Why President Obama Is Really No Worse than el Presidente Chávez

This article by James Petras, a former professor of sociology at Binghamton University who claims "a 50-year membership in the class struggle," appeared on September 17 in the Dissident Voice -- a remarkable publication with which I had not previously been familiar. It chastises our beloved President Obama because he has failed to make the tremendous progress attributable to Venezuelan el Presidente Chávez. The author, in slamming President Obama, neglects at least one salient factor: unlike el Presidente Chávez, who has been in office for about ten years, President Obama has had fewer than three years to lift the United States from the morass of capitalism and to bring forth a glorious new society pleasing unto Him. In defense of the author, it does seem as though President Obama has been in office for at least ten years, often even longer.

Here are some of the contrasting great leaps forward made or promised by these two astonishing leaders. Although both will face reelections in 2012 when the economic conditions of their countries will be foremost in the minds of the voters, el Presidente Chávez has moved vigorously to give Venezuela an ideal society while President Obama has failed to do that for the United States. For example,

President Chavez responded via a large scale program in public spending on social programs. Billions were allocated in a massive housing program designed to create one million homes over the next several years. . . .

While few of the promised new homes have actually been built, at least they have been promised. And that's important; elections are coming soon and promises work very well. This, courtesy of Weil at Tal Cual:

Not content to rest upon his housing laurels,

Chavez increased the minimum wage, social security and pension payments, increasing consumption among low income groups, stimulating demand and increasing revenues for small and medium size businesses.

This must have been very hard to do, since Venezuela has eliminated much private economic activity and made most of what remains unprofitable. The takeover of farm lands and food distribution has also resulted in chronic shortages. That's not a problem -- it's a feature, not a bug:

The former paratrooper, who is an avowed fan of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean dictator, and Fidel Castro, Cuba's Communist tyrant, boasted that he has launched a new era of socialist supremacy. He said:

"Socialism is necessarily better than capitalism across the board and, that's what we're proving."

Change we can believe in takes time so patience is necessary! As shown by these graphs from the Washington Post, things are already changing in Venezuela, thanks in part to the firing in 2003 of twenty thousand subversive Venezuelan oil workers, many of whom are now doing their thing in Colombia. Another factor has been the failure to maintain and improve oil infrastructure. This has been good for Venezuela because oil, the Devil's Excrement, can be harmful to the nations where it is produced, as President Obama in his wisdom is also well aware.

The Dissident Voice continues,

The Chavez government sustained living standards by instituting price controls on food and other essentials, which sustained popular demand at the expense of profiteering by the owners of super markets. The Chavez government nationalized lucrative gold mines and repatriated overseas reserves in the course of financing its demand-driven economic recovery program, eschewing tax concessions to the rich and bailouts of bankrupt banks and private businesses.

The article fails to note with appropriate pride that inflation is officially now 25.1 percent -- second only to the Democratic Republic of Congo -- and rising again. This is one of the many areas in which Venezuela leads the world in economic expansion. Others include violent crime --

In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.

Even Mexico’s infamous drug war has claimed fewer lives.

Corruption is also endemic and the just repression of a hostile press, so dangerous to a free and democratic society, is in full bloom.

NEW YORK (February 2, 2010) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemned the recent media crackdown in Venezuela that sent RCTV International (RCTV-I), along with other five cable and satellite TV channels (TV Chile, Ritmo Son, Momentum, America TV, and American Network), off the air last Sunday after they failed to broadcast a speech by President Hugo Chávez. In view of this new attack on freedom of expression, HRF has relaunched its Free RCTV campaign (www.FreeRCTV.com), which aims to raise international awareness about the grave situation of freedom of expression in Venezuela. ...

The president of Venezuela and his government have carried out a relentless campaign against independent media in Venezuela – especially against those who question the government’s policies. The president has singled out editors, newspaper owners, reporters, and in one case even challenged the owner of a news channel to be prepared to face him in a duel.

Obviously, this is all to the good because it's for the people!

Chavez received the Rodolfo Walsh journalism award from Argentina's Universidad Nacional de La Plata "for his unquestionable and authentic commitment to support the freedom of peoples."

During a raucous, two-hour acceptance speech in front of hundreds of students and the university's journalism faculty, Chavez accused large media outlets of "manipulation" and said that in Venezuela today, there is "more freedom of expression and the press than any time in our history."

