Are we fickle? Are we all customers at a restaurant where the waiter is tapping his feet because we can’t decide between chicken or fish and whether we wanted it broiled or fried?
Remember a mere 24 months ago? (Most of us have a jar of pickles in the fridge older than that.) In November 2008, we the people looked at the presidential menu and decisively decided we wanted Barack Obama. We wanted change we could believe in. And it was a glorious day when the new president and legions of his fellow Democrats were swept into the highest offices in the land.
The nation was on the precipice of financial collapse. Obama told us the Republicans did it. It wasn’t true. A moment’s reflection would have told us Republicans and Democrats worked together to wreck the economy. But we believed Barack, believed his promises to be “post-partisan” and to get America back on its feet.
Now another election has come and America is no longer entranced by the president and his party. Why? After all, he did deliver on his No. 1 priority – nationalizing the management of health-care delivery. And he has worked on many other specific topics said to weigh heavily on the minds of Americans. Energy independence, immigration reform, not allowing the military to engage in discrimination based on sexual preference ….
Overall, the economy is not much better, but it’s not worse. So what’s our problem? Do we no longer agree with the same agenda we thought was super just two years ago? Have we changed our minds? Gone back to the menu to see what else is there?
Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Perhaps it’s something else.
Both parties misleading
Think about the fact that most citizens agree on “big” matters. People who are ill should receive medical care. America should rely less on imported oil. We are a nation of immigrants. Overt discrimination against or hatred toward gays is wrong. When it comes to the economy, we all say government should spend less (except on us, of course.)
So maybe we are not fickle. Maybe we can make up our minds. And maybe … just maybe … we are simply tired of being misled by both parties.
If so, good for us. But the down side is that we’re tired of being misled even before the big shoe falls. That’s coming in January.
Those who follow the bouncing ball know that when Obama was campaigning, Republicans kept chanting, “He’ll raise your taxes.”
Obama brushed them off by invoking thousands of times that his administration “would not raise taxes” on households with total income less than $250,000.
What Obama didn’t find it convenient to mention was that he would push Congress to allow tax cut legislation enacted early in President Bush’s tenure to expire. And it’s going to take a lot of spin to hold back the disbelief among working class Mississippians when they see their first paychecks in January. Federal taxes will be withheld under the “old table” and that means folks and families already facing whopping increases in health premiums are going to see wages shrink even more.
Although the pattern has been to stress how the Bush-era cuts “favored the rich,” the fact is the 2001 legislation dropped income taxes on a married couple with two children and $40,000 in annual income by $1,178 per year to a total of $45.
When the cuts expire, it is true that the “rich” will ante up a larger total amount. The difference is they won’t miss a single cocktail party. The “un-rich” will miss the money. Take $100 a month from a school teacher’s family in the Delta and the difference will be felt at the dinner table.
Maybe Obama and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who opposed the Bush cuts and supports letting them expire, have a program of some sort in mind, but, again, this is a big shoe and it’s primed to fall in a matter of weeks.
The Ancient Greeks called Diogenes a cynic because he wandered his whole life in search of an honest man. If anything, American voters are not fickle. They are doggedly continuing Diogenes’ quest – looking for fair, open and straightforward people to send to Washington. Not the same old word games. Not the same old bait and switch. Not the same old doublespeak.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at Box 1, University, MS 38677, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.