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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"Symbolic"? My ass!

Polls tell us that the majority of Americans do not want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. At least one poll revealed that the majority of Republicans do not want those cuts extended. I'm not even sure that the majority of millionaires want the cuts extended.

Yet Obama's compromise extended Bush's tax cuts for millionaires, for two years. In practical terms, the cuts are permanent, because Republicans will control Congress two years from now. Structurally high deficits will make it impossible to pass any legislation that might aid the recovery. Bad economic times will be great for the Republicans in an election year.

Quoted in the Washington Post, Obama said:
"Sympathetic as I am to those who would prefer a fight to compromise, it would be the wrong thing to do," the president said. "The American people didn't send us here to wage symbolic battles."
He seems unwilling to engage in any battles, symbolic or otherwise. And that aversion to conflict is itself symbolic -- of a failed presidency and a failed party. If this is the sort of wimpified governance we get while the Dems still control Congress, what may we expect next year?

Symbolism? Let's talk pragmatism:
But he could easily have killed the Bush tax cuts and thereby done more good for our nation’s fiscal situation than anyone will be in a position to do for many years to come. Killing the tax cuts would alone reduce the national debt by roughly as much as the deficit commission’s entire proposal. And killing the tax cuts was the path of least resistance. Obama could have done it by doing nothing. Or he could have done it by taking a strong negotiating position and being willing to walk away from the table.
The Democrats could have forced the Republicans to engage in a genuine filibuster -- the kind that makes 'em stay up all night while wearing Pampers. That would have made great theater: The Republicans fighting for tax breaks for millionaires while the Dems fight for continuing unemployment benefits. Dramatic? You bet. But that drama wouldn't have been merely symbolic; it would have been a matter of life or death.

As I keep telling people, a little-noticed Senate rule would have allowed the Democrats, during such proceedings, to change the rules on filibusters. No one has ever pointed out a flaw in my argument.

Speaking of filibusters, Bernie Sanders may mount one against the Obama/GOP plan. Good for him!

It seems that Taylor Marsh (up with whom I have not kept) has turned around yet again on Obama:
Harry S Truman would have told the Republicans to go pound sand.

William Jefferson Clinton would have gotten something real for the trouble, while sticking it to Republicans by letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. Because back in the early ’90s, Bill first showed Republicans who was boss before he compromised.

But can we now all agree that Republicans don’t give a damn about the deficit?
Republicans won't agree. They live in mythworld -- a fantasyland in which Ronald Reagan reduced the deficit and Clinton expanded it.

Drudge's headline: "The New Obama -- Surprise Tax CUT move!"

Why the surprise? Why the word "New"? The stimulus bill was largely a tax cut bill, not a jobs bill. Republicans won't tell you that fact -- in fact, they'll tell you the precise opposite of the truth. Worse, the citizenry prefers GOP propaganda to lived experience:
Only 12 percent of the public say that the Obama administration has lowered their taxes since coming to office, despite the fact that the White House's stimulus package cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, a new opinion survey found.
In addition, the CBS/NYT poll found that 24 percent of respondents said that their taxes had actually increased under the Obama administration -- which is, again, not true.
If Fox News and Rush Limbaugh said that horses can talk, would people believe them? Probably.

Obama, an allegedly gifted communicator, could not gain political capital from a tax cut bill. Democrats cannot even persuade the public that such a bill was passed and signed. And now Obama has delivered a handout to millionaires, enriching the affluent while afflicting the destitute.

Symbolism? That's for French film-makers. I want to see combat.
Comments:
You mean...the people who tried to tell us Barack Obama was woefully unfit to be President were right? Can apologies be far behind?
 
This all comes back to one thing, the print and broadcast media that has controlled the outcome of the last three presidential elections.
Not just Fox News or Conservative talk radio, but all of them.
Voters think Obama raised taxes because that is what the corporate controlled media wants then to think. Things can not be put right until the media is neutralized.
We need a thousand more Bob Somerby types out there blogging.
 
Symbolic? Symbolic? Is this child delusional? He's the one engaging in "symbolic" bipartisanship.
 
You know how I found out about the Make Work Pay deduction and the sales tax deduction and the property tax deduction contained in the stimulus bill? I read the fine print in my tax return instruction book. Otherwise, this normally attentive person would never have known.

Why the hell wasn't that being pounded by Public Service Announcements all over the United States? They certainly have plenty of ads up right now about Medicare!
 
Some people aren't old enough, weren't paying attention at the time, or have forgotten in the meantime, exactly how Clinton repeatedly caved and caved to Gingrich when he was in a weak spot.

Gingrich himself, without apparent consultation with anyone, and for reasons he described as mystical, decided that the budget had to be balanced in 7 years. This was so arbitrary that even a faithful Gingrich lieutenant, House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, verbally rebelled, and demanded to know how and why this capricious and potentially harmful timeline was decided on.

