Our new issue, “The Working Class,” is out in print and online now. Subscribe today and start reading.

Obama Was Always in Wall Street’s Corner

Barack Obama is now trying to pretend he was a finance industry critic who was deeply pained by being forced to bail out Wall Street — even though he was Wall Street’s biggest cheerleader and enabler.

Barack Obama on September 25, 2008 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Former president Barack Obama wants you to now believe that he was actually mad about giant Wall Street handouts that he voted for, then arm-twisted lawmakers to expand — and then rescinded when some of the money might have gone to help homeowners. Obama’s foray into pure fiction is not only absurd — it is a reminder that history can repeat itself if we allow reality to be memory-holed.

Obama’s comments came in a new interview with the New York Times’ Ezra Klein.

“When we came into office, the economy was in a free fall,” the former president said. “We had to scramble and do a bunch of stuff, some of which was inherited, some of which we initiated to stabilize the financial system. People hated it. It’s hard to just underscore how much the bank bailouts just angered everyone, including me.”

Obama had an odd method of expressing his alleged rage.

During the 2008 campaign, he made a public spectacle of leaving the campaign trail to cast a Senate vote for the no-strings-attached bank bailout.

A few months later, Politico reported:

Not yet in the White House but working the phones as if he were, Barack Obama won a crucial Senate vote Thursday clearing the release of $350 billion more in bailout funds from the Treasury Department’s controversial financial rescue program. For the incoming president, the 52-42 roll call represented a first major test of strength, and Obama threw himself into the fight, reaching out to senators on both sides of the aisle and making calls until he had won all but one of the seven Democratic freshmen elected in November.

Then, Obama held a White House meeting with bank CEOs to tell them “help me help you.”

He used his bully pulpit to stop his own party’s efforts to prevent the bailout from subsidizing massive bonus payouts to American International Group (AIG).

And when some of that bank bailout money might have been redirected into helping Americans who were getting thrown out of their homes, Obama signed legislation to rescind his own authority to spend the cash on such a priority.

Official Washington then pretended the bailouts were actually paid back, even though that self-serving talking point is complete bullshit.

Obama doesn’t seem to grant interviews to anyone who might mention these inconvenient facts — he seems only to give access to pundits and news outlets whose obsequiousness guarantees that they’ll never dare ask a single follow-up question. On that score, Klein loyally held up his end of the bargain, allowing Obama to pretend he was an enraged bailout opponent, even though he was the driving force behind the handouts to a finance industry that bankrolled his political career.

The result here is an economic version of the Iraq War, where all the facts and the lying and the greed are erased, with elite media playing the role of the brain-wiping machine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

In a goldfish culture that forgets its entire world every fifteen minutes, we are led to believe that Wall Street was not enthusiastically rewarded for destroying the global economy — and we are asked to forget that the whole grotesque orgy of avarice and corruption ended up setting the conditions for the rise of the Tea Party and then Donald Trump.

Indeed, Obama seems to imply that Trump’s election was a weird anomaly rather than a product of a backlash — he told Klein that “if Donald Trump doesn’t get elected — let’s say a Democrat, a Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton had immediately succeeded me, and the economy suddenly has 3 percent unemployment, I think we would have consolidated the sense that, oh, actually these policies that Obama put in place worked.”

Somehow, we are all supposed to forget that the Obama era was defined by one of the largest drops in workers’ share of corporate income in the modern history of the United States, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute:

That decline was punctuated by huge Democratic electoral losses — which strongly suggests not coincidence but causation. It suggests that the Obama-led Democratic Party kicking the working class in the face while enriching finance billionaires prompted a political backlash that ended up (misguidedly) benefiting the GOP.

But, of course, facts like that are now supposed to just disappear — they can’t be discussed, they can’t be mentioned, and they absolutely cannot be thrown back in his face in an interview. It’s an omerta of sorts — inconvenient facts that challenge and humiliate the Democratic Party corporatism that led to the Trump backlash cannot be mentioned.

No doubt, that kind of sanitization of history helps make liberals feel good.

There’s just one problem: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.