Tuesday, December 07, 2010


I know it's satisfying to find one Antichrist at whom to direct your hate, but this anonymous person who talked to ABC's Jake Tapper is right:

"We wanted a fight, the House didn't throw a punch," a senior White House official tells ABC News, pointing out that for months before the 2010 midterm elections, President Obama was making the case against the Bush tax cuts for wealthier Americans. "The House wouldn't vote before the Senate, and the Senate was afraid they'd lose a vote on it."

"It was like the Jets versus Sharks except there weren't any Jets," the official said. "Senator Schumer says he wants a fight? He couldn't hold his caucus together."

On the other hand, Ezra Klein is also right:

For the record, if the White House had wanted a fight, it could have simply announced that it would veto any tax-cut compromises that retained the breaks for income over $250,000. That would've made it much easier for House and Senate Democrats to hold the line.

There's plenty of blame to go around -- but the point is, you don't squander nearly all the time you have, while your opponents are putting rhetorical points on the board, and then squeeze this and half a dozen other fights into a couple of weeks before December and expect to have a seamlessly executed game plan that wins public favor and gets your goals accomplished. Republicans were vulnerable to attack ads and campaign-trail rhetoric during the campaign, and the Democrats wimped out. (Ezra is right that a veto threat at that time would have strengthened congressional Dems' hand, but they shouldn't have needed that. So everyone's to blame.) In any case, this fight wasn't lost in the past 24 hours -- it was lost months ago.


An editorial in today's New York Times:

Mr. Obama said on Monday night that he still believed extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy was a bad idea. He predicted that it would be undone in two years when it becomes apparent to everyone that the country can't afford it. The president needs to ask himself why he couldn't make that case now -- and how he plans to change his approach to governing so he doesn't get trapped this way again.

As I say above, I don't believe the president could "make that case now" -- "now" being the eleventh hour, that is, the last few weeks of the two-year period he and congressional Democrats had to deal with this.

Well, it would nice to believe that Democrats would actually use the next two years to devise and deploy a strategy that will change the terms of this debate. Do you think they'll manage it? Me either.

But maybe that's what the rest of us need to do. Shouldn't outside groups be trying to foment class warfare, on the assumption that it should be done whether Democrats get on board or not? That's how successful progressive movements have worked historically -- not in lockstep with Democrats, and not primarily as sworn enemies of Democrats, but on the principle of "Here's where we stand; join us or don't -- we're marching anyway."

This should be our tea party -- there should be groups spring up all over the country with names like Tax the Rich. Activists need to make more activists out in the heartland, on the principle that the well-to-do have done well while the rest of us have struggled.

I'm having a naive fantasy, of course -- much more energy will probably go into a "PRIMARY EVERYBODY!!!" movement. But a fella can dream, can't he?


The Huffington Post published Emily Swanson's speculations on the public-opinion fallout from this deal under the headline "Extending Bush Tax Cuts: The Most Unpopular Thing Obama Has Done?," but that's a ruse to drawn in the most frustrated lefties, because Swanson -- correctly, I think -- argues that this won't be broadly unpopular:

While most public polls have shown that extending the tax cuts only for those making less than $250,000 is by far the most popular option, polls have shown that allowing all of the cuts to expire would be even less popular. The same CBS poll found that only 14 percent wanted to let the cuts expire for everyone.

Additionally, a new poll released Monday by the conservative group Crossroads GPS found that, when presented with only two options, 65 percent of likely voters would prefer to extend the cuts and only 29 percent would allow them to expire.

If you don't trust that poll, go look at the collection of polls on this subject at polling report. Letting all the cuts expire -- which is what a lot of lefties wanted Obama to do -- is always, by far, the least popular option.

(And, well, of course it is. Ordinary Americans have taken it on the chin for a couple of years now. This would seem like just one more way they have to sacrifice for the mistakes of other people, most of them extremely fat cats.)

I have a hunch that Obama's poll ratings might go up as a result of this deal. Ordinary Americans, including rank-and-file Democratic voters (i.e., people who don't read the Huffington Post and watch The Ed Show) got a continuation of their tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits and a bipartisan negotiating process that seemed to end with everyone acting like adults and compromising. Cringe if you must, but I'm guessing that that's how heartland Democrats and non-teabag independents are going to see this, even if lefty political obsessives are fuming.

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