Although some of these proposals address real problems, the populist tone struck by Obama and his aides made their efforts seem like pandering. That's particularly true of Monday's announcement, which was billed as a preview of initiatives from the White House's Middle Class Task Force. Obama noted that "creating good, sustainable jobs is the single most important thing we can do to rebuild the middle class" -- a sentiment shared across the political spectrum, even if Democrats and Republicans disagree sharply over how to achieve that goal. But, he added, "we also need to reverse the overall erosion in middle-class security."
The administration's plan for shoring up the middle class' fortunes includes a much more generous tax credit for moderate-income families who pay for day care so the parents can work or attend classes, as well as more child-care subsidies for low-income workers. It offers more help for people caring for elderly relatives, and easier repayment terms for federal student loans. And it provides a larger tax credit for retirement savings, coupled with a proposal (recycled from last year) to give workers the option of having part of their paychecks deposited into a tax-sheltered retirement account.