistan and ruined relations with Pakistan, who pushed for peace with Syria and then did nothing as he realized it is a dictatorship, who gave public money to failing companies, is also using borderline tactics during elections. Shocking!

  36. Francois T

    That Plouffe feels that he can so cavalierly lie shows how dishonestly this administration operates.

    C’wan Matt! Let’s take a deep breath and reset the controls here. Plouffe feels he can so cavalierly lie shows how slothful and morally depraved the American punditocracy and so-called journalists can be. They do not care one fucking bit about the facts, the truth or principles. Otherwise, they would’ve come down on Plouffe hard as the proverbial ton of bricks.

    And yes! I agree with you; this Administration is fundamentally dishonest…just like the preceding one.

  37. Marsha

    Immigration is always about politics. As a former immigration attorney I used to tell my clients to “wait” until an upcoming election…things will change. And they always did.

    An Obamney has always been a fraud – from the moment he stepped on to the national “stage:, it’s all been about him and getting him elected POTUS – the people be damned. Hence: “That Plouffe feels that he can so cavalierly lie shows how dishonestly this administration operates.”

  38. Nathanael

    Minor correction. Marijuana decriminalization threatens the prison-industrial complex; this is probably why Obama’s been insanely resistant to it. (Remember, FDR repealed Prohibition; it’s an easy way to become very popular if you’re an ambitious politician with any sense. Yet Obama won’t do it.)

    1. Lambert Strether

      Because FDR was electorally responsive and Obama isn’t.

      Note how the strategy (if they’re not lying) is explicitly designed to eke out 50% + 1. Why? Because that way Obama has the absolute minimum of obligation to voters.

      1. F. Beard

        FDR had to worry about Communist ideology taking root in the US is why he was responsive.

        1. Nathanael

          Oh, the elite should be worrying about Communist ideology taking root in the US today. They’re stupid not to worry about it. But then, they’re *stupid*, so they don’t worry about it.

  39. Jill

    In some ways this move by Obama reflects pressure put on him by the Hispanic community but mostly it reflects the mafia like nature of this govt.

    Hispanics have been rounded up, citizen and non-citizen alike, deported for no reason, and even ended up dead in the custody of ICE. While most of Obama’s supporters did not have any problem with this, naturally, to the people whom it was happening, it was/is a real problem. They were absolutely correct to protest and I believe that protest was a part of Obama’s action. He needs the votes and Hispanics weren’t come through with donations of time, money or words of support.

    It’s what Obama did to get those votes that concerns me. I believe this action did violate the Constituition, one action in a long line, ending today, (so far) in refusing to give a public accounting of why Obama gets to kill people on his own say so.

    As others have pointed out, this “largess” expires in January. It is and amazing way to get bodies for the miliatry. It allows for massive data mining to see who qualifies and who will not. In short, it is not a protective measure based on the rule of law. It’s the rule of fiat. The Don needs something, so he’ll give a little something for now. After he gets what he needs there is no reason to believe this largess will remain in tact. That’s because it isn’t law, it’s fiat. Fiat can be given and fiat can be taken away.

    I believe Hispanic voters as well as women and LBGT community members need to press for laws, not largess. In reality, it would be a sign of a functioning democracy if the majority of people in our nation stood firm for the rule of law. That’s not a gift, it’s our right.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I agree. If there’s one thing that unites legacy party advocates, it’s this: The rule of law is vital when the other guy is breaking it.

      This took perhaps 2000 – 2012 to play out, because that’s how long the transition between [their|our] guys took to play out, but it’s really obvious now. So there’s a cycle involved, with a periodicity measured in years.

      Now, a citizen who hasn’t been through a full cycle — whether through youth or inattention — won’t be able to see the tribalism in action, especially when the legacy parties fit true arguments into the tribal framework.

      For example, I really started following electoral politics when the Rs impeached Clinton over a ____ ___, which was nutso. So I thought the Ds were the good guys. Comes Bush, he’s a bad guy, so all the Ds needed to do to fight him effectively was the helpful advice of committed bloggers (“More and better Ds”). Comes the 2008 primaries, it turns out Obama’s a bad guy too, just with different class and cultural markers from Bush. Comes 2009, and Obama normalizes every bad thing Bush ever did, and then some, while the very same people that yammered at Bush for doing evil hosannahed Obama for doing good, even when Obama did the same thing as Bush (torture, banksters, rule of law, surveillance, executive power grabs, just name it).

