Wednesday, September 08, 2010


The president expects to get brownie points from the voters for continuing to demand that the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest.

President Obama on Wednesday will make clear that he opposes any compromise that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy beyond this year, officials said, adding a populist twist to an election-season economic package....

... by proposing to extend the rates for the 98 percent of households with income below $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals -- and insisting that federal income tax rates in 2011 go back to their pre-2001 levels for income above those cutoffs -- he intends to cast the issue as a choice between supporting the middle class or giving breaks to the wealthy....

He's assuming he'll get credit for the effort. But why would he? Unless he has a plan to dig in his heels and actually win this fight, it's going to devolve into precisely the kind of gridlocked stalemate voters despise. Or he's going to be forced -- by the usual Democratic defections and threats of defections, and by the usual vastly superior messaging and disinformation dissemination of the GOP -- to engage in deal-making and compromise, thus completely undercutting the principled message he's sending now.

As I've said before, his principal problem is that Republicans are going to continue talking as if the Bush tax cuts are indivisible, and they're going to be perfectly happy to block an extension of the cuts just for the middle class, because they know they can divert 100% of the blame for what would then be called a tax increase to Democrats.

Voters don't have a clue how it would be done (neither do I), but they want him to find a way to prevail when he's doing something like this that's in sync with their opinions. They're not going to give him an A for effort, or for having good intentions. So, paradoxically, he may have done himself and his party actual harm by standing up for a principle and articulating it forcefully. Voters want more.

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