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Cave-in or compromise, Obama's tax cut deal with Republicans could win him much, cost him little

Democrat president Barack Obama announces a tax cut compromise 12-6-10

Much talk in the 32 days since the midterm elections that, while President Obama mentioned his national "shellacking" that day, he'd not made the kind of standard presidential political pivot to signal contrition and acceptance of the voters' overwhelming dissatisfaction with the way he and his Democratic party have run the House, the Senate and the White House since taking control of all three 23 months ago.

Can't say that anymore.

Not after his major tax flip Monday. A reversal of a key campaign promise. A reversal of his compromise outlook just last month. A cold waterbomb dropped on his leftist base from the White House balcony.

After days of intense negotiating not significantly with un-Happy Harry Reid or any of the....

...other Democratic dukes and duchesses he raised gazillions of campaign dollars for this year, Obama announced the deal he'd worked out mainly with Mitch McConnell. Yes, that Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, the leader of the Senate's minority No-birds who ended up saying yes to extending unemployment benefits in return for extending all of the Bush tax cuts, plus some newer ones.

In his remarks (full text here, as usual), Obama painted himself as a presidential presider, who sure didn't like all of the Republican demands, knew he'd take heat from his own side, got some necessary progressive goodies but, by golly, was determined to do what he thought was right for the country, especially the beloved middle class and the struggling economy.

He said:

I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can't reach a compromise. But I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington.

Indeed, Obama's been taking heat from the left since the Republican handwriting appeared on the Capitol wall last week. That important part of his base was already impatient over unfulfilled promises like "don't ask-don't tell" repeal, Guantanamo closing, surrendering the single payer healthcare plan.Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on 12-4-10

Many of them were using the trusty line in the sand metaphor these days, crumbled core principles, too quick to cave. Although were those cave complainers watching this guy last year during the 59 healthcare townhalls he tirelessly talked through, many of them staged when everyone knew healthcare was simply not going to happen?

Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner lectured Obama that "Governing is more than a series of transactions...(It's) a competition of ideas on how we make the country better."

Sen. Tom Harkin, who's important to presidential candidates needing help in Iowa's Democratic caucuses, which Obama doesn't anymore, said if the president "caves on this, then I think he's gonna have a lot of swimming upstream."

For some reason CNN sought reaction to the president from unelected Democrat Bill Maher, the alleged comedian.

Maher announced he's very disappointed with the fellow, said there's still hope Obama may come around to his progressive senses but said right now the guy appears to be merely "another in a long line of Democrats who come across as wimpy and wussy." (Memo to Bill Maher: Wimps and wusses don't defeat the Clintons.)

It won't be a tectonic shock to Obama's key political advisor David Axelrod that such revolting talk from the left side of the left-handed president may actually help him in the eyes of the broader American public. Lo these 23 months of failed policies, many had come to see Obama as a captive of that constantly complaining crowd. Same applies if someone mounts a hopeless primary challenge from over there.

To the extent that dealing with Republican suits for tax breaks that benefit all Americans makes Obama appear his own man for a change, we'd bet it helps in future job approval ratings; until now, they've been far stronger on foreign affairs than domestic chores.

Obama had the luxury of not being on any ballot this fall. Not so, next time. Truth is, if the U.S. economy is still in the southern hemisphere come summer of 2012, the Barack Obama-Tim Kaine ticket will likely be toast no matter what. So, a 2010 tax deal could well help and couldn't much hurt.a Car in a Ditch

As he had to, the president grumbled cosmetically Monday about aspects of the political deal. How could he appear pleased about compromising with the same obstinate conservatives he so mockingly portrayed all fall as wanting the keys to the car back after driving it into the ditch? 

But the possibility is by "caving" on the Republicans' coveted total tax cut extensions for everyone, Obama may well have ensured his own re-election.

It could be the start of the political rehab showing that this aloof Harvard fellow who let Congress write the economic stimulus legislation that didn't stimulate, can get into the huddle and call the plays like a leader, not a king viewing from up there in the royal box. And it only took Obama a month after his midterm losses.

Back in 1994 when Bill Clinton received a lesser shellacking from voters angry over his liberal policies, he took three months to follow Dick Morris' advice, adopt some Republican goals like welfare reform as his own and declare out of the blue, "The era of big government is over." The result: An easy 1996 reelect for him.

As for Republicans, by insisting now on their holy grail that tax cuts are the fastest economic fix, they may too have done what they believe best for the country and their supporters while dooming their own party's dream of recapturing the White House, if the shots of financial incentives work their private sector wonders.

One thing for sure, though. By extending the tax cuts for two years, they'll end less than two months after the presidential election on Nov. 6. That guarantees that tax cut extensions -- and who gets the credit or blame for them -- will be a prime campaign debate topic that fall. Write that down now in your 2012 daytimer -- in ink.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press; Harry Hamburg / Associated Press (Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell on 12/4/10); Associated Press.

 
Comments () | Archives (20)

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Abusrd analysis, worse headline. Please, please, please, stop this ridiculous spin.

If this goes through, the progressive agenda will be absolutely steamrolled for the next 2 years.

We cannot afford to let this happen. President Obama, grow a spine. If he won't do it, I hope the Democrats in the Senate will show him what a spine looks like.

