Top Ten Things That Have and Have Have Not Changed In the Era of Obama

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In the spirit of Bill Clinton's 1992 “the Man From Hope” slogan, Barack Obama in 2008 declared himself the candidate of Hope and Change. So what about it? Are the real changes, if we can find them, at all what Obama voters hoped for?

Top Ten Things That Have and Haven't Changed In the Era of Obama

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon


Black America's median household wealth, compared to that of whites, has sharply declined under Barack Obama. That's a change. Just not a good one.

This is a consequence of the foreclosure epidemic which began in 2007 and 2008 and has always been concentrated in black and poor neighborhoods. But the Obama administration has allowed the foreclosure wave to continue without any letup during its first three and a half years, rejecting demands for foreclosure moratoriums or other measures which would make it easier for large numbers of families to remain in their homes. Where the ratio of white to black household wealth four years ago was around 11 to one, today it is greater than 20 to 1.


African Americans still make up 12 or 13% of the nation's population, remain more than 40% of its locked down and locked up, No change there at all..

Latinos, who make up another 13%, are about 30% of the nation's prisoners and rising, a slight change, but distinctly for the worse. So seven of every ten US prisoners are from the one quarter of the nation that is black or brown, and that percentage is rising.


The fifty-year war on drugs continues. No change for the better at all there.

Like every president since Nixon, Barack Obama has thwarted states that wanted to decriminalize small amounts of drugs, refuses to treat drug use as a medical problem rather than a police one. Like its predecessors, the Obama administration has expanded the frontiers of the drug war into places like Mexico and Colombia, where the US demand for illegal drugs has given birth to vast industries which may be among the largest and most lucrative, and certainly the most deadly, in those countries..


Too big to fail” banksters and other financial criminals are still above the law. No change here either.

Not a single person responsible for crashing the economy in 2007 has seen the inside of a prison. It's just not going to happen. Wall Street insiders give as much, and often more to Democrats than they do to Republicans. So the Obama administration has protected banks and lenders and their co-conspirators from prosecution, and shoveled more than ten trillion more at banksters, including those based outside the US, than the Bush-Cheney gang ever did.

It's worth remembering that when Bush could not pass his own bailout bill six weeks before the 2008 election, he called Barack Obama into town to spend the week on the phone with Congressional Democrats getting them to switch their votes. So the only change here has been the party in charge.


Although governments will create trillions of new dollars to give to banksters and borrow it back from them at interest in the name of “fixing the economy”, it still won't create millions of jobs for the unemployed. No change:

In the 1930s, the federal government addressed the Depression by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs out of thin air. They built roads and subways, parks, recreational facilities, dams and bridges. They did theater and historical research like tracking down and interviewing the last living survivors of slavery. It was called the WPA, or Works Progress Administration, under the administration of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The White House could do the same today, creating millions of new jobs, repairing and rebuilding infrastructure, building high speed rail, refitting millions of homes for energy efficiency. But Barack Obama disdains the heritage of his own Democratic party. He sounds more like Hoover than FDR today when he says that it's the exclusive role of the private sector to create jobs.


It's still almost impossible to organize a union and fight for your own rights on the job anywhere in the US. No change:

There are laws against firing workers who try, but employers are unafraid to break those laws, while working people are very much afraid to lose their jobs. Candidate Obama did promise to put on his comfortable shoes and walk a picket line. Maybe he just lied. President Obama has frozen the wages and pensions of government workers, and endorsed the traditionally Republican idea that public employee and private pensions and health plans cause economic distress to employes and the economy.


The bipartisan corporate-funded drive to “reform” education by breaking teachers unions, turning teachers into Wal-Mart style temps, hi-stakes testing, dissolving public schools and replacing them by privately owned charter schools, exempt from public accountability continues apace. No change there at all.

Bush's Secretary of Education called teachers unions “terrorist organizations.” Obama's Secretary of Education declared that Katrina was the best thing that could have happened to public education in New Orleans.

If anything, the Obama administration's Race To The Top program pushed the envelope further than Republicans would have been able to without sustained resistance. It required states to compete for available federal education funds based upon how many teachers they can fire, how many public schools they can close, how many so-called “merit pay” schemes and similar atrocities they can inflict. Just as only a vicious warmonger like Nixon could have made the first presidential trip to China, only a black Democrat could have successfully pushed the education policy envelope this far in the anti-democratic directions of charters and educational privatization. If anything, the Obama's heinous education policies provide an even further rightward step-off point for those of Republicans like Mitt Romney. It didn't have to be that way.


