Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tax Deal

I have long argued that Obama’s pr people were failing him, and I speculated that because they plunged into the Presidency without any rest from the campaign, they were simply exhausted. Whatever the actual reason, it’s now clear that Obama and his team never heeded the good advice of people like George Lakoff and Drew Westen, who laid out excellent prescriptions for how to communicate about progressive policies. So we find ourselves today in the following economic position:
As a whole, the economy is slowly and weakly recovering from the Great Recession.
Large banks and wealthy investors are doing very well.
Unemployment rates remain near 10%, with the actual number probably closer to 20% and the hardship much worse for minorities and the young.
The savings and wealth of the American middle class has been decimated.
The Tea Party/Republican party will rule the House from January 1, and will use its position to impose fiscal blackmail on all federal programs other than defense spending, not to mention doing their best to foil government activity by holding non-stop hostile hearings.
The possibility of any further fiscal relief for States or for poor or middle class people during the next two years is nil. As is the possibility of any federal “stimulus” money.
The goals of the conservative are twofold: first, to defeat Obama in 2012; second, to return the federal government to its pre-civil war role in which virtually the only legitimate activities were considered to be national defense, the collection of geographic information, and the management of public property.

This is the context of the tax deal. What does the tax deal do? Of the 900 billion cost, three quarters go to direct economic stimulus, which not coincidentally also saves millions of people from desperate misery at a time when they cannot possibly help themselves. The remaining quarter does go to the billionaires, who will not spend any appreciable part of it for the national benefit, and is a dead loss. But it is the ransom they require, and what we get in exchange is really important. Without this deal, Obama’s loss in 2012 would be assured, as would the return of a Depression era like we have not seen in our lifetimes. Nor would any other significant legislation have a chance now, such as the START treaty, the HOPE bill, and the DADT bill. With this reform, some or all of those bills might pass, even though they stand no chance whatsoever in the new Congress.

My interpretation of Obama, as a result of this deal, is that he has his eye on the practical realities for people. He is completely pragmatic, and like any good negotiator or deal maker will trade off unpleasant concessions for what he really needs and wants.

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