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Obama On the Warpath – What Is a Liberal?

September 19
19:09 2011
Obama is finally starting to become the gangster Bill Maher used to talk about. Maher would say he wished Obama would come into office how many of us had pictured he would — with a swagger and arrogance to carry out extreme liberal beliefs and policies with an almost reckless abandon for conservative criticisms.

Well, we found out Obama likes to playact being a ‘liberal’ while on the campaign trail, but when he gets into office, he turns into a middle-of-the-road Republican, extending Bush tax cuts, failing to raise the debt ceiling by invoking the 14th Amendment rather than pander to Conservative demands to cut the Big 3 entitlement programs, engaging in troop surges, and extending the war on terror to six or seven countries with “boots on the ground”, predator drone strikes, and the continuation of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Wait, didn’t he end the Iraq invasion? No. There are still 48,000 American soldiers there, and they will be there probably until the end of time.)

Suddenly, Obama comes out with a massive jobs plan (that some say isn’t massive enough), and he’s going to pay for it through a series of ending tax loopholes for the wealthy, and an increase on taxes for America’s millionaires and billionaires. Obama comes out of nowhere like Akhilleus storming the Trojans after a period of refusing to join the ever-waging battle. Actually, that’s too generous of a comparison — Obama has finally recognized that he has a role to play in this war over taxation and deficit reduction. But he will not fight like Akhilleus. He’s insisted on $1.5 trillion in new taxes as a way to reduce the federal deficit.

The Huffington Post reports:

In a blunt rejoinder to congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama called for $1.5 trillion in new taxes Monday, part of a total 10-year deficit reduction package totaling more than $3 trillion. He vowed to veto any deficit reduction package that cuts benefits to Medicare recipients but does not raise taxes on the wealthy and big corporations.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” the president said.

The president’s proposal would predominantly hit upper income taxpayers but would also reduce spending in mandatory benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, by $580 billion. It also counts savings of $1 trillion over 10 years from the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The deficit reduction plan represents an economic bookend to the $447 billion in tax cuts and new public works spending that Obama has proposed as a short-term measure to stimulate the economy and create jobs. And it gives the president a voice in a process that will be dominated by a joint congressional committee charged with recommending deficit reductions of up to $1.5 trillion.


While the GOP and the Norquistas of the country vehemently insist raising taxes on the rich is not the way to raise revenue and tackle the deficit, Michael Bérubé writes in his 2006 book What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher Education:

We advocate progressive taxation not because we resent the rich–on the contrary, a fortunate few of us are among the rich–but because we fear that the concentration of great wealth in few hands effecively undermines the project of democracy, and (on our happy days) we do not want to believe that the American experience in democracy, which has included African Americans only in the past forty years (and hardly satisfactorily at that) and has yet to be extended to gay men and lesbians, has already degenerated into a foul combination of oligarchy and plutocracy. And we advocate progressive taxation not because we like government and bureacracy–on the contrary, most of us distrust the IRS and don’t like dealing with the Department of Moteor Vehicles, either, even as we know these things are necessary–but because we know that the state is the very last resort for the weak, the disabled, and the impoverished….

Liberals know this well, having worked for decades to reform everything from labor laws to mental institution. But we think it’s immoral (yes, immoral) for free-market conservatives to leave our weakest citizens to depend on the whims of private charities, and to leave our wealthiest and most powerful citizens with the mere option of deciding whether or not to contribute to the common weal today or tomorrow or the next day. When liberals say we’re all in this together, or that we should be, we mean that we have obligations to one another–and that we should collectively, democratically devise the means for realizing those obligations. That this is not broadly understood as a moral position says a great deal about the poverty of our public discourses of morality.  (excerpt taken from The Seagull Reader, 2nd Ed, edited by Joseph Kelly. Paying for Freedom. W.W. Norton & Company. London. 2008.)

I think it’s much too late to place real hope in Barack Obama, but it’s fun, at least, to watch him give a fiery speech aiming his ire at the Republicans and calling for new taxes on the richest Americans. Will he push it through to the end? I doubt it.

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