Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Deal Making and the Presidency

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 03:  U.S. President Bara...Image by Getty Images via @daylifePoor President Obama.   The Republicans, the so-called deficit hawks holding unemployment benefits hostage in order to get a tax break for the wealthiest 2% of wage-earners in the country.  They tell people that the deficit is the number one problem in the country and that it's "jobs, jobs, jobs".  And, at the same time, they say they are not going to vote on any legislation in the Senate other than a tax break for the rich; and the President gets the blame- from his own "base".  Once again I'm in awe of the political savvy of the Republicans and the completely political ineptitude of the Democrats.  The Republicans have found a way to control the Senate with less than a majority. The Democrats (when they had the super majority) teamed up with the Republicans to kill the public option in the Affordable Heatlthcare Act. The so-called Blue Dog Democrats are the ones that killed the public option- along with the Republicans. One of the most major pieces of legislation passed in my lifetime was done by this President and Congress yet, the Republicans were able to spin in in a way that many Americans think it is a disaster.

I think the President did a good job of laying out the facts in his news conference yesterday.  Yet, his starry-eyed "base" feels betrayed.  He should have fought for a better deal.  Fought with what?  The President can't enact legislation.  In a few weeks we will have a Republican controlled house.  We have a Democratic majority in the Senate that can't seem to get a single Republican to cross over on anything.  We have a Republican party who has made it clear their number one priority is to ensure that they extend tax breaks to the very wealthiest Americans no matter the cost, even if it means shutting down unemployment benefits during Christmas.  But, the President who got a deal that not only gets the unemployment benefits extended it provides more tax breaks for the middle class and for the cost of only a two year extension on the breaks for the rich gets hammered- not by his opposition, but by his own people.

No progressive likes the fact that we had to extend the tax cuts for the rich for another two years to get this deal done. But, let's look at what we got.   One it was only two years, not a permanent extension.  Fact is in two years we'll have to fight the battle again.  But, the extension is not permanent. Estimates are this deal will create another 2.2 million jobs.  We got not only unemployment benefits out of the deal.  But, a tax holiday for everyone paying social security and other tax credits.

Obama Got

Republicans Got

Extension of Unemployment

Income tax cuts for wealthiest
Americans- extended another 2 years

Tuition Tax Credit

Estate Tax reduction for
super-wealthy Americans

Tax Credits for Hiring New

Social Security Tax Holiday

Pat Garofalo and Michael Linden report on who'll benefit from each side's priorities.
Obama's components of the tax deal (extended unemployment benefits, the payroll tax cut, and the extended credits) will cost $214 billion to aid 156 million people. The Republicans priorities (extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich and cutting the estate tax), meanwhile, will cost $133 billion, but only benefit roughly 4.8 million people.
I've got friends now saying that Obama is another George W. Bush.  Another boss, just like the old boss.  I completely disagree. Look at where Obama's priorities lie and where the Republicans' priorities lie.  Obama's part of this deal impacts a large number of people- mostly middle class.  The Republicans' part of this deal is targeted- at the rich.  The blame for the deficit growing tax cuts for the rich needs to be be laid at the feet of the Republican hostage takers who were willing to throw the unemployed and the middle class under the bus unless they got the break they wanted for their "base".  Obama should be applauded for what he got out of the deal, not castigated for what he gave up to get it. 

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Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

The tax cuts for the wealthy seem to be the main problem Dems have with this latest development. It seems to be the final straw for a lot of people.

I still think President Obama is trying to make the best out of a terrible situation. I would never want to be a Democratic president these days as the Democrats are a bunch of wimps.

Brian said...

Yeah, the tax cuts for the wealthy suck. My point is blame, the Republicans. I don't like this "deal" either. It clearly shows the Republicans' true colors.

I agree with you, I wouldn't want to be a Democratic President either. The Dems are a bunch of wimps. On top of that, they're none too bright.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Sad, but true.

Crystal Lewis said...

Thank you so much, Brian for saying this. I admit, I am so frustrated with progressives who can't see that more people would be in the street if Obama didn't compromise. For the record, I say that as a progressive who knocked on doors and made phone calls to strangers to get Obama elected. I hate this deal because I stood with him and said that a deal like this wouldn't happen on his watch. I want him to be "loyal" to those of us who cast our ballots for him, but I acknowledge that we have to be realistic about the scope of his influence/power.

Some progressives are saying that they want a more liberal president like Alan Grayson. Good luck getting him elected. :(

Brian said...


It's nice to talk to progressives who are also realists.
I also knocked on doors for Obama. But, one thing I understand is that we (intentionally) have a pretty weak office in the President. The Founding Fathers set it up so that he really can't do much on his own. Obama took a look at the lay of the land and made the best deal he could. The same thing with healthcare. I very much wanted a public option. But, Obama couldn't do it alone.

