Obama’s high price presence

Practical Idealism: Seeking a balance between today’s political landscape.


Dylan Bryant

Dylan Bryant, Reporter

Barack Obama changed very little. In office, he continued and expanded upon the imperialist foreign policies of his predecessor, and made little-to-no progress on economic policies that benefitted regular Americans. And since he’s left office, he’s partied with Sir Richard Branson on a yacht, signed a book deal, and endorsed a banker running for President of France who wants to cut hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs. Much worse than that, he’s now chosen to further expose himself to the heartless motivations of the financial industry by accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from healthcare firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

Now someone might read that and go, “what’s the big deal, he deserves it, he worked hard!” And that might be true. To understand why this decision goes against everything a progressive politician should be fighting for in this day and age, one has to understand exactly what he is being paid to do. These speaking engagements generally last about 30 minutes – meaning he will be being paid roughly $13,300 per minute he speaks at the event (Lebron James was paid about $6,400 per minute of gameplay for the 2015-2016 NBA season).

What is it that Barack Obama could possibly say that would make him twice as valuable to Wall St. as Lebron is to the Cavaliers? “You’re Welcome.” This transaction merely displays the relationship today’s Democratic Party has with Wall St. It shows the consciousness with which a president considers the needs of the finance industry when setting policy, and the consciousness with which a healthcare firm stands ready to thank that president once it becomes legal to do so.

It shows how a President might keep in his mind those relationships throughout his stay in office. Was the thought of courting future engagements like this in President Obama’s mind when he decided to gut the public option from the Affordable Care Act? I don’t know. But that it could have been is itself cause for great concern.

Bill and Hillary Clinton notoriously left the White House broke, having spent millions in legal fees, and recuperated their wealth through appearing at dozens of events. This cozy relationship with financial interests rendered irreparable harm to Hillary Clinton’s public image. She also suffered from attacks from the Sanders campaign, based on the argument that she should disclose the content of the private paid speeches she gave to the board of Goldman and Sachs.

If a person can be made subservient to the needs of industry through this shadowed bribery, it should be made immoral, and illegal. But more importantly, the Democrats have once again displayed their acute lack of political awareness in this day and age. The appearance of corruption is just as damaging to our public institutions as corruption itself, as it further denigrates the public’s trust in our institutions.

Barack Obama should feel ashamed for having accepted the money. A president earns premium healthcare and a yearly pension of $200,000 for the rest of their life. That alone is more than enough to live very comfortably. President Obama doesn’t need that money and knows that he could have set a precedent by turning it down. Instead, he again chose to follow in the footsteps of those before him, changing nothing.