Why we lose: the left’s ‘screw the middle class and make the GOP explain it’ Obama rage

The above quote is from Jason Leopold, a popular member of the liberal online movement — a group of people whose defining feature appears to be an endless, wrenching disgust with presidents of their own party — waging what turned into a 2-hour Twitter battle with Shoq, also a liberal, but one who doesn’t wake up every morning consumed with near birther-level rage at Barack Obama.

For folks like Leopold, and Jane Hamsher, and Glenn Greenwald, and the new front-line defender of all things pissed off, Adam Green of PCCC, President Obama will never be liberal enough, and the only thing that matters is that the president provide sufficient amounts of Anger Theater to make the base feel it. Well it turns out, governing is a lot harder than blogging, and sometimes, a president has got to have someplace to send the prisoners before he can close Gitmo, if you know what I mean.

Great discussion on the merits of the deal, and the deal making, here.

The tax cut compromise has offered the left a perfect opportunity to replace the PUMAs (“party unity my ass” Democrats who wanted Hillary or bust) with COMAs — whose mantra is “compromise, my ass” — and for whom any deal cut with the bad guys is no deal at all. So even if it means every single middle class American’s taxes go up, and the unemployed go over the cliff this Christmas, all that matters is that the president “fought.” In Leopold et.al.’s world, the president should have actually allowed taxes to rise for Americans who are just fighting to stay afloat in this crappy economy, and somehow, after two years of what they themselves say has been failed White House communications (and Jesus, it has been bad…) found a way to convince Americans that the big dip in their paychecks in January is the GOP’s fault.

Good luck with that.

As it stands, all working Americans will find in January that their paychecks are actually 2 percent fatter, something the president and Democrats can claim full credit for; the unemployed will have that vaunted thing called “certainty” for 13 months while they look for jobs, and Republicans will be on the hook, both for siding with the rich, which the president framed perfectly on Monday, and for blowing an even bigger hole in the deficit. Two years from now, Democrats will have the chance to relitigate the issue from a stronger position, since presumably, the economy will have improved in that time. Not a bad deal, even if all of us hate the idea of extending any policy with George W. Bush’s name on it.

And not for nothing, but where are Adam Greene’s over the top ads directed at Congress, which has had since 2006 to get its act together and figure out what to do with the tax cuts they knew would expire this year, and which has known since 2008 that Barack Obama wanted them to. Did they have a strategy? Had they counted heads? And did they “fight” to make sure five Democratic caucus members didn’t defect in the Senate? Where are the Moveon-commissioned polls ginning up Dem donor anger and testing whether people would have preferred the unemployed and middle class taxpayers get the screw in order to make a point?

From First Read, some very good points, and excellent questions for Democrats:

*** Know when to fold’em… : The White House knew that they were holding a weak hand. With all the tax cuts set to expire at the end of this month, and with Republicans set to control the House and have extra Senate seats in January, Dems could have picked a fight. But if that happened, it would have likely meant that tax rates would go up in this struggling economy, creating havoc on Wall Street and in biz community; that there would be almost no chance to pass New START and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the lame duck; and that there would be little chance of the next Congress being able to clear jobless benefits and even a payroll-tax holiday to stimulate the economy. You pick a political fight when the public is paying attention – and when you think you can win.

*** And know when to fight’em: The other way to look at this is that the Obama White House just doesn’t know how to fight and play political hardball. We recently heard this frustration from an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, who wishes that the White House would fight on this issue to put Republicans in a box with Latino voters. “They just didn’t want to play politics in the past two years,” this advocate said. “I hope they know that didn’t work out for them.” Make no mistake: Obama has to show some spine once John Boehner controls the gavel in the House. Maybe it comes in the State of the Union; maybe afterward. Yet we’ll re-raise our question from yesterday: For congressional Dems who want the president to fight on the Bush tax cuts, where were their spines during the spring and the summer, when THEY had a stronger hand to play? They were the ones who decided to punt on the issue until after the midterms. And question to progressive blogosphere: Why are you directing so much anger at the president when it’s your congressional leaders who let you down?

