Obama also said he did not support the bipartisan welfare reform Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton hammered out during the 1990s, despite more recent claims that he favored the legislation. In the 1998 recording, he called it a bill that “I did not entirely agree with and probably would have voted against at the federal level.”
“But one good thing that comes out of it,” he conceded, “is that it essentially desegregates the welfare population,” merging urban blacks with “the working poor, which are the other people.”
“Now you just have one batch of folks. … That is increasingly a majority population,” Obama concluded, and one whose policy needs would grow to encompass, health care, job training, education and a system where government would “provide effective child care.”
The recording also shows Obama in 1998 identifying with what he said was an American majority angling for new limits on the Second Amendment.
“The vast majority of Americans would like to see serious gun control,” the future president said, noting that “it does not pass. Why does it not pass? It doesn’t pass because there is this huge disconnect between what people think and what legislators think and are willing to act upon.”
Obama also revealed his early disdain for Republicans, referring to his policy opponents as “the bad guys” who stood in the way of crucial reforms — while progressive activists often failed on their own to protect oppressed minority communities.
“The people who are guilty of disempowering the population are not only the bad guys — I won’t be partisan here and say who the bad guys are,” Obama said. “It’s not only the folks who are representing the special interests, quote-unquote, and the guys with the pinky diamond rings and the fat cats. Sometimes it is also us.”
Some of the mechanisms Obama suggested to create a more engaged voter base included progressive policy prescriptions that would be easily recognizable in his 2012 White House — among them the need to give unions and community organizers more “access” to the political decision-making process.
“How do we think about some of the systemic changes that might be required to reengage the citizenry on these policy issues?” Obama asked. “I would have some suggestions that I would be happy to toss out during the question-and-answer: things like public financing for campaigns. How do we strengthen the mediating institutions like churches, unions, and community organizations and provide them with the resources and access to decision making?”
On health care, Obama laid the groundwork for his eventual government-controlled system.
“In the midst of the greatest economic boom in my lifetime and probably most of yours,” he said, “we have actually record numbers of persons with no health insurance. And yet there is virtually no movement of, ‘How do we provide insurance to these uninsured?’”
“There’s a lot of talk about HMO reform, which looks good, partly because it doesn’t cost that much. It’s a matter of just passing a couple of laws. I support this HMO reform but it certainly doesn’t get at the more fundamental issue of, ‘What do we do with this burgeoning number of people who have no health insurance and are one illness away form bankruptcy or worse?’”
During the question-and-answer session that followed, Obama singled out United Power for Action and Justice, a left-wing community organizing outfit, for high praise for “incorporating unions in the organizing process.”
“It’s that kind of community organizing model that ends up being absolutely vital to connecting policy with actual implementation, and empowering citizenry to make these decisions.”
Obama also said the community-organizing political model held advantages, “particularly institutional-based organizing, church-based organizing, [and] incorporating unions in the organizing process.”