Citing Tenet of American Dream, Obama Condemns Failure of Top Down Economic Strategy
In an interview on CBS This Morning, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talked to co-anchor Charlie Rose about the “negative tone” of the political campaign. Watch Michelle’s eyebrows shoot up in a “what are you talking about” look as Rose passes on accusations that the President is mostly negative in tone. But the real goodies came later, when in one sentence, Obama defined the election, condemning the failed top down economic ideology of the Republican Party.
The President defined the choices facing the American people, explaining that the challenge now is “Making sure that we are constantly thinking about growing this economy, not from the top down, because we tried that and it didn’t work. And it hasn’t worked historically. But rather, how do we make sure that every man and woman out there, who’s willing to work hard has a chance?”
Watch the pre-taped (last week, perhaps before the Romney debacle of “watch the SEC hit the disclosure”) interview here courtesy of CBS:
The President explained his early hope for bipartisan work, “My expectation was that we would see more cooperation. But having said that, the basic notion that we are not Democrats or Republicans first, we’re Americans first, and that most of the problems that we face are solvable, not in some ideological way, but in a practical, common sense, American way, that I believe as much as ever. And I think so do the American people.”
“The frustration I have right now is that we still need to break the fever here in Washington so this town operates and reflects those values that are shared by people all across the country,” Obama said, “meaning that we’ve got to stop thinking in purely political terms about who’s on top, who gets advantage.”
The President continued, “You know, my proudest achievement is actually stabilizing the economy to avert a great depression. Because if I don’t do that, nothing else matters. Now we’re not where we need to be. And you’re right, the unemployment rate is way too high. But the fact of the matter is that we were able to stop a hemorrhaging of jobs, get the economy growing again, add 4.4 million jobs, 500,000 manufacturing jobs, save the auto industry. All those things provide us at least a base from which now to grow.”
“The central question becomes, building on what we’ve done, where do we go from here? Making sure that we are constantly thinking about growing this economy, not from the top down, because we tried that and it didn’t work. And it hasn’t worked historically. But rather, how do we make sure that every man and woman out there, who’s willing to work hard has a chance? That’s what we’re going to spend the next four months debating and that’s what I hope to spend the next four years working on.”
Obama’s words resonate with a struggling middle class and those sinking in poverty because they know that they work hard, or want to work hard. Even if they don’t know the numbers, they feel the result of 40 years of economic ideology that favors the top 2%, trickling down disadvantage in a myriad of ways, from lower wages to less security to poorly funded schools in poverty stricken areas.
While Republicans seem oblivious of the economic reality, even the conservative Heritage Foundation and the libertarian leaning Cato Institute acknowledge the growing income inequality between the haves and the have-nots, though they conclude that it’s “not a problem”. Perhaps they meant to add, “for us.”
Yet, it seems to be a problem for many: An October 2011 CBO report found that, “between 1979 and 2007 income grew by 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households, 65 percent for the next 19 percent, just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent and just 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.”
The conservative argument is that the growing income inequality is not the problem and does not lead to a nation of the rich, elite leading. Given the economic status of their presidential candidate who will not release his tax returns, I can’t see how they can continue to make such an argument without blushing. Not only has trickle down not worked, but we are indeed being led by a nation of elected servants to the top 2%, and now we are considering electing a top 2%er to the highest office in the land. Someone whose policies reflect an advantage to his own class, while raising taxes on the middle class.
In fact, according to Joseph E. Stiglitz* (a Nobel Prize-winning economist), the top one percent of Americans earns a fifth of the country’s income while controlling more than a third of its wealth. Stiglitz makes the point that the American dream is now a myth, and that statistics bear out that our chances in life depend upon our good or bad fortune — are we to the manor born or are we relegated to a life of poverty simply by being born into poverty. As average Americans have been struggling post Bush stock market crash of 2008, between 2009-2010, the top 1% got 93% of the income growth.
One of the central tenets of America is our alleged equality – America is supposed to be the land of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard. That’s a noble sentiment and goal, but it’s become an increasingly faulty premise, used to punish the poor for not rising out of poverty and berate the middle class for not having what it takes to succeed. Currently, America has less opportunity for equality than Europe. If that’s not a slap in the face to all this country fought for, I don’t know what is.
Money and greed are where it’s at, we’re told. If you’re mad about it, it’s because you’re jealous.
For those of us for whom high school has ended, being told you’re jealous when you speak up about obviously inequitable policies that favor the top 2% can be frustrating, because you’re discussing the facts but being rebutted with a presumed motive that is supposed to kill your facts by poisoning the well.
If it’s indeed facts we want, all we need is to see Mitt Romney’s tax returns. The details of those tax returns tell the story that he and his corporate backers don’t want you to see.
And when we ask to see the returns, we don’t mean granting access to a Fox and CNN friendly for one hour. We don’t mean providing a cover sheet in a cell-phone free and camera free room. We mean we want to see the full returns and amendments.
President Obama is running on the tenet of the American experiment – a land of opportunity, not a land of haves and have-nots. The current tax code and Republican ideas about how to “grow jobs” by cutting the top 2%’s taxes even further has created a country antithetical to the one imagined. We have our impervious upper classes now. We have our landed gentry. We have our strict class structure.
All of those things belie the American dream.
Obama kicked that notion to the curb today and framed the debate around the core idea of America – opportunity for all who are willing to work hard.
Additional source: Joseph E. Stiglitz, “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future”