I’ve treated the Obama Administration’s ‘deal’ and compromise with leaders of the GOP as an orgiastic celebration of America’s wealthiest citizens. I have treated the issue cynically, and sensationally. I do not wish to rescind that view (I still think Obama & GOP whipped up an orgy, and the middle class wasn’t invited-I mean, that’s just too many people for a good orgy). (read Obama & GOP Whip Up Bipartisan Orgy…)
I do wish to highlight an insightful article in the Nation written by Michael Meeropol. The article, titled Obama’s a Sell-Out on Taxes? Not So Fast. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, and you’re interested in the ongoing Bush tax cut / middle class tax cut / jobless benefit extension debate, I’ve summed up Meeropol’s article for you. (read Meeropol’s article here)
Meeropol rather adroitly weaves through the pros and cons of the Obama / GOP / Bush tax cut deal. The deal was just voted through the Senate, passed in favor of 83-15. (read Senate Passes Massive Tax Cuts for the Rich…)
Obama says he fought for the middle class as hard as he could. And Bill Clinton also agrees. Let’s start with the bad news about this ‘deal’, according to Meeropol.
“… on the grounds of fairness in our tax policy and good economics, the part of the deal that extends the Bush income tax cuts for the top 2 percent of the population, and cuts the estate tax permanently, is just plain bad. Every dollar spent refraining from raising income taxes to 39.6 percent from 35 percent for those making over $250,000 a year as well as the unconscionable gift to millionaires and billionaires with the cut in estate tax, could be much better spent helping states avoid deep spending and service cuts.”
Having gotten the bad news (which is “just plain bad”) out of the way, Meeropol explains why this Obama / GOP deal is probably the best that can happen for the middle class.
“Republicans made clear they were willing to let all tax cuts expire and refuse to do anything meaningful to help the unemployed unless millionaires got an extension of the Bush tax cuts” [italics original]. Meeropol’s stance is that President Obama had no choice. Either cut a deal, or let all tax cuts expire, along with unemployment benefits.
The alternative, Meeropol writes:
“…letting the Bush tax cuts expire and turning the next session of Congress into a battle for all future stimulus spending against a much larger Republican group…would have held all possible assistance to the unemployed and the working people in general hostage to budget cuts elsewhere.”
Obama got away without offering budget cuts to fund this $900 billion package. Meeropol says that is fortunate and doesn’t lend “support for the current austerity nonsense emanating from…the deficit reduction commission.” Meeropol mentions the economist, Keynes, who held that running a deficit to create jobs while a country is in a recession is far better than deficit reduction.
With the agreement on this tax cut bill, “Democrats and Republicans have tacitly agreed with that argument” which is “…no small thing, because in terms of economic policy, the most serious obstacle to the pursuit of progressive actions now and into the future is the argument that deficit spending today means disaster tomorrow.”
Meeropol also thinks the Bush tax cuts do not do much harm, even though they are “distasteful…on moral grounds.” What has brought about the worst financial equality, he states, is “…decline in union membership, financial deregulation and increased trade in labor intensive goods, while increasing protectionism for high salaried professionals and the fraying of the social safety net.” Tax policy is nowhere near the whole story, Meeropol says.
Meeropol’s assessment of the Obama / GOP tax cut compromise is in stark contrast to Bernie Sanders’ 8.5 hour “Bernie-buster” lambasting the president and Democrats for caving into the GOP’s demands and striking a deal that is bad for the American people. (watch highlights from Bernie’s passionate “Bernie-buster” here)
Meeropol wraps up his assessment of the ‘deal’ by laying blame to the American citizens on the left. “If we on the left want Obama and the Democrats to strongly back a progressive agenda, we have to make them do it” [italics original].
Meeropol is right, in a sense. The left should have been hounding Obama and Democrats from the beginning. The Republicans should have much earlier been painted as the hostage-takers; the right should have been adequately portrayed as the obstacle standing between the American people and financial relief.
In that way, Obama and his base have failed. Obama’s verbal disdain for tax cuts to the millionaires and billionaires came only weeks before the deal was made. Maybe with more pressure from the left, Obama would have been louder earlier on, chastising the Republicans as an obstacle to helping the millions of unemployed.
“Instead of complaining about Obama we ought to be working our tails off to build a real movement that will ultimately force him and a recalcitrant Congress to do the right thing.”