Archive for May, 2009

May 1, 2009

Will the Obama Presidency Result in a More Civilized America?

By Bill Honer

Copyright 2009

American elections are defined in part by a sense of hope among Americans for a future less harsh than the current realities of American life.

The continued presence of the death penalty, 48 million Americans without healthcare coverage, and an unemployment rate of 50% among Black and Hispanic youth are examples of the continued crudeness and brutality of American society.

Campaign donations continue to corrupt the political process, leaving ordinary Americans with little more than the illusion of representative democracy. Barak Obama, the democratic presidential candidate, promoted himself as the candidate for change. To the extent that his administration is less criminal than the Bush presidency, he is correct. However there is ample evidence to support the position that he often represents prevailing American values rather than change.

President Obama not only supports the death penalty, a barbaric relic of the past that has been rejected by the advanced nations of Western Europe, but also advocates expanding its use to execute child rapists. Studies have shown the death penalty has an adverse impact upon low income persons, with the majority of those executed having been represented by public defenders. The Supreme Court ruled in a Texas case that the fact that the public defender fell asleep during the trial was not an impediment to finding the murder defendant guilty and putting him to death. The United States would be denied entrance into the European Community on the basis of the continued existence of the death penalty.

Tens of millions of persons in America continue to lack healthcare coverage. Barak Obama’s health care proposals, if passed, would still leave 20 million without health insurance, resulting in premature deaths among the uninsured who are denied primary medical care for treatable conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

For decades, American politicians have appealed to voters through the traditional values of rugged individualism and hard work. Senator Obama is continuing in this tradition. When it comes to the 50% unemployment rate among Black and Hispanic youth, he has largely remained silent. According to the 2000 Census, the median incomes for Blacks and Hispanic families are considerably lower than the national average.

Although Barak Obama initially stated that he supported public financing of presidential campaigns, he reversed his position when it became politically advantageous to do so. His rejection of public financing of political campaigns offers hope to the lobbyists who corrupt public policy on a daily basis that an Obama presidency will offer the prospect of “business as usual.”

The Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede evaluated levels of individualism within 70 countries around the world; he ranked the United States first in this category. Americans, more than any other nation, believe that the individual, rather than society, must be responsible for himself. Studies also reveal that 75% of Americans surveyed attribute poverty to the personal and moral deficiencies of the poor, while 83% of Europeans surveyed attribute poverty to structural issues such as unemployment, low wages and discrimination. President Obama continues to emphasize these long-standing values.

Obama’s purchase of a house from a convicted felon hardly inspires confidence that he is not simply another “political player”. The felon, convicted of bribery and extortion after the purchase, was well-known in political circles in Illinois, President Obama’s home state The mere acquisition of property from a man subsequently convicted of bribery offers the appearance, if not the reality, of buying future political influence.

Some would suggest that, given the continued social retardation of the American people, Barak Obama has little choice but to promote the traditional values that resonate with many Americans. However, how do such apologists then make the case that he is also the President for change? They would no doubt do so by noting that his policies will more quickly terminate the debacle in Iraq, increase access to health care for millions of Americans, and eliminate the inequitable tax cuts given the wealthiest 10% of American society by the Bush administration, and they would be correct.

Obama has already reversed many of the unwholesome policies implemented by President Bush and his staff. However, his proposed actions and positions, while eminently more wholesome and positive than his predecessor, are unlikely to elevate America to the ranks of the socially advanced nations.

(Bill Honer is a free-lance writer, social activist and co-author of the book “Adult Education for the Homeless” (Miller-Freeman 1999). He can be contacted at BillHoner9@gmail.com.)

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