US troops are in more than 140 countries worldwide, and the US, with under 5% of the world's people, spends more on the military than the other 95% of humanity combined. Not much change there.

On the other hand, in the first weeks of his administration, President Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize. So the pan-European elite, which feared and despised George Bush, loves Obama. That's a kind of change they call a distinction without a difference.

The Afghan war drags on, apparently indefinitely. A hundred thousand US-paid mercenaries remain in Iraq, and the war there too is far from over. On the other hand, Barack Obama has been able to use cruise missiles and drones to kill black and brown civilians including children in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, among other places. US military forces took part in the invasion and overthrow of the African nation of Libya, and the White House has openly rather than covertly sent unknown numbers of US special forces into nobody knows how many countries of Central Africa. A Bush administration doing this would have been greeted with nationwide street demonstrations. But a black Democrat gets a near automatic pass. Is this what the real “race card” looks like?


A US president is still orders torture, murder, indefinite imprisonment without trial, and lets corporations that commit crimes abetting those of government employees completely off the hook. But there is has been a change here.

When the Bush-Cheney gang did all this stuff, they did it as scofflaws. The Obama Administration has rammed through legislation in Congress and asked for court decisions to cloak most of the previously illegal torture, murder, kidnapping, warrantless spying and similar crimes with thin veneers of legality. This is the all-important difference between having an MBA as president as opposed to a professor of constitutional law.


Deep, real and significant change here. Black politics, at one time heavily influenced by what Martin Luther King called opposition to the triple evils of racism, militarism, and economic injustice, has shrunken and shriveled under the influence of a new class of corporate funded black political leaders like Corey Booker and Barack Obama.

Black politics ain't about fighting for decent housing or jobs any more. It's not about diverting resources from the war machine to uplifting the downtrodden. It's not about funding education or working for the end of the prison state. It's certainly not about defying unjust laws in the pursuit of just ends, as the Freedom Movement once routinely did.

People forget that King was murdered in Memphis in the middle of a sanitation workers strike in which the National Guard had been called out to patrol the city, and students had stayed home from high school for days to participate in illegal mass actions.

21st century black politics is about electing black politicians, no more and no less. That, and observing Black History Month.

This is far from an exhaustive list, of course.

We could have mentioned the fact that big oil, big agribusiness, big insurance, and big pharma all continue to get whatever they ask for. We might have pointed out that local and state fiscal crises are constantly being provoked to which the solutions are always “public private partnerships” a standard euphemism for privatizations of public assets like roads, waterworks, generation facilities and public services like payroll, parking and fleet management. We could have pointed out that medical costs are still factors in a majority of personal bankruptcies, and the FCC has essentially abandoned any pretense of regulating the cable and broadcast industries, preferring to simply lease out or auction off the electromagnetic spectrum and leave it all to the “free market”.

Some things have changed the last four years, and some haven't. One thing that seems never to change, as long as our choices are restricted to the two corporate parties, is that while you can squint hard enough to make distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, there are few important differences.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA, and is a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)


I have NOT been, disenfranchised;redistricted

Disenfranchisement of voters: I thought I might lose my vote with new voter ID laws, should they come into use in NY, due to not having a driving license, and my birth certificate has my father's last name on it, not the current name  but figured I'm OK because I'm on permanent list for Absentee Ballot for Homebound Disabled.  On the list for many years.

But, I did not get my ballot for the primary. A first.  Voting at same address for over 40 years.  Never missed an election, to the best of my  knowledge, since coming of age in 1961.   Odd to be dropped from list. see update below

    Very little talk on radio re primary date and I missed knowing. Have been busy with environmental pollution due to renovation of building (rental) and summons to jury duty, although on "permanent removal list" since late 1990s.  Would you say the system is broken or deliberately left to screw up?

      I had a strange ballot one year when Giuliani was mayor.  It had the question (referendum) about the proposed football stadium.  The ballots went out before the then-mayor stopped the vote on that because it would surely have lost.  I saved the ballot as a historic memento.  They did send me a new. correct ballot  in time.

