President Barack Obama channeled his inner President Theodore Roosevelt yesterday while speaking before a crowd in Osawatomie, Kansas. Osawatomie was the site where Roosevelt delivered his "New Nationalism" speech in 1910, promising Americans a "square deal." (Read the text of Roosevelt's "New Nationalsim" speech.)
"This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home and secure their retirement," said Obama.
The president pressed for action from Congress on an extension of payroll-tax cuts,a key part of his $447 billion jobs package. Congress is currently stalled on the payroll tax cut issues because the Tea Party feels they are a short-term solution that would worsen the federal deficit and take money away from Social Security. However, all of the GOP presidential nominee candidates have spoken out against payroll taxes completely. The GOP says they want to find a compromise with Democrats that would keep the payroll tax rate at 4.2 percent next year, rather than allowing it to revert to 6.2 percent, but are rejecting the Democratic plan to charge a surtax on people who make more than $1 million a year to pay for the tax cut, thereby taxing the rich to pay for the poor. Something the GOP has always been against. The GOP wants more tax cuts, not just the payroll tax cut.
Meanwhile the President is in Kansas speaking about more than just his jobs bill, and launching a broad defense of more government regulation and higher taxes on the wealthy. (Where is Robin Hood when you need him?)
While continuing to blame all of his budget and debt problems on George W. Bush tax cuts, the President also attacked conservatives' advocacy of a free-market economy as an idea that has "never worked." (And the Founding Fathers all rolled over in their graves.)
"There's been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune: 'The market will take care of everything,' they tell us," Mr. Obama said. "If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes - especially for the wealthy - our economy will grow stronger. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here's the problem: It doesn't work."
No mention was made of the trillion-dollar-budget deficits Mr. Obama has accumulated in each of his three years as president.
Roosevelt's speech marked his turn from a moderate to a more radical politician who pursued "the anti-capitalist state," said Matt Spalding, vice president of American Studies at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation.
"Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can," Mr. Obama said. "Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour workday and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax."
Of course, it goes to note that President Roosevelt gave people the ability and right to work. The problems he faced are not really that similar to what President Obama is facing. We're facing corporate greed, underemployment, high taxes, too much dependence on welfare, and a lack of available jobs for the educated and skilled. These were not Mr. Roosevelt's problems.
President Obama also spun a few words to help his cause, that were not in President Roosevelt's original texts.
President Obama inserted "the wealthy" on his own, which ever so helpfully backs up his suggestion that the Bush tax cuts only benefited the rich. The bulk of the 2001 tax cuts were marginal rate cuts, which extended to all taxpayers, while the 2003 tax cuts included a reduction in taxes on dividends and capital gains.“I mean, understand, it's not as if we haven't tried this theory. Remember in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history. And what did they get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class: things like education and infrastructure, science and technology, Medicare and Social Security.”
But the 2001 tax cuts also included tax changes that benefited the middle class, such as a reduced marriage penalty and expanded tax credits, along with an instant tax rebate.
Obama has said repeatedly he wants a Robin Hood approach to taxes- take from the wealthy (higher tax rates for those over $250K), to pay for the welfare checks of the poor. Okay, so maybe I made up the welfare checks part, but if the POTUS can put words in other people's mouths, so can I.
Also, if the President can make up new tax rates on a whim, I'd like to be able to do that too-
The only evidence that the White House could offer to back up this claim was a TV clip of a conversation on Bloomberg TV, in which correspondent made this assertion during a discussion about the tax strategies that the very wealthy use to avoid paying taxes. The TV clip was promoted by the left-leaning website Think Progress. In other words, we don't know if it is true, and the POTUS didn't have a team of analysts figuring this one out for him .An administration official conceded the White House had no actual data to back up the president’s assertion, but argued that other reports showed that some of the wealthy pay little in taxes. Well, good for the other reports. Also, let's not forget it isn't illegal to be good at numbers and figuring out to get out of paying taxes. Oh, and as it turns out that the most recent data shows that most billionaires do pay the average tax rate.“Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent -- 1 percent. That is the height of unfairness.”
But let's go back to the POTUS and his speech, shall we?
Really, this speech was yet again about attacking Mitt Romney in a crafty little way. How so? Mitt Romney’s argument that business will easily restore American jobs and prosperity. Obama called for financial institutions to be more closely regulated and for education to become a national mission. He went so far as to say the chances of a poor child making it into the middle class have severely diminished since World War II, and that “flies in the face of everything that we stand for.”(Can I just point out that the Romney family made their money all after WWII?)
Ironically, President Roosevelt was called a "socialist" for his ideas, and it really hurt his political future. Only President Obama would actually think furthering his own socialist tendencies would help things.
Personally, I'm looking forward to the responses from the campaigns. I'm sure we're going to hear some interesting rhetoric.
Washington Post "Obama's Kansas speech: some suspect facts"
NY Times "President Obama in Osawatomie"
NY Times "Obama Strikes Populist Chord on GOP Turf"
Washington Time "Obama: Wealth gap is defining issue for Americans"