President Obama stepped up to the lectern at George Washington University yesterday and sent an appropriate warning to House Republicans who are pushing a draconian and extreme plan that would significantly alter the government’s ability to promote the general welfare of the nation. After days of anticipation in the nation’s capital over how Mr. Obama would respond to the prescription offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, the President found his footing and offered a firm rebuke to the House Republican leadership and laid out his principles for budget austerity. In short, the President of United States who promised “change you could believe in” during the 2008 campaign, showed up on Thursday.
In recent weeks the President seems to be taking heat from all corners of the political ring - Republicans who are putting on a full-court press to emasculate the federal government, Democrats who are fearful that long-held sacred domestic programs are about to fall, and liberals who think if Mr. Obama is not singing “look to the union label” he is somehow betraying liberal roots that he never indicated were part of his DNA. The President is even facing some criticism, or should we say critiquing, from some in the Black community. It’s time everyone got real.
Republicans are acting like idiots in suggesting that the federal government abandon its historical role of serving the general welfare of the American people when certain needs cannot be met by state and local governments, or personal initiative. This “Horatio Alger” B.S. has gone unchallenged too long; allowing the right to paint anyone in need as personally deficient while not questioning the excesses of corporate leadership. In the same vein, working Americans who are being taxed to death at the local and state levels should be incensed that the GOP is standing in the way of the wealthiest Americans paying their fair share in taxes; and vowing to block a rollback of the Bush era tax cuts. Democrats need to understand that every program that exists is not worth saving because some of the alphabet soup of government programs does little to ameliorate conditions they are intended to address. Liberals, and to be frank, we are mostly talking white liberals, need to get a clue. The threat to abandon the President’s reelection bid is hypocritical when compared to how they insisted Black voters rally behind Bill Clinton during the former president’s deceptions during the Lewinsky scandal.
As for Blacks, we have perhaps suffered the most during this recession and have not seen the yield we anticipated under the Obama White House. And while we have every right and responsibility to hold this President accountable, it should not cause us to act foolish as if there is another Democrat out there who can lead us to the Promised Land. We should have known this would be tough the minute this President put his hand on the Bible and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court muffed the oath of office. We can be disappointed by our rate of progress but we should not be stupid. This President has faced the normal challenges of office - and then some. And the then sum is magnified because of his race and the dogged determination of elements in our country, including some on Capitol Hill, to preserve white supremacy in the wake of our nation’s emerging racial collage. Given the tremendous progress Blacks have made in this nation, against tremendous odds, it is clear that there are some Republicans who are determined to impair the federal government’s ability to level the playing field going forward. And there are some Democrats who are so consumed by their own sense of self importance that they miss the point that he was elected to serve a nation and not a narrow constituency. That is the tough part of governing, like it or not. Like some, I simply hope this President will stand firm on those areas that protect the poor, support working and middle class Americans, and fight inequities that widens the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Though he gave few specifics, President Obama set the right tone. His commitment to end the Bush era tax cuts and make the wealthy pay for the privilege of being rich, the preservation of Medicare, driving down health care costs and putting defense spending on the table should be supported. In the case of the latter, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has shown leadership in identifying areas in military spending that can be pared back. Even Ronald Reagan’s budget guru, David Stockman, is calling for a cutback in defense spending. Even with taxing the rich, and cutting military spending, there are some domestic programs they will likely have to be cut back or downsized. If the President is serious about trimming $4 trillion from the deficit in 12 years, then some programs are going to face the axe. At least now, we have a sense of the President’s real demeanor on the budget and the deficit, and hopefully will see this translate into real leadership in the days and weeks to come.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.