Opinion: Will Obama ever secure new tax revenues?

Robert Thomas Young

An agreement was reached between Democrats and Republicans, effectively enabling the United States to raise the debt ceiling, which allows the country to borrow more money and would ideally retain the AAA credit rating in world markets. However, that isn’t what happened.

While this political saga seems to be one of many lately, I think it not only sums up the government’s inability to govern, but I also think it sums up President Barack Obama’s presidency. Before you jump to one conclusion or another, please allow me to explain.

President Obama is more than halfway through his term in office. As a person who proudly voted for him, I watched his political maneuvering in hopes that he would slowly make good on campaign promises. However, his message of hope and change yielded very little of either.

I was 20 years old when George W. Bush became president. For the next eight years and most of my twenties, I watched our country go to war and get into debt while healthcare and education costs skyrocketed.

I watched the security level keep going from yellow to orange and back, whatever that meant. I watched fear takeover, and I watched the division of wealth grow as our government gave out no-bid contracts and tax breaks to billionaires.

I witnessed a new era of politics takeover as 24-hour news became mainstream. When I heard a message of change, I was quick to listen. Finally, there was someone to represent my values.

Now, there was someone who pledged to improve our education structure, to look out for the environment, to create a better healthcare system and to raise taxes on the wealthy.

More than two and a half years later, not only have the richest of the rich averted any tax increases, but they’ve also actually received extensions and additional breaks. In the agreement reached, both houses of Congress agreed on a deal that eliminates nearly every program Republicans originally wanted to cut without raising taxes one cent.

No revenues were included in this plan, even though President Obama fought for months, saying that tax revenues would need to be an important part of it. John Boehner, Republican senator and speaker of the House, said he got 98 percent of everything he wanted. I still have hope, but where is the change?

This is what I mean when I say that he summed up his presidency for me with his latest political defeat. The middle class and poor are getting squeezed, and the wealthy continue to see gains in income. The major oil companies continue to have record profits, yet this new agreement doesn’t touch the billions these corporations receive in federal tax subsidies.

The Dodd/Frank Act, which is supposed to regulate and enforce the financial markets and banks, has been blocked at every stage. Republicans refuse to allow any appointment, and lobbyists are unwinding the laws, watering it down to nothing. After the entire Wall Street debacle that nearly shut down our economy three years ago, no substantial reforms have been made.

Even though it hurts to say it, I think President Obama has defined himself as the novice poker player that always gives away his cards or plays the wrong hands. Except his cards are his promises, and the poker game is the battle over how this country’s wealth is divided.

The Republicans have dominated the political rhetoric and lawmaking, even when Obama enjoyed a house majority. He had a fleeting moment at the beginning of his presidency to enact real change, and in a moment of fear, he gave his ace away to big banks and big business in the form of more than $700 million.

Now, Republicans use every new deadline and vote as a political tool to squeeze more tax breaks and reduce social welfare programs for the needy. Everyone sees it, too, and that is why Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S.’s credit rating anyway.

I hoped for real change when I told everyone I knew to vote for the inspiring senator three years ago. I rejoiced when he took office with a Democratic majority in the house. I tried to keep faith when he gave all that money to the banks. I bit my tongue when he extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I really thought things would be different.

With a year and a half left in term, will President Obama learn to quit showing his cards and fulfill some of his campaign promises, or will he continue to let the Republicans win game after game?

Robert Thomas Young is a senior philosophy major. Contact him at [email protected].