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Give Us This Day Our Daily Debt

July 16th, 2012 - 3:34 pm

The president made it clear in a recent campaign speech that nobody can make it alone. They need government:

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In his words: if you have any money at all, “you didn’t get there on your own.” You owe it somebody else. The roads you drive upon, the wealth that you enjoy. But is the same true of President Obama’s ideas? Did he think them on his own? Or were they were provided by a whole lot of other people?

Most of us get our ideas at secondhand. Perhaps the president has borrowed a few from others. The intellectual tradition from which the president derives his ideas might well have been pulled from a group called United for a Fair Economy. Read their talking points; the resemblance is uncanny. But that is only because United’s ideas are themselves derivative. They come from an earlier tradition.

The key ideas are familiar. Spread the wealth. Tax people so that they may “give something back.” Limit incomes at the top to maintain fairness. Provide amnesty for anyone unfortunate enough to be undocumented. Illegal is such an ugly word. These things are all planks of United for a Fair Economy:

  1. Fair Taxation — Working for fair and progressive taxes at State and Federal levels, which includes efforts to preserve and strengthen the Estate Tax.
  2. Racial Wealth Divide — Working to raise awareness about the historical and contemporary barriers to upward economic mobility among people of color, and to promote a policy agenda that addresses the root causes.
  3. Responsible Wealth — A network of over 700 business leaders and wealthy individuals in the top 5% of wealth and/or income in the U.S. who use their surprising voice to advocate for fair taxes and corporate accountability.
  4. Popular Economics Education — Using Popular Education workshops and techniques to transform dry economic issues into valuable knowledge. UFE’s workshops enable participants to relate to the material, empowers them to take political action, and encourages them to build the movement for social and economic justice in their communities.
  5. Shareholder Activism — Raising awareness about the need for corporations to take into account the needs of stakeholders beyond those in board room.
  6. CEO Pay — They believe that the lack of pay equity in the U.S. can be addressed by changing the rules.
  7. Humane Immigration Reform — Working to reveal the push and pull factors leading to migration into the U.S., and to elevate a plan for humane immigration reform as part of broader labor and international trade policy reforms.

These are also pillars of Obama’s thought. Here’s Brian Miller of United for a Fair Economy explaining to a television interviewer how “you didn’t make it alone.” Note from the interview that his ideas have been around for years. Like the president’s speech at the Roanoke fire station, they are echoes of an earlier, unnamed source:

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But if more data were needed to establish similarity — because after all nobody will believe that President Obama was influenced by Brian Miller — let’s turn to Valerie Jarrett (video at the link). And this time there can be no mistake, because it is widely known that Jarrett is one of the president’s closest associates. Jarrett sounds exactly like Obama. Or maybe it’s the other way around: Obama sounds like Jarrett. At any rate, they sound alike. She said:

“People want fairness. They know that people didn’t get wealthy alone. They got wealthy because they live in a country that where a government is doing what it’s supposed to do. Educates our children, it provides infrastructure, roads and bridges. It provides the research dollars for science and technology. And so when you do well in America, as we want everyone to do, you also a responsibility to your country and make sure that it’s a country where everybody has a chance to move to the middle class, and do well and have that great invention that turns into a global company that started in a garage. Everybody should have that opportunity. That’s what the president is fighting for,” Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said on MSNBC tonight.

If no business can exist in a vacuum, neither can any politician’s talking points. It is perfectly understandable that Barack Obama’s economic and political philosophy are not entirely of his own making. Most of it is derivative, but derivative of what?

The uncharitable will say that the president’s ideas are nothing but warmed-over socialism. But that would be unfair. According to the president himself, he is a centrist to the core. In fact, if Ronald Reagan were alive today, the Gipper would be a flaming communist by comparison:

Obama also claimed that he holds positions that 20 or 15 years ago “would have been considered squarely centrist positions. What’s changed is the center of the Republican Party.” Oh, and Ronald Reagan “could not get through a Republican primary today.”

Yes, somewhere along the line the party of Ronald Reagan became the party of Adolf Hitler without anybody noticing. And the party of FDR became the party of Ronald Reagan when nobody was looking either. They were much milder then. Surely a video of Ronald Reagan making the same points as President Obama, Brian Miller, and Valerie Jarrett will come to light when the right terms are plugged into the government-created Internet search engine. For Google and Facebook too, we owe to government. As the president reminds us, all your search engines belong to us:

I believe in investing in basic research and science because I understand that all these extraordinary companies that are these enormous wealth generators — many of them would have never been there — Google, Facebook would not exist — had it not been for investments that we made as a country in basic science and research. I understand that makes us all better off.

Certainly some people are better off today. But not everyone, and never as much as those who consciously wanted to owe their wealth to somebody else.

Also read: Rep. Ryan Rips Obama 


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