      So now I’m off the iron wheel of legacy party karma, thank The Godd(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any. But it is a process that has a cycle to it, and I don’t know how to speed it up. And with a cohort of new voters coming ever election, I don’t know how to reach them.

      Conceptually messy, no snappy terms, but …

      1. F. Beard

        Rules tend to get tossed out in an economic crisis. Maybe we should get serious about eliminating the instability in our economic system? Without killing the performance?

        1. Nathanael

          We certainly should, but at this point that’s only going to happen *after* the next revolution. It’s not guaranteed to happen even then, so we have to prepare people’s minds for it, but don’t hold out any hopes that a sane, sensible plan will be implemented *before* the collapse of the existing system of government.

      2. Nathanael

        Lambert, to give you some history, I started really following electoral politics in 1984.

        Back then, the Republicans really *were* the bad guys, and not even all of them. Reagan and his henchmen made criminality a way of life. Clinton was a vast improvement, even if he was a sellout on certain important issues.

        Then Bush II, selected by the criminal Supreme Court judges appointed by Reagan and Bush I, was a descent to third-world status for the US.

        So, the fact is, the corruption of the Democratic leadership is a lot newer than you think, while the corruption of the Republicans is pretty old.

        The Democratic leadership was in fact pretty damn “clean” from the point when the Dixiecrats left until Obama decided he liked Bush Junior’s abuses of power.

        You admit that you didn’t follow politics as far back as I did, so accept that I’m telling the truth: this is actually a recent change.

  40. F Libertarians!

    I stopped believing anything Obama said three 3 years ago. I find it absolutely amazing that, after all of the lies from this adminstration and all of the times this jerk president sold everyone off to his campaign donors, so many people still believe anything he says. Maybe these Ivy League educated jerks who populate O’s administration think that voters are stupid because a lot of voters REALLY ARE STUPID. After all, it is perfectly obvious that Obama’s strategy is to talk like a progressive and then govern like a corporatist right-winger. Yet, so many (like many unions) are still willing to believe Obama. So many people are still totally fooled.

    1. Nathanael

      Well, it is very true that a lot of people really ARE stupid. More fairly, most people are stupid about most things and smart in a very limited area of expertise, and the percentage who are smart about politics is quite small.

      For better or worse, upwards of 80% of people (according to experiments and studies) are also highly suggestible and don’t like to think for themselves — sheeple, to use the derogatory term.

      This means, on the upside, that to make a good idea popular, we really only have to win the war of ideas among the other 20%, the opinion leaders; the sheep will follow.

  41. Jill

    I’m running into very mixed signals concerning the legacy parties. My neighborhood is mixed class which is a rare and great thing about it! I’ve talked to quite a few people who can’t stand Obamney but don’t know there are third party candidates to choose from. (Even the woman who asked me to volunteer for Obama didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it. Man, did they ever get that marketing wrong!)

    The union newspaper is very pro-Obama, as are many people in the postal union my husband is a part of.

    In Ann Arbor, most students and professors on the “left” are Obama worshippers. I was creeped out and afraid during the law talk given by Koh when Koh laid out Obama’s ability to kill anyone, anywhere on his say so. In a full room with overflow I counted five people who weren’t giving Koh a standing ovation. People there absolutely love Obama. These people are the ones most likely to say anyone who doesn’t “love” Obama is an elitists (rolls eyes here).

    I personally think Obama is going to need to cheat his way to victory this time. He’s handing out the largess but I don’t think it will be enough to push him over the mark.

    There needs to be a movement to base our politics on real intellectual reasoning and integrity. You’re never going to reach a worshipper with well reasoned arguments and talk about integrity but I think you’d have a real chance of working together with people who were searching for something besides Obamney and the attendent dismantling of our social fabric a vote for either man will bring.

    1. Nathanael

      I don’t think he’ll need to cheat his way to victory, simply because Romney is just as bad.

      And there’s no third party which has traction yet. Maybe in 2014.

    2. Nathanael

      We tried having a movement to base our politics on intellectual analysis and integrity; it was called “the Enlightenment”.

      It requires universal education to a very high quality level at a minimum.

      But even then, it’s not clear that it works; it has never really worked. Most people, according to horrifying social psych experiments, really don’t want to think for themselves (it’s painful for them) and are highly suggestible.

      Suggestions as to how to design a political system to deal with this problem are welcome; it seems hard.

  42. Jen

    I’m voting for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party. We need another option, but it won’t appear magically one day. Those of us who are tired of the games have got to to start voting our conscience.

Comments are closed.