Fact-Checking the Democratic Party Platform
By J.A. Myerson / truth-out.org

Much hay was made of Paul Ryan's dishonesty when he accepted the Republican Party's nomination for vice president last week in Tampa. Suddenly, everyone was very excited about fact-checking. Predictably, the same scrutiny has not been applied to the recently released Democratic Party platform, which is riddled with lies.

"The president cracked down on Wall Street recklessness."

Two efforts, above all, have given Wall Street reform proponents hope, and neither of them can meaningfully be said to have cracked down on recklessness.

First, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill has not even been put into effect yet; regulators are still trying to figure out what the vaunted Volcker Rule will actually look like when implemented. Bankers have stalled the process in the hopes that they can roll back the parts of the bill they don't like in a new legislative session. Crucially, Wall Street fat cats would only do away with parts of the bill. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein recently said: "If I could push a button and eliminate Dodd-Frank would I do it? No, I would not."

"The vast bulk of it is good," said Blankfein. "Some parts go too far." Even when the bill was being debated in 2010, Blankfein admitted, "We will be among the biggest beneficiaries of reform." Some crackdown.

Second, the financial fraud unit the president established to root out the vast amounts of crime that fueled the mortgage securitization juggernaut has gone nowhere. At first, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman promised indictments by early in the summer. None have been issued, and many of the crimes the unit might have punished have reached their statutes of limitations. It turns out that Schneiderman has instead been busy investigating private equity barons' abuse of tax loopholes. Coincidentally or not, private equity is what made Mitt Romney his hundreds of millions of dollars, and the tax loopholes are an ongoing theme in president Obama's campaign against him.

As new abuses continue to roll out of the financial sector, it is clear that bankers' recklessness has survived President Obama's alleged "crackdown" unscathed.

"Because the president and the Democratic Party believe in the right to organize and in supporting America's workers with strong labor laws, the president rolled back harmful labor policies designed to undermine collective bargaining rights."

Barack Obama has consistently adopted this combative tone with regards to collective bargaining rights. "If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain," he told a South Carolina audience in 2007, when he was trying to defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary there, "when I'm in the White House, I'll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself."

"I'll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America," said Obama, "because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner."

But when thousands upon thousands of workers took to the snowy streets of Madison, Wisconsin, in January of 2011 to engage in the highest-profile fight around collective bargaining rights in recent memory, the president said that a visit from him would have been a "distraction." Perhaps the Wisconsin example is less than dispositive, since the White House can't "roll back" state laws. But it is worth remembering that Wisconsin-like restrictions on public employees' bargaining over wages and benefits are applicable at the federal level - and far from rolling those back, the president took advantage of them, imposing in the budget process a two-year wage freeze on federal employees to deal with a "fiscal crisis" created by the banks.

It is, after all, in Bank of America Stadium that the president will accept his party's nomination, in the great state of North Carolina, the union density of which is the lowest in these United States.

"The president is committed to continuing to fight unfair trade practices that disadvantage American producers and workers."

The Democrats have been trying to pound home the idea that Mitt Romney's movement of American jobs overseas makes him economically unpatriotic, but they tend not to say that the free trade agreements that facilitated that movement were the product of Democratic governance. Specifically, the free-trade craze began in earnest when President Clinton signed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), dismantling national sovereignty where corporate profit-seeking is concerned.

It would be one thing if the 2012 Democrats were running to reverse the course set by the 1994 Democrats, but they are doing exactly the opposite. Instead of reforming present free trade agreements to provide transnational equity, adopt environmental and labor standards, and extend freedom of movement to everyday people in the signatory countries, they have been secretly concocting NAFTA on steroids: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Leaked documents revealed that the TPP would, in the words of Dr. Brian Moench, writing for Truthout earlier this summer: "(1) severely limit regulation of foreign corporations operating within US boundaries, giving them greater rights than domestic firms; (2) extend incentives for US firms to move investments and jobs to lower-wage countries; and (3) establish an alternative legal system that gives foreign corporations and investors new rights to circumvent US courts and laws, allowing them to sue the US government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for lost revenue due to US laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges or their investment 'expectations.'"

President Obama is not fighting bad trade policy; he's accelerating it to unprecedented levels.

"The president and the Democratic Party have steadily worked to build an international framework to combat climate change. We will seek to implement agreements and build on the progress made during climate talks in Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban, working to ensure a response to climate change policy that draws upon decisive action by all nations."

The climate crisis is the most important single challenge facing the world, and the tiny amount of space the Democrats have devoted to it in their platform is occupied by distortions like this. In each successive climate talk, the United States has acted to stall the process, defang the agreements, undermine the international community, and endanger the current and future people of the world.

Here is grassroots campaign 350.org's founder Bill McKibben on why "Copenhagen failed spectacularly": "Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving 'Copenhagen Accord' that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism."

In Durban, the United States refused to agree to action to take place soon, instead pushing for implementation of an agreement in 2020, which Jamie Henn, McKibben's associate, wrote, "isn't just a delay, it's a death sentence." Wrote Henn of the United States' posture in Durban, "the only thing the U.S. brought to the table was a wrecking ball."

President Obama has steadily undermined international efforts to confront the gravest global concern, lied about it, distracted from it and gotten away with it.

"Advancing our interests may involve new actions and policies to confront threats like terrorism, but the president and the Democratic Party believe these practices must always be in line with our constitution, preserve our people's privacy and civil liberties, and withstand the checks and balances that have served us so well."

Sixteen years after being born in Denver, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was incinerated in a predator drone strike in Yemen, an attack that was carried out secretly, with no evidence, no democratic oversight and very little domestic compunction about the military slaughter of an American teenager abroad who stood accused of no crime by anyone. We know this despite the fact that the United States officially refuses to admit that it even maintains the drone program responsible, or is even engaged in military action in Yemen - though the platform does brag of having "struck blows against al-Qaeda's leadership in Yemen" with "the full support and close cooperation" of the Saleh dictatorship.

To combat "terrorism," President Obama:

  • Maintains a secret kill list without having to present legal rationale for suspicion and without having to know anything about the dead apart from their ages and genders before declaring them "militants."
  • Maintains secret "black sites," the internal operations and national locations of which officials refuse to divulge to the press or even to Congress.
  • Devolves on himself the right to imprison anyone indefinitely at any time without so much as charging them with a crime.
  • Oversees unmanned aerial strike programs in countries that have specifically and publicly demanded the programs' cessation, in countries where ongoing revolutions reveal the democratic illegitimacy of the governments, and in countries about which not a minute of Congress' time has been devoted to debating.

For all intents and purposes, it is fair to say that, to combat "terrorism," the president of the United States reserves the right to command the most terrifying military force in history to do whatever he wants, anywhere in the world, by any means, whenever


JA Myerson

J.A. Myerson is a reporter for Truthout and Citizen Radio. He is writing a book on 2011, to be published in Spring 2012.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission
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Fact-Checking the Democratic Party Platform