Senator Obama began a two-week long national tour on Monday to explain his economic agenda. He accuses the Republicans of overspending on the Iraq war and for a policy of corporate handouts. Instead, he is promising to rebuild America’s decaying infrastructure and health and education systems. Senior News Analyst Aijaz Ahmad comments on Obama’s project.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Thank you for joining us for the next part of our interview with Aijaz Ahmad on the real differences between Obama and McCain. Thanks for joining us. Aijaz, here’s what Obama had to say about John McCain’s economic policy just a few days ago.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): He calls himself a fiscal conservative, but on the campaign trail he’s a passionate critic of government spending. And yet he has no problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for big corporations and a permanent occupation of Iraq, policies that have left our children with a mountain of debt. I have a different vision for the future. Instead of spending $12 billion a month to rebuild Iraq, I think it’s time we invested in our roads, and schools, and bridges, and started to rebuild America, instead of handing out giveaways to corporations that don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them, it’s time we start giving a hand up to families that are trying to pay their medical bills and send their children to college.
So, Aijaz, first of all, in terms of language, that is a significant difference with McCain. Maybe you can talk about how significant you think it is. And then perhaps is this campaign rhetoric? Or is he getting at something more profound than that?
AHMAD: Well, one is a basic philosophical difference. Fiscal conservatives are happy to spend on armament, they’re happy to run tremendous deficits by giving tax breaks to corporations, but they are fiscal conservatives when it comes to social spending, on building of infrastructures, and education or health, and so on. So one is his attack directly on this notion of and this practice of fiscal conservatism. But then there’s a very sharp distinction as to where his spending would go. The other thing that I find very fascinating in this is that conservatives, right wing generally, when talking of deficits, would then talk about cutting government spending, smaller government, etcetera. That is not where Obama goes. He actually talks about radically redirecting the directions of expenditure and investments.
JAY: Into infrastructure.
AHMAD: You know, and therefore talking about a productive economy, building the infrastructure, building health, education, and so on, putting people to work, rather than tax cuts to the rich, spend money on building the empire.
JAY: It’s interesting. There’s a split in the Republican Party on whether this spending on oil that benefits oil companies, that benefits the military-industrial complex, versus those that are really terrified of inflation and this growing debt, and in that respect it’s quite interesting. Rupert Murdoch seems to be backing Obama—the owner of Fox News. Here’s a quick clip from Murdoch.
RUPERT MURDOCH, CEO, NEWS CORP: Have you read his education policy and what it is? It’s just great. He’s got to revolutionize the education system in this country is a total disgrace. If we’re going to compete with the rest of the world,–we’ve got the rising China and India and Brazil.
INTERVIEWER: Does he have to smash the teacher’s unions to do that? Or does he just have to take them on—.
MURDOCH: Look, he can pay them all he likes, double their salaries, but they’ve got to do different things.
So Murdoch represents a section of the American elite who actually see the necessity for strengthening the American economy. And this battle between the military-oil side and the side more interested in the domestic economy is a classic battle, and it sometimes gets very furious.
AHMAD: My sense is that there are two issues involved here. There are people like Rupert Murdoch, whom you mention, people like Soros, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, people who look at global economy as a whole and relate the possibility of prosperity in American economy to the global economy and its role in the global economy. And Obama’s promise to create a productive economy in the United States attracts them, because that is part of their project for re-balancing the global capitalist system. The other part of it is a very fundamental structural impasse within the US economy, where within the whole structure of dominant capital, capital connected with weapons and the oil corporations has become so dominant at the expense of all the other sectors that people who are not connected with those particular sectors or who worry about the US economy as a whole are deeply upset about this structural impasse. And they want to correct that impasse, and Obama attracts them because he promises to do so.
JAY: Taking on the oil companies also opens an area in change of US foreign policy. The oil companies, the military-industrial complex need this aggressive foreign policy abroad. It drives up the prices of oil, but it hurts the domestic economy. So whether or not Obama takes on the oil companies is going to be a litmus test of whether this really is a presidency for change or not. Please join us for the next part of our interview with Aijaz Ahmad, where we’ll ask the question, “Will Obama really take on the oil companies?”
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.