     Ballots for absentee voters, including Absentee Ballot for Homebound Disabled have to be returned to the Board of Elections (no more pre-paid postage, thanks to  both Dem & Repub state political parties letting it go;it's an oversized envelope and the p.o. couldn't tell me the correct postage because every state has different size absentee ballots, they said in 2008) by election day.  We have a real primary race in my district for Congress.  Perhaps the Bd of Elections can send a ballot Express Mail, as they did once before, to send correct ballot after sending out the stadium referendum ballot. Update:  spouse made calls and found out that "Rangel is not our Congressman any more" "No one can tell me who our Representative is now or the district".  Requires more calls.
 I voted for Rangel in his first primary for the House.  I have had second thoughts about that vote many times.  I do want to give credit to wonderful staffers over the decades at his office.  I had a major problem when a gov't office "lost" my file for almost a year as I waited for benefits and a social work staffer got the agency to look for my "lost" file.  The gov't saves money by being inefficient in getting benefits to people. I learned a lot as my political education grew.  A major point here is we were redistricted recently and never knew it, after at least 4 decades with the same member of Congress seat.

Yes. And so?

OK.  I get it.  I agree with everything in the article.
So what do we do?

1.  Sit around like a group of yentas* mumbling, “Isn’t it awful?”
     *Spanish slang:  Refunfuñona.  Grumbler or whiner.  
2.  Sit out this election because it doesn’t matter who wins.
3.  Take some medicine that suppresses nausea and vote for the incumbant.
4.  Vote for Cynthia McKinney or Rocky Anderson realizing that this may assure a Romney Victory.
5.  Commit Hari-Kari.
6.  Move to Sweden or Canada.  Oh, wait–these countries are now run by right wing lunatics too.  Maurice Bishop’s Grenada?  The Sandanista’s Nicaragua?  Bali?
7.  Join, work with, support financially groups that are defending principles we believe in.
8.  Become a suicide bomber and take out Fox News, Monsanto, The Koch Brothers, the Governors of New Jersey and Wisconsin–if you can get them in the same room, or Playthell Bejamin whose apologies for Obama should be a capital offense.

I’ve been a coward most of my life, do not want to die, and plan to stay in this country so–to quote someone wittier than me, I won’t become another victim of American foreign policy.  So my choices will be numbers 1,7, and I know I’m going to get beat up for this, number 3.

Everyday we face dilemmas and are obliged to choose among the lesser of two, or the least of a myriad of evils.  I despise Romney and his rotten, deranged cult and do not want to see the son of a bitch in the White House.  Clinton was a low life scum bag, but Reagan and Bush were worse.  Because of their judicial appointments on The Supreme Court as well as lower courts, important laws have been stifled, not enforced, or overturned.

I realize that the nice things I’ve said about Beverly will not save me from her wrath, but the 2012 election requires weighing the consequences of not choosing the lesser of two evils.  There is something at stake whether you want to accept it or not.  I plan to fight.  And keeping Romney out of the White House is part of the fight.


Others like Scalia, Roberts, Alito, or Thomas?


Here is a list of the members of the Supreme Court and their ages:

Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr. is 55 (DOB: 27 January, 1955).
Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia is 74 (DOB: 11 March, 1936).
Justice Anthony McLeod Kennedy is 73 (DOB: 23 July, 1936).
Justice Clarence Thomas is 61 (DOB: 23 June, 1948).
Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is 77 (DOB: 15 March, 1933).
Justice Stephen Gerald Breyer is 71 (DOB: 14 August 1938).
Justice Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. is 59 (DOB: 1 April, 1950).
Justice Sonia Sotomayor is 56 (DOB: 25 June, 1954).
Justice Elena Kagan is 50 (DOB: 28 April, 1960).

There exists the possibility that the next president could appoint four Supreme Court Justices.  Do you want that president to be Romney?

Dems, Reps, Supreme Court are gatekeeper operatives

As   with   the   President   of   the   U.S.,  any   serious   candidate  for   the   Supreme  Court   must   have   the  approval of   corporate  america &  AIPAC.

The Supreme  Court   members  are  just   gatekeeper   frontmen/ women,  just  like   Obama   &  Romney.

Anyone  who  believes   otherwise   is   very  very   naive.

Yes and no.

Don't disagree with you Joell.  There are nuances, however.  And these nuances may be the difference between breathing and suffocating.

