Saturday, December 11, 2010


Greg Sargent asks:

Will Obama really end tax cuts for rich in 2012?


Wow, that was easy.

Oh, sorry. Let let me address Greg's post in more detail.

The fact that many liberals and Dems answer that question in the negative is perhaps the primary reason the White House is having so much trouble selling them on the tax cut deal. Obama has promised to do this, but libs and Dems just don't believe him.

I don't believe him, either -- I think he thinks he will, but I don't see it happening. Yes, I'm the same guy who's been defending The Deal. But I haven't been doing it because I expect that it's a promissory note for a better-fought fight in the future. I've been doing it because I have such low expectations of what Obama, Democrats, and non-elected non-Republicans are capable of accomplishing that The Deal clears my very, very low bar.

Obama should fight to overturn these cuts two years from now by laying groundwork to do so from now until then. It would take a lot of work and a lot of messaging. But I think we know what he's going to do instead: he's going to get caught up in a big, complicated effort to overhaul the tax code completely. That's how he thinks he'll overturn the cuts for the rich. However, his plan is going to be dismayingly centrist and Village-y, so we won't like it -- and at the same time it's going to provide fodder for the right to accuse Obama of being a socialist totalitarian granny/widow/orphan/small-businessman-robber.

So it will all fall apart, and then we'll get to a moment when the tax cuts have to be renewed or repealed. Republicans will just take all their off-the-shelf talking points down and put them on display again, while Democrats and liberals -- and I mean everyone, from Sanders and Olbermann to Obama and his crew -- will be saying, "Oh, crap, it's time to do something. Now what?"

You know -- just like this month.

Greg says:

... let's presume Obama is going to take up this argument. Will he win it? He has said that if the economy improves, it will sweep away the GOP's best case: That you should never raise taxes on anyone in a recession.

If the economy improves, Republicans will just say you should never raise taxes when we're not in a recession, because you run the risk of bringing back the recession. Come on, are our memories really that bad? Didn't we have precisely this bait-and-switch when the tax cuts were being debated in 2001, only in reverse -- i.e., first we were told that we should give the people their money back precisely because times were good, and then were told we should do it because times were getting bad?

It's moot, though -- the economy isn't going to be much better. Voters will want the cuts for the rich repealed, according to polls -- but they'll also probably be favoring a GOP presidential candidate who wants the cuts extended. And the Democrats will have spent two years failing to relentlessly hammer home a simple message about these particular tax cuts, because they'll have spent time instead on a mind-bogglingly complex overhaul of the entire tax code.

So agree with The Deal or oppose it, but don't decide on the basis of expecting much from the process in the next two years.

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