*** What happens in 2012? The spin we’re hearing from the White House is that they want to re-litigate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy heading into the re-election in 2012. If Obama wins re-election, they believe, that will serve as a mandate to get rid of those tax cuts once and for all. (However, critics will likely point out that Obama also got that mandate after 2008.) But imagine this: What if Obama used his State of the Union address to call for comprehensive tax-code overhaul — like the deficit-reduction commission proposed — to be implemented between now and 2012? That would end the Bush tax cuts and also serve as a realistic accomplishment that a Democratic White House and a GOP-controlled House could achieve. And speaking of deficit reduction, this whole deal adds approximately $1 trillion to the deficit — $1 trillion that the GOP will now partly own. That has the potential to compel Republicans to become serious partners in deficit reduction for 2011-2012. Not to mix our poker-chess metaphors, but if the president is playing chess, then tax reform seems to be the most logical long-term policy fight to have, no?

*** Can the White House (and Biden) convince skeptical Dems? But before we truly begin to map out how this deal might impact 2011 and 2012, it first has to pass. And congressional Dems aren’t yet sold. The Washington Post: “The agreement has yet to win the support of Democratic leaders in either chamber, and senior aides said the White House will need significant Republican support to push the package through Congress.” So enter Vice President Biden, who heads to Capitol Hill to attend the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch at 1:30 pm ET. One particular Democratic complaint is the deal on the estate tax, which would impose a 35% tax on individuals’ estates worth more than $5 million. In fact, Obama addressed this in his statement yesterday. “The Republicans have asked for more generous treatment of the estate tax than I think is wise or warranted. But we have insisted that that will be temporary.”

*** Can Boehner and McConnell also make sure their troops sign on? But Obama and Biden aren’t the only ones who will need to do some convincing. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will, too. The Republicans can’t afford many defections here, and it will serve as a test of their leadership skills — and also a test of which House and Senate Republicans will never support anything that has the president’s name on it. The reason: This is the best deal Republicans will probably ever get from Obama.

*** Can the liberal blogosphere ever be happy when their party is in charge? The liberal disappointment — and even anger — over the deal is both surprising and unsurprising. It’s surprising because this deal has been telegraphed for weeks, and because it does include some serious stimulus (in the jobless benefits and payroll-tax holiday). But it’s also unsurprising because the liberal blogosphere — which came of age during the Bush years — has yet to embrace the trade-offs and compromises that are sometimes necessary when they’re the governing party. This is probably true for both liberal and conservative bloggers: It’s a lot more fun to be the opposition party.

The tax cut fight turns out to be a lot like the agonistes over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a bill signed by Congress, which by definition removed the president’s ability to pull a unilateral Harry Truman and order the military to drop its policy disallowing open homosexual conduct. There, too, the left is so busy raging at Obama, they seem unwilling to accept either the actual history of racial desegregation of the military — which was much longer, more frustrating and more arduous than it is in their Truman picture postcard — or to direct their ire at the appropriate branch of government: Congress. And so, we have gay rights activists in the military probably tanking their own careers post-DADT by chaining themselves to the wrong branch of government’s fences (military people are not, by definition, supposed to make spectacles of themselves…) and activists online demanding that the president pull a George W. Bush and simply ignore the law (which, funny enough, happens to be an impeachable offense.) And yet, the biggest irony is that the tax cut deal is probably the one thing that will make repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell more likely.

Liberals theoretically despise George W. Bush, but in reality, they want Barack Obama to BE George W. Bush — flouting the rules and flouting Congress, while liberal members of Congress appear to have been so trained by the Bush era to follow the White House’s lead, they desperately need Obama to tell them what to do, and to “fight” (ill-defined) before they’re willing or able to do their jobs.

The reality is that the president doesn’t need to instruct Congress how to count and take votes. Congress should get its act together, since they now have two whole years to figure out how to expire the Bush tax cuts on their new schedule in 2012. The president has his shortcomings, and his style — languid and uninterested in putting on an angry show — can be seriously frustrating for those of us who yearn for a modern day FDR. But you know what’s not helpful if you want the White House to listen to you? Demanding that the president screw 2 million unemployed people and kill his chances of re-election by raising every middle class American’s taxes the month after the December holidays, when they’re extra broke.

