Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Supporting Obama: Points of clarification

A quick post to clarify some points I made in earlier posts regarding the Obama administration's agenda and my inclination to support him.

National debt

In response to my post Obama wins or we all lose, blogging friend, Eclectic Dilettante commented:
Obama has spent about 4.8 trillion since inauguration. Leaving all politics aside, I ask one very simple question. How is the solution to too much debt, more debt?
To which, I answer: I don't think the administration's agenda is geared toward addressing the debt.

Not a pretty picture...
Yes, there is too much debt: $11 trillion so far. An unimaginably huge number. Most of it, of course, was run up by the Bush administration, but that's beside the point. I think the Obama administration has made the determination that the most immediate priority is creating jobs and rescuing the nation's financial and banking systems. Obama believes that, to accomplish that, we must incur more debt.

As I've stated before, I don't understand enough about economics or finance to know whether or not the Obama plan for the economy will work. I suspect that even the so-called "experts" don't know for sure. But President Obama is the duly elected chief executive for this country; so, he makes the decisions, ostensibly with the backing of the electorate. Let's hope for the best.

"Redistribution of wealth"

A common theme that runs throughout conservative whining about the Obama agenda is that the President is moving the country toward "socialism." Conservatives object to anything that they believe is a transfer of wealth from the top of the economic ladder to the bottom.

The ol' Robin Hood routine

There are a couple points to clarify here:
  1. The health care plan proposed by the administration is to be funded by revenues that will come as a result of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts of 2001. Those tax cuts were, in themselves a transfer of wealth in the opposite direction. In light of the huge government bailouts that have been extended to the very beneficiaries of those tax cuts, made necessary because of their incompetence and malfeasance, the original objective of the tax cuts, to provide incentive for "successful entrepreneurs," sounds like a bad joke.
  2. The gap in wealth between rich and poor in this nation has never been greater than it is today. By attempting to address this financial chasm, the Obama administration has a chance to avert a catastrophe of very large proportions. Again, I refer readers to the myriad historical events that have been spawned by large gaps in wealth.
  3. Republicans complain that the reduction in income tax rates for people who make less than $250,000 per year gives money to people who "don't pay taxes." While it is true that some of the tax cut beneficiaries might not pay income taxes, like everyone else, they pay other taxes (telephone taxes, gas taxes, etcetera) that are inherent in the purchases we make every day. In fact, due to the sheer numbers of people involved, members of the working and middle classes pay far more of these "usage" taxes than do the wealthy. The Obama plan is much more equitable.
The dangers of "Dear Leader"

There has been some complaint among the right-wing that President Obama is being put forth as a "Dear Leader" figure. That is, he is adored and idolized by those who support him.

Is there any better example of the dangers of a cult of personality?
In this, I'll admit to some concerns of my own. (Never mind that the right-wingers who complain about Obama's deification are the very same people who wet themselves whenever Junior showed his monkey face on the teevee.)

President Obama is charismatic, eloquent, and intelligent. He's a compelling figure. And, for a left-wing freak like me, his domestic policies are like manna from heaven. But there is a (potentially grave) danger in following anyone too closely.

I can say this: President Obama has already made some decisions around foreign policy and the rights of detainees with which I do not agree. At this point, though, I'm still on board.

In any case, conservatives, Republicans, plutocrats... they have already proven themselves to be hypocrites, bigots, and incompetents. It is completely valid and important to keep an eye on the Obama administration, and to object to policies that one believes to be misguided or wrong. But mindless, shrill bleating like that offered up by right-wingers only clouds up the dialog and drives people to support the President.

When President Obama is attacked by people for whom I have contempt, my first instinct is to rally to his defense. But it is important not to do so reflexively.

It's a delicate balancing act, to be sure.


NWJR said...

Regardless of whether I agree with your conclusions, you've laid out your case VERY well here.

That chart is interesting. The numbers are large, to be sure, but not historically large. They seem that way because of the unimaginable number of zeroes in them. But then again, GDP is high, too. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

From Paul Krugman:


This graph shows the % of the nation's wealth held by the richest 10% of the populace. It neatly illustrates the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the monied class that began with Reagan and kicked into high gear with Bush I, Clinton and W.

It's ironic that the post-war period, often cited by conservatives as an American "Golden Age", was created by a transfer of wealth from the monied class to create the middle class.


Brown rat, black rat, white rat, gray rat.....they're all just rats.