Frankly, when I first heard about this deal, I thought Obama had rolled over too quickly and wimped out on us. But, after taking a day to think about it, I see why he did what he did and I think he got a pretty significant amount in return for allowing the Republicans to pander to their fat cat constituents. I wish the Democrats were smart enough to, instead of turning on their President, say to the American people, "You have the Republicans to blame for the tax cuts for the rich." That should be the message right now.

I love Alan Grayson. But, he couldn't even get re-elected in his own district.

kc bob said...

I do not feel sorry for the president.. even though he feels that he is a hostage negotiator. Presidents always move to the middle. It is just the way that it works. I am sure that the prez understands that. And with the new congress he will be faced with it all of the time. And it is kind of pitiful for a leader to insinuate that the other party are terrorists taking hostages. That kind of inflammatory rhetoric is simply beneath the office he holds.

Brian said...

Yeah, Bob. I think he should have left that rhetoric to others. Even though it's true, I cringed when he said it. I think maybe he meant it to make him look strongly opposed to the tax cuts. But, it actually makes him look weak to say he gave in to terrorist hostage takers.

I don't exactly feel sorry for the President. He knew (or should have known) what he was signing up for when he took the job. Pardon my language, but the job sucks. You get it from both sides. He got the most comprehensive health care reform in decades passed and for those on the left he sold out and for those on the right, he turned us into the Soviet Union. As President, nothing you do is ever good enough.

kc bob said...

I do wonder who is advising him with regard to communicating about his policies. His ability to give an inspirational speech seems to be pale when he communicates about things like healthcare reform and taxes.

Brian said...

You're right, Bob. For a guy who got elected as a great orator, we've seen precious little meaningful communication from him or his staff in the past two years. One of the biggest problems of this White House has been in getting their message across.

Don said...

"I've got friends now saying that Obama is another George W. Bush"

I'm afraid I have to pessimistically agree with your friend. I just don't anymore believe there are enough "good" politicians in Washington to make a difference right now or in the future. I have no answers.

Rhonda said...

Hi Brian,

What I've come to see in all this is that it really doesn't matter much, because both Left & Right take us down the same path:

1) Govt creates a crisis
2) Both sides come in with the "answer"/opposites of each other
3) Americans get upset about the crisis and take a side
4) Whichever side is voted in just continues down the same path

The "Bush Tax Cuts" are now the "Obama Tax Cuts", we're still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (this was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan; almost as many killed this year as in all years combined), the Patriot Act is still in force (only with more force and more Fed seizing; Americans at the airport and soon to be at the subway, the train and bus stations treated like terrorists) the Bush "stimulus" has been multiplied many times over.

The choice Americans are given is all a farce, imo. Americans are never given the choice of freedom; the Constitution: we aren't ever offered anything other than what the Gov wants us to "choose". Either way we vote, we get the same results. Its "Good Cop/Bad Cop"; we're being played and have been for a long time.

I'm looking at Ron Paul and Libertarians. When he ran for Prez, I thought he sounded like a nutcase! But now, he's the only one who makes any sense to me. Back to our founding, back to the Constitution--that's what I'd like to see. :)

Happy Holidays to all! :) --rhonda

Brian said...


I think there is a fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. But, there are too many negative similarities and I agree that often we are given two bad choices and have to choose the lesser of two evils. In spite of what think, I am not in love with the Democrats, at all. The Democratic Party just happens to be closer to where I am on most issues.

Ron Paul does say some very smart and interesting things. I think he is a little kooky. But, he should be listened to.

kc bob said...

"Govt creates a crisis" - I agree with you on that Rhonda. Just look at major entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. The govt created these programs and has acted in such a way to put them in crisis and subsequently foist the crisis on us. And both sides of the aisle helped create the crisis.

Brian said...

I have to admit I really don't understand Social Security or Medicare funding. But, as I understand it, Social Security was set up so that the current working generation pays for the current retired generation. The government did not foresee people living so much longer and the baby boom. So, in that sense you could say they "created the crisis". But, I wouldn't put it that way.

In the case of Medicare, I think the big problem is prescription drug funding passed during the Bush administration (again I could be wrong).

I think there needs to be a means test on both programs where you only get the benefits if you need it.

kc bob said...

Brian, Do you remember Al Gore campaigning on the idea of putting Social Security in a lock-box? The idea is that payroll contributions to this are used to fund other govt programs. In 2007, Social Security had a total income of $784.9 billion and expenditures of $594.5 billion. Gotta wonder what the govt did with the extra taxes collected. IMO, that is one way that govt creates and is creating a crisis.

Brian said...