Clinton said, 'ok,' much to the horror of the Democratic caucus, apparently for no reason but cowardice and/or his own craven political considerations, and without gaining any concessions.

Then Gingrich insisted that the budget projections for the balanced budget use the CBO numbers, although the executive branch OMB numbers had been proven far more accurate (and were more optimistic on growth and revenue projections, meaning the OMB numbers required far less cutting, even with the 7 year timeline). Democrats disagreed with Gingrich, but Clinton said, 'ok,' and the Democratic caucus was outraged.

Note, these Clinton moves were not only pure caves contrary to Democratic Party positions, but they threatened the still-then-mediocre recovery by imposing entirely arbitrary timelines and the use of proven overly pessimistic CBO numbers to squeeze large amounts of federal spending out of the economy, lessening total effective demand.

So, in these respects, what Obama did does not contrast with what Clinton did, but is quite similar. Moreover, Obama had some actually good reasons for his so-called caving here.

If we use a hostage negotiation as the guideline here, one cannot disregard the lives of the hostages. 'Taking out' the hostage takers, but at the cost of the hostages lives, is not a good result, even if the red-hots of one or another persuasion might applaud it.

What Obama avoided was the prospect of the increase in taxes on everybody, which contrary to his critics on the left, would certainly be blamed on him and the Democratic party (by liars, of course, but persuasive 24/7 liars with unparalleled reach and influence of a kind barely started in the Clinton years).

What he got EXTRA, as part of this total deal, is essentially Stimulus II, which he couldn't have gotten in any other fashion, and which by all expert opinion is essential to improve the recovery. That's quite a benefit, making the Tea Party types cry (and one they would have obstructed next year). Even Rush today 'warned' that this deal contained a 'hidden stimulus'-- UIC extension is about $90 billion, 2 points off the payroll tax another $50 billion a year (x 2 years = $100 billion), the sub-$250k income tax break = $300 billion a year, and even the $70 billion cost of the $250k+ rate extension itself somewhat stimulative. All in all, Obama's move now puts more stimulus into the economy than the annual figure average of his first stimulus bill (and without GOP opposition, since they are signing onto this compromise).

And beyond that, he now has the prospect of some other accomplishments in the dwindling time of this lame duck session, which couldn't have taken place with the GOP threatening to filibuster anything until the tax extension was done.

These include likely the end of DADT, fulfilling the promise of Harry Reid to Hispanics of bringing the Dream Act to a vote, and possibly, the critically important START treaty.

So, instead of 'being strong,' (but wrong), which would have ended all Congressional activity except symbolic votes for the rest of the year, AND ended up with all taxes raised on everybody (which no one save the resurrected David Stockman really advocated), and thereby strangled this weak recovery to the benefit of no one, Obama has actually gotten an arguably good or at least not all bad result (as Obama critic Ezra Klein admitted yesterday).

XI
 
Clinton repeatedly caved and caved to Gingrich when he was in a similarly weak spot.

Gingrich himself, for reasons he described as mystical, decided that the budget had to be balanced in 7 years. This was so arbitrary that even a faithful Gingrich lieutenant, House Budget Chair John Kasich, verbally rebelled, and demanded to know how and why this capricious and harmful timeline was decided on.

Clinton said, 'ok,' much to the horror of the Democratic caucus, apparently for no reason, and without gaining any concessions.

Then Gingrich insisted that the budget projections for the balanced budget use CBO numbers, although OMB numbers had been proven far more accurate (and were more optimistic on growth and revenue projections, meaning the OMB numbers required smaller cuts). Democrats disagreed with Gingrich, but Clinton said, 'ok,' and the Democratic caucus was outraged.

Note, Clinton's moves were not only caves, but they threatened the still-then-mediocre recovery.

So, in these respects, what Obama did does not contrast with what Clinton did, but is quite similar. Moreover, Obama had some good reasons for his so-called caving here.

What Obama avoided was an ncrease in taxes on everybody, which contrary to his critics on the left, would certainly be blamed on him and the Democratic party.

What he got EXTRA, as part of this total deal, is essentially Stimulus II, which he couldn't have gotten in any other fashion, and which by all experts is essential to improve the recovery. All in all, Obama's move now puts more stimulus into the economy than the annual figure of his first stimulus bill (and without GOP opposition, since they are signing onto this compromise).

And beyond that, other things can get done in the dwindling time of this lame duck session.

These include likely the end of DADT, fulfilling the promise of Harry Reid to Hispanics of bringing the Dream Act to a vote, the critically important START treaty, etc.

So, instead of 'being strong,' (but wrong), and thereby strangled this weak recovery to the benefit of no one, Obama has actually gotten an arguably good (or at least not all bad) result (as Obama critic Ezra Klein admitted yesterday).

XI
 
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