I can understand why people object to a nation running up big deficits when it's already deeply in debt. Borrowing your way out of debt is counter-intuitive. Many economists think it's economically sound, but it's a hard sell.
I can see, kind of, why people shy away from President Barack Obama's health care reform. People have been told it's "socialized medicine," even though it's not, and the concept makes them nervous. Socialism is the equivalent of "living death" in their minds.
I can even see why people don't like the government bailouts that Bush the Younger and Obama engineered, even though they were marvelously successful. The economy was on the brink of ruin with 1929 knocking at the door, until the government stepped in with its bailouts and narrowly averted disaster.
But many felt the institutions that got bailed out were not deserving of rescue. That fact that you couldn't save the economy without saving those miscreants too didn't matter. People got ticked off. I can understand that.
What I can't understand is why so many people of modest means are against taxing the filthy rich. Recent polls show a majority of people favoring the extension of Bush's tax cuts for the rich. Why?
It's not as though the rich don't have the money. The top 1 percent of households takes in about 22 percent of the total income of the nation. Their hold on the nation's wealth is even stronger.
It's not as though the government couldn't use the money. It's tapped out. (And please don't tell me the answer to all our financial troubles is cutting. We're too deep in the hole. We have to tax as well as cut.)
So why shouldn't we go where the money is -- and tax rich people?
If you want to call that class warfare, fine. But the rich have been waging and winning that war for years and look where it's got us. It's about time the rest of us won a battle. Now is as good a time as any.
Not that I think we will. The White House has already indicated its willingness to "compromise" on the issue of the Bush tax cuts. Which is a laugh. Republicans' idea of compromise is to remove one guy from your firing squad.
Which brings me to someone I don't understand -- President Obama.
I liked Obama the first time I saw him. I've supported him ever since, through thick and thin--mainly thin. I was particularly impressed with his eloquence.
What happened to it?
The single hallmark of this administration is its inarticulateness.
We went through month after month of a health care "debate" without the president explaining why the bill was a good thing, why it wasn't socialized medicine, or how it would benefit millions of Americans.
I'm not talking about position papers and reports with footnotes. I'm talking about simple explanations of the complex issues involved, framed in simple sentences. He was so good at that during the campaign. Where did that skill go?
The stimulus package that he and the Democratic Congress passed (without Republican support) saved the economy. It also contained a substantial tax cut for the middle class. The middle class never noticed its taxes were cut and the stimulus has been painted a failure. How could Obama have let that happen?
When he went on his recent trip to India, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy claimed it was costing American taxpayers $200 million a day, a ridiculous figure. In response, while denying the $200-mill price tag, the White House never put out one of its own.
Are you kidding me?
When the President tried to get the Senate to take up an arms control treaty with Russia, Republican leaders said: "Fuhgedaboudit." The White House expressed surprise.
Imagine that. Senate Republicans are dedicating themselves to denying the President a major legislative victory. Who knew?
If I'd wanted Candide for president, I'd have voted for him.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. www.otherwords.org