Customer Reviews: Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses
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VINE VOICEon November 24, 2009
"Obamanomics" is the title of two books on the economic platform of the Obama administration. Apparently the phrase has a nice catch to publishers. But in the hands of Timothy Carney, author of this book, "Obamanomics" is shorthand for corporatism; the use of big government regulations to support corporate profits. This, of course, is not how most commentators see the new administration. They accept the rhetoric that this administration is promoting change by putting the interests of ordinary citizens ahead of corporate lobbyists. As this important book reveals, nothing could be further from the truth.

During his campaign for president, Obama carefully crafted a message of change. A repeated theme of the campaign was that big business had too much power in the Bush administration and his own administration would strictly regulate lobbyists and their corporate sponsors. Throughout the election, the Obama campaign successfully portrayed John McCain as a representative of "Big Business" while suggesting that Obama was funded by donations from average Americans. This myth is still believed by many Americans today. Throughout the book, however, Carney shows how fundamentally wrong this conception is. Obama received far more money from big pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, from big oil, like Exxon Mobil, from GE and Goldman Sachs, than McCain. Indeed, he received more than any other candidate for President in history. Carney carefully details the money spent on Obama industry by industry and in subsequent chapters describes just what all this money bought.

In general, popular mythology notwithstanding, large corporations routinely benefit from government regulation. Carney details several ways this can happen. Government contracts and direct subsidies are of course enormously profitable, but other effects of regulation are less obvious. One of the least obvious ways is that regulatory costs protect large corporations from competition. Consider for example the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. This bill proposes to limit greenhouse gas emissions by giving away carbon credits to industry and then letting markets decide how to price and trade those credits. Conveniently enough, the bill will simply give away credits worth 51 billion dollars to established corporations like GE, Exxon, and Chevron. But new businesses, hoping to compete with these giants, will have to purchase the credits. Barriers to entry are essential to a monopoly and markets don't readily provide these. But governments do, and so it is no wonder that as the size of the federal government has expanded, so too has the influence of corporate lobbyists who stand the most to gain under the policies of the Obama adminstration.

One of the key points in the book is that none of this has anything to do with Obama's intentions. Obama may well believe his own rhetoric. He may think (or hope) that he is representing the little guy against the power of professional lobbyists, but the simple facts are that when government largess is offered out, those with the most resources will be the first to collect. An example of how this logic plays out is Obama's health care initiative. Despite his rhetoric against pharmaceuticals and HMOs, Obama received a lot of money from this industry, far more than his opponent. During the campaign, he offered 4 solutions to the health care crisis: a "public option" (meaning a government run health insurance to "compete" with private care), opposing individual mandates (ie., requiring an individual to buy health care), subsidizing insurance, and preserving a tax subsidy on employer sponsored (but not privately purchased) health care. Now, the first two solutions are not favorable to industry and the last two are. And the current bill ... favors industry and will include an individual mandate. The first two campaign suggestions are off the table. Again, big business wins and the tax payer is left footing the bill. To paraphrase Gore Vidal, this is truly socialism for the rich and capitalism (with heavy taxes) for everyone else.

Carney examines every one of Obama's economic initiatives and finds the same pattern. Rhetorical claims to be opposing big insurance, big tobacco, big auto, etc, and signing or promoting legislation that will ultimately benefit the bottom line of these very corporations who often write the legislation! Carney does correctly note that none of this started with Obama. Indeed, George W. Bush also worked to favor his corporate cronies, though to nothing like this degree. But when it comes to what to do about this problem, Carney offers few solutions. He supports Ron Paul's campaign to audit the Federal Reserve (it would be nice to know how much money was created out of thin air to buy AIG and save Goldman Sachs.) But ultimately we need to recognize that the problem lies in government itself. Governmental regulation inherently favors the powerful and they themselves know this. Indeed, corporations have used governmental regulation to promote their agenda for the better part of a century. Anyone familiar with Gabriel Kolko's classic The Triumph of Conservatism knows that from the progressive era on big business has used government to protect itself from competition. What we need then, is to recognize the difference between rhetoric and reality when it comes to political proposals. That is not an easy task when dealing with someone as charismatic as President Obama. But reading this book is a good start.
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on December 4, 2009
No joke: this is best book about how Washington really works you will see this year. It's probably the best since Carney's last effort, The Big Ripoff. If you want the inside story on how policy is made, you cannot ask the politicians, or the lobbyists, or the labor bosses, or the big businessmen. They have every incentive to lie, or at least, to spin you. Every reporter in Washington knows that the best stories are about what happens before and after, not during, the press conference. What company hires what political aides to lobby what subcommittee chairman to get their little earmark, their cherry-picked amendment, or their bailout?

