Sunday, May 01, 2011

Beyond Religion And Nationality

It's not only the odd attachment to the notion that Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S.A. Colbert King cites, which charged the President with having

failed to release a statement or a proclamation recognizing the national observance of Easter Sunday, Christianity's most sacred holiday.

By comparison, the White House has released statements recognizing the observance of major Muslim holidays and released statements in 2010 on Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj, and Eid-ul-Adha.

The White House also failed to release a statement marking Good Friday. However, they did release an eight-paragraph statement heralding Earth Day.

An obsessive preoccupation with perspective is uncharacteristic of the right, and so it was that Fox News failed to note that no President had since 1981 issued an Easter proclamation. The "news" outlet could also have noted, but did not, that at this year's Easter Prayer Breakfast President Obama maintained that Jesus

took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.

Fortunately, Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) hasn't recently accused President Obama of being a Muslim or trying to impose Sharia law. Such ad hominem attacks are generally frowned upon by the mainstream media. Republican politicians usually focus their criticism on the President's policies, deemed oh, so much more respectable.

Thus Bachmann can, without being labeled an extremist (or a bigot, as she would be if she accused Obama of being a Muslim or born in Kenya), claim

This record spending needs to stop and it can stop by keeping the debt ceiling as-is. That means we would have to prioritize and start paying down our debt.

Failing to raise the debt ceiling would, however, not only be irresponsible- admittedly, that is judgemental- but would have the opposite effect on our ability to "start paying down our debt." Ezra Klein explains

Balancing our long-term budget won’t be easy. But it’ll be much harder if rising interest rates become a noose on the recovery. “Once the interest rate starts to rise, the ballooning of the interest-carry cost on this debt will scare the bejeesus out of the system, and it’ll be a feedback loop into the market,” says David Stockman, who served as Ronald Reagan’s budget director. In other words, the more the market worries about our ability to repay our debt, the harder our debt becomes to pay back. High interest rates slow economic growth and increase the amount we have to pay to borrow, both of which mean our debt grows as a percentage of our economy.

This, too, though more substantial than judgemental, and accepted by a broad range of economists, falls short of being verifiable fact. But Bachmann, in the post in which she so cavalierly dismissed the importance of raising the debt ceiling, blithely leveled a charge all but the the most ill-informed would reject, claiming

What President Obama doesn’t understand is that wealth creation isn’t a bad thing.

Jonathan Chait chronicles, however, six occassions in only the past eight months in which President Obama has extolled the virtue of the wealthy:

(9/8/10) Now, for any income over [$250,000], the tax rates would just go back to what they were under President Clinton. This isn’t to punish folks who are better off –- God bless them. It’s because we can’t afford the $700 billion price tag.

(10/31/10) Now, remember I said it is a choice this election. The other side, their main economic idea -- this is their main idea -- is to provide $700 billion worth of tax cuts to the 2 percent of wealthiest Americans, an average of $100,000 for millionaires and billionaires. Now, look, I want people to succeed. I think it’s wonderful if folks get rich. I want everybody to have a chance to get rich. You do, too. I think that’s great. That’s part of the American Dream. But the way they want to pay for these tax cuts is to cut education by 20 percent and to borrow the rest from other countries.

(1/25/11) And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. (Applause.) Before we take money away from our schools or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.

(4/13/11) As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally borne a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. Everybody pays, but the wealthier have borne a little more. This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well -– we rightly celebrate their success.

(4/19/11) And we’ve also got to end tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. (Applause.) Let me say, this is not because we want to punish success. I suspect there are a bunch of young people in this gym that are going to end up being wealthy, and that’s good. We want you to. We want you to be able to go out there and start a business and create jobs and put other people to work. That’s the American way. But we are going to have to ask everybody to sacrifice. And if we’re asking community colleges to sacrifice, if we’re asking people who are going to see potentially fewer services in their neighborhoods to make a little sacrifice, then we can ask millionaires and billionaires to make a little sacrifice.

(4/21/11) But we need shared sacrifice. And that means ending the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans in this country. We can't afford it. (Applause.)It’s not because we want to punish success. It’s because if we’re going to ask everybody to sacrifice a little, we can’t just tell millionaires and billionaires they don't have to do a thing -- just relax, that's fine. We’ll take care of this. (Laughter.) Go count your money. That's fine. (Laughter and applause.)Because some of you bought my book, I fall in this category. (Laughter.) I’m speaking about myself. I can afford to do a little more, especially when the only way to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthy is to ask seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for health care.

Such unhinged hatred. But Bachmann can level her attack with little push-back from traditional media because it goes beyond the personal to the ideological. Much of the personal invective directed toward Barack Obama is justifiably derided; the ideological- just as ludicrous- not so much. Chait concludes

So the state of the culture is this. Any politician who proposes anything adverse to the short-term interests of the rich must go out of his way to explain at length that he holds deep personal regard for the rich, and his policy should in no way reflect a sense that the rich should be regarded with anything other than admiration. This is not, by the way, a courtesy demanded of proposals that might harm any other group. If you want to, say, slash funding for food stamps, there is no social obligation for you to say that you hold these people in high regard, you merely feel they're eating too much, or whatever. But tax the rich, and you must elaborately dispel the notion of any personal hostility against them.

And then, inevitably, you will be accused of hating them anyway.

So too, will the argument be trivialized as mere partisan bickering rather than a willful disregard of facts by ideologues intent on demonizing any dissent as class warfare waged against the producers of wealth and backbone of American society.

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