Friday, September 23, 2011

Commentary: President Obama: My Champion!

By Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Chair, Journalism Committee

This week, when I heard President Obama speak boldly and resolutely against the Republicans and Tea Party's devastating war against the middle class and poor Americans I slowly moved from my chair and then alone in my room I stood up and cheered.

I began to think in delightful superlatives: No more Mr. Nice Guy, Here Comes the Demander in Chief, the rump-kicker. Perhaps the President has conceded that the elite Republican crowd can’t even spell fairness. The congressman who whined recently about how hard it is to live off of $400,000 a year represents their sense of entitlement and the rest of us : Be Damned.

The President announced a plan to cut $3.6 billion from the deficit over the next ten years. The Tea Party wants programs that aid school children, the homeless, those in need of medical care to bear the blunt of all the cuts. House Speaker John Boehner has insisted that not one red nickel should come from the rich and wealthy corporations. In the Tea Party view they are the entitled, the rest of us are not worthy of surviving.

President Obama however, came out fighting. “It is wrong that in the USA a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million, the feisty president said. “I will veto any bill than changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest American or biggest corporations to pay their fair share.”

The President’s Rose Garden speech Monday was a reminder to many of why we voted for the President and why he must remain for a second term. He promised change and so far his gentlemanly, professorial style has been gauged by the GOP and the mean Tea-Party as a sign of weakness. This group has only one often stated goal: To ensure our first black President fails. And as he crumbles, the life-lines for the middle-class and working poor crumble with him. There shall be no bootstraps for them to pull themselves up on.

Before the president spoke, the predictably negative Boehner argued that the president’s position was class warfare, which Mr. Obama argued “this is not class warfare. It is math.”

I suggest that the president re-think his argument because Boehner is correct--Boehner and the Tea Party are waging class warfare. They are destroying the vestiges of democracy and instituting an oligarchy, based on rule by the rich. This dangerous ethic if not stemmed by President Obama and other activists could well result in riots, such as have broken out in London. Class warfare has been raging ever since the Tea-Party rose to power in Washington. It is just now that our President has declared a vigorous defense.

In recent years, more working poor, middle-class and small business people have been pushed into an underclass. The Tea Party is attempting to undercut unions, cut government jobs, wipe-out small minority-owned businesses, destroy Obama’s health care reforms that aid college student and those with pre-existing illnesses, and gut programs that benefit children and their teachers. The class division between rich and poor, young and old and especially between black and white is scandalous.

For example, Tea Party proposed changes in Social Security would push benefits out from the federal umbrella and into the private sector, which could be devastating to those depending on the funds which they have paid into to support them in their aging years. Studies show that although Social Security benefits are modest, they provide a vital source of support to black women. Among black women aged 62-64, one in three (33 percent) relies on Social Security for more than half of their income and one in five (20 percent) relies on the program for all of their income.

  • The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that One out of every six Americans, or 46.2 million lived in poverty in 2010, an increase of almost 3 million since 2009, and is now the highest number of people living in poverty since the Census started keeping track 52 years ago.
  • Income inequality increased from 2009 to 2010. Households in the bottom 20 percent saw their incomes fall by 4.5 percent.
  • Poverty rates among African Americans and Hispanics,27.4 percent and 26.6 respectively, are more than double that of whites, which is now 9.9 percent, up from 9.4 percent in 2009.
  • More than one out of every five children is living in poverty. For African American children, the poverty rate is nearly 40 percent, a stark contrast with the poverty rate among white children, which was 12.4 percent in 2010.

This decline, while mathematical, is about the reality of suffering. One more bold position the President should make: Get on a train or a bus and go across America and show real people who are experiencing real suffering. We need President Obama to demonstrate the fight is not his alone, but for all who believe in fairness and justice.

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