For years now, in his regular columns and two excellent books, Carney has been doing real time, serious investigative journalism at this nexus of policy making, big business, and interest-group knife-fighting. In Obamanomics, Carney follows the money -- special interest groups to campaign committees to bailed out boardrooms. You'll see who is leading the seemingly noble campaigns for green energy, health care reform, and financial regulations... and how those same people are coincidentally positioned to make billions off of the policy changes they themselves have written.

Obamanomics has the substance for a policy wonk, but is written as a fast and entertaining read for the layman -- more like an episodic novel than a policy paper. The Becks and Olmbermanns have their place in the national dialogue, but Tim Carney's work is not punditry: it's old school shoe leather journalism.

I have three copies already -- one for me, and two already wrapped as Christmas gifts. It will probably serve as my go-to present for politically-minded friends for the next few years, too.

Obamanomics is everything you (don't want to know but) need to know about how Washington works in the age of Obama. It is, quite simply, an indispensable book from Washington's one indispensable reporter.
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on December 16, 2009
Corporate America's PAC money has been controlling the political power brokers in Washington, DC for decades; this is nothing new. The rhetoric that Barrack Obama used---that he was going to bring about "change" in America (now known as ObamaNation)---got him elected, and to this point, much of America is still being fooled by that rhetoric; especially since a liberal media is giving him a free pass on just about anything he does.

Timothy P Carney has compiled a remarkably comprehensive piece of investigative reporting, and after the dust has settled, the reader will come away knowing that our new president is as clever as any sleazy politician ever; his image of standing up against the big corporations, while promoting the cause of the "little guys" is about to be tested with the facts that Carney has gathered. His effort is monumental, and well documented; and for Barrack Obama, this is more evidence of corruption that any American should be outraged by; this time, there's not enough rhetoric to cover up the simple truth.

It's business as usual in Washington, DC; and the fat cats of corporate America are only getting fatter, and more corrupt. The details are right here in this book.
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on December 14, 2009
The fact that this book is getting little attention in the media demonstrates one of the points in this book - the big media is owned by the same corporations that are using the federal government to control the business environment and thereby improve their own profits at the expense of the rest of the country.

This book is not just about the Obama administration - it is really an expose on how the giant corporations and banks are controlling our government for their own selfish gain. Obama is really just accelerating the same agenda that has been occurring for many years.

This book contains no histrionics or speculation. It is carefully researched and documented. Do us all a favor - read this book and then spread the word.

I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that this is the most important book written on politics in recent times.
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on December 17, 2009
Obamanomics exposes the reality-rhetoric divide in American politics. Politicians may speak of things like `change' and `hope', but in reality there is no hope that politicians will ever change. Public Choice Theory predicts that government regulation will tend to be a vehicle for restricting competition, to squeeze consumers for money. Obama, like so many of his predecessors, is living up to this prediction. Obama claims to be crusading against big business, but in reality he is strengthening the alliance between big business and big government. Small businesses are being crushed in the process.

If there is anything wrong with this book, it is in its title. The creation of a new term `Obamanomics' suggests that the new Administration is doing something distinct and unprecedented. What Obama is doing is really not new at all. Big Business-Big Government alliances go back many centuries. Adam Smith called this sort of thing Mercantilism. The Twentieth Century term for Obama type policies was Fascism.

