The Fight That Never Was

Weakened by the election, Obama would be likely to bear most of the blame as opponents accused him of intransigence and arrogance. Republicans are always happy to run campaigns based on tax cuts, and this impasse might set up 2012 nicely for them. - Larry J. Sabato

Now that the President has caved on the tax-cuts the question progressives must ask is this, “If not this issue, then what issue is this President willing to fight for?” This was supposed to be his signature issue. The one issue that he claimed was a “principle”. If this was a principled fight then I would hate to see an issue he didn’t care about. This issue was a no-brainer for the Dems. If you can’t win a fight against tax-cuts for people who have already made out like bandits for the last 10 years by borrowing from China to finance them, then what fight can you win?

I think this White House has underestimated the wrath of a scorned base. I think what this White House and President failed to realize is that while he is the President of those who didn’t vote for him, he owed it to those who did vote for him to stand up for the issues they elected him to stand up for. Those who did not vote for him will never vote for him. Does he think that if he passed all of the Republican agenda that they would not run a challenger against him in 2012? The progressives have for the last two years been waiting for this White House to fight for something. It began with the stimulus package that was too small and loaded with concessions to the wing-nuts and still did not get a single wing-nut vote. Then we had health-care reform where everything was bargained away before the negotiations even begun and progressives thought at least they would fight for the public option which didn’t happen. And of course we had financial reform and again no fight.

We haven’t even gotten to cap & trade, DADT, Dream Act, or Afghanistan and the White House continued to tell the base either this was not an important issue or that they got the best they could get. Here is where I get lost. The wing-nuts used intransigence and arrogance to not only block the Democratic agenda, but also rode it to victory at the polls but we are now expected to believe that on a Democrat it wouldn’t work? There is something sinister going on here folks. If this President won’t fight for the middle-class or progressive issues then what President will? If after this any progressive believes that the Democratic Party will fight for them I don’t know what it will take to wake them up. This game is rigged and if progressives can’t read the writing on the wall then God help them. These folks are lying, whether it is the blue dogs, talking heads, or Ivy-League economists there would have been no Armageddon by letting these tax-cuts expire. This nonsense about a second recession, the largest tax increase will hit the lower tax rates, or a massive stock market sell-off is a smokescreen designed to cover the massive give-away to the wealthy.

After listening to the President make his concession speech I was struck by how he looked like a defeated man. This White House cannot see that now the wing-nuts smell blood in the water and any chance for future compromise on any issue is finished. If you know that this is the only shot at compromise for your complete agenda then I would recommend that you get more than 13 months of unemployment benefits and the small tax-cuts from the stimulus package. What the President has done is kick the can down the road again which he said he would not do. In two years we will have this same fight again and if you can’t win a fight with 2/3 of the American people behind you then when can you win a fight? I thought we had this fight in 2008 with the election and we won or did we? From where I sit the wing-nuts must have won the election because they have been setting the agenda as if they had.

This President doesn’t seem to have the spirit for conflict and would rather be seen as more conciliatory than as a fighter. Maybe it is his fear of being seen or referred to as an “angry black man”, but whatever it is he is in danger of becoming a lame-duck President. This President cannot win without his base and right now he doesn’t have his base and I don’t know if he can get them back. This isn’t about the “professional left” this is about real voters feeling betrayed by this President. Sometimes you have to fight even if the odds are that you may lose. This is what is known as principles, you fight for them. If this White House was not willing to go the distance they probably shouldn’t have left Chicago. It’s like Martin Sheen said in Apocalypse Now, “If you are not going to get off the boat you shouldn’t go up the river.”

What this compromise has demonstrated is that these tax-cuts will now become permanent and it is just a matter of time. At a time when these tax-cuts should have been allowed to expire and replaced by more targeted ones we get this. The reason these awful tax-cuts will become permanent is that there will never be a better time to let them expire. If now was not the time to let them expire, then there will never be a time to let them expire. We are borrowing money from a foreign country to pay for tax-cuts for the wealthiest people in this country. What about this makes any sense? Does anyone really believe that if the economy turns around these greedy people are going to just voluntarily give up their tax-cuts? How is giving the wing-nuts two years of tax-cuts and prolonging the estate tax instead of making them permanent a victory?

