Barack Obama, a speaking fee, haters and my thoughts.
I keep seeing all these reactions to the news of Barack Obama accepting a $400,000 speaking fee for a firm on Wall Street. Criticism is usually along the lines of: “He’s betraying his values.”; “This is unethical.”; “More corruption from progressives”.
A few things:
1. Making money isn’t evil. We live in a capitalist society, making money is what people aim to do. Like all other systems, capitalism has its advantages and its flaws. The problem with making money comes with how we make it. Barack Obama spent eight years doing one of the toughest jobs in the world. If he wants to cash out and continue to build wealth for his family (as many Black families are trying to do), that’s his prerogative. It’s possible to care about social justice and make money, so long as your not exploiting others to do so.
2. Corruption. Barack Obama is out of office. I don’t understand the notion that this is a reward for “good behavior” or that he’s giving Wall Street more influence in Washington (which is run by a majority that is working to undo his policies). I’m supposed to believe he “went easy” on Wall Street in 2009 (when he inherited the financial crisis and two wars) so he could collect a $400,000 speaking fee in 2017? Okay.
3. Barack Obama received some of the highest donations from Wall Street during his campaign. He didn’t hold back when criticizing them during his time in office. He signed signed Dodd-Frank into law which increased regulations for the financial sector and enacted protections for consumers. It’s not perfect, but it’s a clear example of how BO was able to accept campaign donations and still impose regulations on those same institutions for the sake of the greater good.
4. There’s this notion that Wall Street is this evil hidden force. While greed may be rampant on Wall Street, it’s not a secret hidden group of rich people. Wall Street isn’t separate from “Main Street”. They’re intertwined. If the government didn’t bail out the banks in 2008, there’s a chance that you wouldn’t have been able to take money from an ATM. Wall Street touches your 401K. Your mortgage might have been sold to or by a firm on Wall Street. It’s worth having conversation of the dangers of having Wall Street serve as the foundation of our financial system. However, that’s a separate conversation.
5. Barack Obama will be speaking at a conference on health care that Cantor Fitzgerald (the firm signing the check) is organizing. Healthcare is an important topic to him as he was behind the biggest healthcare laws in US history (The ACA and MACRA). Cantor Fitzgerald is a mid-sized firm that lost over 600 employees on 9/11. Over the course of five years it contributed 25% of profits to benefit the families of its lost employees. They also donated millions to those affected by other natural disasters. Could those be considered tax write-offs? Probably. Does that undermine the impact of their donations? I don’t think so. If we do some deeper digging, I’m sure we can all find things we either don’t like or disagree with. Point is, they’re not one of bigger Wall Street firms that are easy to hate.
6. We have no idea what he is going to say. Let’s at least get the transcript before we start to talk about his values.
7. I didn’t see any of this criticism for former presidents. The Clintons are the only exception and that’s because one of them was seeking public office. People tried to equate speaking fees in the hundreds of thousands to billions made off the back of others through at times questionable business practices. This can’t be a thing.
That’s all I’ve got.