On the other hand, Obama is carrying things further than his predecessors. Chapter Seven and eight makes the unprecedented nature of Obama's policies clear. If Obama's takeover of GM was not scary enough, his control over finance is. Carney has done a valuable service by reporting so many details of Obama's policies. Rent Seeking and Regulatory Capture are nothing new to Washington, but we may be facing more than just wasteful policies this time. Obma's policies could well sound the death knell of freedom and prosperity in America. We need books like Obamanomics to stir up opposition to Obama before his policies get too entrenched.
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on January 14, 2010
I've never been a big fan of Regnery, but Obamanomics is an exceptional book. Carney does a great job of dispelling conventional wisdom. As the old saying goes, "It's not what we don't know that's the problem, it's what we know that ain't so." Everyone just "knows" that liberals are for big government while conservatives are for big business, and the two are in perpetual conflict. Carney shows that big business actually embraces big government, in order to suppress their competition (e.g. Walmart wants employer mandates to hurt smaller rivals that can't afford their cost.) The tea party view of Obama as a socialist/Marxist gets no support from Carney. He portrays Obama as a "corporatist", always willing to cut a deal with big companies that support his legislation.

Carney shows the influence of major corporations such as Alcoa and GE in the "progressive" legislation of the administration, from health care to cap and trade. This a surprise only if you submit to the traditional paradigm of big business v. big government. Liberals should read this book, too. They might realize they don't have a principled ally in the White House.
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on January 22, 2010
This is not a diatribe, but good old-fashioned journalism that thoroughly documents the close ties between Obama's administration and the special interests (Wall Street, large commercial banks, GE, Pharma, Health Insurers, AMA, UAW, etc.) whose contributions to Obama in 2008 set historical records and far exceeded the amounts republicans received. In the wake of Scott Brown's truly populist victory, it could not be more timely.

This book demonstrates that Obama's "socialist" or "progressive" policies are not what should concern Americans. Instead, we should focus on Obama the "corporatist" whose merger of Big Government with Big Business and Big Labor threatens to distort and corrupt, on an unprecedented scale, the allocation of scarce economic resources and the shaping of national policy.

G.W. Bush and other Republicans have been guilty of the same, but Obama is taking it to an unprecedented level--even as he bashes these very same "special interests" and holds himself out as a populist "progressive."
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on April 20, 2010
This book, if you let it, will change your ideas about welfare, socialism, and the true challenges facing reform movements like the Tea Parties. Combine this with Kolko's book, Triumph of Conservatism, and you might actually get getting somewhere.
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on March 13, 2010
Carney dispels the notion that Big Business and Wall Street favors laissez faire government policies. Lobbying efforts and campaign contributions tell quite a different story that seems to be absent in mainstream media. Cited are multiple and recent examples of how Big Business (businesses we all patronize) uses government to defeat its competition, destroy jobs and increase its bottom line at the expense of the unknowing taxpayer.

If you're of the belief the intention of Cap and Trade is to reduce carbon emissions, or the intention of Healthcare Reform is to insure the uninsured and rein in rising costs, this book will give you a different perspective.

You'll find out who taxpayers were actually saving from financial collapse with the government's purchase of AIG, why Walmart is lobbying for employer-funded mandates, why Nike and Alcoa endorse Cap and Trade, and why modifying the electrical grid is more about increasing profit margins of utility companies than improving service. Is it really the big health insurers standing in the way of reform? And does GE any longer really bring good things to life?

K Street should be renamed KY Street, because it's definitely being used by Big Business as a lubricant to smoothly screw every taxpayer for generations to come.
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on June 10, 2010
Until I read this book I had no idea of the connection between big business and the government. This is an excellent book that will change your thinking on bills being passed in congress.This is a good easy read. Everything is backed up with documentation/references.
Read this and you will be amazed at how our government works with big business right under your nose and you have no idea what is happening.
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