President Obama, whose first year was the most polarizing on record, continues to treat the Tea Party with a palpable sense of derision. In his most recent swipe, he stated, "I've been a little amused over the last of couple days where people have been having these rallies over taxes. You would think they would be saying thank you", clearly alluding to his plethora of recent tax cuts.
Now, factually speaking, President Obama is spot on regarding tax cuts for most Americans. As a result of his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package, nearly 50% of Americans didn't even pay federal income taxes in 2010. A barrage of tax credits, refunds, rebates, and deductions pushed the federal tax burden to its lowest level in many years for a significant percentage of Americans.
However, according to an article by fellow contributor, Mytheos Holt, this same stimulus package also instituted at least 13 new taxes, some of which are already beginning to take effect. Also, several of the current, temporary cuts are set to expire later this year, and over the next few years.
Most importantly, though, President Obama is missing the point on two crucial fronts.
First, most tea party supporters are critical of the exploding budget deficits, skyrocketing national debt, and significant government expansion into the private sector. Tea party adherents certainly support lower tax rates (on a permanent basis), but they are more adamantly opposed to the borrowing and spending binge currently underway in Washington DC. If Obama hasn't figured this out yet, he is seriously out of touch with millions of concerned Americans, some of whom aren't even Tea Party supporters.
Obama and his supporters often counter by citing the silence of Tea Party protestors (except for Ron Paul followers) during the Bush years, when deficits rose, debt exploded, and the federal government grew in size and scope. I've offered similar criticisms in past articles as well, but at some point, Obama and Congress will have to step up to the plate and accept responsibility for their own $1.6 trillion deficits and nearly $10 trillion of new debt projected by 2020.
Second, Obama championed himself as a symbol of change during his presidential campaign. He would eradicate the partisan vitriole, unite Republicans and Democrats on key issues, and set a new precedent for open-minded, civil dialogue in DC.
However, the nation is even more polarized and more dysfunctional. The left-right divide is deepening. Partisan insults, on both sides of the aisle, have intensified, and President Obama is playing along.
It's time President Obama stopped talking the talk, and started walking the walk. If the "other side" refuses to treat him with respect, so what! He'll just have to be the bigger man. That's what he said he'd do. He promised that he was going to be different.
Otherwise, he's on the same path as the infamous George W. Bush, who once promised the nation that he was going to be a "uniter, not a divider".
Look where that empty promise left us.