resident Obama's 2008 run was successful, in part, because of grassroots support, with millions of backers chipping in whatever they could — even as little as a $1 — to fuel his historic campaign. But Obama also raked in millions from titans on Wall Street, outraising John McCain $16 million to $9 million, says Nicholas Confessore at The New York Times Magazine. Four years later, Wall Street is pouring money into super PACs that support Mitt Romney, after Obama boosted government oversight of the financial system and called for higher taxes on the rich. Former donors are saying Obama "scapegoated" Wall Street for the recession, and "unfairly demonized" the wealthy, says Confessore. One financier reportedly suggested that Obama deliver a speech calling for an end to attacks on the rich, to try to induce the same healing effect as Obama's famous 2008 speech on race. Has Obama's Wall Street rhetoric been too harsh?
Obama has been a model of restraint: "Wall Street excess helped lead to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, inflicting untold economic suffering on millions and millions of Americans," says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. Obama's response "was by any reasonable measure moderate and restrained," and yet Wall Street has "responded with an extraordinary outburst of resentment, grievance, and self-pity." There's nothing Obama can "say to make these people happy, short of declaring that rampant inequality is a good thing."
"It's not easy being a Wall Street gazillionaire these days"
In fact, he hasn't been nearly tough enough: Obama's financial reform law, the Dodd-Frank Act, was "nibbled to death by lobbyists" and is "embarrassingly ineffective," says Jason Linkins at The Huffington Post. At best, Dodd-Frank creates "the impression that maybe — just maybe! — some degree of financial regulation is desirable." While the economy continues to struggle, "corporate America has been posting record profits," the stock market is soaring, "and, of course, no one has actually been punished for that time the global economy nearly died in a ditch."
"Wall Streeter wants Obama to give moving speech about how awesome rich people are"
But Obama's trying to play both sides: Wall Street donors believe that "the administration's strategy was to talk tough in public and play damage control in private, and they were sick of playing along," says Confessore. Even in private, Obama hasn't hidden his disdain for the industry, and is "unwilling to stroke donors or cultivate them." And Wall Street executives have no interest in donating money if it's going to be used to attack the very industry they work for.
"Obama's not-so-hot-date with Wall Street"
Bankers shouldn't even call themselves oppressed: It probably should "go without saying that the wealthiest Americans have not faced, over the course of American history, treatment that has much in common with the way black people have been treated over the course of American history," says Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic. It's really incredible that one banker reportedly compared a potential speech catering to the wealthy to Obama's famous 2008 speech on race. Talk about being out of touch.
"Obama woos Wall Street as the real Mr. Inevitable"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- Why would a young person today be religious?
- How Captain America won over China
- The 6-year-old who woke up from a coma with a different personality
- Why Holy Thursday is so important to Christians
- Texas has been holding this man hostage for 12,600 days
- How conservatives learned to hate Hollywood
- Israel and Russia are getting along. Have the neocons noticed?
Subscribe to the Week