When Barack Obama was still a candidate in the Democratic primaries, he promised a new era if he were elected. Among his promises for “change,” he said his future administration would be one of the most transparent in history: “an unprecedented level of openness in government".
Well, we’re still waiting, and will most likely be left waiting for a very, very long time. Just months into his presidency, series of minor scandals involving the lack of Obama’s transparency have hit various newspapers, mostly in Europe, such as the Guardian. That outlet reported on the Obama administration’s refusal to reveal the locations of 44 coal ash dumps across the United States, which contain arsenic and various toxic heavy metals. These dumps have been deemed “highly hazardous” to local populations by the Environmental Protection Agency. After a retaining wall on a similar ash dump failed and unleashed a wave of one billion gallons of toxic waste in Tennessee last year, a list of highly hazardous coal dumps was commissioned. Now the “open administration” refuses to publicly reveal the list, stating that “terrorists” could use the information for an attack. This is particularly sickening, since rates for serious health problems like cancer in former industrial areas and places near similar toxic dumps are extremely high. So much for openness and accountability. But this is just one example.
Obama has also flatly refused to release the list of visitors to the White House. Following 9/11, exactly the same policy was adopted by George W. Bush. His argument, identical to Obama’s today, was that the visitor logs to the White House (known in previous eras as the “peoples’ house”) are strictly presidential records and not agency records, which are public. It should come as no surprise that some of the suspected visitors include the presidents and CEOs of major coal companies, which reveals the crux of the whole problem.
Barack Obama is not truly the president of the majority of US society. He is the representative of the capitalists, just like the representatives in the legislative and judicial wings of government. He ran for a capitalist party, with funding from the major multinational corporations and banks, with the endorsements of the major business associations in the country and was given the duty of protecting their interests while in office. The problem is not only administrative accountability, but the accountability of the entire capitalist system for the crimes it has committed over the last centuries. Secret toxic waste dumps is only the tip of the iceberg. Only the working class can hold these people accountable for the horrors they have caused to humanity and the planet.