Dec. 3, 2008 12:00

Ten best!: Reasons why the new boss is the same as the old boss

ten best! randomly compiled by Jordan Green

Reasons why the new boss is the same as the old boss

Rahm Emanuel

President-elect Obama has made a breathtaking pivot from champion of change to upholder of the status quo has been breathtaking as President Bush leaves the United States’ international standing in shambles and the economy lurches ever deeper into cataclysm. When Obama visited Greensboro in March, he captured the city’s imagination by declaring the country was “fighting a war that never should have been started in Iraq” and that insisting on trade agreements with labor and environmental standards “so that when companies shift jobs overseas they know that they can’t bring these goods back unless they’ve paid their workers a fair wage and they don’t use child labor.” Strange then that Obama chose as his chief of staff one Rahm Emanuel, described by John Nichols in The Nation last month as a “point man” in the Clinton White House “in the fight to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar deals that have been passionately opposed by the very labor, environmental and farm groups that were essential players in electing Obama.” As chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emanuel is also widely reported to have worked hard to help pro-Iraq War candidates win Democratic primaries against antiwar opponents in 2006.

Robert Rubin

Former Treasury secretary under President Clinton, Robert Rubin has been Obama’s most prestigious economics advisor since Hillary Clinton conceded in June. He’s described by The New York Times as “a top trader and executive at Goldman Sachs.” In that respect, he shares an affinity with the current treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, who resigned as CEO of Goldman Sachs to work under President Bush. Invoking Martin Luther King Jr.’s “fierce urgency of now” in Greensboro last spring, Obama said, “Now people are fearful of having their houses lost. People are fearful of having their jobs shifted overseas. In such circumstances, we cannot wait.” Strange then to read in The New York Times that “almost the entire Obama administration economic team could be said to be made up of followers of so-called Rubinomics,” which the newspaper described as having an “emphasis on free trade, deficit cutting and deregulation.”

Lawrence Summers

One of Rubin’s most high profile protgs would have to be Larry Summers, who succeeded Rubin as treasury secretary before serving as president of Harvard University, and who Obama appointed director of the National Economic Council. Summers has been getting kicked around in leftist circles a lot these days for an internal memo he drafted in 1991 as chief economist for the World Bank. “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that,” Summers wrote. “I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted.”

Timothy Geithner

Another Rubin protg, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Chairman Timothy Geithner has been nominated secretary of the Treasury.

Foresight and a respect for transparency do not appear to be among his virtues. He told the Times in February 2007 that “the fact that the banks are stronger and risk is spread more broadly should make the system more stable,” and was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying, “Most consequential choices involve shades of gray, and some fog is often useful in getting things done.” William Greider wrote in a scathing commentary in The Nation that “on Monday, Geithner was busy executing the government’s massive rescue of Citicorp — the very banking behemoth that Geithner and Summers helped to create back in the Clinton years, along with Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, Clinton’s economics guru. Now Rubin is himself a Citicorp executive and his bank is being save by his old protg (Geithner) with the taxpayers’ money.” On Monday, Geithner also landed one of the most coveted posts in Obama’s cabinet.

Peter Orszag

Formerly the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Orszag was nominated as Obama’s director of the Office of Management and Budget on Nov. 25. Orszag will be a strong voice against Obama keeping his promises to deliver relief to middle-class and poor Americans. “Many observers have noted that addressing the problems in financial markets and the risks to the economy,” he wrote in an Oct. 13 blog entry, “may displace healthcare reform on the policy agenda — and that may well be the case for some period of time.”

Paul Volcker

The 81-year-old former chairman of the Federal Reserve was appointed to the post in 1979 by President Carter. One of Volcker’s most ardent critics is the aforementioned Greider, who was referenced in a recent Time magazine blog post by Justin Fox: “By grudgingly appointing Volcker… Carter reassured markets and, it turned out, put monetary policy in the hands of somebody who was willing to sacrifice just about anything — including Carter’s job and those of millions of other Americans — to get inflation under control. In Greider’s telling, it was the beginning of an era where Wall Street called all the shots.”

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, who has accepted nomination as Obama’s secretary of state, represents the reason many Democrats were ready to go into open rebellion against their party in 2007. The New York senator and former first lady’s refusal to disavow her 2002 vote to authorize President Bush’s use of military force against Iraq and her late conversion to the cause of ending the war when she launched her presidential campaign made Clinton the object of scorn with the Democratic Party’s antiwar base.

Robert Gates

Several news organizations have reported that Gates will stay on as secretary of defense through the first year of Obama’s administration. The change we needed is old news in that the reign of neoconservative foreign policy, with its doctrine of preemptive force and crusading militarism, had already played out by the time Gates replaced former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The neo-con era was finished off by the disastrous consequences of the Iraq War, the obvious costliness of willy-nilly foreign invasions and the United State’s hemorrhaging credibility among adversaries and allies alike.

Eric Holder

A former deputy attorney general under President

Clinton, Holder received generally positive reviews after the announcement of his nomination as attorney general, but he carries some baggage with his role in vetting President Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier and tax dodger Marc Rich. The Times reports that Holder told the White House that he was “neutral, leaning towards favorable” on the idea of pardoning Rich, which caused a scandal “because it turned out that Mr. Rich’s former wife, Denise Rich, donated large amounts of money to Mr. Clinton’s presidential library.”

Bill Richardson

The son of a white Los Angeles businessman and a Mexican socialite, Bill Richardson went hunting for a congressional seat in 1980. According to his campaign biography, he and his wife moved from Washington to New Mexico, where Richardson taught government at Santa Fe Community College. He lost his first race for the state’s 1st Congressional District in impoverished, rural Northern New Mexico, but prevailed two years later. Now, he’s the governor of the state. Like most of the new Obama team, Richardson, who is reportedly being considered for the position of secretary of commerce, is a Clinton administration veteran. He’s also one of that generation’s most accomplished: Richardson led diplomatic missions to North Korea and Iraq, served as US ambassador to the United Nations and headed the Department of Energy.

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