Roberts, Scalia, and Alito are Nazis.  Thomas is a corrupt imbecil.  Kennedy has made some appalling decisions, but some decent ones.  Ginsberg, Kagen, and Sotomayor could limit laws that hurt women, immigrants, Hispanics, and blacks.  We live in this world and must occasionally choose the less horrible of alternatives to assure our survival.  I'd rather have Obama or Clinton choosing the next Supreme Court Justices than Reagan, Bush, or Romney, even if they are all AIPAC / Goldman Sachs toadies.

4 years of "change we can believe in"

Many  are  "suffocating"   in  this  country under  Obama:  tent   cities,  even  in  small  towns like   mine; the mentally   ill  with   their  belongings   in  a   shopping  cart, sleeping  under   bridges,  people   having  to  choose   between paying   for   medicine   or    rent. The  list  is  seemingly   endless.  Tell   these   people   Obama   is   better   than   Bush!

Also,  its   not   just  about  this  country. tens  of   thousands  of  human  beings   have    been  murdered   under  Obama's   tenure in  Iraq,  Afgan,   Pakistan;  and   they're  still  being   murdered  on a   daily   basis.  Tell  the   people  these  BOMBS  are  being dropped  on,   Obama    is  a  little  "less  horrible"   than  Bush.

Your   Dem/Rep  analogy  reminds   me  of  a   Malcolm  X  quote:

“You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress"

b.:kept list of Dems who voted for Roberts & Alito

beverly:For a long time, I kept a list of those Dem. Senators who voted to confirm Roberts and Alito.  The Dems did not offer much protest and Schumer, I think may have "sponsored" Alito. Not completely sure on who he "sponsored" since the man nominee came from NY.  Obama's nominees have not changed the balance on the Supreme Court.  

  There were vote lists for 2 votes in Congress that I kept for years - so I would not vote for any name on the list in any future election, should they be running for an office I could vote for.  One was the vote to authorize force against Iraq: I wrote Hillary Clinton and Carolyn Maloney if they voted "yes" for authorization of force, I'd never vote for them for any office in the future. Maloney was a pol whose work I noticed but not my elected official, so I have not yet voted against her.  But, H. Clinton also voted "yes" and I never voted for her again.  And, as I said, I kept a list of  Dem.Senators and their votes for Roberts and Alito.  If I knew about Roberts and Alito's conservatives views and records, then so did the Senators.

Sheepies are afraid of revolution.

Life in the U.S. reached a nadir in the 80s with the election of Reagan.  However, even when he fired the air traffic controllers, there was no uprising.  Ain't going to happen.

To assert that no differences exist between the judges appointed by Clinton and Obama and the ones appointed by the Bushes and Reagan is nonsense.  Check out the alignment in some recent important court decisions:

I'll rest my case with this comment.  I normally find myself in agreement with Joell, Beverly, and "Nix";  I knew I'd take flak for this comment, but I stand by it.  I wonder what the Enlightened Cynic would say?

Nonsensical arugment

That's got to be the most ignorant argument conceivable.

Only someone who never pays attention to Kagan's and Sotomayor's performance since they've been on the SCOTUS bench could possibly make such a panty-wetter arugment.

Neither Obama nor Romney should ever be allowed to pick any judge.

Don't vote evil

Vote Jill Stein. . .exactly, I voted for Nader, I voted for Cynthia McKinney, I'm against voting for any evil, be it the newsy espoused "lesser evil" or the more intelligently articulated (by Mr. Ford) "more effective evil" --- once more I vote against evil, for that is the only possibility left us.

Great list and article, Mr. Dixon, outstanding, sir!

1963:  President Kennedy murdered

1965:  Malcolm X murdered

1968:  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy murdered

2012 --- so what's changed?

Fewer jobs (something like 1/8 to 1/4 the actual number of jobs exist today as existed in 1990), less opportunity, when there really wasn't a whole lot to begin with.

Do the same thing and vote lesser evil, or vote against all evil!

(The only intelligent instances I've seen over the past 12 years, of elected officials, was Cynthia McKinney's grilling of SecDef Donald Rumsfeld about that missing $2.3 trillion of DoD monies --- and Rumsfeld publicly had a brain fart or freeze, and couldn't speak.

The other time was when Alan Grayson was grilling the Inspector General of the entire Federal Reserve System, who responded that while she was sitting on both her hands, she still couldn't locate her butt!

Both were voted out, receiving not only no help from their party, but probably the DLC aided and abetted their enemies to help them lose.)