Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The president largely wastes another mandate...

Depending upon the poll, but fairly consistent these past two years, 60% to 70% of Americans wanted income tax rates increased on those earning more than $250,000 a year. The same percentage wanted to be sure Obama did not sacrifice Social Security or Medicare benefits or harm workers or the poor in any way in the funding of those programs.

Yet, let's analyze the deal that Biden negotiated for Obama with the Republicans, and which Democratic Party stalwarts are supposed to endorse.

As he has done in the past, Obama has saved the Republicans from being fully exposed as being only in favor of the interests of the economic top 2%, per the income reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Obama's "compromise" with Republicans is that those reporting $400,000 for single persons and $450,000 for couples or families will have to go back to the Clinton-Gingrich era federal income tax rates--with no loopholes for those levels of income closed whatsoever.

The estate tax exemption, meaning no taxes, on the first $5 million remains the same. Then, for any sum above that already high threshold, the tax will be 40%, no longer 35%. A pittance, dear friends, a pittance.

The Social Security and Medicare tax, which only applies to incomes well below the $250,000 threshold, will increase as the year 2009 revenue holiday ended. While that is a good thing from a fiscal prudence standpoint for those programs, it is revealing that Republicans and corporate Democrats were in favor of that particular "tax increase." The sting of restoring the pre-2009 rates for those two programs would have been far more palatable had Obama stuck to his campaign promise on the income tax increase that, again, 60-70% of Americans supported (which means nearly 20% to 30% of Romney voters agreed with Obama on that subject).

The only good news, one supposes, is that unemployment compensation and Medicaid continues, and doctors continue to get the old Medicare/Medicaid rates instead of further cuts in reimbursement.

The "fiscal cliff" spending cuts are now put off till the debt ceiling debate begins anew in February 2013 so that the Republicans now get to make it sound like a "deal" to cut spending, read Social Security and Medicare, in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling. As we know, the Republicans and most deficit scolds or bond mongers are only concerned about the deficit to the extent it cuts middle class government programs like Social Security and Medicare, not when it cuts military spending, which benefits the upper classes more than the middle and working classes.

And now, the biggest failure, so big it will not even be discussed in corporate broadcast media: Um, where is the jobs program? Where is there even a discussion of a jobs program? Where is the stimulus, infrastructure rebuilding or development? Where is there anything about even "green" jobs that may have something to do with climate change public policy making?

Silence. Again, Obama leads from behind, which is not leading at all. He was provided a mandate, and again is squandering it for some short term applause from the likes of millionaire corporate television and radio commentators.

Digby is not happy about this deal, either. And let's do shout outs of "Right on!" to Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Tom Carper (D-Del) for standing tall to the president and his cohort, vice president Biden, and saying "No" to this deal. We note five Republicans voted against the deal but that was only because it was not punitive enough on workers, seniors and the poor. Remember, the compromise was designed to bring in Republicans, not govern on behalf of the 70% who said no cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and making the wealthy shoulder far more of the sacrifice on the revenue side of the government's ledger.

For those who think bully pulpit-ing doesn't work, as Digby's young friend, David Atkins thinks, I suggest such persons should give up on democratic and republican values, too. The bully pulpit would have worked, as those Republicans who talk big have never been tested by this president. Never.

What was the harm in going over the cliff for a few weeks to see what happens when Obama goes into Republican districts, points out potholes and infrastructure decay, brings up those suffering with unemployment, and those who work under bad conditions? What would have been the harm in bringing up working class families and seniors, a labor organizer describing what it's really like to work in mines and Wal-Mart? Do the young Mr. Atkins and other Democratic Party stalwarts seriously believe all those Republicans would have held steady to their Ayn Rand and anarchist impulses? Really? Not enough would have defected under pressure to pass a pro-Democratic Party platform from the Senate and an Executive Branch leadership that really cared about workers and our nation's future overall?

Let's do a switch for a moment: Let's assume the Republicans won the 2012 presidential election, and 70% back the main campaign slogan economic policy from the incumbent Republican president. Assume further that the Democratic Party, owing to gerrymandered districts from a victory in the off year 2010 elections held their dwindling lead in the House of Representatives, but lost more seats than they expected to lose in the Senate and now there are 56 pro-Republican or Republican seats, and only 45 Democratic Party Senators. Tell me, what would the discourse be here? Would the Democrats win as much as the Republicans won here in terms of continued gridlock and compromising on the core positions? Of course not.

The pattern remains: Pusillanimous Democrats, starting with Obama and Biden, who fail to stand up for what are both politically popular and correct economic policies, giving in to hardened Republicans who stand up for the economic elite at the expense of workers and our nation.

We remain mired in the world of lesser evils and drift more and more toward becoming a failed nation. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison would be appalled, as would Henry Clay and William Henry Seward.

Oh, and just watch, the Congress will pass this year the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade treaty...I don't like the talk, as in the linked to post, about it being "secret." It's not secret in the sense that someone can't find out about it if he or she wants to do so. It's just not reported in corporate media. With this treaty, we'll see the final codification of the very trends undermining workers in the US and elsewhere. It is a deep and horrible shame to lose our nation in this slow, but steady manner....


ADDENDUM: Some juicy corporate and financier tax breaks are included in this bill...Nice of the Democrats to act like Republicans, and note how Republicans are largely letting the Democratic Party members of the House pick up the tab for this meal. The deal will easily lead to Republican campaign commercials in 2014: "My Democrat opponent voted to raise your taxes--yes, yours too, because they raised the Social Security tax!--but refused to vote for reforms and spending cuts. And they took the time to add goodies for their rich friends! Let's throw out these out of touch Washington politicians!"

Nice work, Obama-Biden.


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