Former President Barack Obama conceded on Tuesday that the “new international elite” who feel most comfortable in places like New York, London, and Shanghai are often out of touch for wanting to exploit “lower-cost immigrant labor” without realizing the impact their economic decisions have on local workers.
Speaking in South Africa, Obama said the cosmopolitan and globalist “new international elite” and “the professional class that supports them,” while differing from past aristocracies, are “still mostly white and male.” He said “a decent percentage consider themselves liberal in their politics” and “modern and cosmopolitan in their outlook, unburdened by parochialism or nationalism or overt racial prejudice or strong religious sentiment.” The former president said this “new international elite” feels “equally comfortable in New York, London, Shanghai, Nairobi, Buenos Aires, or Johannesburg.”
“Some of them count Nelson Mandela among their heroes. Some even supported Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States,” Obama said, before noting that as a former head of state he is now an “honorary member of the club” who gets flown out “to these fancy things.”
Obama added that “in their business dealings, many titans of industry and finance are increasingly detached from any single locale or nation states” and “they live lives more and more insulated from the struggles of ordinary people in their countries of origin.”
He said “their decisions to shut down a manufacturing plant,” minimize their tax bills, “or their decision to take advantage of lower-cost immigrant labor or their decision to pay a bribe” are “often done without malice” and reflects a “rational response to the demands of their balance sheet, shareholders and competitive pressures.”
“But too often, these decisions are made without reference to human solidarity, or a ground-level understanding of the consequences felt by particular people,” Obama continued.
He added that members of the “new international elite” often “don’t get to see the pain of laid-off workers” from “their boardroom retreats” and are oblivious to the resentment “of an older tradesman when he complains that a newcomer doesn’t speak the language on the job site he once worked.”
Obama said that “while globalization and technology have opened up new opportunities,” it has also “upended” agricultural and manufacturing sectors in many countries and weakened the demand for certain workers while scrambling “economic and traditional social and religious” norms.
Before Obama became a member of the “new international elite” and adopted its mores and mannerisms, he shared the sentiments of many America-first residents on Chicago’s South Side.
“When I see Mexican flags waved at proimmigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration,” then-Sen. Barack Obama wrote in 2006, two years before he secured his party’s nomination en route to the White House.
As president, Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gave temporary amnesty and work permits to certain illegal immigrant so-called “Dreamers.”