The subtext of Obama's campaign is that his own life narrative -- to become the first African-American president, a huge milestone in the nation's journey from slavery -- can serve as a metaphor for other political stalemates. Great impasses can be broken with sufficient good will, intelligence and energy. "It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white," he says. Along with millions of others, I find this a powerful appeal.
But on inspection, the metaphor is a mirage. Repudiating racism is not a magic cure-all for the nation's ills. It requires independent ideas, and Obama has few. If you examine his agenda, it is completely ordinary, highly partisan, not candid and mostly unresponsive to many pressing national problems.
By Obama's own moral standards, Obama fails. Americans "are tired of hearing promises made and 10-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change," he recently said. Shortly thereafter, he outlined an economic plan of at least 12 points that, among other things, would:
-- Provide a $1,000 tax cut for most two-earner families ($500 for singles).
-- Create a $4,000 refundable tuition tax credit for every year of college.
-- Expand the child care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 and "double spending on quality after-school programs."
-- Enact an "energy plan" that would invest $150 billion in 10 years to create a "green energy sector."
Whatever one thinks of these ideas, they're standard goodie-bag politics: something for everyone. They're so similar to many Clinton proposals that her campaign put out a news release accusing him of plagiarizing. With existing budget deficits and the costs of Obama's "universal health plan," the odds of enacting his full package are slim.
A favorite Obama line is that he will tell "the American people not just what they want to hear, but what we need to know." Well, he hasn't so far.
Consider the retiring baby boomers. A truth-telling Obama might say: "Spending for retirees -- mainly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- is already nearly half the federal budget. Unless we curb these rising costs, we will crush our children with higher taxes. Reflecting longer life expectancies, we should gradually raise the eligibility ages for these programs and trim benefits for wealthier retirees. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for inaction. Waiting longer will only worsen the problem."
Instead, Obama pledges not to raise the retirement age and to "protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries." This isn't "change"; it's sanctification of the status quo. He would also exempt all retirees making less than $50,000 annually from income tax. By his math, that would provide average tax relief of $1,400 to 7 million retirees -- shifting more of the tax burden onto younger workers. Obama's main proposal for Social Security is to raise the payroll tax beyond the present $102,000 ceiling
So as Betsy says Obama's change basically consists screwing over today's workers to pay for yesterday's and we'll worry about tomorrows workers in two weeks. (metaphorically speaking). Doesn't really sound like a big change except I will be paying more and according to Michelle Obama I will be expected to be happy about it:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Wow, am I looking forward to his presidency /sarcasm
h/t Betsy and Ace
Election 2008, Barack Obama