I was getting ready to watch the Machu Picchu sunrise when I got this post from one of my favourite guest columnist. You’ll find more articles from him on a page dedicated to Afro-American issues and Renford’s other papers
The present paper, a broader American perspective yet always a very interesting and challenging one, has been published initially in the The San Bernardino Sun (CA), Opinion, A15, August 18, 2011
President Obama’s approval rating recently dropped below 40 percent for the first time in his presidency. Cuts in spending and raising taxes are currently at the heart of the president’s tug of war with the Republicans. The harder he has tried to appease and compromise with the Republicans the harder they have fought him. This constant struggle has diluted the president’s mojo.
Ideologues in the Republican Party have been staunchly against any new taxes—even it means that increased taxes will help reduce the deficit. Recently, I asked my political science students at Cal Poly Pomona the following question: “If you are not sacrificing your life for this country in our military, how else do you sacrifice for this country besides paying taxes?” There was no response. Our taxes help build our roads and schools; they help pay the salaries of our teachers, police officers, and our military personnel.
In discussing the deficit-reduction debate for my class this summer, I discussed the topic of taxes and patriotism with my students. I defined patriotism as an enthusiastic love for one’s country. For my example of patriotism in the U.S., I stated the following: The people that want to be taxed for the development and wellbeing of our country have been labeled as un-patriotic Americans. The people that do not want to pay taxes see themselves as patriotic Americans. Moreover, the people that want the president to fail, even at the expense of the country failing, consider themselves true patriots—real Americans. In giving this example to the students, at the expense of confusing them, I showed them why our current politics are dysfunctional. The fact is, if you are not willing to serve in our military or pay taxes in this country your patriotism is based on non-sacrificial rhetoric.
Anger, hostility, and anti-Obama sentiment have blinded conservatives and restricted them from embracing fundamental principles of our democracy. Compromise is democratic. In the Iowa debate, Republican candidates were asked if they would accept a five or ten-dollar cut in spending to a one-dollar tax increase formula. All eight candidates said no.
Fearful of an increasingly extremist right wing, Republican candidates are afraid to go solo and moderate their views. They are afraid to tell the ideologues in their party that we cannot create jobs just by cutting the deficit–that we cannot just cut, cut, cut, and then build, build, build–revenue has to be raised in order to invest in building infrastructure, investing in education and technology. These candidates have been afraid to tell their followers what billionaire Warren Buffet recently told America: “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.” Maybe these comments will give the Republican presidential candidates courage to finally deviate from the party line.
Buffet’s insightful commentary in the New York Times tells us that the leading conservative voices have been brutally dishonest with their followers about increased taxes and job growth. Buffet writes, “I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone–not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77–shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.” He goes on, “People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.” Obama has been trying, without much success, to make this case for two years.
Buffet, one of the most trusted voices in the business world, gave Obama a gift that is worth more than any campaign contribution. He has given the president oxygen when he needed it the most. Without the “increased taxes will kill job growth” argument the Republicans will be disillusioned and without their primary talking point. If Obama ever gets his mojo back, he has one patriotic American to thank.
Renford Reese is a political science professor and director of the Colorful Flags program at Cal Poly Pomona. A former Fulbright Fellow at the University of Hong Kong, he is the author of five books. http://www.RenfordReese.com