Here is a rant that might help students understand the words being thrown around in American politics.
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Karl Marx noticed something: In capitalist system throughout history, more and more of the wealth will snowball in the hands of the few until almost all of the wealth is concentrated on a tiny portion of the population. That is what is happening in America. People who understand capitalism and socialism know that neither is perfect. Right now, the Obama Administration is trying to find the perfect balance that will bring about the greatest possible good for the greatest number of people.
The purpose of government is to enable people to give up a small amount of freedom in order to gain a large amount of protection. It also helps them to pool their resources in various other ways and to look out for one another. Conservatives call for self-reliance and free enterprise, and they are wise to preserve these important American values. But as people people who understand capitalism, they also know that an even playing field never stays even for long. Part of the role of government is to protect people from injustices inherent in capitalism. That means the wealthy are going to have to pull the weight of the poor to some extent.
But President Obama is not Robin Hood. He cannot just take from the rich and give the poor. He has to move to the middle and reason with the rich and their advocates in congress. Most likely, he wants to reason with the rich because he is skillful with language. Masters of language want opportunities to reason with people and make real progress.
In order to be progressive, President Obama needs to make progress toward correcting social injustices associated with exploitation of the poor in a capitalist system. The wealthy people who represent large corporations may be very willing to help poor people, but they also need to stay vigorous and competitive in the dynamic 21st century business world. In order to make progress, Obama needs to compromise with the wealthy and with the representatives of wealthy organizations. After all, we are asking them to spend a higher percentage of their money than people in lower tax brackets, and the wealthy do not even use many of the social services they are helping to fund.
So, there are two voices to consider: the voice of the rich, and the voice of the rest of us.
The voice of the rest of us: One voice comes from the hard working American that tries to raise a family while making a lower-to-middle class living each year. These people want the government to spend money on the things that matter to them -- making health care affordable, ceasing American imperialism, creating jobs, growing the economy so the children will have good lives, saving the environment so the children will have places to live. These people want their tax money to be spent on the things that are important to them. Also, if they understand Keynesian economics, they also hope see the government spend money in order to compensate for a lack of public spending during a recession, and they want the government to make good investments, just like rich people do.
The voice of the rich: Another voice comes from the people who have plenty of money and do not need to "work" in the same way other people work. Instead, they invest their money in various endeavors, because they know you can make a lot of money if you invest correctly. These people also don't have to worry about whether they will be able to afford their health care. They have entirely different interests. For example, while working Americans may feel compassion for immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, the rich tend to focus on securing the borders because more poor Americans to take care of with expensive social services. They do not need to worry about whether public schools are adequately funded, because they don't send their kids to public schools. They do not need to worry about whether law enforcement in some districts is adequately funded, because they live in places where law enforcement in indeed adequately funded.
The rich care about things that can actually hurt them. What can hurt the rich? Other than taxes, nothing short of foreign invasion can hurt them. And that is why some rich people prefer not to spend money on social services, but they certainly are willing to spend money on maintaining a stellar military.
So why does a progressive president need to move to the middle? It's because a lot of pressure is being applied -- not only the visible pressure, but also the invisible pressure. Visible pressure is applied by the republicans, who advocate for the rich. Invisible pressure is also applied, because the rich have enough money to get what they want in clandestine ways. If the president wants to get the rich to spend money on improving the lives of the poor, he needs to accommodate some of their interests. That means compromising with the GOP. Without compromise, no progress would be made at all. Americans are sick of having legislators that cannot get anything done. As a master of language, President Obama is becoming a master of compromise.
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