Selling Americans Short
Horribly conventional political fiscal wisdom for the American 21st century is that one never advocates the atrocity of personal sacrifice, voters don’t want to face a candidate offering them less who gets torpedoed by rabid Republicans ranting about taxes. As Jared Bernstein wrote at TPM Café yesterday, make promises with never a detail of how it’s actually paid for, of course, what candidate would be so foolish as to get into negative reality?
Many Americans would be bitterly surprised that among the global community of democracies their citizenship and social character metrics aren’t rated very highly. Voter participation rates are, comparatively, appallingly low, while Americans tolerate incredible fiscal irresponsibility and vicious slums of social injustice that simply aren’t found in Canada, Belgium or Norway.
There are no better masters of low expectations, of course, than Republicans, whose leadership exhorted us to go shopping when war arrived (what a surprise we’ve lost). Five years and 4,000 deaths later one notices that candidates sharply critical of the war never flat out say America has indeed lost, been defeated in utter failure. It simply never occurs to Senators Obama or Clinton to state the screamingly obvious truth that everyone knows except the propagandists in the media that we’ve lost the Iraq war, are we getting immediately out because we’ve won?
Perusing Obama fiscal policy positions last night I was pleasantly surprised to find a real taxation policy with ambitious goals—maybe if Obama supporters weren’t hyper-reactive to negative politics I would have heard of it instead of enduring the Spear Hillary All The Time Campaign. In any event, I was thrilled with the populist thrust of reversing the gross inequity and immaturity of the Bush tax cuts, only to be instantly let down by the inevitable sweetener, a sickly saccharine defense against rabid Republican tax hike attacks and their enablers in the media: middle class tax cuts, or at least a continuation of them (Bernstein plainly calls them cuts).
The American middle class needs a job market, not a tax cut. A job market that pays good wages, where forming and entering a union isn’t obstructed at every turn, where no one is wrecked or worried about medical costs because everyone has health insurance. A tax cut comes once a year in a check that never lasts, but a good job pays off for a lifetime and truly sustains a family.
One of the reasons Bush is at 28% is that Americans are enraged at being constantly lied to, this insane insistence that progress is being made as Iraq is engulfed in flames or that we can borrow forever and not pay for it.
Americans damn well know the country is broke and in terrible trouble, consumer confidence plunged yet again last week to levels not seen since 1973. How could it ever make sense to make matters worse with more federal borrowing for a check that only comes once a year?
Wrong track polling numbers continue to shatter records, Americans can be trusted with the plain fact that no one gets a tax cut, after blowing a trillion dollars on Iraq no one, in fact, will get a tax cut for a long, long time. We get it.
One reason I miss Molly Ivins so is that very few were so good or consistent as her in starkly pointing out “opportunity costs,” what we as a society in suffer as costs by not doing something. For just $120 billion every single public school in America could be brand spanking new, but we flushed $120 billion down the toilet our first year in Iraq.
Molly knew and trusted that Americans could see the consequences of our choices, and like me is utterly sure Americans can accept the responsibility for investing more for our people. We could do so much more, be so much better, but it takes leadership firmly rooted in reality that trust Americans can deal with sacrifice to get us there.
Tax cuts are the Republican path to civic salvation, we’ve all seen how that works out. Try again, Senator Obama.
That’s a sincere statement to an earnest politician whom I believe is selling Americans short in their ability to accept reality and sacrifice. It’s not an attack in any sense, just an earnest plea to get better from a citizen who expects fiscal responsibility from a candidate, who understands limitations and expects a candidate to grow over the course of a campaign, but who won’t be a cheerleader.