Bear in mind that Republicans want to make those tax cuts permanent. They might agree to a two- or three-year extension — but only because they believe that this would set up the conditions for a permanent extension later. And they may well be right: if tax-cut blackmail works now, why shouldn’t it work again later? - Paul Krugman

The Disputed Truth

Why We Must Allow The Bush Tax Cuts to Expire

It was a time when higher taxes did not sink the economy. Instead, after Clinton passed a tax increase in 1993, the economy enjoyed an epic era of economic prosperity with over eight years without a recession in sight highlighted by an unemployment rate that fell below 4 percent - a level no one thought possible only a few years earlier. - Jules Kaplan/The Hill

Despite the propaganda from both the Dems and the wing-nuts the economy will not suddenly come crashing down if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. The reason most people on both sides want to keep some form of the tax cuts is because they have a vested interest in their continuation. Many of the television pundits and reporters who have been covering this story have not called for letting all of the tax cuts to expire even though letting them expire is what is best for the country as a whole. The reason is because we have all become special interest groups who are choosing our own interests at the expense of the country. Does anyone remember “Country First”?

There are two reasons why I believe we should let all of the Bush tax cuts expire. The first reason is because as long as all of the tax cuts are connected then all of the tax cuts can be held hostage. As long as the middle-class tax cuts are directly connected to the higher rate tax cuts then the wing-nuts can continue to hold the entire tax cut process hostage into perpetuity. If all of the tax cuts were allowed to expire then the Congress would have a clean slate to create targeted tax cuts if that is the direction they want to go in. Every objective economist has stated that tax cuts are the least effective method for stimulating the economy and yet we are still having this debate. Because of decades of tax cut propaganda by the wealthy it has almost become political suicide to even discuss the removal of tax cuts regardless of their effectiveness. Every time anyone (ever) proposes allowing these or any tax-cuts to expire they will immediately be accused by the wing-nuts of raising taxes, is this a great strategy or what?

The wing-nuts under George W. created the perfect trap for all future Congresses despite their political makeup. By combining the tax cuts, no Congress will be able to separate them without catching the full wrath of the wing-nuts and their minions as demonstrated by the recent debate. Remember when the tax cuts were enacted it was because we had a surplus and the wing-nuts argued that same old tired argument from the 80’s; that the “people” knew better how to spend their money than the “government bureaucrats”. So tax-cuts were good during good times was their argument. Here is where the circular argument begins and why there can be no negotiation with these clowns. Now that the economy is bad they argue that tax-cuts are needed to stimulate the economy. So the previous 10 years of tax-cuts did not stimulate the economy, but now magically they are going to start stimulating the economy. My question to these wing-nuts is simply this, “When is it a bad time to give tax-cuts?”

By allowing all of the tax cuts to expire you diffuse the hostage crisis we currently find ourselves in by removing the incentive or reward for maintaining the crisis. To allow these tax cuts to expire of course would require political leadership and the courage of one’s convictions to be able to withstand the echo chamber and the false meme that is being propagated by the wealthy. The President should tell the wing-nuts that as a matter of principle he does not negotiate with hostage takers and to prove it he is willing to allow all of the tax cuts to expire. I have yet to see that sort of strength and leadership from this White House so I am not holding my breath.

The second reason for not extending all of the Bush tax cuts is because of all the folks who have benefited from the economy the last few decades the wealthiest have seen the largest increase in wealth since the gilded age. So while the majority of Americans have seen their wealth shrink and personal income stagnate the top earners have continued to see theirs expand. One of the fundamental values extolled by the wing-nuts is fairness except of course when it comes to paying one’s fair share. The federal revenues derived from personal income taxes and payroll taxes are at 15% of GDP, the lowest it has been in a decade. If all of the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire the revenue would grow to 21% of GDP by 2020 or at the percentage of GDP they were during the 90’s.

The common argument among the wealthy is that because only 47% of Americans actually pay federal income tax they are already shouldering the bulk of the tax burden but that argument belies why we have income taxes in the first place. You may want to re-litigate the whole income tax argument or you may disagree with the concept on philosophical grounds but that does not afford one the luxury of ignoring the law of the land. We must decide (I thought we had already) if we are a serfdom society or we are the nation created by those founding fathers that the wing-nuts are always so quick to quote, except of course when it doesn’t fit into their narrow definitions of “conservative constitutionalism”. What the hell does that even mean?

If we are serious about fixing the mounting problems that are threatening our country then the first step towards demonstrating that resolve would be to allow these tax cuts to expire and begin to increase revenues. History has shown time and again that the doomsday scenario of raising taxes and wrecking the economy has never materialized and in fact the opposite has occurred when we have left the wealthy and the corporate interests to their own devices they have wrecked the economy. I hate to break the news but the free ride is over America. The decade of waging two wars, increasing entitlements through giveaways to drug companies and oil companies while at the same time cutting taxes is over. The time has come to face the music even though the sun is shining through and we are hung over and revolted by the partner laying next to us it’s over. It is now the morning after in America.

