President Barack Obama took the figurative gloves off Monday with a stinging rebuke of America’s pay-to-play political system and the gaping deficit it has created in the most aggressive address of his administration.
The son of a Kansas activist finally stepped away from the politics of compromise and the rhetoric of diplomacy in a sizzling speech the beleaguered middle class has been looking for since they elected one of their own three years ago. Obama called out the far-right and its wealthy backers for placing profit growth ahead of the national welfare as he outlined his plan for trimming the irresponsible financial obligations he inherited from George W. Bush.
“During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires, the cost of two wars, and the recession turned a record surplus into a yawning deficit,” Obama said. “In the long run, our prosperity [depends] on our ability to pay down the massive debt we’ve accumulated over the past decade in a way that allows us to meet our responsibilities to each other and to the future.”
Obama vowed to mend the loopholes in the tax code that his silver spoon predecessor tore for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, which allow billionaires like Warren Buffett to pay a 17.7 percent tax rate, while the legendary investor’s secretary pays 30 percent. His plan would trim $3.6 billion from a national deficit that’s on pace to reach $13 trillion over the next 10 years, according to economic projections.
The Rose Garden address occurred one week after Obama sent his $447 billion American Jobs Act to Congress for consideration, at a time of increasing popular dissatisfaction with his equivocating ways. The proposal would create 1.9 million jobs, according to Moody’s Economist Mark Zandi.
Predictably, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), slammed the speech.
“This administration’s insistence on raising taxes on job creators and its reluctance to take the steps necessary to strengthen our entitlement programs are the reasons the president and I were not able to reach an agreement previously,” said Boehner, who has represented Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives for 21 years and counting. “It is evident today that these barriers remain.”
So much for term limits.
There were times Monday when Obama literally seemed to rediscover his working-class balls.
The message of the powerful televised address is one that’s sure to resonate with the working families who represent the vast majority of our national population and have been the biggest losers in the redistribution of national wealth and tax burdens that’s occurred the past 30 years.
Obama tapped into popular unease about the fissure between working Americans and the professional political class that pretends to represent us in DC. The president seemed to indicate that he shares our belief in personal honor, integrity and inherent truth – concepts most career politicians view with contempt.
“We’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just ‘class warfare,’ ” Obama said during the Sept. 20 speech. “I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare. I think it’s just the right the thing to do. I believe the American middle class, who’ve been pressured relentlessly for decades, believe it’s time that they were fought for as hard as the lobbyists and some lawmakers have fought to protect special treatment for billionaires and big corporations.”
Sounds great, but don’t get your hopes up too high. The painful fact remains that Obama is part of a broken system in Washington that exists to advance the two political machines and enrich their members and supporters. Not to serve working Americans.
Obama didn’t get in the White House by bucking machine politics. In fact, he got his start in Chicago, where machine politics rule.
Obama is both a product and a beneficiary of the DC political system now, which is comprised of Republican and Democratic machines that accept legalized bribes via soft-money donations from many of the same wealthy interests. Those pay-offs percolate though the mainstream corporate media, which does such a poor job of educating working voters, via advertising fees.
Bill Clinton, the prior Democratic president, was also a child from a modest working-class family. That didn’t stop him from shepherding through a North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 with Mexico and Canada, which started the process of shifting U.S. manufacturing jobs to low-wage economies. The U.S. lost 3.65 million factory jobs from 1994 to 2007, with the vast majority going to low-wage economies like China and India. The lower labor costs resulting from that shift have lifted corporate profits and put loyal U.S. manufacturers, like New Balance and Revere Copper, at a competitive disadvantage.
Obama will probably spend $1 billion to get re-elected in 2012 after laying out a record $650 million in 2004. It’s a safe bet that no one raises that kind of money without support from the same industries that bankroll his paper-rivals in the GOP and routinely fleece working Americans: housing, energy, financial services and for-profit education.
Chief executives officers in those industries have a fiduciary duty to maximize share-holder value, which is a fancy way of saying they wouldn’t be paying out legalized bribes to the Democratic and Republican political machines if they weren’t confident of a nice return on those investments.
Still, Obama talked a helluva good game Monday.
“This plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations – tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get,” he said. “And if tax reform doesn’t get done, this plan asks the wealthiest Americans to go back to paying the same rates that they paid during the 1990s, before the Bush tax cuts.”
The great thing about the speech was that Obama demonstrated a clear understanding of the over-arching trends that have reshaped this nation into a less democratic place the past 30 years as traitorous elites have placed profit growth ahead of the national welfare by shifting jobs to low-wage economies and creating a tax code that allows them to parasite off working families.
The president indicated that he was done being a doormat to the wing-nuts bankrolled by tycoons like the Koch Brothers, who seem to want to roll the clock back and create a modern-day plantation where neutered workers are reduced to the modern-day equivalent of slaves, indentured servants, and sharecroppers.
He also indicated that he understood that our political system has morphed into a pay-for-play system of legalized bribery in which wealthy individuals and interest-groups with DC lobbyists on the payroll, like China and the for-profit college industry, wield more influence than the working Americans that actually foot so much of the tax bill.
“Our tax code shouldn’t give an advantage to companies with the best-connected lobbyists,” Obama said. “It should give an advantage to companies that invest in the United States of America and create jobs in the United States of America. And we can lower the corporate rate if we get rid of all these special deals.”
The president’s refreshingly direct remarks confirmed many of the suspicions of working Americans, which are routinely neglected by the mainstream media and bought-and-paid-for propaganda organizations like Faux News.
The problem is that it’s by no means clear that Obama or any other federal politician other than U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) really cares about working Americans or simply indulges in this kind of talk as a form of political rhetoric. The two parties have shown working Americans over and over again that they don’t give a hoot about us. They just want our votes and would prefer to secure them while providing nothing in return.
That’s why working Americans are now facing the same political challenge that black Americans have faced for the past 30 years: the tyranny of single-party dependency. Our complete abandonment by the Republican Party means that Democrats can take us for granted now, safe in the knowledge that we have no other viable alternative.
That’s also why career politicians like U.S. Sen. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) remain in office so long. He’s represented Harlem in the U.S. House of Representatives for 40 years now. Again, so much for term limits.
Working Americans have been taken for granted before by this pay-to-play political system and we will be taken for granted again. We stand at the front of the line only for burdens, like military service and taxes.
So, why should Obama fight a tough battle to protect the middle class when he can simply bankroll misleading political ads and fool us into voting against our own interests as the Tea Party has done?
The painful truth is he shouldn’t.
The most likely scenario is that Obama will talk a good game and do nothing for us.
Because Washington has been sucked into the same “greed is good” cycle of sacrificing the future for short-term gains as the Fortune 500. This nation is going down and treasonous elites are leading the way by lining their pockets even as the ship of state shudders and lists.
There’s an old saying in DC: “you either have a seat at the table or you’re on the menu.”
Working Americans are increasingly tired of being gnawed on.