Media for the 99%

A View From Washington: Our First CEO President

If you’ve been thinking that Obama is a Democratic President fighting for a historic compromise called the Grand Bargain for whatever reason, you do not understand what is actually happening, argues Don Washington.

Satirical graphic at a No Keystone XL pipeline protest near an Obama $32,000-a-person fundraiser at Getty Mansion on April 4. (Photo: Steve Rhodes)

Satirical graphic at a No Keystone XL pipeline protest near an Obama $32,000-a-person fundraiser at Getty Mansion on April 4. (Photo: Steve Rhodes)

President Barack Hussein Obama is our first CEO President. You probably don’t think of President Obama as a CEO, and you should know that he wasn’t one before he became President. Being a CEO President is not the same thing as being a CEO. Now that your head is spinning to the point of exploding, let me explain.

A CEO President engages in public policy by looking for ways to externalize the costs and consequences of the “free market” onto society and by protecting the welfare of the “profitable” parts of the business of the nation state from its perceived impediments or drags. Here are some familiar phrases that will begin to make more sense when you have real clarity on what the President is actually doing. Prepare yourself and try not to write a screaming e-mail to the White House.

Some sacrifices must be made in order to stabilize the economy. Though these are hard choices, responsible adults must make them for the long-term fiscal well-being of the country. We have to make important investments in the nation/company’s future.

This is not rhetoric; this is exactly what it sounds like: a bottom line. It is a public policy by balance sheet approach to governing, and this leads to choices like those found in the President’s present budget proposal. It explains why he can expand pre-kindergarten funding as an investment in the future “human capital” of America while cutting SSI, Medicare and Medicaid to put seniors, the poor and the rest of the “takers” on the equivalent of ice floes.

If you’ve been thinking that Obama is a Democratic President fighting for a historic compromise called the Grand Bargain for whatever reason, you do not understand what is actually happening. He is not a Democratic President, elected to defend the interests of the Democratic Party and reflect the values of the Democratic voters who put him in office. He is a CEO President. As such the way he looks at the world and reacts to it has nothing to do with the anything like the traditional left/right, Republican/Democrat faux fist fight. Once you accept that he is not concerned with the welfare of the Democratic Party or Democratic voters from now until the end of time, what he’s doing will make more sense to you.

As a CEO, President Obama thinks like a corporate chieftain. CEOs act for the distant future while profiteering in the near future. CEOs are mindful of making certain that what they do, no matter how mind-numbingly callous, seems logical, calm and even level-headed. (Does this sound like someone being an adult and calmly listening to both sides?) What a CEO President does is identify the best way to use the power of the state to protect, defend and strengthen the long-term economic interests of the status quo.

The misconception is that there is an active battle over the existence of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. One side wants to balance the budget and put us on firm financial footing for the future in return for temporary tax increases on some “wealthy” Americans. Another is trying to get its racist, ignorant block to accept a deal that begins destroying these programs. And another side is fighting what looks like a losing battle to stop the programs from being weakened by some possible “compromise” between the first two sides. This entire frame is ninja dust and has not one thing to do with what’s actually happening.

The CEO President does not want to reform or eradicate or privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and neither do the powerful status quo interests he represents. This is because he is not a buffoon, like the MBA President was (you remember “W” who babbled on and on about file cabinets full of IOUs… but I digress). When CEO President Obama looks at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, what he and his campaign investors see is trillions of dollars in government-guaranteed cash.

Imagine a system where the government collected Social Security money and then gave it to Wall Street to manage? There are four trust funds: Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) weighs in at $2,524.1 billion. The Disability Insurance fund (DI) $153.9 billion. The Hospital Insurance trust fund (HI) is a svelte $244.2 billion. The littlest trust fund, the Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund (SMI), is a mere $80.7 billion. That’s real money, and our CEO President needs the government to capture that money and deliver it at some point in the future. This is done by chipping away at the program until that looks like a rational answer.

Obama is playing eleven-dimensional chess, it’s just not against the GOP: It’s against our future.

Don Washington is the Principal Partner in Koan Enterprises, a progressive consulting firm that provides effective media, legislative, organizing and political strategies, leadership development and base building for local, state and national clients.

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