Let's start by getting a few facts straight: Fact No.1: Obama is not going to tour Africa soon, signing cheques to bolster the budgets of impoverished African countries. Fact No.2: Obama is not going to be able to provide jobs for all poor Americans who are on welfare. So what? The fact that Barack Obama is not going to fulfill the unrealistic expectations of anyone is no reason why anyone--and his African and African-American supporters in particular--should not rejoice at the spectacular victory he has won.
The point is, Obama is not the only person who has ever been elected president of the USA. The others before him--43 of them, all white--did not bring heaven down on earth when they ruled America. It is therefore unfair to expect Obama--the only black president of the USA--to perform miracles and transform America overnight.
Sure, we have the right to expect a lot from him. He owes Africa a better response to the crises in DRCongo and Darfur, among others, than the barely disguised indifference to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people exhibited by the George W. Bush crowd. And sure, African-Americans have the right to expect the new president to initiate programmes that reflect the peculiar insight he possesses into the problems of urban-dwelling Americans and the marginalised elements of American society in general.
But what everyone ought to understand is that empathy is not cash. Yes, America does have cash. But George Bush and his banker friends have tried to empty the till before Obama and his team could ever get their hands near it! It is almost as if it was done by conspiracy: I mean, two months before an election in which all the polls are predicting that an African-American will win, the banks suddenly freeze all their intra-institutional lending.
The shares of once-powerful companies such as Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, AIG and Lehman Brothers slump, and all of them, except AIG, go to the wall. The single survivor, AIG, which Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and treasury secretary Hank Paulson claim is "too big to be allowed to fail", swallows $125bn of taxpayers' money. Even as AIG was asking the government for more money, a Congressional Committee was told that the company's top employees had blown more than $440,000 on an executive getaway at the exclusive St. Regis resort in Monarch Beach, California.
The Democraric congressman, Henry Waxman, told the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that invoices showed that AIG paid close to $200,000 for rooms which cost between $425 and $1,200 per night. Over $150,000 was spent on meals and $23,000 on spa charges. President Bush's chief spokeswoman, Dana Perino, expressed outrage: "I understand why the American people would be outraged," she said. "I am. It's pretty despicable!"
In the light of such developments, we need to ask: how many new houses could Obama have built with all the money given to AIG? How many schools? How many health insurance policies could he have subsidised? How many mortgaged homes could he have saved from foreclosure or repossession?
Bush & Co. have put their hands on a massive $700bn to be dispensed to the banks and financial institutions at their pleasure. Even one-third of that, invested wisely in African countries in projects selected under the NEPAD programme approved by Africans and their G8 "partners", would save us from exporting cocoa and coffee beans in their cheap, unprocessed form; gold, diamonds, iron, tin and copper could all be turned into precious finished goods before they leave our shores. And our poverty would end forever!
So, the mess in which the American economy finds itself can be considered as the final revenge of the neo-cons in the USA. An incoming government imbued with social conscience, finds itself saddled with a treasury from which over one trillion dollars has been bled. …