As an example loaded language, this column is a tour de force. As an example of political analysis--if the goal of analysis is to get a better understanding of the issue--it is sorely lacking in every respect.

Whether
cosmetics wholesale or
discount mac cosmetics,it is a gond choice .

I'm voting Green in 2012. The level of corruption among the Democrats and Republicans is astonishing. I'm sick of rich people being able to buy enormous tax cuts with big money campaign contributions.

Many, if not most, of the problems of the economy, especially for the middle class, derive from the increasing level of wealth disparity. This is a problem of too great a difference in *relative* wealth between rich and poor. This compromise looks important for the middle class - a near term (minor) improvement in real wages. However, the wealthy actually benefit much more - meaning that this short perceived improvement for the middle will be utterly meaningless as the wealthy continue to extend their extreme wealth advantages over the rest of the citizenry - as the difference in relative wealth grows without bounds.

One of the worst analysis I have read on this story.
Written like a high school paper talking about the prom king.

Mr. Malcolm, thanks for a reasoned article. You are actually acting like Pres. Obama when compared to your colleagues in the media- the bandwagon has little appeal to you. Keep doing a good job.

Good for Barack 'Bush' Obama. Democrats need someone to run against him in 2012. USA will continue to decline with 'supply side economics'. We can only look forward to continued job loss, lack of education, all the while the Banksters get their bailout tax cuts.

Tax cuts for top 2% elite, will not create jobs. Only increases the borrowing from China. Barack has sold his middle class voters down the river. Audacity of change ha!


Obama needs another swift elbow, this time to his smug face.

Funny, during the 1990s, we weren't constantly reminded that congressional inaction was preserving Bill Clinton's tax **hikes.** No, they were called tax **rates** for years, all the way until they were reduced under the Bush Administration.

Now, faced with the prospect of what are in fact tax **hikes,** preserving the current rates that have been in effect for years is attacked by the usual suspects as tax "cuts."

So you aren't getting a raise next month. Are you calling that a "pay cut" because your employer "cut" your non-existent "raise"?

Meanwhile, unemployment will be subsidized now for up to three years. Even in hard times, we must face the fact that, when we subsidize something, we will get more of it; when we tax something, we will get less of it. And this means we will have less employment, more unemployment, and fewer new jobs.

Ideologues and charlatans have institutionalized envy (one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but never mentioned in polite company), and they foment hatred of "the rich" -- i.e., those who have enough income to hire new employees.

Every job I ever had I got from someone who was "rich." And, by the way, why do we have the right to take any money at all from someone (or have the government do it for us) merely because they have more money than we do?

Punishing potential employers while subsidizing the unemployed is a recipe for continued unemployment and economic torpor. However, the facts don't seem to interest the politicians of either party, so we'll gaily increase the deficit by a few hundred billion dollars and cheer our politicians for their "decisive action."

Orwell had a word for this: DoubleThink. And it was inseparable from the fundamentally duplicitous nature of political life under Big Brother.

This is an illegal agreement because it is not allow by our Constitution. The only items the FEDERAL government can be involved is listed in Article I Section 8.

Constitution, Article I, Section. 8.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

We need to force our politicians sign on as co-sponsors of H.R. 450 and S. 1319 - Enumerated Powers Act – which requires each Act of Congress to contain a concise explanation of the specific constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. Declares that failure to comply with this requirement shall give rise to a point of order in either chamber of Congress.

I just hope they could find some mutual understanding on this issue!

He lost my vote as a result of this. Obama will never serve a second term.

Send more money to Washington D.C. or let the people that earned spend it? I wonder which is more in tune with common sense and freedom not to mention historical data on who spends more wisely?

Say what?? does what?? what's the big deal?? Obammy's original plan was going to cost 3.2 TRILLION (actually 4 TRILLION but the increase in the 'rich' tax rates was going to save, err?, 'reduce' that number by 800 BILLION. The Repub plan costs 3 TRILLION and pays people not to find work. This is nothing but typical politics at it's finest.

If you voted Republican in the last election, you put bullets into the gun that the Republicans are holding to the heads of the American people.

Repubs. took a 'shellacking'. Is Trent Lott still in charge ?

Abe Lincoln led the nation into Civil War to preserve government of the people, by the people, and for the people. So is President Obama now willing abandon what Lincoln fought for?

If the president allows himself to be blackmailed by Republican threats of obstruction, he will be surrendering the majority stake holders of middle-and-working-class Americans to loss of their republic to an economic elite that bankrolled the GOP win in the last election with huge sums of money diverted from the tax base and into their manipulatively grasping hands.

The abandonment of democracy makes all other issues of supposed importance nothing more than trinkets to be soon disposed of in the landfill of historic irrelevance.

What a hypocrite. Our president said time after time that that those tax breaks will be repealed. So what does he do? how extends them in exchange, to be able to spend more of our money. What a joke.

You can’t even begin truly reducing spending until we end the military empire. It’s the single largest expenditure, it is unnecessary, is comes from the general revenues, and it is the majority of discretionary spending. It is the single greates pork barrel spending from the congress. It has to come to an end or we will go the way of all the great powers - disquietly into the night.

I saw a chart recently that showed that actual tax receipts as a percentage of GDP has remained basically constant at around 19% for the last 50 years or so.
So, if you want to collect more taxes, you should try to do something to increase GDP - like maybe cut taxes even further.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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