Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama's Address Repudiates Destructive Bush Legacy

President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last night contained explicit repudiations of the destructive policies of the Bush administration. Consider the following ten points, none of which would have been made by his predecessor:

1. Restoring progressive taxation: "A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. ...In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans."

2. Regulating the financial industry: "Regulations...were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. ...It is time to put in place tough, new commonsense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation and punishes shortcuts and abuse."

3. Renewable energy: "...to truly transform our economy, to protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America."

4. Health care reform: "When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for 11 million American children whose parents work full-time. ...This budget...includes a historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform, a down payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American."

5. Education: "I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why, if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education."

6. Protecting American jobs: "We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas."

7. Ending the war in Iraq: "Along with our outstanding national security team, I am now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war."

8. Caring for veterans: "...to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned."

9. Closing Guantanamo, repudiating torture: "...I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists because living our values doesn't make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture."

10. Diplomacy: "We cannot shun the negotiating table nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. ...To meet the challenges of the 21st century -- from terrorism to nuclear proliferation, from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty -- we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power."

Will Obama be able to accomplish all of these monumental goals? Given what he accurately termed "the massive debt we've inherited" and the unpredictability of domestic and foreign affairs, he faces tremendous challenges. Nevertheless, the president's priorities are the right ones. Any reversal of the Bush legacy is a step in the right direction.

1 comment:

mjmand said...

With respect to point #1. Who originated the idea of the grossly unfair "flat tax" idea? Don't kid yourselves; the flat tax is specifically designed to concentrate more wealth at the top.

This is actually a lead-in to my tax plan. If I were to advise the Obama administration on a plan it would go as follows: Reduce taxes on business, especially small business. (Disclaimer: I own a small business.) Business taxes are completely regressive in that they result in higher prices affecting the less well off far more than those who can easily afford the passalongs. Give tax incentives to business for job creation and investment. We will hopefully make up the revenue loss with increasing tax receipts from a truly progressive income tax, the only fair tax avaliable.

There has to be a new compensation package for any company that has accepted public money. The highest paid employee of such a company should only be allowed to make a certain specified multiple of the salary of the lowest paid employee. As a matter of fact, this, to me, should be a regulation placed by the FTC as the price for being allowed to do business in the United States.

Next I would advise that we fund public education with income tax revenue not property taxes in an effort to equalize the quality of our schools. For some reason the conservatives have accused liberals of wanting to redistribute the wealth and this is just not so. Liberals want to level the playing field so that the notion of equal opportunity becomes a reality and not just a sound bite. Funding education with income tax will go a long way in accomplishing this.

There does have to be some property taxes and they should be just enough to provide the services designed to protect and maintain property - sanitation, snow removal (where needed), police, fire, etc.

The only regressive taxes I would allow are those designed for behavior modification - cigarettes, gasoline, etc. But if these taxes work in the capacity for which they were levied, income from them should diminish with time.

Unfortunately, a sales tax, especially on luxury items, might be needed, even though there is no more regressive tax than a sales tax.

How naive am I?