Meanwhile, Republicans aren’t necessarily jumping for joy over the deal, either … another sign it’s probably a pretty good deal.

George Voinovich says he isn’t voting for any more borrowing and deficits, period (a principled stand, actually…)

And the inimitable Michelle Bachman says … wait for it … many in her caucus can’t abide extending unemployment benefits to people who aren’t deserving of borrowed largesse like the rich. Seriously. And she’s not alone.

Plus, the bill is far from a done deal in the Democratic caucus.

Meanwhile, the White House has put out the following fact sheet on the “compromise,” which could yet get killed in the newly “fight-ready” Congress:

FACT SHEET on the Framework Agreement on Middle Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance: A Win for Our Economy, Jobs, and Working Families

The framework agreement announced by the President secures vital tax relief and investments in our workers that will create jobs and accelerate economic growth. The plan has three key accomplishments:

  • Working families will not lose their tax cut. A typical working family faced a tax increase of over $3,000 on January 1st. That’s avoided under this framework agreement, and working families won’t see their tax cuts go away next year.
  • Focused on high impact job creation measures. The framework agreement includes some of the best measures for jumpstarting growth and job creation, including a full year of emergency unemployment insurance benefits, an about $120 billion payroll tax cut for working families and a continuation of tax credits for working families. This is on top of growth generated by extension of the middle-class income tax rates.
  • Does not worsen the medium- and long-term deficit. These are responsible, temporary measures to support our economy that will not add costs by the middle of the decade. The President does not believe it is affordable to make the high-income tax cuts permanent and will continue to have that debate in the years ahead.

Overview of the Framework Agreement:

  • Extending the 2001/2003 Income-Tax Rates for Two Years. The framework agreement includes a mutually agreed upon solution to the impasse over taxes by extending the 2001/2003 income tax rates for two years and reforming the AMT to ensure that an additional 21 million households will not be hit with a tax increase. These measures will provide relief to more than 100 million middle-class families and prevent a tax increase of over $2,000 for the typical family.
  • Additional Provisions Designed to Promote Vigorous Economic Growth. In addition to the 2001/2003 rates, the Administration secured several provisions that are vital for our economy’s growth, which would not have been possible without this framework agreement: $56 billion in unemployment insurance, an about $120 billion payroll tax cut for working families, about $40 billion in tax cuts for our hardest hit families and students; and 100% expensing for businesses next year.

1. GROWTH-ORIENTED PAYROLL TAX CUT FOR WORKERS:

The framework agreement reached by the administration includes an about 2%, employee-side payroll tax cut for over 155 million workers – providing tax relief of about $120 billion next year. This tax cut will have a major impact on jobs and growth – creating substantial numbers of jobs. It is widely recognized by economists across the political spectrum as a high bang for the buck way to boost growth and was cited by both major deficit reduction commissions as consistent with long term fiscal discipline.

A payroll tax cut has been endorsed by experts and commentators from across the political spectrum. Just last month, both the President’s Fiscal Commission and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force described a payroll tax cut in 2011 as an effective way to spur growth and job creation. The tax cut legislation would provide for a transfer of General Revenues to the Social Security Trust Fund, ensuring no negative impact on Social Security solvency. And, as economist Nouriel Roubini wrote earlier this year, a payroll tax cut would spur growth because “for employees, the increased take-home pay would boost much-needed economic consumption and advance the still-crucial process of deleveraging households.”

2. HIGH IMPACT, JOB CREATING TAX CUTS FOR WORKING FAMILIES

Economic studies consistently find that lower-income households are the most likely to spend additional money, creating jobs and helping overall growth. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office, for instance, has concluded that “policies aimed at lower-income households tend to have greater stimulative effects.” The President fought to secure a two-year increase of the full Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. These provisions will, together, provide ongoing tax cuts to 12 million lower income families, with a total of 24 million children. In addition, the deal fully extends the American Opportunity Tax Credit for two years.

