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Washington Examiner


President Obama's Payout To Community Organizers

October 05, 2010

By Steven Malanga

Part two in a five-part series

President Obama began his professional career in the mid-1980s working in a community group whose progress mirrored that of the rest of the industry: the Developing Communities Project, formed on Chicago’s South Side as a “faith-based grassroots organization organizing and advocating for social change.”

Though founded with resources from a coalition of churches, over time the DCP evolved, like many social service organizations, into a government contractor essentially subsisting on tax money.

As a young college graduate immersed in the world of tax-bankrolled activism, President Obama came to reflect the big-government ethos that prevailed among neighborhood organizers, who frequently argued that more government was the solution to social problems.

Speaking to an alternative weekly on the eve of his 1995 run for state senate, Obama derided the “old individualistic bootstrap myth” of American achievement that conservatives were touting. Self-help strategies “have become thinly veiled excuses for cutting back on social programs,” he wrote in a chapter that he contributed to a book, After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois.

He also at that time downplayed the gains that some African-American figures were making in politics, especially in Chicago, by arguing that black leaders were stuck administering “underfunded systems neither equipped nor eager to address the needs of the urban poor.”

Still, Obama justified his own move into politics as a third way between the limitations of local organizing and the narrow careerism that, he claimed, characterized local black politicians. He, by contrast, would become the politician as community organizer.

Elected to the Illinois legislature, Obama’s legislative achievements as a state senator weren’t extensive, but his supporters counted among his biggest victories his work to expand subsidized health care in Illinois with social-justice groups like United Power for Action and Justice, an offshoot of Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation.

Later, when he announced his run for president, Obama visited some of these groups and reminded them of their long struggles together. Meeting with leaders of the activist group ACORN, he reminded them, “I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career,” including representing them in a court case in Illinois.

ACORN members apparently reciprocated by working hard to turn out voters for Obama’s Illinois campaigns, according to a 2003 piece in the magazine Social Policy by a Chicago-area Acorn organizer, and then by endorsing him for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Elected in 2008 as our first community activist president backed by a big government coalition that also included muscular public sector unions, Obama has taken their agenda nationwide. He left little doubt early in his first term when he funneled hundreds of billions of dollars of federal stimulus money to states and cities to preserve government jobs.

The Obama administration also went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that stimulus money was used to help its big government allies. When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to lay off state workers during the state’s 2009 budget crisis, Obama officials, at the behest of the powerful Service Employees International Union, informed the state that it would forfeit hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars if it reduced its workforce.

The sharp public reaction against the cynical nature of such deals, evident in the rapid drop in Obama’s popularity, reveals the growing pains that the big government coalition of public-sector unions and social advocacy groups is now experiencing as it goes national. But the coalition has adapted many times before and it has tremendous resources at its disposal.

That will make reform by taxpayers difficult and gradual, at best.

Original Source:



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