These were not remarks offered by an O'Donnell voter in Delaware (though, no doubt, they well could be) but, rather, they are the remarks of an Obama supporter at a recent townhall meeting sponsored by CNBC. You can watch her and, also, his response here
. Do watch his response because Obama in the face of criticism is almost always unintentionally revealing. The woman questioning him was deeply respectful--though not at all shrinking--so the President was not as aggressively defensive as he usually is in the face of criticism. What he was, however, is deeply patronizing to her (even to the point of teasing her about shoe purchases). But clearly, this woman wanted answers about the general economy
. Specifically, when are things going to get better for the middle class? Shouldn't she and her husband--now well into middle age--be able to feel fairly secure that they are past the bean and wiener stage of their marriage? It seems that the President did not think this CFO (and veteran) was capable or interested enough to engage in that discussion--or, perhaps, what's more likely: he hasn't got any good news to offer.
So, instead of a straight answer, the President exhibited his own prejudices about what he thinks of the relationship between government and citizens. "Responsible" citizens like this woman should be rewarded not so much by the fruits of their own labor, but by government
. The measure of a good government is in how much it
does to make life in the middle class more secure. "The life you describe," Obama said (after being sure to count her among the 'bedrock of our society'), "one of responsibility, looking after your family, contributing back to your community, that's what we want to reward
." [Emphasis, mine.] How is it to be rewarded? By letting people keep more of what they earn and pass it on to their children without fear of double taxation, perhaps? No. They might buy shoes or get credit cards then . . . or, what's worse, leave the middle class and become part of the dreaded "rich." How about lifting burdensome and expensive regulation that makes it excessively difficult for energetic and responsible citizens to create more jobs and grow the economy? No. You wouldn't want to hand over that kind of power to markets . . . government is a better judge of what kind of citizens should be rewarded. So, in response to her entirely sensible question about the economy, Obama's questioner got clap-trap and bromides about the accessibility of student loans, restrictions on raising interest rates for credit cards (a financial vehicle this particular responsible woman attested she did not even carry), and, of course, he was sure to add in the many ways that his health care plan would protect her from all of life's financial uncertainties. As to her lack of a raise and increasing tax burdens, he was sure to offer this bit of consolation. "Times are tough for everyone," after all.
Put another way, "No! You've got me all wrong! I love the middle
class! In fact, some of my best friends are in middle class. And look, I
even sponsored a charity event for the middle class!" Put yet another way, Obama loves the middle class so much that he wants to make sure more and more of us become permanent members of it (provided, of course, he gets to define what it is).