11th 2010
“America’s most progressive President in more than half a century!” will extend tax cuts for the rich

Posted under: American history, bad language, unhappy endings, wankers


White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts.”  (Via TalkLeft.)  But, I guess this is what we get because Democrats fell for a marketing campaign instead of someone with a resume and forty years of experience.  Top White House adviser David Axelrod:

“We don’t want that tax increase to go forward for the middle class,” he said, which means the administration will have to accept them all for some unspecified period of time. “But plainly, what we can’t do is permanently extend these high income taxes.”

In other words, the White House won’t risk being blamed for raising taxes on the middle class even though, arguably, it is the GOP’s refusal to separate the categories that has put Obama in this bind. The only condition, at least initially, seems to be that the tax cuts for the wealthy not be extended “permanently.”

A student of history and a onetime political reporter, Axelrod expressed curiosity and even some optimism about the tea party, suggesting that Obama could work with them on matters such as a ban on spending earmarks and on winding down the war in Afghanistan.

If so, Obama would turn the Clinton-era triangulation strategy on its head, reaching out not to the moderates in the other party but to the new breed of conservatives who could bring the ideological arc of Congress full circle.

Letting tax cuts expire is now–in the mouth of an alleged Democrat–a “tax increase” or instituting “high income taxes?”  As Big Tent Democrat said, “This is, of course, insane. The Obama White House seems to have lost its mind. At this rate, unless the GOP nominates Palin, Obama may very well be a one term President.”

Remember around the time of George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 when a White House aid was quoted as mocking the “reality-based community,”  This aide then claimed that “‘[w]e’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”  Remember how those of us in the “reality-based community” laughed and laughed and laughed at the fatuousness, the insularity, and the “Mission Accomplished”-style bad historical judgment that would be (and was) proved hubris?  Well, the joke’s on us now because of a lot of us voted for the Democratic Klown Kollege that’s now against taxing the rich and saying “Let Them Eat Cat Food.”

By the way, the quotation in the headline comes from a shockingly dumb column in The Nation written by Eric Alterman in the spring of 2008 called “Good Night and Good Luck,” in which the author stamped his tiny little feet about the fact that Hillary Clinton hadn’t quit her Primary campaign and–damn her!–continued to rack up big wins through the spring.  In that column, Alterman also accused the Clinton campaign of relying on “right-wing talking points,” said that Bill Clinton’s campaigning for his wife targeted “not the corporate elite but a liberal black man raised, like himself, by a lower-middle-class single mother,” and claimed despite everything the horrible Clintons said and did, Obama now “stands poised–God willing–to become America’s most progressive President in more than half a century.” 

Yes, I know Alterman has changed his tune since then, although I think it’s strange that he now claims that a “progressive Presidency is impossible, for now,” simply because his hero of 2008 turned out not to be everything that Alterman projected.  (Eric Alterman too, like Axelrod, is a “student of history,” don’t’cha know.  I know it’s terribly unbecoming in a woman to point out that she was right when so very many were wrong, but I just can’t help doing my little “Superior Dance” at the poor historical judgment and perspective of others who were beating the drums of WWTSBQ back in 2008.)

Say it with me know:  how has that worked out for us?  (I mean, those of us making much less than $250,000 a year, that is.)


27 Responses to ““America’s most progressive President in more than half a century!” will extend tax cuts for the rich”

  1. KC on 11 Nov 2010 at 11:17 am #

    I feel the U.S. is stuck in the middle right now, between a soaring debt and a feeble economic recovery. A tax increase–which is what, in practice, this would be even though of course the tax cuts were designed to expire this year–is not always a good idea when the economy is experiencing sluggish job growth. It probably has to happen at some point but wouldn’t a Keynesian analysis suggest that point should be delayed until the economy starts expanding more robustly?

    I agree that Obama has not turned out to be a progressive President, but I do not agree that any of the other alternatives would have.

  2. Historiann on 11 Nov 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Seems to me that taxing fairly the wealthy, uber-wealthy, and insanely wealthy is a completely fair way to fix the “soaring debt” of which you write. After all, it’s the top 5% of earners who have profited far disproportionately from the deregulation and laissez-faire economics that have dominated U.S. fiscal and monetary policy for the past 30 years.

