BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Some progressives are disappointed in the president. Some feel that he has let them down. It appears that he is not willing to stand up to the bullies in Congress. It seems that he is prone to give in too easily to the hostage takers in town. Perhaps it might be well to try to examine why some feel disappointed and whether such feelings are valid.
The President has not met expectations. Were these expectations unrealistic? Perhaps so. But he led people to expect a lot from him. He led people to believe in hope and change. He spoke of the audacity of hope. He spoke of change, and he declared, “Yes, we can!” He has spoken repeatedly about the things he believes and the things for which he will “fight.” He has promised “to take them on” for health care and for tax cuts only for the working classes. He was idealistic. He has consistently led the people to hope for more than was delivered.
One of those hopes has been that this country would change from being governed for the benefit of the rich business ownership class, and that it would once again put real value on productive labor. Those who study prosperity statistics have noted the clear trend for the rich to get richer and for the middle class to shrink while stalemated in income. The loss of manufacturing and union jobs has decimated many communities and some states. Tax and tariff policies make it profitable for companies to locate abroad and sell their goods back to us.
While the working class is struggling to keep solvent and is suffering from severe job losses, American corporations had their best profit year ever. Yet it is known that the S&P 500 corporations are holding $1 trillion in cash, refusing to invest it in job creating economic activity in this country. Bailed out banks had a big year and again are handing out big bonuses.
Tax policies, due to economic power translating into political power, have allowed the growth of fortunes of the top 1% from $8 trillion to $40 trillion in the last 2½ decades. The incomes of the top 1% have grown by 10% every year this decade under the Bush tax cuts. Knowledge of such trends has led two-thirds of the nation’s likely voters to conclude that the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% should not be continued and that the inheritance tax breaks should be restrained.
Considering all this it is no wonder that progressives are deeply disappointed that Mr. Obama gave in on the extension of tax cuts for the rich in trade for some programs to help the unemployed, the poor, and to stimulate business that easily merited continuing on their own strength. These have the feeling that little was really gained and a lot was lost in the deal. Thus, they are disappointed.
One might have reason to pause and question: “If two-thirds of the voters agreed with progressives on discontinuing the tax cuts for the rich, why did they elect a new Congress which is unsympathetic with their opinions and likely to do the opposite?” Indeed, that is illogical and somewhat schizophrenic, i.e. a definite compartmentalization of thought where views on different facts and issues never intermingle.
This inconsistency in political views and behavior comes directly from the Tea Party influence, due to that loosely formed party having no logical set of beliefs, no complete gestalt or rationale, and not much consistency. Add the fact that the Tea Party is supported by millionaire dollars, and that anti-tax Republicans were supported by unlimited millions of corporate and billionaire dollars this past election.
The more pragmatic among us may share the disappointment sometimes felt with Mr. Obama, over this and such issues as the single payer and public options which was needed to really change the costs of health care in this country. Only a type of Medicare for all will ever really do that. But in spite of that disappointment, pragmatists reason that a sorry deal with the devil is better than no deal at all before that devil is in a position of greater power.
While some idealists are suffering in disappointment and dismay, along comes former President Bill Clinton, the great pragmatic progressive leader of a decade ago saying, “Take the deal. It is the best we will get for now.” He then explains the whole rationale of why he believes that is true. Again, progressives tend to be swayed by his logic, and say, “I am disappointed, but Mr. Obama was probably right after all. We had better go along with this unsavory deal.”
But the President can ill afford more such deals that are not palatable to his base. Only an enthusiastic progressive base will enable Mr. Obama to make a strong race against the opposition in 2012. Some progressives would hate to have to vote for a candidate in whom they did not have full faith, just in order to defeat somebody they really despise.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer