It didn’t take former President Barack Obama much time to embrace Wall Street after he left office. In the past few weeks, he has given highly paid speeches—at $400,000 each—to clients of Northern Trust and to private equity firm The Carlyle Group. Next week, he is scheduled to speak at a health care conference hosted by investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald LLP. Cantor’s investments in health care enable soaring prescription drug and health care costs, adding to American’s health care crisis. In addition to these speeches, Obama stacked his foundation board with former Wall Street executives.
Bloomberg reported on September 18 that several of Obama’s Wall Street allies defended the former president against criticisms of his cozy ties to the industry.“Not everyone’s going to be a Jimmy Carter, who does purely good works after he gets out,” Sean Coffey, a wealthy donor who chairs the complex litigation group at corporate law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, told Bloomberg. “I don’t think getting any grief for doing this is going to bother him at all.”
Former President of UBS Robert Wolf added, “He doesn’t look at Wall Street like, ‘Oh, these are individuals who don’t want the best for the country.’ He doesn’t stereotype.” Wolf, a Fox News contributor, serves on the board of the Obama Foundation, has donated prolifically to Obama’s campaigns and foundation, and was appointed to four councils under the Obama administration.
Obama’s embrace of Wall Street reaffirms where his loyalties were during his presidency. This ideological preference was revealed by his failure to prosecute any Wall Street executives after the 2008 recession—which was caused by Wall Street—and instead rewarded them with bailouts that enabled their firms to grow in size, power, and profits. The Democratic Party’s continued ignorance of his failures and uncritical praise of his tenure obstructs the party’s chances to reform for the future.