    Have you seen any charts lately on U.S. income inequality lately? They’re pretty shocking. Click through all 15 to get a picture of what it’s like for the top 1% versus the bottom 50 to 80%.

  3. Helm Hammerhand on 11 Nov 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    “A student of history and a onetime political reporter, Axelrod expressed curiosity and even some optimism about the tea party, suggesting that Obama could work with them on matters such as a ban on spending earmarks and on winding down the war in Afghanistan.”

    I’m sorry, but does Axelrod suffer frequent blows to the head or something? The teabaggers HATE!!! Obama; no way are they going to work with the CommieNazi Muslim Kenyan witch-doctor from Mars on banning earmarks or ending the Afghanistan war! Their only goal is to destroy Obama; if Axelrod paid any attention to what goes on in reality instead of hanging out in that Happy BiPartisanLand which exists only in the imagination of Obama and his lackeys, he’d know that; it’s not like the Republicans are trying to hide it, just ask Mitch McConnell.

    Frankly, as much as I fear (any) Republican president in 2012, if Obama winds up as a one-term President he’ll deserve it because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that he’s a fool surrounded by other fools.

  4. FrauTech on 11 Nov 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    As well as economic studies showing tax cuts to the wealthy tend not to trickle back into the economy versus tax cuts for poor and middle class usually do (I suppose most of us buy goods, rich people just inflate stock prices, home prices, or luxury goods that don’t create jobs).

    But really, I voted for Obama and I’m not angry. I knew he’d be “moderate” at best. I knew we’d be moving ever more right. I knew the amount of “change” he’d actually be able to implement would be extremely minimal. I mean this might as well be a third term of George W. Bush, and I fully expected it. However, a republican would probably have tried to decrease taxes for the wealthy and corporations even more, thereby increasing the deficit even more. A conservative might’ve tried to invade Iran. A conservative would have cut back education and science funding EVEN MORE THAN we’re dealing with now.

    I guess I keep thinking of California, and they’re clearly majority liberal state representatives, and yet services have been cut back for decades. Education goes down the tubes more and more, taxes for services get cut back while taxes for the middle class seem to stay about the same. More money goes to outsourcing public jobs to private companies and prison unions and over the top crime laws eat up huge chunks of the funding. All of this with a very stable majority of democrats (and true liberals) for a long time now.

    I wonder if this is all some unfortunate swing back from New Deal and Civil Rights Era policies where government did what was best for the people even when the people didn’t want it to. I just don’t know how soon we’ll see a swing back, because the last 30 years have been especially painful.

  5. KC on 11 Nov 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Yeah, okay that’s a fair point about the effectiveness of tax cuts for the wealthy not stimulating the economy as much as it will for the poor or middle classes.

    Income inequality is also a huge issue, although I’m not sure how much tax policy has to do with it.

    I guess if I could summarize my own position, it would be that tax increases are probably needed across the board, for the middle as well as upper income brackets, but that I’m just worried about the impact tax increases will have on economic recovery. I’m not smart enough (and I’m not an economist) to know how best to navigate it, but that’s my concern.

    So, carry on with the Obama-bashing. :)

  6. Perpetua on 11 Nov 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Ok, now *I’m* thinking about starting a secessionist movement.

    I heard this really interesting bit on NPR last week – perhaps on Talk of the Nation? – about how the impetus for progressive social change (or major social and political change generally) has never come from politicians, or directly through the political system, ie., through the election of certain kinds of candidates. The guests were talking mostly about the Progressive Era and how those sweeping changes came from grass roots movements outside of the political process, rather than faux outsiders running for office who promptly become part of the problem the second they are elected. I heard similar ideas being discussed on a program about climate change – that is, that expecting our politicians to lead or change is delusional, that we need to start grassroots movements that create a groundswell that *insists* on change, and forces political leaders to go along with it. So I’ve decided to stop looking at the DNC for answers, or expecting anything from them.

  7. koshem bos on 11 Nov 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    “As Big Tent Democrat said, “This is, of course, insane. The Obama White House seems to have lost its mind.” Well, you cannot lose something you never had. We elected a guy who got to his 40s without doing much, e.g. Bush, why would he change, could he change? NO

    I don’t think that history leads us in circles, i.e. FDR then LBJ then back to Hoover, we may take two steps forward and then a step back but not more. Look at today’s Europe, they murdered more than 200 million people between 1900 and 1945. They will never go back and they are well a head of us in almost every area.

