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Today's New York Times presents an interesting juxtaposition of numbers.

Tom Friedman's column starts off with this:

A small news item from Tracy, Calif., caught my eye last week. Local station CBS 13 reported: “Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 911 for a medical emergency. But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”

Welcome to the lean years.

Farther into the paper - yes, I still read the actual paper - is this item, under the heading "Prime Number."

345: The average amount, in millions of dollars, earned by the 400 highest-earning households in the United States in 2007, according to Internal Revenue Service data reported by Tax.com. The number is up from $263 million in the previous year, an increase of 31 percent. Each of the top-earning 400 households paid an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest since the I.R.S. began tracking the data in 1992. The top 400 earned a total of $138 billion in 2007, up from $105.3 billion a year earlier.

Clearly, these years are not lean for everybody. 400 households earned $138 billion in 2007? That is a staggering amount of money. That these households earned these billions while millions of other Americans are out of work, without health insurance and in danger of losing their homes is an appalling indictment of where our country stands at this moment in its history.

Is it any wonder that there is a wave of populist anger sweeping through the country?

Even more sickening is that the party chiefly responsible for creating this shameful and ever-expanding gap between the very rich and everyone else - the Republican Party - has successfully positioned itself as the party on the side of the "people."

Has no one learned anything?

In his column, Friedman goes on to quote Johns Hopkins professor Michael Mandelbaum:

...it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people."

Well, not from all the people. Just from those who already don't have much. Those who already have a lot get to keep even more of it.

That, my friends, is the definition of the Republican Party.

Are you really going to believe that they are on your side?

For months, economists from across the political spectrum have been saying that the key to achieving a full economic recovery is to put more money into the hands of consumers, because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of GDP. According to Minnesota Public Radio:

More than two-thirds of the nation's Gross Domestic Product derives from everyday stuff like dining out, buying a new shirt or visiting the dentist. About 14 percent stems from private investment, for instance companies purchasing new machinery or building new factories. And the rest comes from government spending on things like bridge building, schools, and defense.

How, then, do Republicans justify the continuation of economic policies, chiefly in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy, that concentrate so much money in the hands of so few? This is the "supply-side economics" experiment we've all been living with for so many years.

The results are in: it doesn't work. It cannot overcome its own internal contradictions. Cutting taxes for the wealthy does NOT increase government revenue. It concentrates too much wealth in the hands of a very few. The theoretical increased investment by these very few is not enough to make up for the lack of consumer activity that results from stagnant wages and a depressed economy, and the disinvestment by the government due to the large deficits created by the tax cuts.

It doesn't work.

I don't count myself among those who have judged Obama's first year in office a failure. Far from it. I believe he has done some remarkable things in the face of incredible odds.

But even some of us who still very much believe in Barack Obama have a nagging sense that, as we enter his second year in office, some essential ingredient has been missing. Friedman expresses it this way:

...instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.

I'm not sure he's entirely accurate. It seems to me that President Obama has expressed his agenda in broad terms on many occasions. Nevertheless, if perception is reality, then Friedman is right.

It's hard to know whether anything President Obama does in the next few months will be sufficient to appease the large numbers of voters, democrats and independents, who are already poised to abandon him in the fall elections.

The new sense of urgency emerging from the White House seems to indicate that Obama has chosen a "full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes" path for his agenda. I, for one, believe that, in the face of irresponsible Republican opposition, it is the only viable path.

I wish him good luck and Godspeed.

Originally posted to Bare Left on Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 10:01 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The experiment has proven to be a failure (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karl Rover, greengemini

    why do they even keep revisiting it, as if the lab rats (us) hadn't already died? how can they even dare to continue it as a talking point?

  •  The higher tax on wages (5+ / 0-)

    Is making the majority of people who are employed even poorer, pay raises aren't keeping pace with the rises in fuel costs, medical deductibles, social security witholding taxes, tuition, and increasing grocery prices. Now that the taxes on capital gains and dividends are lower than wages the trust fund folks don't have incentive to work.  Two of my brothers gave up their jobs for day trading. The Bush years tax changes should be a a greater motive for protest than anything done in the last year, but I don't expect it would be covered anyway,  the beneficiaries of shifting the tax burden do own the most popular media.

  •  I tried to cancel my 911 service (3+ / 0-)

    but you can't.
    I am never going to dial that number, especially not in an emergency when I need a quick response.

    Census workers = "enumerator's." Enumerator's? Are we taking the census or making a James Cameron movie?

    by ZenTrainer on Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 10:46:58 AM PST

  •  Here in Texas, they're pushing toll roads hard. (5+ / 0-)

    Which means, of course, that there will be nice, broad, well-maintained roads for commuters who are rich enough to pay the tolls....

    ...and the rest of us will drive snarled, pot-holed roads with crumbling bridges.

    I starting to feel like a peasant just before the French Revolution....

  •  A false economy for Tracy, California? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini

    If I were an insurance company selling home owner's, renter's or business property insurance in Tracy I would think about raising rates.  If fire and burglary calls begin to be restricted to those personally at risk then I would expect to see insurance claims go up. That would mean fewer jobs in the local economy and eventually fewer people and businesses to tax.

  •  Can we dare look ahead for some real change? (0+ / 0-)

    Those who "serve" in congress mainly their corporate sponsors, that want to maintain the outrages being heaped upon us...

    We deserve so much better, but what we have is the "BEST THAT MONEY CAN BUY!"

    Often polls have found that voters haven't liked the institution of Congress, while liking their own representatives in Congress. But what many members are finding out this cycle is that their voters still don't like Congress -- and they really don't like them either. Nearly one in three voters doesn't want their incumbent re-elected, according to the latest Pew Poll. The last time poll numbers were this bad was before the 1994 and 2006 midterms -- and the party in power lost its majority. (Democrats in '94 and Republicans in '06).

    Both parties in Congress get fewer than a majority of voters approving their job performance in nearly every major poll and neither side has a majority of voters saying they want them re-elected. That makes for a lot of nervous senators and members of the House. Right now the Cook Report, a nonpartisan analysis of races done by the respected veteran Charlie Cook, who is the best handicapper in the business, has 60 House races in very competitive contests, meaning either side can win.
    I find it incredible that the House and Senate leadership would go home when a jobs bill is unfinished and more Americans are out of work every day.

    http://www.cnn.com/...

    In a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste time voting.

    by allenjo on Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 11:59:44 AM PST

  •  turn 911 emergency over to (0+ / 0-)

    the insurance company and let them decide if you need to go to emergency room. sounds fair to me to pay for 911 calls to police. maybe the police will stop writing quotas traffic tickets. a majority of people call the police for civil disputes instead of an attorney. My opinion they use police as lawyers. when you have to pay 300.00 for police maybe you will hire legal help for $300 an hour instead.

  •  What happens when police is privatized... (0+ / 0-)

    Funny in a scary sort of way is this skit with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry...

    It isn't shameful to vote your own self-interest instead of the interests of multi-national corporations--iceman

    by fumie on Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 01:33:16 PM PST

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