"America is the land where people find whatever they have lost." - Gunter Grass
I vaguely recognized the nation President Obama was describing as he spoke to a joint session of congress. This was America, the one I have been reading and hearing about since I was a boy. I've never lived in the country the president was detailing; none of us has, but we have always been told it is a possibility. And here, in the midst of crisis and collapse, Mr. Obama says the ideal America is within our grasp.
It's a tough sell.
In this new America, 95 percent of us will be getting tax cuts. In fact, the money is already in the mail. People without jobs are going to receive extended unemployment and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create 3.5 million new jobs with 90 percent of them in the private sector.
The president said we will rebuild and we will recover but he provided a vision that went well beyond those simple parameters. His images are of a nearly complete makeover of American institutions and the founding of new government entities. If approved and funded by congress, there will be a new federal lending authority to deliver loans to students and businesses and people seeking credit for a new car.
He spoke of new loan programs to help families struggling to stay in their homes and said we will help responsible families refinance their mortgages. In this America, if it is achieved, there will be money to save homeowners and families and banks that lend to them but not for Wall Street bosses or bankers' salaries.
There will also be health care in the Obama America. According to the president, health care costs cause a bankruptcy every 30 seconds in the U.S. and that premiums are growing four times faster than wages. He was convincing when he indicated that work would begin on a national health care plan next week and that the issue "has weighed down our economy and our conscience for too long and it cannot wait, must not wait, and will not wait until next year."
I want to live in this place the president is building for us because we will facilitate renewable energy and provide money to see that our children have education from birth to employment and we'll all have affordable health care.
Did I mention health care?
Tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans will go away and the money flowing from their increased responsibilities will create a social equity and will help to finance the educations we provide our young in return for serving their country.
The war will be brought to an end in Iraq but we'll keep pursuing terrorists in Afghanistan as we should have been since 2001. Guantanamo Bay detention center will be closed and no one will be tortured any more in the name of America. Parents will be held responsible for the behavior of their children. American automakers won't get more handouts but they'll retool assembly lines and create new types of transportation to compete with the world and keep jobs within our borders.
Mr. Obama has painted a more idyllic America than Norman Rockwell. But I'm with you, Mr. President. Can you really pull this off? Can we? If we do, you'll be honored through the ages.
And your hero Lincoln might need to scootch over just a bit on his chair.
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