Vaguely, Bob. Yes, I recall something like that. Frankly, I haven't followed SS funding all that closely because. I do expect to get something from it. But, I wouldn't be surprised to see the benefits cut and It's not part of my retirement planning.

kc bob said...

Brian, sadly most people feel the way that you do about Social Security because our govt is simply unreliable and unaccountable in the ways that they tax and spend OUR money. Our Social Security and Medicare payroll contributions have been spent on pork and other govt programs thus creating a crisis in these programs. It is very sad.

Rhonda said...

Yes! Each side believes we're "choosing" the lesser of two evils to "fix" a problem that Gov creates. In reality, both sides are voting for the exact same things to happen!

We're divided and pitted against one another by design. Divide and conquer.

What has me really concerned right now is that first, we had the "war on terror." Then Bush gave us the Patriot Act. Little by little, we began giving our freedoms away with the guise of the Gov "keeping us safe."

Now we see Gov seizures happening so fast, we can't keep up with them all. Bush opened that door and Obama stepped in and continued it. Both Rep's and Dem's have had equal shares in this, I don't blame one side over the other; and we the people have been helping it along--without even realizing it.

I see this one thing as the real threat to America; not illegal immigration, not terrorism, not anything else but our own Government so that we will give up our freedoms under the guise of "keeping us safe":

Beginning of Article: Attorney General Eric Holder: The new terrorists are the American people!
Published on 12-21-2010

Source: ABC News

Attorney General Eric Holder has an urgent message for Americans: While he is confident that the United States will continue to thwart attacks, "the terrorists only have to be successful once."

(Does this sound familiar? I think I only heard Bush say this about 211 times.)

"It is one of the things that keeps me up at night," Holder said. "You didn't worry about this even two years ago -- about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do. And -- that is of -- of great concern."

(OK, so from Bush 2 yrs ago, now here is the "change"; the continuation of what Bush started but with fuller force now to come against all Americans; because each of us is now a "potential terrorist".)

"The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens -- raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born," he said.

In the last 24 months, Holder said, 126 people have been indicted on terrorist-related charges, Fifty of those people are American citizens. --End of Article

Do you see what's happening here? This is how we will lose our freedoms, dear friends--if we allow it. The threat here isn't "home-grown terrorism" in reality, but this is what is being used as a guise to seize complete control over a free people. I'm not calling on people to "rise up" against government--no, (in fact, that would play into the whole scheme ) but to simply understand what's happening, I think its good if we stay alert, keep a sharp eye on this; to not allow ourselves to be distracted and use whatever freedoms we still have left to speak out and to peacefully use our voice. That we don't "fall for it" and make that known can be the very thing that will stop it. That can't happen if people aren't aware.


Brian said...

Rhonda, I'm very reluctant to buy into conspiracy theories. But, I definitely agree that this the "terrorists only have to be successful once" thing is way overblown. It's unpatriotic to say so. But, while 9/11 was a GREAT tragedy. It was not the end of the world. As a result of that one act we have spent billions (trillions?) of dollars trying to prevent it from happening again. We have changed the way we travel, the way we do security, formed new agencies and started two wars. More soldiers have died in those wars than citizens died on that tragic day.

The terrorists win when we fundamentally change our way of life based on these acts. Of course we need to be vigilant about them and fight terrorism. But, we also have to keep things in perspective. I think you're right that the Bush administration used this fear to manipulate us and while I see Obama doing the same thing, I think the motivation is different as Dems have to appear to be tough on terror otherwise the Republicans will claim they can't keep us safe. Either way, the result is the same. Overreaction to fear.


kc bob said...

"The terrorists win when we fundamentally change our way of life based on these acts."

Well said Brian. Christmas must be close when we find ourselves agreeing with each other. Now where is Maneesh when you need him. :)

Freedom from Tyranny said...

Brian, good point about more people dying in the wars than in the Twin Towers.

The real danger that we face in this country is a little bill that was co-sponsored by McCain and Lieberman. It allows the President to authorize the arrest and imprisonment of "terror suspects" without the constitutional rights to an indictment by a Grand Jury, nor a quick and speedy trial. IOW, Gitmo on steroids.

I'm fairly certain that it passed with bi-partisan support.

On the other issue, the compromise, I think Obama did the right thing - in my opinion, one of the few things he has done right in his presidency (no offense, I know many here supported him...I did not - I'm third party).

It bugs me that the GOP wants to attack the "entitlement spending" rather than eliminate useless cabinet departments (Energy, Education, etc.), and end the wars which would cut the deficit in half practically. Also, ending Corporate subsidies (tobacco subsidies, corn subsidies, pork subsidies, milk subsidies, etc., etc.) would help fix things as well...