Backward Benevolence


“But daddy,” sobbed the little boy, faint tears trickling down his face, “You promised!”

It’s a familiar scenario–one that we’ve all faced at one point or another. The child is at the will of the parent–who is disinclined to keep his word–launches into a lecture on the powerful art form of “no means no.” But this scenario, derived from the microcosm of family life, has been blown out of proportion: “Daddy” is President Obama and the little boy is none other than us–the American people.

My auspicious political outlook is the type that makes cynics cringe. In October, I was still pulling for Sestak and Conway. Even after Lieberman had put his foot down, I had hope that a single-payer plan would still be accomplished. Optimism, in all my ostensible naïveté, has kept my mood somewhat positive and upbeat. I’ve grown to swallow the truths of the Obama administration with a grain of salt. But the very thin thread that has been carrying the weight of my disappointment in the president’s policy decisions is on the verge of snapping.

The quasi-messianic, wet behind the ears, charismatic, and, if nothing else, promising young man whom we sent to Washington two years ago had (and still has) quite a bit on his plate. There are, of course, aspects of the various markets and the economy that change and fluctuate in their own right–the invisible hand at work. But the potential policy shift that is on the verge of breaking my thread is what differentiates a Democratic presidency from a Republican one. It’s a quintessential distinction between the two parties’ platforms. Obama ran as a Democrat. 63.7 million people voted for a Democrat.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, February 26, 2009: “The President said in the campaign that health care reform would be achieved through some additional spending, largely by rolling back tax cuts for the very wealthy, and coupled with some savings in the amount of money that we spend on health care.”

Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, An Updated Analysis of the 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans: Revised August 15, 2008: Obama would “repeal the cuts in the top two marginal income tax rates ahead of their scheduled expiration,” and, “in addition, upper-income households ultimately (would) bear most of the burden of the corporate tax increases that Senator Obama proposes.”

Obama the Senator promised tax breaks for the middle class, not for the super-rich. Obama the Candidate promised tax breaks for the middle class, not for the super-rich. Obama the President promised tax breaks for the middle class, not for the super-rich.

As Americans, it is our responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves–even if it means an additional exerted effort. It is a fundamental difference between the right and left of this country. Some believe that the ideal path to sustaining a prosperous society is to take from the little people and give, give, give to the big guys. I have confidence–as does the whopping mandate that put the president in the white house–in the notion that those who cannot afford to pay high taxes shouldn’t pay high taxes; they should give back in other forms. Those who can afford to pay higher taxes should pay higher taxes. Taking from the poor and giving to the rich? It’s like Robin Hood in reverse. It’s backward benevolence.

President Obama is on the verge of compromising his sociopolitical integrity and redirecting his moral compass. And I feel like a helpless little boy.

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4 thoughts on “Backward Benevolence

  1. “As Americans, it is our responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves–even if it means an additional exerted effort. It is a fundamental difference between the right and left of this country.” While I myself feel it to be a responsibility to help others, since when did that become an American responsibility or ideal? This country’s long history with both domestic and foreign affairs proves otherwise, and this country has long maintained the firm capitalist attitude of every man for himself.

    • Which is why I tried to paint a picture of the bifurcation of the left and the right. Capitalism (and economics as a whole) is based off of the idea of acting in one’s own rational self-interest. The fundamental difference between the left and the right (both of whose standpoints are “American”) is that the left believes that it is in our own rational self-interest to care for the poor, to tax those who can afford to be taxed, and ease up on those who necessitate easing up. The “general welfare” that all those guys in wigs wrote about at that convention in Philadelphia all those years back? The “general welfare” that they said needed to be “promote(d)”? That includes people in lower tax brackets.

  2. I too feel helpless, as well as sad, disappointed, disbelieving that the comments of the senator, candidate and president are evaporating. I feel the air in him is deflated, and with that went any seeming determination, courage and vision. Perhaps we’ll still see a miracle? A small surge of hope exists, but cynicism is greater.

  3. “It is a fundamental difference between the right and left of this country. Some believe that the ideal path to sustaining a prosperous society is to take from the little people and give, give, give to the big guys.”
    Actually, as a rightist of sorts, I can tell you that is not our opinion. It is actually the opinion that no one should take from anyone without right.
    “I have confidence–as does the whopping mandate that put the president in the white house–in the notion that those who cannot afford to pay high taxes shouldn’t pay high taxes; they should give back in other forms.”
    Actually, most of those people don’t pay ANY taxes. People who actually should be able to afford it even don’t. I assure you that far less than 47% of Americans can’t afford any taxes.
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Nearly-half-of-US-households-apf-1105567323.html?x=0&.v=1

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