As Barack Obama clinches victory, his task as president is clear: fight for America's middle-class

If Warren Buffett is moved to complain that he pays less tax proportionately than his cleaner, something must be rotten in the modern United States

Share

British businessmen often look across the pond with a glint of envy in their eyes. America, you see, is in love with the cult of the entrepreneur, and with moneymaking generally.

The Republican heartland has been referred to as Jesusland, but they worship Mammon with the same fervour as they worship the Christian prophet in the Bible belt. When people venture to protest about the excesses of the wealthy, of the “1 per cent” over there, Republicans accuse them of indulging in “the politics of envy” while promising more tax cuts for the wealthiest in American society so they can “create jobs” and protect “America’s special place in the world”.

I sometimes wonder whether a bit more of the politics of envy is exactly what America needs. After all, the figures (they are from the US census bureau) show that while the American economy grew every year up until 2008, median incomes flatlined.

Middle America was no better off on the eve of the financial crisis than it was at the dawn of the new century. As for job creation? There wasn’t any. The Bush era tax cuts, widely criticised for favouring the rich, did nothing to stimulate any economic activity that would see the extra money trickling down. The recipients of the tax cut sat on their extra loot.

It says it all that a guru of capitalism like Warren Buffett was moved to complain that his cleaner paid more tax as a proportion of her income than he did.

Can the second term President Obama, re-elected this morning, do anything to change this? His problem this time around, the reason the race with Mitt Romney has been so close, is that while America is growing again after the grim years of the financial crisis, ordinary Americans still aren’t feeling it.

The American middle is still scared for its jobs. Its people want to protect what income they do have. At such a time the siren call of the Tea Party tempts them even if the economic medicine that its leaders peddle is little better than snake oil when it comes to improving their lot, much less the lot of the legions of American poor.

Whoever occupies the Oval Office come tomorrow will be faced with the dilemma of how to deal with an enormous deficit against an uncertain economic backdrop and in the teeth of a bitterly partisan congress which holds doing a deal with the other side akin to doing a deal with the devil.

He may have to make cuts just to balance the books. It would be easier if he could also raise taxes, but the people of the squeezed middle would exact a brutal revenge on the party that tried it on them.

But what about squeezing those who can afford to pay? Anathema to Republicans, who would fight any attempt like cats in a sack. But perhaps it is time for a second term President Obama to throw caution to the wind and pick such a fight. To indulge absolutely in the politics of envy and use the Census Bureau’s figures to his advantage, to point out forcefully to the middle that they’ve not shared in what economic growth there has been and say he wants to redress the balance. Again and again.

Perhaps he should scrap all that soaring rhetoric and get down and dirty, using his opponent’s tactics against them when it gets nasty (and it will). How about it: Obama as streetfighter in office, not just on the campaign trail. He’s won elections and he comes from Chicago. He really ought to know a bit about fighting dirty.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Data Scientist

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A promised 'women's museum' opens as a Jack the Ripper exhibit tonight, and I won't take it lying down

Becky Warnock
A protester wears a golden mask and Romanian flag during a demonstration in Bucharest against Gabriel Resources Rosia Montana gold and silver project  

Corporate vampires have tried to suck $4 billion out of Romania, and with TTIP the UK could be next

Kevin Smith
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen