Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Dems lose, Part 193

This is how Republicans use their balls-to-the-wall style to get their way:
Amazingly, Republicans are going with the bogus line that the estate tax deal represents an INCREASE, from 0 to 35%, because this year for the first time in modern history there was no estate tax.  In this scenario, lowering the tax more than it ever was in the Bush era represents a compromise.  I’m surprised they can say this one with a straight face.
And this is how Democrats let them get away with it:
But nobody’s really challenging them on it.
You have to admire the GOP. Such chutzpah. Such moxy. As crass as they are brazen.  All blame, no shame.

Meanwhile House Democrats, after making a nice show of standing up to The Man, are about to fold on the tax deal like their Senate colleagues before them.  We know this because Chris Van Hollen told us so:
We’re not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day, but we do think that simple question should be put to test. We’re going to ask the Republicans and others, are they going to block this entire deal” over the level of taxes on estates?
What, are you getting bargaining tips from Obama?

 Yes, Chris, they will.  I think that's quite clear by now. They're not saying "we're not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day" if you we don't get our estate-tax-cut. No, they're saying, I don't care if granny's tied to the track or Timmy's in the well, we're not budging on the death tax -- .  that's what it's called, by the way.  Oh, and it's an increase, so we're being quite generous.  Take it or leave it, bitch.

The Obama tax cut:  A one-stop schtupping by Republicans, just in time for Christmas

Thursday, December 9, 2010

House Dems are revolting. In a good way

Eliot Spitzer interviews Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon about the House Democratic revolt he led this afternoon against Obama's tax-cut giveaway.  Together they underscore the basic principles Democrats stand for -- income equality, a strong middle class, and jobs, jobs, jobs --  and how this deal not only violates them but takes us back to the failed Bush policies we thought we had escaped.

DeFazio said the vote in the Democratic caucus to reject the package was nearly unanimous, an  unprecedented show of force against a Democratic president in his 24 years in congress.

"If you think the economics of the last eight years have worked great -- that is supply side, trickle down -- this would be even more supply side, and even more trickle down," DeFazio said.  "And I don't think it's going to produce the results this president wants or needs in terms of putting people back to work."

He referred to the "failed economic team" of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, and said this deal was just more "mush" from them.

I've been watching Spitzer's 8 p.m. show on CNN -- yes, he has a partner, but she fades so far into the background you'd barely know it -- and I plan to write something about it soon.  If you're looking for a Democratic advocate who knows the facts, won't back down, and articulates progressive values in ways you wish the president would, watch Parker/Spitzer.  Or Spitzer, at least.

A matter of conscience?

Pelosi power stalls tax cut deal

House Democrats to the rescue:
House Dems are refusing to support the tax cut deal in its current form and holding out for changes to some of its most onerous elements, most prominently the estate tax provision. Yet all indications are that it's going to pass anyway, with overwhelming Republican support, and it seems to be moving forward in the Senate.
That's not to say that House Dems can't have some kind of impact on the deal. In a statement after the vote, Nancy Pelosi pledged that Dems would not allow the measure to move forward in its current form, vowing to "improve the proposal before it comes to the House floor for a vote."
But it's anyone's guess what kind of concessions House Dems can win, and more broadly, there's something poignant about this whole scene. House Dems have erupted in anger and frustration repeatedly in recent months, taking tough votes on big items on Obama's agenda that then died or got badly watered down in the Senate. House Dems wanted a bigger stimulus, and it didn't happen. Senate procedural dithering was largely what soured the public on the process, harming Dems in the midterms. Yet House Dems are the ones who took it on the chin and are headed into the minority.
And here you have the same frustrations playing out again. House Dems were able to pass just an extension of the middle class tax cuts. But to no avail: Like a rerun of a bad movie, it failed in the Senate, and Obama decided his only recourse was to cut a deal to extend the high-end tax cuts.
Now their fury has boiled over one last time, to the point where they're chanting "just say no" in unison. For many House Dems, seeing Obama make this deal was the ultimate sell-out.
As usual, House Democrats are the last firewall holding back the diluted and compromised policies of Obama and his Senate co-conciliators.  A classic Pelosi move, actually. She may not prevail, but she has certainly sent a message.   Obama, watch the master: This is how it's done.

With bargaining savvy like that, you'd swear she was a Republican.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Taxing credulity

 More bad news from the tax deal, via David Dayen at Firedoglake:
Nancy Altman called the payroll tax cut in the Obama/McConnell deal the end of Social Security. In her view, the American political system circa 2010 doesn’t let taxes go back up, and so Social Security will face a revenue crisis faster with a reduced payroll tax. The money will come out of general revenue to pay for that payroll tax holiday, but that just makes Social Security more dependent on general revenue – and more vulnerable. That this is all coming at a time when knives have been unsheathed and are ready to hack away at Social Security makes it all the more dangerous.
Ryan Grim asked the exact right questions, and Republicans were unusually blunt with him.
Republicans acknowledged that the expiration of the tax holiday will be treated as a tax increase. “Once something like this goes into place, a year from now, when it expires, it’ll be portrayed as a tax increase,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “So in a body like Congress, precedents matter and this is setting a precedent. I think that certainly is going to create some problems down the road if it passes.”
They know what they're up to.  Most of the time they play sketchy word games to cover their tracks, like saying small businesses will be hurt by the upper-income tax cuts, when they know only 3 percent will be affected.  But sometimes they're so giddy they just can't fake it.   And why should they when they win whether they hide it or not?  If I had just rolled the president, I'd let my guard down and feel pretty cocky, too. It's also reliably, undeniably true: This will be hard, if not impossible, to reverse.  They know it, we know it, Obama knows it. This is a bad precedent, and anyone with eyes and half a brain can see it.

The rightward march continues, under a Democratic president, no less.  Yeah, that's why I voted for him.

Paging Ben Affleck ...

And I thought I was mad:

He and Markos go there ... The Chamberlain analogy. Ouch.  I thought only Republicans used old Neville on the Dems.

Who said Democrats can't be mean?

So let's see, if Obama is Chamberlain, and Chamberlain is a Nazi appeaser, then that would make the Republicans ...

Oh, I forgot, those comparisons are verboten.

With compromises this low ...

Obama thinks he's the king of compromise, and he may well be in a Louis XVI sort of way.  But progressives aren't mad because he compromises; it's because he compromises too soon, too often and too readily, bargaining away so-called core principles on the cheap.  He's like the Crazy Eddie of policy giveaways, with prices so low he must be insane.

Or, as Anthony Weiner says, Obama goes from "zero to compromise in 3.5 seconds.”

I know some economists say Obama got a better deal than predicted, and that the package represents a "stealth stimulus" that might nudge growth up about a point.  But most of the stimulative effect of the deal will come from the middle class and payroll tax cuts and  unemployment extension -- which are more likely to be spent than tax cuts for the wealthy.  And these policies are popular enough on their own without buying them for the price of bling money for billionaires.

Of course, this would have required stirring up a brouhaha in the media.  But it's bonus time, guys.  Goldman Sachs has gold in sacks just itching to get out out -- it's canvas, after all. And the banksters want out of the society-imposed austerity box they've been living in-- though, at 20,000 square feet, it's still a good deal.  Flaunting it a little is no longer heads-on-pikeworthy, so they're ready to rip.  Back in the real world, though, the rest of us are stocking up on Fancy Feast, and wondering how we're going to afford that X-Box or NERF blaster our kids are eyeing.  Let's just say we're feeling less than sympathetic to the "ski or sun?"quandry this Christmas.  We're ripe for a major media shitstorm, one even the average Joe -- plumbers and all -- can relate to.  And, conservative as it is, don't think the media can resist a good upper-class smackdown every now and then, especially at Christmas.  This is, after all, the time of year all the movie Scrooges and Grinches get their comeuppance.

But forget the bad bargaining and, perhaps, bad faith.  Why does stimulus have to be stealthy? Why can't we let it out of its hiding place and give it room and air and license to roam? Why can't we say: We need to jolt  the economy, and businesses, already flush with $2 trillion on the sidelines, can't grow without customers with money in their pockets? Why can't we say: The free market is just peachy till it isn't, and then government has to step in temporarily to help the economy help itself?  Would that be so hard?


Instead, we;re negotiating on Republican terrain -- we're talking about TAX CUTS, which, middle class or rich, are still not as stimulative as unemployment benefits or other forms of direct aid.  Or, god forbid we champion a grand infrastructure and green-jobs program that not only puts money into the economy and creates jobs, but gives Americans -- of both the red and blue variety -- something to rally behind?  It might get us out of our twin economic and emotional funks.  Why aren't we fighting for this, programs that have the triple bonus of helping people in need, juicing the economy, and advancing progressive solutions? A fourth bonus? Bonuses for Goldman.

How do you change a 40-year conservative narrative of "tax cuts good, government bad" if you don't even try? You can't, especially if, as I fear, Obama actually buys that narrative.

And that's not compromise I can believe in.