President Barack Obama: His Tax-Cut “Framework” is Another Example of His Facially Neutral, Cruel, and Merciless Decisionmaking

President Barack Obama over his term has shown an affinity to please those with power and pummel those without it. The recent decision to make a deal to extend the soon-former Bush tax cuts is only the latest example of this characteristic. His approach of making the decision for the framework is not satisfactory for a President. In addition, the President is making facially neutral, cruel, and merciless decisions on the income classes of the nonwealthy, but seeks to divorce himself from owning his savage knockout blows.

I read the President’s statement (his press conference was nearly intolerable to watch). It seems that the President would like the regular citizen to think that he is a judge: He heard the arguments from representatives of both political parties, thought about them, and made a decision to favor one over the other in an attempt to spare the public from an extended debate.

I find this method of decisionmaking to be completely unacceptable. First, a President of the United States, as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive of the United States, should have had his own proposals rather than just sit down passively to wait for others to bring policy options to him. Second, his decision-making style is far more appropriate in the the judicial branch than the executive.

Usually, Presidents make their own tax policy because they will be personally and institutionally identified with it. What the current President did is adopt his predecessor’s (George Bush) tax policy in some misguided thought that any problems would lay at Bush’s feet. As I have stated previously, once the President signs the extension bill, the tax act–with its many warts–will belong to President Obama alone; no more will he be able to blame Bush (Boehner or McConnell) for the soon-to-be-coming failures.

Moreover, the President has decided to implement the real reason for the deficit commission–destroying Social Security. The tax cuts are not paid for it is said, but I argue that the surplus funds of Social Security (paid for through FICA by the wage-earners of the United States) will be used to pay for the wealthy class’s tax cuts. The general fund being insolvent means that the workers’ monies will not be returned.

The President’s decision to have a FICA (a.k.a. payroll) tax cut sounds innocent enough until one realizes that taking contributions from Social Security for the current tax cuts will harm the Social Security system’s financial position over the long run. His decision also provides ample political cover for his GOP successor to accelerate the damage to Social Security.

In addition, the President–without any prodding and with a contented, solemn visage–decided to use his figurative cudgel to strike executive-branch employees with a two-year pay freeze proposal. The costs of living indifferently increase, so the employees could suffer a pay cut for years to come. The economic costs endured by those employees will not be recoverable in the future; it is likely the pay freeze could be made permanent.

Who could have ever imagined that a Democratic President would govern as a Republican. The recent turn of events is heartrending and devastating to witness.

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President Barack Obama: Will Likely Continue to Tilt Rightward in Light of Mid-Term Election Results

It seems that President Barack Obama may be interpreting the so-called shellacking (not outside recent historical norms as I discussed in a previous post) to his seeming tilt to the working folk of America. As a result, he will tilt further right politically in the next two years, especially as he nears his own re-election.

I say that President Obama was already tilted toward the right of center and the elites long before the 2010 election, especially since he stated that the health-care bill that was passed with a split in the Democratic Party was a bill with Republican underpinnings.

Even with President Obama’s and the conservative Democrats’ accommodation of the Republicans (who refused his entreaties), Democrats in swing districts still lost. Perhaps since those Democrats were Republican-like, the voters decided to vote for the genuine article.

Regardless of the reasoning for the loss of Democratic losses, the election left the method of some Democrats to lean toward Republicans (and abandon true-believer Democrats) as a failure.  An example of this was seen by the slow-footed response to the wrongful treatment of Shirley Sherrod.

Some issues coming up will show what President Obama will do in light of a shift in the political reality. Consistent with his 2-year attempt to satisfy Republicans, I believe President Obama will continue to conduct his politics that way now that Republicans, for now, control the House of Representatives. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it clear that President Obama must essentially become a Republican to satisfy them.

On the issue of extending the “Bush tax cuts,” President Obama stated an implicit willingness to provide an extension.

So my goal is to sit down with Speaker-elect Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Harry and Nancy sometime in the next few weeks and see where we can move forward in a way that, first of all, does no harm; that extends those tax cuts that are very important for middle-class families; also extends those provisions that are important to encourage businesses to invest, and provide businesses some certainty over the next year or two.

And how that negotiation works itself out I think is too early to say.  But this is going to be one of my top priorities, and my hope is, is that given we all have an interest in growing the economy and encouraging job growth, that we’re not going to play brinksmanship but instead we’re going to act responsibly.

His press secretary followed up with a confirmation of the plan to negotiate with the GOP on the Bush tax cuts.

MR. GIBBS:  I don’t want to do the negotiations here, but we’re certainly open to listening to their position, talking about it and working together to find a compromise that moves this issue forward.  Our biggest concern is if this Congress does not act by the end of the year, taxes for middle-class families is going to go up.  We can’t, and we shouldn’t, let that happen.  We have the power to change that and I think the power is sitting together and coming up with a plan that works for both sides.  I think the President is confident that we can do that.

