Skip to content

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

December 12, 2010

Open Letter to President Obama: The nation’s economy and your presidency are in deep trouble. You must act forcefully and act now to save both.

It's your House Mr. President; Senate minority leader McConnell on left

Dear Mr. President: Mr. Obama, your presidency is in deep trouble. As a supporter of yours and as someone who worked hard for your election, I must put aside my admiration and affection in order to be truthful. I am greatly disturbed — troubled not only by the tax deal you’ve struck with Republican leaders what I perceive as a failure of leadership on this critical issue.

Yes you were able to get Bill Clinton to the White House on Friday to support your tax deal with the Republicans. 

President Barack Obama cedes the podium to President Bill Clinton; AP Photo: J. Scott Applewhite

However, the Clinton magic will not disguise the deal’s fatal flaws. And Mr. President, it’s a poor substitute for the leadership we need from you. We need you to fight for measures that will serve the interests of the majority of American families and the long term interests of this country. At at time when the actual unemployment rate hovers at 15 % , when millions of families have lost their homes and while deficits  are soaring out of sight; it is no time to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in giveaways to the wealthiest Americans.

Having said this, I believe that your intentions are honest and that you believe that you got the best deal you could just weeks before Republicans take over the House and boost their power in the Senate. Further, the deal does include positive elements: 13 months of extended coverage millions of unemployed workers and an extension of the Bush Era tax cuts for struggling middle class families.

Huge price tag: However, as discussed below, the gifts to those with the greatest wealth and power comes with an enormous economic and social price tag. Moreover, you have failed to exercise the full power of your office to achieve your stated goal. This failure is even more significant given Democratic control of both the Senate and House for your first two years. The failure is also all the more striking given your pledge to change the way the game is played in Washington. I say this because on issue after issue, you first sit down with corporate powers (health insurance industry, your Wall Street buddies, GOP) and then you count the votes in Congress. By doing so you neglect the enormous power of the grassroots that got you elected. If Senator Bernie Sanders can rally the troops, why not you Mr. President — you do know how to orate.

Who are your allies? It is also deeply disturbing that you would sit down with GOP leaders while shutting out the elected leaders of your own party,  i.e. the Democratic caucus in the House. No wonder that the Democratic Caucus in the House refused to bring up “the compromise” package for a vote and are holding out for a better deal. Three cheers. According to press accounts, your advisors were surprised by the action of the actions of the Caucus – how out of touch can you get?

As you know, a number of key Senators have also spoken out against the deal including independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (thanks for the 8-hour filibuster), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-VA), and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – the last two are not exactly progressive “purists” or the “professional left.”

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu

New York Senator Chuck Schumer


Mr. President: As a candidate you spoke out against the widening gap in wealth, opportunity and power between the wealthy and the middle class. The “bargain” contains major flaws and will widen the inequities; consider that it:

  • Extends the Bush Era tax cuts to wealthiest 2 percent of Americans adding some $700 billion to the federal deficit in the next decade.  A family with income of $50 million a year would get a tax break of about $2.7 million. Do they need it? Will it trickle down or create jobs? By contrast a family making $50,000 (not exactly a livable income these days) would have get about $2000.
  • Provides further largess to the wealthiest keeping the cap on dividend and capital gains taxes at 15 percent, well below the highest rates on ordinary income. (NY Times Summary, Dec. 10, 2010).

  • Job creation? The Congressional Budget Office evaluated a variety policies earlier this year based on their ability to boost overall economic growth and employment. The number one thing Congress can do, according to the report, is to increase aid to the unemployed. Other efficient ways to give the economy a jolt include additional investments in infrastructure and more aid to states. The least efficient? Extending the tax cuts. Excerpt from: Michael Linden an Michael Ettlinger of the Center for American Progress, “The Wealthy Don’t Need Bonus Tax Breaks.”
  • Infrastructure? Mr. President, as you’ve pointed out many times, the nation’s infrastructure is a state of decay — from roads and bridges to schools, sewerage systems, and education. Investing in infrastructure can generate millions in jobs. However, instead of investing in our nation’s competitiveness we are squandering hundreds of billions on tax giveaways to those who need it least.
  • The so-called payroll tax holiday: This provision would reduce for one year the payroll taxes that workers pay toward social security.  While the “holiday” sounds great that originated by conservatives is likely a Trojan Horse. The catch is that the $120 billion will be subtracted from the funds that go to Social Security — thereby weakening a program that has remained solvent has never failed to payout to retirees for its 75 year history. For this reason, Democrats have never before allowed Congress to lower the revenue source for Social Security. Why would you agree to that, Mr. President? See article in Huffington Post.

The disappointed base: Mr. President, I close with the following excerpt from a December 10, 2010 article published by McClatchy newspapers.

“WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he’d lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The biggest reason for Obama’s fall: a sharp drop in approval among Democrats and liberals, apparently unhappy with his moves toward the center since he led the party to landslide losses in November’s midterm elections. At the same time, he’s gained nothing among independents.

Mr. President, you cannot lead and you cannot be reelected without energizing the base that brought you to power. You are moving the wrong way and there is not much time to reverse direction. You will have a far less friendly Congress come January; I would strongly advise that you use your “bully pulpit” to rally the public as their interests are threatened by the GOP resurgence.

Thank you for your consideration. To you and your family I wish the happiest of holidays., Hank Cole, Croom, Maryland.

The Obama Family Lights the White House Christmas Tree

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sally Jones permalink
    December 12, 2010 11:28 pm

    In my opinon, you’re nothing and I said nothing but another RACIST! You think your true message is hidden BUT it is NOT! President Obama seems to be damed if he does and damed if he doesn’t…so goes in the eyes of a RACIST! You ALL said you wanted him to compromise so compromise he does and now you’re not satisfied with that! You can believe, President Obama will get another 4 years as long as I have anything to do with it. Don’t you pay attention to the polls? We are on his side regarding this deal!

    • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
      December 13, 2010 10:18 am

      Ms. Jones, please know that we publish all comments that have important content — even those with which we disagree. I thank you for yours.

      I would have said what I said to the President in person, man to man. I worked for Barack Obama’s election in both the primary and the general elections. I contributed to his campaigns. I am disappointed in this leadership and that’s that. Should I have held back because the President happens to be African-American? Should I hold back because I have deep affection for the person within the politician?

      As far as your thoughts on wanting Mr. Obama to compromise; I don’t mind compromises so long as they are good ones. My problem with the President’s approach is that he fails to mobilize the public around his stated policies (public option on health care, cutting off the tax break for the wealthy) before he makes the deal with his opponents — those who have vowed to bring down his Presidency!

      I invite your further response. Henry S. Cole


  1. Latest news on the debt ceiling crisis and a “Fable about Elephants.” « Ekos²
  2. The ” PayrollTax Holiday” is a Trojan Horse: Video Interview with Sue Ward, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare « Ekos²

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: