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Why Won’t Pres Obama Say the Word “Republican?” And, For Whom Shared Sacrifice Tolls?

August 22, 2011

Is President Barak Obama running for re-election against Congress or is he running against the Republicans? You could not tell from the president’s recent speeches.

During his barnstorming bus tour through America’s heartland, Obama appeared to be shying away from any direct criticism of Republicans. Instead of accurately calling out the GOP for refusing to comprise on anything, as demonstrated by the recent debt-ceiling debacle, the president is laying blame at the doorstep of the entire Congress.

Thus, is in effect, incorrectly lumping Congressional members of his own Democratic Party as willing collaborators with the obstructionist Republicans and extremist Tea Party. He is essentially throwing his allies under that big sleek bus he was riding around on.

In Cannon Falls, Minn., Obama blasted “Congress” more than a dozen times regarding the debt-ceiling debate and for failing to take action to improve the economy and create jobs. He made specific reference to Republicans only twice during the 62-minute question-and-answer session.

In another speech President Obama said, “There is no shortage of ideas to put people to work right now. What is needed is action on the part of “Congress,” a willingness to put the partisan games aside and say, we’re going to do what’s right for the country, not what we think is going to score some political points for the next election.”

Writing in “The Hill,” Mike Lillis points out that this “strategy not only suggests that Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame for the year’s legislative stalemate, it also de-emphasizes the differences between the parties’ policy priorities.”

To make matters worse, in responding to a question about Social Security, Obama actually criticized Democrats for their near blanket opposition to entitlement cuts.

“Democrats aren’t always as flexible as we need to be,” Obama said. He added that he is sometimes “frustrated” when he hears people complain that changes can’t be made to government programs.

This appears to go hat in hand with the president’s “shared sacrifice” approach.

In Decorah, Iowa, retired teacher Bev Crumb-Gesme asked the president, “Many unions, especially public sector unions, helped you get elected in 2008. Those public sector unions and their members gained their salaries and benefits through collective bargaining. Recently, those benefits have been under attack. And I realize that this is a state issue mostly, but what can you do to help support collective bargaining in the states and, most of all, support the public sector unions, the middle class, many of whom are union members?

Included in his answer Obama said, “I do say, though, to my friends in the public sector unions that it is important that you are on the side of reform where reform is needed. Because the truth of the matter is, is that at a time when everybody is belt-tightening, there is nothing wrong with a union saying to itself, you know what, we know budgets are hard right now. Let’s sit down and say we’re willing to negotiate so that we’re making some sacrifices to maintain the number of teachers in the classroom and keep class sizes at a reasonable level.”

This is not the type of response that Obama loyalists are looking to hear.  If Obama wants to see the same type of support that swept him into office materialize in the tough re-election campaign ahead, he is going to have to demonstrate more clearly that he’s willing to directly confront right-wing opposition by fighting for concrete programs to create jobs and win true economic equity in order to motivate supporters not only to come out and vote for him, but to also be involved in his re-election campaign.

As far as Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters is concerned, it is time for President Obama to get tough with Republicans.

Referring to the recent battle with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling, Waters called on the president and fellow Democrats not to be intimidated. “You cannot back down,” she said. “We didn’t raise any revenue and they didn’t close any tax loopholes. I believe the Democratic Party and the president of the United States should not have backed down. We should have made them (Republicans) walk the plank.”

“The president is going to have to fight and he is going to have to fight hard,” Waters said.

It’s also about time for those who haven’t been sacrificing to start now. Working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor have been sacrificing big time for a long time now, while the wealthiest among us and corporations have not contributed one penny.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) framed the concerns best in a letter to President Obama. He wrote, “Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share.  At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions.  A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.”

Sanders urged, “Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.  Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good.”

Many of his supporters can only hope that President Obama heeds these calls.

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