Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Where's Me Money, SpongeBob?

For years the rich got richer and everyone else, including the middle class, saw real income slip. Deficits ballooned, government oversight and regulations eased and no-bid contracts were awarded to favorite contractors. Greed and corruption permeated business practices. The SEC ignored credible warnings of a massive Ponzi scheme. Where was the leadership? Where was responsibility and accountability? It was time for a change in direction.

Last November Americans voted for change. The newly elected President warned that change would not be easy, that it would be a difficult challenge to restore the nation's ailing economy and confidence in government. Now those who led America into this dark and uncertain crisis are speaking out against change. Many on Wall Street and Republicans have declared that this is President Barack Obama's recession, even though he has been in office for barely six weeks. His policies, they say, are the reason America is in trouble.

They have taken to the airwaves, to print and the Web to excoriate President Obama. They accuse Obama of doing too little, while at the same time doing too much. They complain the President is not moving fast enough, while at the same time accusing him of moving too hastily.

They are pounding away at Obama's tax plan, which raises taxes on Americans making more that $250,000 per year, while increasing taxes on capital gains and dividends. The top tax rate will go up from 35% to 39.6% when the Bush tax cuts for the rich lapse. Obama is being accused of socialism and his plan is described as, brace yourself, radical. "This is the reason the stock market has crashed," yelled one commentator. "It's class warfare," screamed another. In the words of Mr. Crabs, "Where's me money, SpongeBob?"

The Republican strategy is simply to say no. There is no real leadership within the party, except for entertainer and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. And he has rallied the beleaguered right wing by calling for President Obama to fail. This icon of the conservative movement recently bounced on stage at the CPAC meeting in Washington, dressed in a black jacket and black silk shirt opened at the neck. His flashy eyes, fleshy chest and flabby girth were symbolic of a Republican party that feasted for eight years on Bush deregulation and government deficits.

"We can take this country back," he declared. "We conservatives have not done a good enough job of just laying out basically who we are because we make the mistake of assuming that people know." Memo to Limbaugh, America already knows. "We love and revere our founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence," he continued. "We believe that the preamble of the Constitution contains an inarguable truth, that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, freedom. And the pursuit of happiness." So, therefore, the President should fail?

Freedom of speech is an essential principle of our great democracy. We have long benefited from our diversity and differences of opinions. New ideas and constructive criticism lead to a stronger and healthier nation. But when criticism is emotional, vacuous and divisively strident it can be destructive. Driving a political wedge through the heart of this country will result in further chaos, confusion and great harm to the health of America.

It is time for calm voices and thoughtful ideas. It is time to come together as one nation. Rather than thinking about the next election cycle, it is time to do what is best for our children and for America.

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