Monday, July 26, 2010

Obama: Will He, Can He, Be the One We Thought We Elected?

 I don't write about politics much anymore, but this nation is at a cusp in its direction and we ought to think about and discuss something that can determine the direction of the nation for the next decade.

Try as one might, it is not possible even for a President to be all things to all people. Nor is it possible to be the President of all of the people, if one insists that “all the people” includes giving to the rich, the spoiled, the pathological, the amoral and the immoral what they believe they deserve.

But President Obama is trying to do precisely that. And in the process, the nation, which lost its moral compass under the Bush Administration and has since been wandering in the wilderness, is in the process of reclaiming the dubious title of the “United States of ME,” forgetting that America is about “WE the people,” not “ME the greedy.”

But the President seems to have forgotten this. Rather, he is content to be the one who tries hard not to offend, or to be offended, regardless that he should find some things disgustingly offensive and should be mightily offended by others. He seems more content to be the professor who calmly discusses the subtle nuances of the many shades of gray as a black cloud descends over his Presidency.

Yes, this is the same man who showed us one side of himself during the campaign, the side of the progressive, center-left liberal who championed the rights of the poor, the disenfranchised, the working folk, and, yes, the middle class who, we were constantly told, were the 97% plus of us who made less than a quarter of a million dollars a year.

This is the man those of us who cared about America as a nation of all the people could get behind; a man who offered a clear alternative to everything Bush and his tools stood for. [With the shameful exception of continuing the war in Afghanistan.]

And what was his first act of consequence? To pass a Stimulus Act skewed almost entirely to bailing out Wall Street, a bill that offered but a trickle of funds to those who needed it most, the working people of America. Rather than complain about bailing out institution after institution that was “too big to fail” the Administration threw itself at the feet of the rich and invited them to take what they needed, after first inviting the financial foxes to run the chicken coop.

Then he said nothing in response to Republican complaint about bailing out the auto industry, an industry where real people were employed and where the government exposed a few tens of billions, a subsidy which is working and will be paid back, kept people employed, saved an industry that actually adds jobs and value to the GDP, rather than a Wall Street house of cards that adds phantom value through the trading of paper and the goosing up the “value” of worthless derivatives.

But he was not done. While urging passage of the most comprehensive overhaul of health care in the history of the nation he turned around and did not fight for a public option and did not insist on coverage of the now 45 million uninsured, settling for 36 million and then offering them only “high risk” pools run by, of course, the very insurance companies that ran our health care into the ground in the first place. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Now we are down to a basic political issue: will the Presidentt quit thinking about whether he personally can win in 2012 and start now calling out the Republicans for their obstructionism, their incessant “just say no to everything” campaign? Or will he be left with a Congress that cannot actually get anything done in the remaining two years of his first term? Will he, convinced that he can compromise with Republicans, in spite of the clear and unequivocal fact of perpetual Republican negativism, try to reason with the unreasonable for the next two or six years?

In the next couple of weeks he will have a chance to prove which Obama we will see: the moral leader of the nation, or the weak, deal cutter who negotiates from timidity.
The tax cuts expire soon. A Democratic bill has been introduced in each house to extend them to all but the top 2-3% of earners in this country, those making over $250,000 a year. That windfall to the rich would be allowed to expire and the income from their paying a few percentage points more taxes could be used to fund the programs that we desperately need: including feeding the poor and helping the states avoid going bankrupt.

The Republicans already have told us that they will vote against any extension that does not include all of the original tax cuts, including those to the rich. They will argue, using the usual smoke and mirrors, that the economy demands that we treat everyone “equally.”

The counter argument is simple: The top 3% don’t need the tax break. The lower 97% does. The top 3% will hardly feel the increase. Large numbers of the bottom 20% are literally starving, and/or out of work, without health care, without hope, and hurting beyond comprehension.

There is only, literally, one man in American who can effectively and convincingly make the only  argument that is ethically correct, sway the voting public, and expose the Republicans in Congress for the morally corrupt puppets of big business that they are. That man is the one who ran for President two years ago. The one we have watched in the White House these past 18 months cannot and will not take aggressive action.

Time is surely running out, not just on this Congress, and not particularly on this President. But it is running out on the chance for this country to honor its moral obligations to its people. Who really wants even two more years of what we have now? Its time for our President to remember where he came from, who put him in office and why.

This country is hurling toward yet another decade of moral bankruptcy. We have lost our way. Have we forgotten all that America means? Have we forgotten what “and justice for all” means?

Which President will emerge now?