Wednesday, April 13, 2011
A Question of Values, Continued
"In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That’s who needs to pay less taxes?
They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right. And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President. (Applause.)
This vision [the Republican proposal] is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That's not a vision of the America I know. " — President Obama's deficit & budget speech today
I've been pretty angry at President Obama lately, and I expected to watch his speech today on the economic crisis feeling my blood pressure elevate, especially after the details are becoming known of some of the really awful concessions made to the Republicans and the teabagger fascists during the recent budget negotiations. But I have to say I did not hate most of this speech. While of course there is an element of pandering to the Republicans and their delusions, by and large he chose to defend a reasonably liberal (in the good sense), pro-social safety net agenda. As a number of perceptive if ultimately pro-capitalist commentators have observed (Jonathan Bernstein, Greg Sargent, Paul Krugman) Obama chose to put his arguments in moral terms, and in so doing launched a powerful attack on the horrifying proposal set forth by the Republicans and their Rep. Ryan. Time will tell how Mr. Obama's words actually play out. His speech concluded with his familiar calls for "bipartisan unity" which have been so problematic, so future pitfalls are not completely averted. Danger, deal-making ahead.
The current crisis reminds us of the inadequacies of the healthcare reforms that are unfolding even as they are besieged by the right. On the one hand real government-run national healthcare would have dealt with so many of the issues that continue to pop up; on the other hand there was no way in hell such a goal was to be realized, all things considered. Many of the issues we hoped healthcare would address such as cost seem to remain in the air as political footballs. And while Obama was quick to blame some of the deficit's rise on Bush's unfunded wars, he conveniently omitted mentioning his continuation and expansion of military adventurism. This teaches us that Obama and the Democrats are ultimately not the best guardians for the social safety net, such as it is.
But at a time when I expected Obama to throw a wet paper towel at the Republicans he actually returned their fire. And that gives me some hope. Not as much hope as a real alternative to the Tweedledee and Tweedledum seesaw of a system that is fully stacked against us would give me, but at least the white flag hasn't been raised.