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This excellent WP article gives more substance on where President Obama will take stands in the coming fiscal cliff battles than any I've seen elsewhere. It is definitely worth your while to read the entire article. It will renew your faith that Obama's core economic values coincide quite well with what progressives want them to be.

According to the author Goldfarb, Obama cares most about income inequality. So, his focus in the fiscal cliff battle won't be about preserving Medicare and Social Security per se but about the broader focus of helping to stem the widening income inequality gap between the richest Americans and the middle class and those with less income.

Goldfard posits that Obama has always been most concerned with unequal power structures. He supports this view with this 1995 Obama quote from an Illinois newspaper's interview of U. of Chicago law school professor and as-yet-unelected Barack Obama just after Dreams from My Father was published:

“My travels made me sensitive to the plight of those without power and the issues of class and inequalities as it relates to wealth and power. Anytime you have been overseas in these so-called third world countries, one thing you see is a vast disparity of wealth of those who are part of the power structure and those outside of it.”
The thesis that Obama has always fought most strongly on the income inequality front is fleshed out below. Another key portion of the article near the end of the final page discusses how Obama's initial economic team assembled as he began his first presidential campaign provided him with detail about how the income divide starting widening 30 years ago and what might be done about it.
Obama’s actions as president provide a glimpse of how he views legislation as a means to his end. His health-care reform law, aimed at covering as many of the uninsured as possible, takes a shot at addressing income inequality by imposing new taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Beginning next year, upper-income earners will pay new surcharges that will result in an average additional tax bill of $20,000 for the top 1 percent. The money will help finance insurance subsidies and other coverage in 2014 for people in the lower middle class and below. A recent study by Cornell University’s Richard Burkhauser estimates that “Obamacare” will add $400 to $800 in disposable income annually for these Americans.

Now, in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, Obama has vowed to follow through on his campaign pledge to push for higher taxes on those same wealthy Americans, and to ask the next 1 percent to pay more as well. Unlike previous presidents, however, he wants lower taxes for everyone else. If that happens, it will raise revenue to lower the debt — but it also will narrow the income gap that made such an impression on him in his youth.

There have been many DKos post-election diaries that form the battle line at keeping the Medicare age at 65 and at maintaining enough protection of programs that help the poor.

If Goldbarb is right, Obama isn't viewing those programs as the battle line, rather it is income inequality. We've seen over the past four years just how hard - crazy hard - the push back from the right has been. Here's a good explanation for that - that Obama is the first president to tackle income inequality. Goldfarb's framing explains the four-year-long screeching from the right wing well:

Obama is the first president in the modern era to focus so much on economic inequality. Democratic predecessors concentrated more on poverty, such as Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and Bill Clinton’s tax credit for the working poor. But Johnson also lowered taxes on the wealthy, and Clinton, having increased taxes early in his term, cut capital gains taxes in his second term, benefiting richer Americans who had substantial income from investments.
Accepting the Obama has been working since early 2009 toward the goal of reversing the rise in income inequality - and that he will continue that work a wiser leader with the strongest bargaining hand he's held since early in his first term - to what extent can we expect that he will hold firm on the predominant DKos view that he not agree to any legislation that raises the Medicare age or cuts social programs too deeply? (Protecting Social Security as is should be relatively easy.)

There's this: Obama's response in his first post-election news conference in response to a question about his mandate that is rhetorically strong.

“I’ve got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class. “That’s my mandate.”
A guess on his resolve in holding the line on Medicare and other programs: he's locked into a more steadfast mode than ever before and he'll have the backing of enough Senate and House dems to finesse the Rs in playing the best hand at the table well. He knows that caving on these in the wrong ways will advance the income inequality divide rather than accomplish what he wants: decrease the divide.

Originally posted to David PA on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 12:56 AM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Glad someone posted on this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kansas Born, ban nock, David PA

    I decided to focus on Ezra Klein's piece on Social Security retirement age instead, although I had considered writing about this, which should be widely seen.

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 05:24:36 AM PST

  •  good post. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kansas Born, ban nock, David PA

    I'm glad Barack Obama is our President.

    by TomP on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 06:44:56 AM PST

  •  Good heavens. It makes it sound as though we (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, hooper, David PA, Catte Nappe

    have a leader with a strategic vision rather than a tactician whose actions only feed the analytic drivel generated by the Sunday morning beltway boys and girls.  As my college philosophy professor once said, there is real philosophy, then there is 'puppy dog' philosophy with participants rolling around on the floor in playful, meaningless mock battles over nothing.  (Although the central GOP 'nothing' topics have often been smokescreens for really bad, destructive policies.) This could be an interesting and profitable 4 years if the Obama vision and commitment prove to be unwavering.  

  •  I just went and read the article though I always (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David PA

    chuckle when I read things like this.

    Another showed that the value of a college degree, always lucrative, had soared as a financial advantage. A third showed the startling drop in the demand for workers — in auto factories and clerical positions — who were being replaced by computers and machines.
    While computers and automated machinery have often replaced workers, offshoring and importing low wage labor, destroying unions and a lowering of the minimum wage has had as bad or worse of an affect. At some point having a background in comparative religions or an advanced degree in middle English seems useless, but for a a human resources person who also has a fairly useless degree it's more a case of hiring one's own.

    A look at the lowest wage jobs in other advanced countries might be a better guide. Simply having the piece of paper won't solve America's inequality.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 08:23:33 AM PST

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