Grassroots Commentary

The President Who Counts on Amnesia

Thomas Berry · Dec. 13, 2011

On December 6, President Obama delivered a speech on the economy. While it’s almost a cliché to say that an Obama speech is rife with falsehood, this was no exception.

He lauded, correctly if briefly, the values and rewards of hard work and responsibility. But such praise rings hollow, given his endorsement of attacks on those values. He approves of the Occupy movement; but how does a person with a shred of integrity embrace both positive contributors to the economy and those who seek its destruction?

He criticized the “wealthy” for “growing wealthier from their incomes and investments.” But income and sound investments are the usual means of accumulating wealth. He made the hardships faced by the middle and lower classes a major theme – yet, in keeping with his notion of never having made a mistake, he offered only his usual the-buck-stops-there excuses for their plight.

He said that the progressive income tax – an odious and burdensome tool for punishing the targets of politically motivated envy – makes us a richer nation and a stronger democracy. But it enriches only attorneys and bureaucrats, and strengthens only tyranny.

He decried greed; yet the government’s greed inflated the top tax level from 7% at the time of the 16th Amendment’s ratification to as high as 90%. Progressive hero Franklin D. Roosevelt even tried for a 100% tax on income over $25,000 in 1941, but was rebuffed by Congress. Obama’s calls for higher taxes on producers are just more progressive greed.

Two of his points are galling. He damned the wealthy for, “Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line.” This, from the President who has made huge – and hugely unsuccessful – bets on economic stimulus and health care reform, and who has given huge bonuses to backers through the Porkulus, all with “other people’s money” – ours, the taxpayers’ – “on the line.” This is as offensive as his claim to have reduced the deficit that his irresponsible spending multiplied.

He also bemoaned “millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal.” This, from a President whose policies have killed millions of jobs, devalued the dollar, and inflated food and energy prices, and who has proposed taxing charitable giving? How many of these poor families could have been helped by the tens of millions of dollars in campaign funds being raised to continue the same ruinous course? How many starving kids could be fed from the proceeds of his numerous $35,800 a plate – the maximum allowed by law – fundraiser dinners?

In fairness, claims by Rush Limbaugh and others that he said capitalism doesn’t work are wrong. What he said doesn’t work is less regulation and lower taxes. To support this, he lied about the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, claiming they were only for the wealthy when they were in fact across the board. He also lied about job growth following their implementation, calling it the “slowest … in half a century.” 4,500,000 jobs were created from 2003 through 2006; compare that to his record of jobs lost, and it’s no wonder he wants to lie about it.

His comparison of income changes between between the top one percent of wage earners (“the last few decades”) and most Americans (“the last decade”) was flawed. He rightly criticized an economy built on bubbles, then praised the dot-com bubble’s job creation. He claimed that Clinton’s tax increases eliminated the deficit, ignoring spending cuts and welfare reform by the Republican-controlled Congress.

He said America was built on the concept of being a nation of consumers. Nay – we were conceived to be a nation of producers. If we are the former, then we are impoverished dependents, enslaved to both imports and government largesse. If the latter, then we are prosperous and free producers and exporters. But the former state is the fruit of his policies.

He accused Republicans of “suffering from a kind of collective amnesia” for wanting to reinstate policies that he erroneously blamed for causing the crisis. Such an accusation is the height of irony; not only have his own policies worsened and prolonged the crisis, but he plays to a “collective amnesia” among the American people that forgets history, civics, economics and common sense.

President Obama calls the debate over economic policy “a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.” It is more than that. It is a make-or-break moment for the Republic. So too is the 2012 election.

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