Bush said despite that current prosperity, “It’s time for a change” in Washington. “Some say [the economy] is doing pretty well - well it may be,” he said. But “People need more money in their pocket, as far as I’m concerned.” – George W. Bush

The Disputed Truth

Credit Where Credit Is Due

The administration noted Wednesday that the U.S. auto industry has added 77,300 jobs since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, that vehicle exports are up more than 40 percent from 2009, and that the nation's Big Three car companies posted operating profits for the first three quarters of this year...Those millions of lost jobs would have been an significant number even in an economy as large as ours. The economic crisis we still face today would have been made much, much worse had the Federal Government led by Obama and the Democrats in Congress failed to act, and act promptly. - Alternet

I, like many other progressives have been highly critical of this President and this Congress in the last two years concerning many of the missteps they have made. However, their actions in bailing-out GM and the auto-industry is worthy of credit. It is one thing to criticize other people and only be willing to highlight the negative and God knows we have turned criticism into a new art form. With the advent of the 24/7 cable news cycle and the need to fill all of those empty hours with distractions and nonsense it is especially important to identify those policies and efforts that do what they are designed to do.

When the wing-nuts were pontificating on the demise of the free markets and the federal takeover of the private sector with efforts like the auto industry bail-out this administration made a calculated decision to step in and save American manufacturing jobs and a staple industry. The lack of repentance on the part of the wing-nuts should be proof for anyone in or out of Washington that these folks have no intention of changing the tone in Washington. You add to this intransigence the results of the last election and the wing-nuts believing they have received some sort of mandate and the prospects of our getting anything done to solve the massive problems facing this nation are almost non-existent. The fact that we have not heard from one Republican to step up and acknowledge they were wrong says volumes about who they really are and what their true intentions are.

At some point in America we have to be willing to overcome our selfish tendencies that have been exacerbated over the last few decades and once again consider what is best for the nation as a whole. The greed that was exemplified during the Reagan years has been pumped full of steroids and we now find ourselves in the grips of this me, me, me mentality. We have become a nation of special interests being led by the wealthiest among us. These folks are willing to flaunt the laws and rules of our country to advance their profit margins at the expense of our country. As a result we have become so tribal that instead of our politicians and many of our citizens asking what’s best for the country the mantra is now what’s in it for me and my group.

The time has come for those who have received the most among us to demonstrate one of the most American of traits and that is self-sacrifice for the sake of our country. We have a history in our nation of people who are willing to look beyond their own self interest for the benefit of the group and often times those people have been wealthy. How many wealthy folks were willing to make major sacrifices during WWII because of the call for self-sacrifice by FDR and the need for the benefit for all Americans? Today instead of an atmosphere of shared sacrifice we have this atmosphere of what can I get out of it. This attitude of selfishness permeates every area of our society. Over the last few decades the rich have done better than most Americans and now is the time for those people to step up and ask what they can do to help the country.

This administration has made a number of miscalculations but in this case they made the right decision despite the protests of the wing-nuts. I hope this success will embolden them to begin to stand up for the American people against the onslaught being waged by the wealthy through their political and media minions. I think this President should call for an end to all of the Bush tax-cuts and return the tax rates to the levels of the Clinton years. I know this is considered treason by many folks who want to consider raising taxes during a recession as insanity, but the truth is that having these lower tax rates in effect have done little to create jobs which is how the middle-class will see their lives improve. Some may say this will be political suicide for the President because of the successful campaign of the rich to equate tax-cuts to this panacea of economic growth that has little if any basis in reality.

Making tough decisions in the face of a crisis is the definition of leadership. The President must be willing to use his political skills to educate the American public on the nature of the challenges they are facing. If I were advising the President I would schedule weekly television addresses and town halls from now to Election Day to allow the President to make the case for what he believes in. My hope is that he believes in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure through public works. I hope he believes in retooling American manufacturing and creating new entrepreneurs through investment. One of the things I think that has been lost in our loss of manufacturing is that the manufacturing industry was built by small plants that over time expanded. We should be providing investment to people who have ideas and products that we can develop for mass manufacturing to rebuild our base and middle-class. This idea that we can never make anything again is insane and being perpetuated by the ruling class to maximize their profits and not to keep America strong.

"Just giving them $25 billion doesn't change anything," Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, said on Fox News Sunday. "It just puts off for six months or so the day of reckoning." - Senator John Kyl

The Disputed Truth

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