President Obama, bless his heart, hasn't had the opportunities available to el Presidente Chávez and so hasn't had to try so hard. The media love him. Well, most of the time.

El Presidente Chávez has managed his remarkable accomplishments while fighting a personal battle with cancer, in which he has also been successful due to  heroic Cuban medical advances, Venezuelan health care, and Venezuelan shamans who love him dearly.

Although el Presidente Chávez's promises of hopeful change have not yet been fully implemented and have yet to produce concrete results, they have given the peasants of Venezuela hope for a better future. President Obama, in contrast,

rejected any large scale long term public investments to create jobs. His proposed “Jobs for America” proposal will at best temporarily reduce unemployment by less than five tenths of one percent. In pursuit of policies benefiting Wall Street bondholders, Obama became deeply involved in deficit reduction, meaning large scale cuts in public spending especially in social expenditures. Obama, in agreement with the extreme right wing, agreed to regressive proposals to reduce tax payments for popular Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs. His proposals to fund “Jobs for America” depends on cuts in the Social Security tax which ensures a reduction in payments and a deficit or worse, which would facilitate privatization – handing social security to Wall Street, a trillion dollar plum. ...

Unlike Chavez, who makes a point of highlighting positive job and education policies for Afro and Indo-Venezuelans, Obama ignores the 50% unemployed big city young (18-25) Afro-Americans and Latinos in favor of serving white Wall Street bankers.

President Obama will continue to do his best to do similar things to in the United States, but he needs more support for the Save Obama Bill ("SOB").

Perhaps some unions may be willing to step up to the plate for him.  Still, President Obama's best occasionally seems not to be quite enough. Again from the Dissident Voice,

In contrast to Chavez who pegged pensions and wages to inflation and enforced price controls, Obama froze federal salaries and social security payments resulting in a seven percent decline in real income over the past three years.

Sadly, while el Presidente Chávez is the government, President Obama has two competing and sometimes disobedient branches of government and can't just do it all himself. If he could, he would do great things without the Congress and sometimes he does it without them anyway. Sometimes he tells the judiciary to go pound salt, or something. Through regulation, his administration has already done much to stifle reshape business activity and will certainly do more; as all right left thinking people know, the most important job of government is to regulate the private sector, preferably out of existence. In any event, and as any fool knows, price controls are good and raising pensions and wages in tandem with inflation is the only sensible way to tame make inflation less obnoxious to the little people. Until President Obama is able to do these things, life in the United States will continue to worsen despite his other valiant efforts. For example, as the Dissident Voice notes, "According to the latest US Census Bureau data (September 2011) under Obama over 46.2 million Americans live in poverty, the highest figure ever." Many fewer than 46.2 million Venezuelans live in such poverty, and not only because the population of that country is only about 29 million. The poor in Venezuela have not reached these depths of abject poverty into which the United States has fallen:

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • 43 percent have Internet access.
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.

The poor people in Venezuela are real poor people and must be proud of it. To paraphrase Douglas Adams,

In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry impoverished creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry impoverished creatures from Alpha Centauri.

Adams also observed, wisely I think,

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

The Dissident Voice comparisons are unfair to President Obama in other ways as well. True, he has yet to meet all of the expectations of all of his supporters.

Although some of his initiatives have disappointed some in his base, the big picture for the future must be kept firmly in mind. His is the most transparent administration in history, as he with characteristic humility acknowledged when accepting a transparency award "from the open government community ...— in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House. . . . "

Even el Presidente Chávez could not, with a straight face, claim such a degree of transparency. Since President Obama's actions are all as transparent as they are beneficial, many still love him and he loves them back.

President Obama is no less adverse to the capitalist system than is el Presidente Chávez but must work in difficult circumstances, in slow, measured, and bipartisan fashion. He needs to make the knuckle dragging Tea Party elite understand the overwhelming errors of their views.

With another term in office, President Obama will, in all humility, cause the seas to cease their rise and fire, flame and the sword to be no more. If we all chip in, we can help to Win One For the Ripper! Even $5.00 $25.00 can help. On the other hand, maybe he should just step aside and avoid the whole mess or collaborate with PETA on a nifty porn site. Or perhaps become the secretary general of the United Nations? All wise, he will know what is best for Him.