Monday, January 30, 2012

Obama's populism - circa 2007

A meme has developed on the left that President Obama has only adopted a "populist" message in reaction to OWS. But take a look at a speech he gave (pdf) way back in 2007 to the Brookings Institution. Keep in mind, this was a full year before the economy crashed and more than 3 years before OWS.

The problem that we have is that social compact is starting to crumble, it's starting to erode. In our new economy there is no shortage of new wealth, but wages are not keeping pace; workers are more vulnerable to job loss and more worried about retirement. Those Americans fortunate enough to heave health care are paying more for it. Health care premiums have risen nearly 90 percent inthe last six years. Americans are facing deeper personal debt from filling up the gas tank to paying for college education. Everything seems to cost more, and this is not just happening by chance. It's not just something we can chalk up to temporary shocks; it's happening in part because of the choices we are making and the way we are making those choices. It's happening because we've gone too far from being a country where we're all in this together to a country where everyone is on their own.

Today I'm going to focus on one aspect of our economic policy where we need to make different choices, because nowhere is the shift in our priorities more evident than in our tax policies. Instead of working to find ways to relieve the burden on working people and the middle class, we've developed creative ways to remove the burden from the well-off. Instead of having all of us pay our fair share, we've got over $1 trillion worth of loopholes in the corporate tax codes. This isn't the invisible had of the market at work; it's the successful work of special interests.

For decades we've seen successful strategies to ride anti-tax sentiment in this country towards tax cuts that favor wealth, not work. And for decades we've seen the gaps in wealth in this country go idle, while the cost to working people are greater. We've got a shift in our tax values that disproportionately benefits the wealthiest Americans, corporate carve-outs that serve no national purpose, tax breaks that allow companies to stash their profits overseas, a government that's paralyzed when dealing with off-shore tax haven countries, an overload of tax code that's too complicated for ordinary folks to understand but just complicated enough to work with someone who knows how to work the system.

When big business doesn't like something in the tax code, they can hire a lobbyist to get it changed. But most working people can't afford a high-priced lobbyist. Instead of honoring that core American value, opportunity for all, we've had a system in Washington where our laws and regulations have carved out opportunities for the few.

Now, the numbers don't lie. At a time when income inequality is growing sharper, the Bush tax cuts gave the wealthiest one percent of Americans a tax cut that was twice as large as the middle class. At a time when Americans are working harder than ever, we are taxing income from work at nearly twice the levels that we're taxing gains for investors. If you talk about this in polite society, sooner or later you'll get accused of waging class warfare, and it's distasteful to point out that some CEOs made more in 10 minutes than a worker makes in 10 months. Or, as my friend Warren Buffet put it to me, if there's class warfare going on in America, then my class is winning.

Now, what Warren Buffet knows is what all Americans have to remember: to get through these uncertain times, we have to recognize that we all have a stake in one another's success When folks are hurting out there on Main Street, it's not good for Wall Street. When the changes in our economy are leaving too many people behind, the competitiveness of our country risks falling behind. When that dream of opportunity is denied to too many Americans, then ultimately that pain has a way of prickling us.

We welcome success stories here in America. We admire those who have climbed to the top of the ladder. We just need to be sure that the ladder doesn't get taken away from the rest of us. We want a system based on fairness, not special favors. To steer a course through the chains that's taking hold, we have to hold tight to that core principle that our economy must advance opportunity for all Americans.

I'd challenge anyone to find one hair's difference between what he said back in 2007 and his recent speech at Osawatomie, KS or his State of the Union address.

One of the things I admire most about Obama is that he obviously put a lot of thought into his principles long before he ran for president - which means he's been able to be remarkably consistent in what he stands for. While many of us get blown around by the winds of the 24/7 news cycle, President Obama has kept his eye on his North Star and stayed true to himself.

6 comments:

  1. Before OWS, President Obama was saying these things ... and the media ignored him, focusing instead on right-wing issues of deficits and debt and immigration and Islam and so on.

    Since OWS, the media notice when President Obama says these things, and they (and others) mistake the media just now noticing for President Obama just now discussing these issues.

    OWS made a difference ... but not in what President Obama has talked about. OWS made the media listen.

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    1. Great point!

      A day's worth of macadamias for you ;-)

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    2. One has to wonder why it took the media paying attention to Obama's populism for so many on the left to notice.

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    3. Exactly! The Left has been very lazy about learning who is the man they voted to be President. I will give #OWS props for forcing the issue for the media. They should have quit while they were ahead.

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    4. This conversation about the media failing to recognize President Obama's populism reminds me of my years working in private industry and government. I am female, and black. I often noticed that in meetings when I made important points in discussions there would be NO response or follow-up until later in the discussion one of the white participants made the very same point I made at the earlier time. Then, everyone would sing the praisess of the idea, and ignore the fact that this was my original point of view in the very same discussion. Also, when I would make the statement that this was what I said, no one would agree or join with me to acknowledge this fact. I am glad that we here at "Smartypants" have acknowledged the President's ideas.

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  2. ebogan63 here.
    Always like it when the BPI Squirrel pays a visit.

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