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.


Midterm Election Countdown: 50 days, 9 hours, 1 minute, 26 seconds.

With majorities in two houses hanging like an anvil from a thread, President Obama is finally starting to find his footing. For months, he and his proxies have let Republicans propose change, after change, after change– without any response or debate from the Democratic side. It’s been ruckus from the right and silence from the left. Well, Republicans, try this one out for size.

The clock is ticking on the highly disputed ‘Bush Tax Cuts’ which will expire at the end of this year. The Bush cuts have given tax relief to the middle class and to the wealthy, cutting taxes for millions of people who really can’t afford higher taxes, but also granting millionaires and billionaires the same type of aid that people in a much lower salary range are getting.

The majority of Americans identify themselves as “middle class.” So, in a recession, it makes sense to give some relief to the majority of Americans — those who really need it. It does not, however, make sense to give identical (or additional) tax relief to people who are not struggling to pay their bills, not struggling to stay employed, and not struggling to buy their sixth house on the shores of Maui.

The President’s suggestion to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for the middle class is economical and politically sound. The legislative catch (for the Republicans), of course, is that the proposal doesn’t include any relief for those who make more than $250,000 a year…oh, wait. It does. If this law were implemented, everyone would get tax relief: including the billionaires. (Happy, Reagan Republicans?) Even people who made more than the above stated maximum would get a tax break on the first $250,000 of their income. So, while I disapprove of almost any tax cut for the über-wealthy, this is a noble bipartisan stride on the president’s part.

My hope is that this maneuver is only the beginning of a series of smart political choices and displays of consistent liberal ideology on the part of the President and his party in anticipation and prevention of a completely blowout in November.

Show Yourself

There’s a reason why the Republicans are becoming more and more likely to take back Congress in November.

I write a lot about the importance of the PR side of government– what a political maneuvering implies (or looks like) versus what it actually is. About a month into the BP oil spill, I wrote that  Obama “doesn’t understand that an integral part of solving problems is…the superficial stuff: the photo-ops, the meet-and-greets with the citizens, or the burgers from the local diners (What it Looks Like vs. What it Is, June 6).” That same lack of ability to enchant the public domain could very easily prove fatal for the Democratic majority in Congress.

For weeks, right-wing politicians (eg. Mitch McConnell), loony talk show hosts (eg. Glenn Beck), and former gubernatorial, potentially-future presidential, bible-thumping conservatives (eg. this lady) have been wreaking havoc all over the country. They’ve been making bold statements– statements that I believe are offensive and ill-advised. But the fact is this: it’s not what they’re saying that is doing so much harm; it’s the way they’re saying it.

Today, Glenn Beck held a well-publicized and well-attended rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He and his cronies have been building up hype about this “momentous” event for weeks. The significance of the date and location– the Lincoln Memorial, forty-seven years to the day after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech– brought even more attention to Beck’s cause. The conservatives who planned the rally did everything in their power to made sure that everyone knew what was going on, everyone was talking about it, and, regardless of political affiliation, everyone was listening.

Guess who hasn’t made a big speech in months? Guess who’s wave of momentum is crashing beneath his feet? Guess who is watching and waiting, vacationing and keeping his distance while his majority is quickly slipping out of his shaky grasp? That’s right, Barack Obama and his cronies.

They don’t get it. If the Tea Baggers continue to infiltrate every news cycle, they’re going to win. It doesn’t matter what they’re saying. America is hearing one message– their message– louder and more routinely than any other message. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have evidence or factual support. If the Democrats and their leader don’t engage the conservatives and their leaders, and fight the poison that’s being spilled into the political atmosphere, the Beck message will become the Beck reality.

Proper publicity is not something to disregard. It is of the utmost importance. Mr. President, you cant just be right, you need to look right. Woody Allen said that seventy percent of success in life is showing up.

Mr. President,

Please show up.

Toying With Nature

In early June, the sagacious people of California voted to institute Proposition 14, which called for something called the “Top Two” system. In short, the “Top Two” system changes the idea of a partisan primary. It places all the candidates from each party onto one ballot. Each candidate has the option of stating her/his “party preference,” but is not required to do so. This leaves the general election to the top two vote getters, regardless of their party.

This all happened two and a half months ago…why am I writing about it now?

Because we’re on the downhill of one of the hottest political climates in American history. The residue of effects from the 2008 election season and the inauguration of Barack Obama has not yet worn off quite yet.

(Then) Senator Obama’s presidential campaign rallied millions of young people– as well as middle aged and older people who had never been involved before– to become wholeheartedly invested in the political process.

Let’s invoke Obama– in his own words– on the night that he lost the New Hampshire primary.

“There is something happening when Americans who are young in age and in spirit – who have never before participated in politics – turn out in numbers we’ve never seen because they know in their hearts that this time must be different.”

You can call it cliché or banal, but it’s true. The 2008 election started a wave, and young Americans are still riding that wave. But I oppose this “Top Two” law for perhaps a very selfish purpose; a purpose, however, that I believe is of the utmost importance in this a society that is losing any connection to its roots and is falling deeper and deeper into a black hole of worldly ignorance and profound civil negligence.

In the election process’ current form, if you voted for Hillary in the primary, chances are that you voted for Obama in the general election– because both candidates shared basic Democratic party platform principles. And chances are that if you voted for Romney in the primary, you voted for McCain in the general– for the same reasons as stated above.

This law– the “Top Two” law– inadvertently (or perhaps intentionally) discourages thousands of Californians from voting. If both candidates are Republicans, then thousands of Democrats won’t vote and vice versa. And in a time when Americans, let alone Californians, need to have a say in what’s going on in their governments, this law is counterproductive and unwarranted.