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A year ago this space featured a column in which I described the implications of the IRS 1040 as a reflection of attitude toward the presidential campaign. At that time, clients I met in my role as a tax preparer indicated a terrible malaise that had beset our country. Americans were fed up, and unready to see money from the beleaguered federal treasury used to offset politicians’ expenses, particularly when billions were being spent in party funds and other sources of electioneering. That was then.
Now it is worse.
The majority of the taxpayers I meet daily are members of the demographic that most pundits argue voted to reelect President Obama and to return congressional incumbents to office. The vast majority are African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Americans struggling to survive in an economy said to be improving but still does not provide a direct impact on them. Yet these people, the same who made their determinations in November , still do not want money to be contributed to campaign coffers. The question remains, why not? Several reasons are at play.
A measure of disgust with the current administration. While in his first election campaign Candidate Obama promised hope and change, neither materialized. Upside down mortgage holders wonder where the money went that was promised to bail them out, as bank executives continue to flourish in their professional positions or float away on golden parachutes.
Despondency with the Congress. While there have been some changes in the membership of that august body, by in large this is the same group of politicians that held my clients hostage, refusing to yield until past the last minute to resolve issues of the fiscal cliff. Their lackadaisical resolution of the challenge has resulted in delay after delay, slowing the tax process, and delaying for many the refunds upon which they budget for the late winter and spring.
In addition and worse, clients describe themselves as disenfranchised. They voted, but they express more than ever before that their votes made no difference. If their votes really counted, afterall, should there not be a sense of improvement.
President Obama is a liberal, and his inaugural address championed the merits of his perception of how society and the government operate. The values he expressed are shared by many, including the majority of my customers. Those values are simply inadequate.
Perhaps President Obama needs to take a refresher course from President Ronald Reagan. This is not an argument for Obama to embrace either Reagan’s Conservatism or Militarism. There is no reason President Obama should. Agree with him or not, he is entitled to his political worldview.
Still, Reagan’s greatness was not achieved by politics alone. Reagan had a unique ability to communicate with the American people. Obama’s ability to deliver a fine speech is well respected as well. Succeeding President Carter, President Reagan restored optimism and communal spirit to America. We need American optimism more than ever. We need a sense of patriotism. Reagan managed to do that in his terms as president.
With renewed optimism, perhaps more citizens will choose to have money contributed to the campaign fund, and I will have to look to new barometers of American sentiment.
It is not easy to be a great communicator, but if Moses could advance from being inarticulate to the greatest speaker and teacher of Jewish tradition, perhaps President Obama can as well. Heaven knows we need that of him.