President Barack Obama: President’s Rhetorical Sleight-of-Hand Tactics May Have Disillusioned Party Base of Dems; GOP Is No Better

‘I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.’ –Velma Hart

President Barack Obama laments that the enthusiasm surrounding his 2008 campaign is not present in 2010. Perhaps it is how he disregards his party’s base to satisfy the unsatisfiable right wing that is causing problems.

However, the disappointment is not only for President Obama, its also for the seeming collapse of the ability of the government to manage the country’s affairs. It seems that a handful of billionaires are now in charge of government policy. The GOP and its billionaire-funded “tea party” and its unseasoned, untrustworthy candidates does not inspire confidence either.

Some issues I have had concerns with follow.

The health-care bill should have been a great achievement. Instead, it’s mired with equanimity because of the closed-door deals negotiated with the health-insurance industry to pass it and his determined opposition to the single-payer proposal. Also, the long lag time for full implementation does not help the situation.

President Obama’s Deficit Commission and its likely proposals against Social Security cause concern. (The site of the Deficit Commission is located at www.fiscalcommission.gov.)

President Obama’s and his Administration’s behavior toward Shirley Sherrod was profoundly disappointing.

The Obama Administration’s positions toward public schools and public school teachers is a huge slap of disrespect.

President Barack Obama: Governance is Slightly Different from the Previous Administration; Other than Style Administration May be a Carbon Copy

[Addendum 7/24/10: The situation involving Shirley Sherrod can fit cleanly is the list of items I have identified previously. The preposterous idea of a “post-racial” America lead straightway to a complete abandonment of the sober consideration of issues when an outrageously edited video purporting to show anti-White racism and to a confirmation that Black people have absolutely no regard in this so-called post-racial society. Indeed, we may as well go back to Jim Crow. The whole affair was sickening and President Obama must accept full responsibility for all of the missteps. Belatedly, yes, he did call Ms. Sherrod, but by then the damage had been well and truly done.

Recall also that Whites are the majority race and hold all of the societal power. This is a fact that is conveniently and repeatedly forgotten.]

Over the past few months I have found myself questioning the direction of President Barack Obama’s Administration. It seems that he is projecting an image that he is centered and calm and does not consider that he can address a broken political system even while he sits at its center of gravity. This rationale is ill-conceived because even though he acts for himself, the consequences of the broken system, of which he and his official actions (or lack of) are a part, will be rightfully attributed to him. For this fact, I cannot accept the thesis of The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart. The President does not need to be angry to act, he needs simply to take productive action, period. Acting like the previous Administration is not productive action.

Several examples (not exhaustive) come to mind as I think about this issue.

Gaza blockade and flotilla killings-In this international incident, the Administration issued a sober, detached statement which indicated its regret for the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara that was headed to Gaza (by going through an Israeli-imposed blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip). This regret would be sincere only if the United States were truly not involved in the creation and enforcement of the blockade. Because the United States is intricately involved, it leads one to believe that perhaps they were aware of possible military action against the Mavi Marmara. The answers given by the Administration’s State Department while stating their “neutrality” constantly inferred its belief for the application of the law for blockades rather than the law for boarding civilian vessels at sea. The internal investigation scheduled to be completed during another holiday in the United States (July 4) will very likely find  little to no wrongdoing except by the passengers and crew aboard the Mavi Marmara. The President and the United States will be occupied watching the fireworks, etc.

The present Administration is very little different from its predecessor in its foreign policy in this area. Yes, the President gave a so-called address to the Muslim world in Cairo, but since then there has been little to no follow through on much of what the President discussed.

Iran-During the President’s inaugural speech, he stated that he was prepared to negotiate with Iran as long as Iran “unclenched its fist.” Well, the United States may have had an “outstretched hand” but it always has had a club behind its back (the world’s largest military and unilateral international political  and financial force). So even as the President was addressing the Muslim world in Cairo, he was laying the seeds for the “Green Revolution” for regime change in and the political isolation of Iran (something the previous Administration would have done).

Health Care Debate-This issue was covered somewhat on this blog. One thing that I noted is that the President criticized the behavior of lobbyists of acting against the passage of his original bill, but he never mentioned his side agreement with the same lobbyists for their support of the bill.

Note: After the health-care bill passed, the President, a Democrat, proclaimed that the bill was a Republican bill.

Health Insurance Reform: Senate Bill (with House Fixes) Passes; Now for the Hard Work–Ensuring the Promises Become Real

In the debate for health care insurance reform, I am disappointed with how far from the idea of single payer that the present law is (H.R. 3590, H.R. 4872). I watch cautiously to see how the real world interprets and executes this law. When former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams closed D.C. General Hospital, he offered magnificent plans. Needless to say, not a shovel of dirt has been moved to this day to implement those plans.

