Marking 20 years
of bold journalism,
reader supported.

What Obama Didn't Change: Corporate America's Power

Progressives should note his Wall Street advisors and corporate-backed campaign, among other unfulfilled promises.

Bill Tieleman 6 Nov

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at [email protected] or visit his blog.

image atom
Barack Obama makes a campaign stop on Sept. 21, 2008 in Charlotte, NC. Photo via Action Sports Photography, Shutterstock.

"The country Obama inherited was indeed in shambles, but Obama took a bad situation and, in certain ways, made it worse." -- Director Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick

One candidate for president of the United States supports privatized health care, extrajudicial killing of opponents in foreign countries, wiretapping without warrants, and big business bailouts.

This candidate's $1-billion campaign is heavily corporately funded, with Microsoft and Google among his largest contributors, and he has Wall Street economic advisors and the strong support of the former speechwriter for ex-right-wing presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

The other candidate is Republican Mitt Romney.

So whether Democrat Barack Obama or Romney occupies the White House, corporate America wins the election.

And while there are substantive and serious reasons for U.S. Democrats to work hard for their candidate, the political system is stacked against any president making what Obama himself called "Change we can believe in" before his 2008 victory.

That historic election fuelled the hopes of progressive Americans, not just as the country's first black president but because Obama represented an opportunity to dramatically shift the balance of power towards ordinary citizens.

Obama made big promises -- to help unions organize more workers and ban permanent replacements for strikers, to close the horrendous Guantanamo Bay detention camp for foreign prisoners in Cuba, to increase the minimum wage and tie it to inflation, to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement, to reject wiretapping of Americans without warrants, to bring in a public health care system -- not boost private health insurers' profits, and much more.

Four years later, those promises remain unfulfilled.

Still waiting for change

Obama can't be blamed for all his failures -- certainly the Republican Party has done all it can to frustrate his agenda, especially after gaining a House majority in 2010.

But Republicans didn't force Obama to appoint Wall Street millionaires to key jobs in his administration or fail to jail a single banker from the 2008 sub-prime mortgage financial meltdown that rocked the world or at least try to reform the insanely expensive American political system.

Obama's disappointments have forced many progressive Americans to frantically plead with voters to ignore flaws in his record because a Romney presidency would be far, far worse -- true, but not the most appealing argument.

Faced with that choice, most Canadians would vote for Obama, even though on many issues he is significantly to the political right even of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Obama may be able, like Bill Clinton before him, to overcome Democrat voter discouragement and win a second term.

But those voters should be under no illusion that Obama will magically transform into a progressive president.

He's simply better than the alternative.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

  • Share:

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.


  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context


The Barometer

Are You Concerned about AI?

Take this week's poll