Lower-Income Working Families Benefited by Expansions in EITC and CTC
Families Children
Total 12.2 24.3
White 5.6 9.8
Hispanic 3.7 8.0
African American 2.2 4.7
Other 0.7 1.7

o   Child Tax Credit: The $1,000 child tax credit will be extended for two years with the $3,000 refundability threshold established in the Recovery Act. This extension will ensure an ongoing tax cut to 10.5 million lower income families with 18 million children.

o   Earned Income Tax Credit: The Recovery Act included an expansion of the EITC worth, on average, $600 in additional assistance to families with 3 or more children. It also helped working married families by reducing the marriage penalty in the EITC. Continuing this tax cut  for two years will benefit 6.5 million working parents with 15 million children.

Illustrative Family: A working family with three children making $20,000 will continue to receive a tax cut of more than $2,000 as a result of the EITC and Child Tax Credit expansions in this framework agreement. The same family would receive an additional $400 tax cut from the new payroll tax cut.

o   American Opportunity Tax Credit: The Recovery Act included a new, partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 to help students and their families cover the cost of college tuition. This deal fully extends AOTC for two years, ensuring that more than 8 million students will continue to receive this tax benefit to help them afford college.

3. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE:

The framework agreement extended unemployment benefits at their current level for 13 months, through the end of 2011. This will save millions of Americans searching for work from losing their unemployment benefits in the coming months and will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

  • In December alone, 2 million workers who would have lost benefits will continue to receive them because of this framework agreement. Over the next year, 7 million workers will no longer need to worry that their unemployment benefits could be eliminated as they search for jobs.

  • According to the Council of Economic Advisers, passing this provision will create 600,000 jobs in 2011 alone.

4. BUSINESS TAX CUTS TO INCREASE INVESTMENT AND GROWTH:

In September, the President called for temporarily allowing businesses to expense all of their investments in 2011. This growth-oriented tax cut was included in the framework agreement.

  • According to the Treasury Department, complete expensing could generate more than $50 billion in additional investment in the U.S. in 2011.

  • The provision will provide a crucial incentive to 2 million businesses to invest and create jobs in the U.S and would be the largest temporary investment incentive in American history.

  • The framework agreement also includes a 2-year extension of the R&D tax credit and other tax incentives to support business expansion.

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4 Responses to Why we lose: the left’s ‘screw the middle class and make the GOP explain it’ Obama rage

  1. Pingback: Post of the Day » Florida Progressive Coalition Blog -

  2. Pingback: Goolsbee’s white board explains the deal on taxes « Miami-Dade Dems

  3. I did draw a line at tax cuts for the 2%, but that was about giving it away or getting only the bottom-income tax cuts in exchange. I think this is a pretty good deal, even with the hidden hit on SS and the lack of help for 99ers (which I will soon be) and the fact that UI goes for one year and tax cuts go for two. I thought any extension of UI was over, so that was a pleasant surprise.

    I was one willing to let all the Bush tax cuts expire. I didn’t think that would kill Obama’s political capital because polls have shown steady support for letting all the tax cuts expire. The government needs to keep spending; better to spend revenue than add to the deficit, all else being equal.

    I am still unhappy about the things Obama gave away. Maybe he did negotiate away federal wage freezes, the public option, and single payer, but to me it looked like spontaneous abandonment of a negotiable position. I didn’t see that he got anything for it. Whether it was bad negotiating or bad communicating what he got in return, that is what drives a lot of us crazy.

  4. Cindi Burkey says:

    The Obama who ran for President said a lot of things that he knew would get people to vote for him.

    Now it’s aaaallllll different.

    President Obama has ignored so many emails from me, for SO long, that I have no choice but to declare him a fraud. I voted for him, and wrote for years with policy observations, thoughts, support, and so forth. I think maybe once I got a reply–and that was just once out of many times, many times checking the boxes to request a reply and getting none.

    Obama was hope in 2008. Now it’s clear it’s the same old crap. Not a word of support for Occupy Wall Street.
    OK to have Corporations be people, and money be speech.
    But for tents to be speech? Bring in the riot cops and gas the elderly grannies! And Obama says nothing about this atrocity, this horrible attack on the 1st Amendment. While sending more drones than ever to attack people via videogame.

    The “Transparency President’ who set up an email contact box doesn’t even bother to get those emails returned….

    At what point does one declare one’s self a fool for believing?
    Thank god for Jason.

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