Likewise, the sharing economy has begun to allow us to grow back the connective social tissue that social media tore asunder. And the shift from communal work spaces like those offered by WeWork to communal, hostel-style living is already under way. He was signing as a free agent with a team filled with really good friends, rather than the one that had criminally underpaid him and refused to sign any decent players to surround him with.
Strange as it is to say, their careers ran in parallel. Before Obama gave his career-catapulting speech at the Democratic National Convention, reporter and later Obama biographer David Mendell asked if he was ready for his big moment. Obama smiled wide, Mendell later wrote. I got some game. But at the time, LeBron was a year-old, still just a month out of his rookie season, figuring his way around a league that eyed the young phenom and all his hype warily.
After all, if a skinny black kid with an awkward jumper could make it all the way to the White House, what else is possible? Is that too strong a word for you? BS : Reform would be to say that it is bad public policy when six financial institutions have assets equivalent to 57 percent of the GDP of the United States. That would be reform. In fact, the major banks are larger today than they were before Dodd-Frank. FF : Okay, you like Obama. BS : This country is a lot better as a result of Obama, and he had to do that against fierce opposition.
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On the other hand, to my mind, the great issue of our time is the movement toward oligarchy. And that means the power of Wall Street, the power of corporate America, the power of the billionaire class to own the politics of this country. So we have made progress, but the fundamental issue of taking on the one percent and the greed of the billionaire class, that has not occurred. Do you think that that misses the point?
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BS : The president appoints people. President Obama, in a big mistake, basically did what Republicans wanted and appointed Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson to chair a commission on the deficit crisis. So that tells you something. Still, the bottom line is: Today in America, the economy is in much better shape than when Obama first came in. He deserves credit. More people have health insurance, poverty is down.
On the other hand, the angst of the moment is that people see this country moving into an oligarchic form of society — where we have a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality where the political system is being bought by Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers.
BS : Right. I think what the president had to do, which he chose not to do, is to make it clear that we have got to deal with the greed of the one percent of corporate America and Wall Street, that their practices cannot continue. That is an approach he has chosen not to take. In order to have real leverage going forward, he needed to scare the crap out of these guys on some level.
BS : In , he ran one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States. Brilliant campaign. Did he mobilize the energy and the coalition that he put together into a powerful political force which would have helped him fight for the change that this country needed? The answer is no. BS : Yeah, it is harder than you think to mobilize people. That is a true point. Did he do everything that he could have? I think the answer is no, he did not. Rather than making the Republicans an offer they could not refuse because millions of people were standing behind him, he chose to sit down with Republicans and negotiate.
I think his politics are not the politics of taking on these people. Americans are addicted to hope. We think the world is infinitely malleable and that with enough pluck and elbow grease anything is possible.
We believe that everything and everyone can be redeemed, that the movie will always end with the hero walking away from the wreckage or the town cheering. We believe in conversions and getting a new life. We scoff at the ancient Stoic lesson that recognizing limits and living within them is the key to happiness.
Limits are undemocratic, reality a construct. And tomorrow is another day. We bring the same attitude to politics. That and a very short memory. We spend the next two years stewing and blaming Washington and the media, encouraged to do so by Washington and the media. And then, as the debates and primaries and conventions come round again, we forget all that and convince ourselves that this time the messiah really is coming.
We are a nation of children. Barack Obama understood the power of hope — he campaigned on it.
Even Bill Clinton, who ran as the man from Hope, did not have the audacity to present himself as the man heading for Hope. It appears that Obama genuinely believed his own rhetoric. But once elected, Obama did what grown-up politicians do: He got to work. He learned and talked to experts; he read documents and stayed up late. He was responsible.
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For this, he was punished. He raised expectations he could not meet, which just infuriated the kids, who kept pouting until Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders offered them ice cream. Even Shepard Fairey, the artist who designed his famous hope campaign poster, abandoned Obama for Sanders. When, he wonders, will they ever grow up? The answer is never. Because we treat bowing to reality as a punishable offense, we are stuck in this cycle.
There is no exit. Once an anxious friend who read his stories asked him whether he thought there was any hope in the world at all. Under the radar, they and their donor group poured money into races all over the country. Many of the ugly lies and slurs you see now were first trotted out in those midterm races.
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The single most important item the Koch network has obstructed is congressional action on climate change. They and their allies represent the combined force of the fossil-fuel industry, and they have funded contrarian science that denies the reality of climate change. By spending strategically, they successfully killed efforts to put a price on carbon pollution — the so-called cap-and-trade bill — as well as many other efforts to help the country move toward alternative energy.
The president told the New York Times recently that climate change is the most terrifying issue we face. The story of the economy in the Obama years is in many ways a tale of loose money. Back in the grim autumn of , Chair Ben Bernanke took the most important weapon in his arsenal, the Fed-funds target rate, and slashed it all the way to zero — an unprecedented move and a clear signal of just how seriously he was taking the economic emergency. That move, along with three rounds of so-called quantitative easing, or QE, where the Fed pumped money into the financial markets by buying bonds, constituted the biggest and mightiest monetary-policy experiment ever undertaken: an unorthodox attempt by the Fed, along with other leading central banks, to prevent the collapse of the global economy.
There was one minuscule rate hike, of one-quarter of one percent, in December The effects of ZIRP and QE were wide-ranging and mostly felt in the prices of financial assets, like stocks, bonds, and real estate. For financial investors, the Obama years turned out exceptionally well. But really they have the central bank to thank, much more than the president. What if we had the singularity and nobody noticed? In , Barack Obama had been on the trail for weeks, using a BlackBerry like all the cool campaigners, when the new thing went on sale and throngs lined up for it.
The new thing had a silly name: iPhone.
The iPhone was a phone the way the Trojan horse was a horse. At the Rio Olympics you could see people, having flown thousands of miles to be in the arena with the athletes, watching the action through their smartphones. As though they needed the mediating lens to make it real. This device, this gadget — a billion have been made and we scarcely know what to call it. Contact lenses have been rumored; implants are only a matter of time.
Silicon passes carbon in the life-form sweepstakes.