I was in an airport in Florida yesterday and was forced into a terrible, Sophie's Choice-type choice.
I was hours early for a flight and stuck in a relatively small terminal crammed with people. Only one area in the whole wing had empty seats; an unused gate that contained a TV blaring the CNN broadcast of Obama's Labor Day speech at full volume.
So it was either sit underneath a full-volume broadcast of our fearless president bellowing out his latest hollow promises, or the hellish alternative: retreat to gates full of screaming five year-old children, all of them jacked up on sugar and bawling their eyes out because it was the end of Labor Day weekend and their cruel parents were dragging them home from Disneyworld.
I ended up choosing the screaming children. The one open seat in a nearby gate was next to an extended family of Indian tourists. A four year-old boy from that group wearing a cape and brandishing a plastic light saber thought it was funny when he kept saber-swiping at my knees. But sitting through that was better than having to listen to Obama drape himself in Harry Trumanisms and talk about "shared prosperity."
Obama hasn't been a total disaster on labor. Most notably, he stepped up in the Wisconsin mess and at least took sides in that debate, calling the push to end collective bargaining rights an "assault" on unions.
But I remember following Obama on the campaign trail and hearing all sorts of promises before union-heavy crowds. He said he would raise the minimum wage every year; he said he would fight free-trade agreements. He also talked about repealing the Bush tax cuts and ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.
It's not just that he hasn't done those things. The more important thing is that the people he's surrounded himself with are not labor people, but stooges from Wall Street. Barack Obama has as his chief of staff a former top-ranking executive from one of the most grossly corrupt mega-companies on earth, JP Morgan Chase. He sees Bill Daley in his own office every day, yet when it comes time to talk abut labor issues, he has to go out and make selected visits twice a year or whatever to the Richard Trumkas of the world.
Listening to Obama talk about jobs and shared prosperity yesterday reminded me that we are back in campaign mode and Barack Obama has started doing again what he does best – play the part of a progressive. He's good at it. It sounds like he has a natural affinity for union workers and ordinary people when he makes these speeches. But his policies are crafted by representatives of corporate/financial America, who happen to entirely make up his inner circle.
I just don't believe this guy anymore, and it's become almost painful to listen to him.