Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Tax cuts aren't key to creating jobs

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
  • President Obama heard from disappointed supporters at last week's town hall
  • Donna Brazile says Obama understands loss of faith in American Dream
  • She says GOP's "Pledge to America" includes tax cuts for wealthy as job-creating measure
  • Brazile: Republicans don't understand that tax cuts helped widen income inequality

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, a nationally syndicated columnist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000 and wrote "Cooking with Grease."

Washington (CNN) -- Neil, one of my neighbors on Capitol Hill, recalled this story to me the other day after watching President Obama's town hall meeting: "She was recently widowed, about 93, having lost her husband of over 60 years. When I came upon her in a darkened church hallway, standing alone, staring at the floor, I wanted to know what was wrong.

"How are you?" he asked quietly.

"I've lost Ernest, you know," she said in a quavering voice, "and now I'm lost myself."

"I know how you feel," he said.

"No you don't," she snapped. It was a ferocious anger that left him stunned. "You don't know how I feel. You couldn't possibly. Don't tell me you know how I feel!"

Video: Durbin: We don't have the votes
Video: Obama: Recession over
Video: Adviser: No double dip

As Neil tells it, Velma Hart -- the woman who had the audacity to tell the President of the United States how she felt at a town hall meeting last Monday -- reminded him of his parishioner who had just lost her husband. Politicians keep telling them they know how voters feel, when they don't.

Velma Hart is a woman of immense dignity who spoke out about of what she fears is the death of the American Dream for her family.

"My husband and I have joked for years that we felt we were well beyond the franks and beans era of our lives. However, it's beginning to knock on our door, and starting to ring true that that might be where we're heading again.

"And, quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this [franks and beans] my new reality?"

A 30-year-old law student follows her.

"I was really inspired by you and your campaign and the message you brought, and that inspiration is dying away," he said, adding, "And I really want to know, is the American Dream dead for me?"

Fade out. Fade in.

A herd of Republican leaders paraded 20 miles to a lumber yard in Sterling, Virginia.

The Republican Party is officially unveiling their "Pledge to America," a package of 20-some ideas for governing next year, should the voters elect them.

Republican officials talk to the cameras in Sterling, telling Americans they understand how they feel.

Now, enter Rep. John Boehner, who filed papers in April for a fundraising committee called, "Boehner for Speaker."

"We get it, America," Rep. Boehner says looking directly into the cameras. "Believe me, we get it."

No, Mr. Boehner, you don't.

The president now knows how Americans are feeling -- thanks to the education he received from the despairing professional woman and young man.

"My goal here is not to convince you that everything is where it needs to be," the president said, "but what I am saying is that we are moving in the right direction." Still, most of America needs to hear his plan to move things for Middle America to a breakthrough for them. The president heard them, and from the expressions on his face, I believe he gets it.

The Republican leaders still don't "get it."

The Republican proposals remind me of the peppermint candy puffs we see around Christmastime. You know how it goes, pop a peppermint ball in your mouth, crunch, and instantly it dissolves into air and spun sugar. One crunch, one swallow, and it's gone.

What did they offer in the one category that counts above all -- jobs?

The Republicans' number one solution for creating jobs: "Stop job-killing tax hikes." By this, they mean they want to keep giving billionaires a break on their taxes. I'm not making this up.

That's the Republican Party's top proposal to create jobs: Permanently extend the tax cuts they made in 2001, including those for the top 1 percent of Americans.

Since the 1980s, Republican tax policies have coincided with a resurgence of income inequality that has led to the decline of the American Dream -- where people struggle just to stay even, without hope of any lasting gain. The Bush tax cuts accelerated the gap between the rich and everyone else.

The rich have gotten incredibly richer. They were able to corner two-thirds of the nation's income gains between 2002 and 2007.

In 2007, thanks to Republican tax breaks for the rich, the nation's top 400 tax filers saved $46 million for each household. Obama wants it to stop. The Republicans in their "Pledge to America" want it to continue -- as their very top priority for job creation. I'm not making this up.

And they call Obama's stopping these wealthy tax cuts from doing more harm, "job-killing tax hikes." You got to give them credit for mastering George Orwell's double-speak.

What else is in their proposals? They want to repeal health care reform. They want to leave 40 million Americans without health insurance. They want a private (that is, Republican business) takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

They didn't mention that many Republicans want to privatize Social Security. And that some of their Senate candidates want to completely dismantle various government agencies, such as the Department of Education. Others want to abolish parts of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With them it's all about ideology. With the voters, it's about living the American Dream, once again.

Do the Republicans "get it"?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.