There’s a lot of nonsense coming from the right as President Obama’s political opponents take every opportunity to cut him down. It’s not as common to see a really cogent critique of the president’s policies coming from the left, one not based on the incessant cult-of-personality beltway noise. Robert Kuttner delivers the latter in his new book, A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama’s Promise, Wall Street’s Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, part commentary on Obama’s missteps and part warning on how he can keep his presidency from buckling under pressure from financial elites.
From the Boston Globe:
Robert Kuttner, cofounder of the American Prospect magazine, pulls no punches in his attack on President Obama for cozying up to Wall Street.
Kuttner’s narrative, filled with little-publicized details about sweetheart deals given to banks by an accommodating federal government, reads like an indictment drawn up by an indignant, pugnacious prosecutor. Kuttner does take off the gloves long enough to ask: “Isn’t this account too harsh on Obama?” Probably not.
“A Presidency in Peril” shows that Kuttner profoundly understands our complex financial system and how that system uses politics to get what it wants. And what Wall Street wants and has gotten, says Kuttner, is for the government to bail it out while not making any structural changes. “Bankers were pleased to take the taxpayer money,” Kuttner writes, “but fiercely resisted changing their [failed] business models.”
On page after page, Kuttner justifies his criticism of Obama for neglecting the deep structural problems in our financial system. He highlights the many former Wall Street insiders whom Obama selected for his economic team. “Instead of making a radical break with Wall Street, [Obama] delivered a startling continuity” of ongoing bailouts and indifference to structural reforms. Kuttner concludes that “the perception that Obama is closer to Wall Street than Main Street is more than an image problem, it’s reality.”