June 14, 2008

AT THE END OF HISTORY...:

Beware the Chicago boys: Obama's vow of love for free markets gives reason to fear a replay of Bill Clinton's 1993 U-turn (Naomi Klein, 6/13/08, The Guardian)

Barack Obama waited just three days after Hillary Clinton pulled out of the race to declare, on CNBC: "Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market." Demonstrating that this is no mere spring fling, he has appointed the 37-year-old Jason Furman, one of Wal-Mart's most prominent defenders, to head his economic team. [....]

Obama chose as his chief economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist on the left side of a spectrum that stops at the centre-right. Goolsbee, unlike his Friedmanite colleagues, sees inequality as a problem. His primary solution, however, is more education - a line you can also get from Alan Greenspan. Goolsbee has been eager to link Obama to the Chicago School. "The guy's got a healthy respect for markets," he told Chicago magazine. "It's in the ethos of the [University of Chicago], which is something different from saying he is laissez faire."

Another of Obama's Chicago fans is the 39-year-old billionaire Kenneth Griffin, the CEO of the hedge fund Citadel. Griffin, who gave the maximum allowable donation to Obama, is a poster boy for an unbalanced economy. He got married at Versailles, and is one of the staunchest opponents of closing the hedge-fund tax loophole.

While Obama talks about toughening trade rules with China, Griffin has been bending the few barriers that do exist. Despite sanctions prohibiting the sale of police equipment, Citadel has been pouring money into controversial China-based security companies that are putting the local population under unprecedented levels of surveillance.

Now is the time to worry about Obama's Chicago Boys and their commitment to fending off regulation. It was in the two-and-a-half months between winning the 1992 election and being sworn into office in 1993 that Bill Clinton did a U-turn on the economy. He had promised to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, adding labour and environmental provisions - but two weeks before his inauguration, the then Goldman Sachs chief, Robert Rubin, convinced him of the urgency of embracing liberalisation.

Furman, a Rubin disciple, was chosen to head the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, the thinktank Rubin helped found to argue for the free trade agenda. Add to that Goolsbee's February meeting with Canadian officials, who got the impression that they should not take Obama's anti-Nafta campaigning seriously, and there is every reason for concern about a replay of 1993.


...the difference between Republicans/Tories and Democrats/Labour is less than that between Bob Taft and Ike.

If there were any chance he'd change anything Senator Obama wouldn't be getting so many contributions from folks with vested interests in the system.

The argument is over and marketeers won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2008 9:09 AM
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