The  issues of concern is the individual mandate and the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans.

The provision for the individual mandate to purchase a private industry product is understandable theoretically, but I am wary for placing that much trust on a monopolistic health insurance industry. One thing of which I am certain–the highly paid executives of those companies will not reduce their salaries or their bloated bureaucracies.

Hopefully, the health care law can address this somehow. There will be a test with the next premium increase, Wellpoint’s increase received a tongue lashing from President Barack Obama and the Secretary of Health and Human Services; however, the premium increase remains in effect. I truly hope this does not foretell reactions in the future.

The excise tax is another provision that must be watched. Will premiums be raised to such an extent that by the time the tax comes into effect that even more purchasing power is removed from wage earners who barely scrape by with a skyrocketing cost-of-living?

It is a shame that certain beneficial provisions of the law is clouded by these not-so-beneficial provisions, but that is how the politicians crafted the bill.

Health Care “Reform”: President Barack Obama Planning Summit; Discussion Seems to be Geared to Pass Senate Bill

[Update 2/22/10: President Barack Obama posted his proposal for health care “reform.” Unsurprisingly, the President’s proposal is similar to the Senate bill–with the unacceptable in any form excise tax and the mandate to by a private industry product-health insurance policy.]

According to Talking Points Memo, President Barack Obama is planning a summit, which would consider these issues (emphasis (in bold) mine)–

The President will then open and moderate discussion on four critical topics: insurance reforms, cost containment, expanding coverage, and the impact health reform legislation will have on deficit reduction.

The bolded portion of the agenda I think is a discussion of the so-called cadillac tax on high-cost insurance plans (in H.R. 3590). Despite the President’s State of the Union address, he seems obstinate in his support of this middle-class unfriendly tax, supposedly to bring down the deficit.

I have covered this issue in depth previously on this blog and my opinion remains–the cadillac tax is the worst idea in the bill, followed closely by the mandate to buy a private industry product-health insurance. This legislation proves the adage that the devil is in the details. No one should take any politician’s words at face value. One has to read the bill to verify every statement uttered about the legislation.

I am hoping that these politicians do not rush through this bill at the wee hours in the morning without giving the public time to get the legislation and review it.

Health Care “Reform”: President Barack Obama Blames Republicans of Potentially Acting Like Democrats

The President essentially blames Republicans of being supplicants of corporations, when he and his Administration are doing the same thing now.

Consider these quotes (emphasis (in bold) mine).

Excerpt from the remarks of President Barack Obama at the house Democratic Caucus Retreat, January 14, 2010:

So, I know everybody in the media is all in a tizzy — “Oh, what’s this going to mean politically?”  Well, let me tell you something.  If Republicans want to campaign against what we’ve done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have. (Applause.)  If their best idea is to return to the bad policies and the bad ideas of yesterday, they are going to lose that argument.  What are they going to say?  “Well, you know, the old system really worked well; let’s go back to the way it was”?  That’s not going to appeal to seniors who are now seeing the possibility of that doughnut hole finally closing and so they can finally get discounts on their prescriptions.  (Applause.)  That’s not going to appeal to the small businesses who find out all the tax credits that they’re going to get for doing right by their employees — something that they have been wanting to do, but may not have been able to afford.  It’s not going to be very appealing to Americans who for the first time are going to find out that they can provide coverage to their children, their dependents, all the way up to the age of 26 or 27.

Really, the corporatist (“centrist”) Democrats are doing the same thing that the President blames the Republicans of  planning to do in campaigns.

Excerpt of interview with journalists, Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner, on the Bill Moyers’ Journal:

ROBERT KUTTNER: Rahm Emanuel, the President’s Chief of Staff, was Bill Clinton’s Political Director. And Rahm Emanuel’s take away from Bill Clinton’s failure to get health insurance passed was ‘don’t get on the wrong side of the insurance companies.’ So their strategy was cut a deal with the insurance companies, the drug industry going in. And the deal was, we’re not going to attack your customer base, we’re going to subsidize a new customer base. And that script was pre-cooked so it’s not surprising that this is what comes out the other side.

BILL MOYERS: So are you saying that this, what some call a sweetheart deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House, done many months ago before this fight really began, was because the drug company money in the Democratic Party?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, it’s two things. Part of it was we need to do whatever it takes to get a bill. Never mind whether it’s a really good bill, let’s get a bill passed so we can claim that we solved health insurance. Secondly, let’s get the drug industry and the insurance industry either supporting us or not actively opposing us. So that there was some skirmishing around the details, but the deal going in was that the administration, drug companies, insurance companies are on the same team. Now, that’s one way to get legislation, it’s not a way to transform the health system. Once the White House made this deal with the insurance companies, the public option was never going to be anything more than a fig leaf. And over the summer and the fall, it got whittled down, whittled down, whittled down to almost nothing and now it’s really nothing.

Full video of interview is on the PBS website.