Editorial: Giving credit where it’s due

Despite the left’s criticism of President Barack Obama on several fronts, credit should be given where it’s due. Specifically, his call to impose an income tax on the super rich, popularly called the millionaire’s tax; his decision to pull troops out of Iraq by the end of the year; and the way he handled the crisis in Libya.
• One could argue that Obama’s call for an increased tax on the super-rich a couple months ago was the genesis of what has become the “occupy Wall Street” protests. While many liberals organizations and writers have been harping on the growing wage gap between the rich and poor in this country (an issue which Obama also championed in his 2008 campaign), he has given it mainstream legitimacy by making it part of his re-election platform and challenging Republicans to refute its inherent fairness and popular appeal.
The Republicans’ adamant refusal to consider any tax increase on the wealthy has sparked the protests and fueled the national, and now international, outrage against the corporate greed that has dominated this nation and the West for the past 30 years, and particularly here in the United States since George W. Bush was elected president in 2000.
For whatever reason (the issue has been a theme of Sen. Bernie Sanders for at least 20 years, and of this editorial writer for the past decade), the issue has traction today whereas it did not raise similar public outrage during the Bush years. One can only assume that is because the national dialogue has changed in the White House from one that protected and championed privileges for the wealthy to one that is standing up for the middle class and emphasizing the importance of that segment to keep our economy strong. In a consumer-driver society, if we weaken the middleclass (or decimate its numbers), we weaken the national economy, which affects the bottom line of American business.
Many liberals may argue that Obama’s call for increased taxes on the wealthy don’t go far enough (count us as one of them), but politics is the art of the possible, and at least he has pushed the conversation in a way that has, finally, given voice to public anger and frustration. And that’s the force that will finally get Republicans on board, or see their defeat at the polls.
• The president’s call to pull all troops out of Iraq is welcome. Again, critics may say it is belated, but at least he is following through on a campaign pledge to get us out of their, rather than continue to drain the U.S. treasury in a conflict that has killed far too many at a exorbitant cost to our nation. And one can bet that a Republican president would not have made that same call.
The president still needs to find a plausible way to pull American troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible and to define why our troop presence there is fruitless and no longer in the national interest. He wastes our nation’s resources for no good reason each day he fails to make that case and take action.
• To those who despair that we learn nothing from history, credit the president for exacting a policy toward the Libyan uprising that yielded the right result without involving American troops in any direct capacity. Rather, he gave support to NATO, strengthen their resolve when needed and lent military support when others wavered, but never overcommitted this nation’s resources or political power.
It was the right balance and an admirable outcome with a minimal American footprint.
We remain disappointed with the president’s weak response to environmental concerns — especially as it pertains to climate change; his coddling of the financial industry in light of the taxpayers’ bailout and the return of the industry’s excessive fees and privileges to gouge consumers and overcompensate employees and directors; a weak energy plan and his silence on the Keystone XL pipeline coming out of Alberta, Canada; and his lack of a progressive tax policy and unwillingness to take on a Republican party intent favoring the wealthiest few.
The president is far from the champion many Americans hoped he would be when he took the oath of office three years ago. But he has had a full plate. He’s been dealt with crisis after crisis not of his own choosing or as a result of his actions (but of those before him) and he has handled them with competence. We hoped for more, but critics only have to look at the current playing field to know he still rises far above the others.
Angelo S. Lynn

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