The Republicans have a message — Obama is threatening the American Dream.
It’s short, it’s sweet, it may be powerful.
And let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they believe it. Let’s also be clear whose American Dream the Republicans in Washington are trying to save as they object to Obama’s 2010 budget.
From Friday’s New York Times article on the Obama budget:
The Obama budget — a bold, even radical departure from recent history, wrapped in bureaucratic formality and statistical tables — would sharply raise taxes on the rich, beyond where Bill Clinton had raised them. It would reduce taxes for everybody else, to a lower point than they were under either Mr. Clinton or George W. Bush. And it would lay the groundwork for sweeping changes in health care and education, among other areas.
More than anything else, the proposals seek to reverse the rapid increase in economic inequality over the past 30 years. They do so by first rewriting the tax code and, over the longer term, by trying to solve some big causes of the middle-class income slowdown, like high medical costs and slowing educational gains.
Republican philosophy hasn’t changed since Reagan’s trickle-down approach — maybe not since Hoover’s. And the philosophy has worked for Republican constituents — the wealthy, and the people who believe government support of the wealthy is good for the country, and the people who believe they will some day be wealthy. And under this philosophy economic inequality has grown, and is growing.
Here’s how the Republican economic philosophy has been working out in practice, again from Friday’s Times:
Before becoming Mr. Obama’s top economic advisor, Lawrence H. Summers liked to tell a hypothetical story to distill the trend. The increase in inequality, Mr. Summers would say, meant that each family in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution was effectively sending a $10,000 check, every year, to the top 1 percent of earners.
I’m not a socialist, nor is Obama, despite what conservative talk radio is saying. I don’t think the government should ensure that everyone has the same amount of wealth. I also don’t think the government should ensure that the wealthy get wealthier, which is what Republican policy has done, especially at the expense of most of us. The misguided Alaskan missile protecting America from Putin’s rearing head called Obama a wealth spreader. Republican policy has been very effectively redistributing wealth — from the middle class to the wealthy.
Liberals should be pleased with Obama’s budget — it aims to do what he said he’d do. It’s big and it’s bold. And on the front page of the same newspaper Friday was news that he’d lifted the ban on photographing caskets of returning soldiers killed in our wars, if the families approve — a step toward openness and honesty that compromises with privacy. He also let the case of one Al Queda suspect held for five years without trial go to a civilian court, buying more time for his administration to decide what to do on the larger issue of detaining, without trial, US residents suspected of terrorism. He hasn’t yet reversed Bush policy — and I think it’s smart, and so very like Obama, to gather more information on the issue before making a decision. Obama is taking on the big issues with a consistent philosophy — making America work for all of us.
That seems to me to be the American Dream.
— Bruce Benidt
(Photo from Americanprogress.org)