National Commentary

Being Our Brother’s Keeper

Lincoln said, “Government should do for people what they cannot do for themselves.”

Lincoln said, “Government should do for people what they cannot do for themselves.”

Tell that to the Republicans in Congress who want to chip away at government’s role in helping the poor, the elderly and the disabled. With their new empowerment, the GOP leaders want to tackle deficit reduction at the pain of the deprived in this country.

The sad part is that President Obama is willing to play ball with cuts to programs including Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Pell Grants and a host of other Great Society projects. Lyndon B. Johnson must be rolling over in his grave.

Johnson’s programs, enacted in the early 1960s, were designed to set a floor in this country beyond which no one starves or lacks for shelter. His poverty, housing and civil rights legislation made us a more equal society.

Now the Republicans, including the tea partiers, are determined to bring back the pre-Great Depression laissez-faire policies. If you can’t make it – tough.

Obama should tear a page out of Johnson’s legacy – not Vietnam, of course, but his compassionate domestic policies.

I often have wondered, are all Republicans rich? Are they aware of the human suffering as they wallow in their tax havens? We have a lot of billionaires in this country, and millions more who are hungry and living far below the poverty line.

Are we becoming a nation of haves and have nots? It appears so, with unemployment at 8 percent and slow economic growth.

Pentagon defense spending is currently at $2 million a minute, according to the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throw in spending for Pakistan, Libya and Yemen involvement, and some 700 military bases around the world, and it is even more. But somehow war money is never mentioned in recent election campaigns, nor in budget stories.

I guess the wars are financed by manna from heaven.

Obama, whose re-election drive is moving him to the right, should start fighting for the people who are needy, or he will lose his own parties’ support. Democrats care about the welfare of school teachers and other public servants, and have traditionally been a party that would protect the collective bargaining rights of government union workers. Watch out for Social Security – another bête noire for the GOP. It used to be sacrosanct.

When he ran for the presidency, Obama lit a fire among America’s younger generation by raising their hopes for a better world. But who blew out the flame?

If he keeps caving and bending to the right, Obama will disappoint his loyal fans and constituency who still have to believe he has the right stuff. They are smart to question, in view of the President’s recent move to the right.

Obama has lost his way. He has forgotten, “we are our brother’s keeper.”

Why has he followed the mindless war policies of George W. Bush? Why are Americans being asked to kill and die halfway around the world? At least the Middle Eastern and North African uprisings have found the meaning of their struggle – it’s called freedom. What are Americans being told to meet at the barricades for? “If we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.” What a battle cry. Hardly one heard around the world.

There’s only one big way to raise revenues – raise taxes on the super rich. They can afford it. As for the cuts in government spending, start with slicing the salaries of the lawmakers and take away their healthcare and travel perks.

Charity begins at home. A big battle over the budget and the debt limits (for government spending) looms ahead. Let’s hope the President will remember we are our brother’s keeper.

David Plouffe, senior advisor to the President, said on a round of last Sunday’s talk shows, that Obama would propose “significant debt reduction,” mentioning Medicare and Social Security. “Every corner of the federal government has to be looked at,” Plouffe said.

The President ran up the steps at the Lincoln Memorial last Saturday, in what he considered a victory lap after he caved to the GOP during budget negotiations, and talked to tourists. A beleaguered Richard Nixon ran up the same steps during the height of the Vietnam War – and he rapped with the anti-war protestors.