Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anger Management

OK, so now we know Obama can get angry.  Remarkably, however, his anger is not directed towards the Republican Party, which boxed him into a corner where he believed the only way out was to cave on tax cuts he previously opposed.  No, he is angry at the left for not giving him more credit for making the deal.  How utterly depressing.

With a struggling economy and persistently high unemployment, the Republicans insist on passing the continuation of tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, and will not govern until they get it.  They refuse to permit an extension of expiring unemployment benefits and effectively stymie critical and popular legislation in the remaining days of the lame duck session -- including extending a middle class tax cut, ratifying the START treaty, repealing DADT, passing the DREAM Act, and providing medical insurance for 9/11 responders.  So, to placate the Republicans, President Obama capitulates and gives them their tax cut, and for good measure throws in a waiver of the estate tax for estates worth up to $5 million dollars, in order to get the middle class tax cut and an unemployment benefit extension.  The deal will increase the deficit by 700-to-900 billion dollars and have minimal stimulative effect.  Republicans are positively gleeful over these developments while liberals are angry and disappointed because they believe Obama's negotiated settlement was neither good politics nor good policy.  The President then gives a press conference where he defends the deal, insists that it will be good for the economy, and reserves most of his ire for the left.  He condescendingly calls them "sanctimonious" for cleaving to a "purist position" in order to "feel good" about themselves, completely discounting that liberals oppose his compromises because they are unfair and ineffective.

As demoralizing as it is to see Obama reveal so explicitly his disdain for the left, it is heartening that there are still many principled and passionate Democrats who are not meekly going along with Republican blackmail and Presidential post-partisanship or whatever it is.  While Obama claims he will live to fight another day, what would have happened if, this time, he had used his formidable rhetorical skills to make the political points and trenchant analysis of the progressives and populists speaking out against the tax cut deal, such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York and Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as incoming the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Raul Grijalva of Arizona).  And what would happen if the Democrats actually scuttled what is derisively being referred to as the McConnell-Obama Plan?

[Related posts: No Se Puede, Holy Pointless Gimmick, Batman, Growth is Good, This Should Be Easy, Let 'Em Eat Catfood, Greider on Obama, Must Read: Paul Krugman]


lonbud said...

The Obama krewe sends me email from time to time, mostly from David Plouffe, I think, but sometimes from Barry and Michelle themselves. I don't think I've ever responded, except for that time I Tweeted "the President wants to meet me in Vegas!"

Until yesterday. They sent me a video of the prez -- shot way too tight, imho; looked like something out of a Terry Gilliam flick -- defending his tax cut compromise and asking me to support it. I wrote back and said, with all due respect, "no can do."

This deal is another example of something that has hamstrung intelligent, progressive policy out of Washington since at least the Carter administration, whereby something, anything is cobbled together to avoid near-term pain at the expense of even greater long-term damage to the health and welfare of the body politic and the nation as a whole.

I say put up the bill to extend the middle class tax cuts and end the gift to the most wealthy; put up the bill to extend unemployment benefits -- and MAKE the GOP follow through with their threat to filibuster. Actually make McConnell and his asshole buddies stand there for 24 hours a day, days and weeks on end and read the frickin' phone book and show the American public just who is who in Washington, DC.

I didn't tell him this in so many words, but I was personally offended by the President yelling at me for not congratulating him on making a deal he never had to make in the first place.

Lovechilde said...

I couldn't agree more, Lonbud. I don't get those e-mails anymore. I unsubscribed out of some earlier frustration.

Anonymous said...

Devil's advocate: Could the extension of unemployment benefits have been obtained by other means? Is it too easy for progressives not living close to the bone to discount the real value of that? Indeed, making the GOP block the tax proposals and the unemployment benefits is potentially (potentially) useful future campaign fodder, but that could easily be outweighed if the economy doesn't improve or tanks further (the electorate, for whatever reason, always holding incumbents accountable for the economy). And meanwhile, the jobless pay the price for political grandstanding. There's no doubt that a small percentage of Republican senators has been able to hold hostage the unemployed in order to get what they want. You've got three choices in a hostage situation: negotiate & pay the ransom, don't pay the ransom ("we don't negotiate with terrorists"), or rescue the hostage. (There's also the Point Break "shoot the hostage" option, but that's only works for Keanu.) If you don't pay, the hostage dies. If you're willing to pay that price, then that's often the right move. If not, then you either ransom or rescue. But if there is no viable rescue scenario, what choice do you have? Other than the GOP, the real evil here is the senate rules, which are the least democratic institution imaginable for a supposedly-democratic legislature.

Lovechilde said...

Sen. Sherrod Brown, last night on Rachel Maddow, made the point that the Republicans would eventually give in on extending unemployment benefits before Christmas if it were played right. Here's the link:

Hobbie said...

Before Barry got the gig I went on record as saying he'll not be nearly as progressive as he sounds and definitely not as progressive as everyone hopes. I had no idea of how right I could be. This latest capitulation on top of the "shellacking" is supremely demoralizing. It all seems like theater. Like in the Wizard of OZ when you first see the man behind the yellow curtain in contrast to all the smoke and flames. In this case the 'Man' id the outright purchase of or political process buy collective accumulations of capital exercising the 'Individual Rights'. The unaffected are almost non-existant with the exception perhaps of Bernie Sanders see speech: but even Bernie doesn't quite lay it out for us because he doesn't call out the complicity of the Democratic Party. The Democrats use the Republicans for the justification for the result.

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