    May be somebody has enough leftover prophecy in them (Jewish tradition claims that after the destruction of the Temple, prophecy was given to dunces) and could see that Obama is going nowhere, people like me who knew that Obama is at best an average individual never expected him to be that bad.

    There is no guarantee that Hillary would be a way more progressive, but even mainstream Democratic ideas are way better than the white flag waving dunce.

  8. Historiann on 11 Nov 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Koshem bos–I disagree slightly. Obama didn’t campaign on extending tax cuts for the rich forevah. In fact, early this fall Obama was talking about calling for the vote to end the Bush tax cuts on the rich BEFORE the primaries, which actually made sense in that it was a vote they would have won and it would have done something to please and energize the base. So, that they’re backpedaling like this is a sign that something is deeply disordered with their thinking.

    On Perpetua’s point: Commenter Susan made that point recently about leadership from below. Recently, a colleague mentioned a book that had been recommended to him: Douglas C. Rossinow, Visions of Progress: The Left-Liberal Tradition in America (2008). It apparently argues that the left has been in decline for sixty years, and that it was at its height in the Progressive and the New Deal eras. Being co-opted by Democrats spelled the Left’s demise. That book might provide a useful example for activists to consider now.

    I have to admit that my appetite for activism is pretty low. I got swept up in electing Democrats as a partial solution to what ails us, but that’s turned out to be a dead end. I think I’ll just do what I do, tend my own garden for a year or two, and see where my engagement might make the most difference. Small and local seems to be where it’s at right now–at least, that’s what I’m thinking.

  9. truffula on 11 Nov 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Grassroots agitation is important but so too is the presence of somebody in the President’s inner circle who keeps his feet to the fire. FDR might have believed in the reforms enacted under his care but would he have pushed them through without Francis Perkins and Eleanor pushing him? I don’t think Clinton had anybody like that and as far as I can tell, neither does Obama. Elizabeth Warren might be a good start but we’ll see where that goes now.

  10. Emma on 11 Nov 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Pelosi’s out. Social Security cuts are IN! Woot!!

    I’m going to stop contributing to my 401k, withdraw the little money that’s currently in it, and spend it all now on whatever the fuck I’ve been depriving myself of.

    There’s no way I’m not dying in poverty, probably from starvation and exposure. So why keep enriching the rich by paying into a useless 401k for the rest of my miserable little life?

  11. Comrade PhysioProf on 11 Nov 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    I voted for fucken Hillary and I thought she’d be a lot fucken better than Obama. Not because she’s any more progressive or liberal, but because she has a realistic understanding of how these fucken sicke-fucke insane-billionaire right-wing motherfucken slime operate, and has no illusions that her “magical bipartisan charisma” would have made a single fucken bit of difference.

  12. Profane on 12 Nov 2010 at 7:28 am #

    “Obama says he’s not caving on tax cuts [YET]”

  13. Paul on 12 Nov 2010 at 8:49 am #

    I always wondered if Obama would end up like Carter – campaigns on a vague platform of change, inherits a bad situation, means well but isn’t very effective, alienates a lot of people who would normally be on his side politically, gets blamed for pretty much everything that goes wrong, and then is defeated by a resurgent conservative movement 4 years later.

  14. KC on 12 Nov 2010 at 9:45 am #

    The other thing to keep in mind is that, after these past midterms, would there be any chance of passing a bill that extended the tax cuts for the middle class while raising them for the upper class? With Republican control of the House and a small Democratic majority in the Senate, I would say no. The option then is what? To let the tax cuts expire? Surely the Republicans will be able to pass a bill in the House to extend the tax cuts. What do the Democrats do then? Vote against it? Vote for it and then Obama vetoes it? None of that is even remotely politically possible.

    So the question becomes: should Obama and the Democrats expend what political capital they have left in a fight over tax cuts for the wealthy? I would say no. The easiest thing to do politically is to let the tax cuts be extended for a year or two, push it down the road a little, and then pivot off that to focus on the deficit, starting with slashing defense spending, which I suspect the Democrats will be able to peel off some Republicans to do. The argument can be, “You got your tax cuts, now show us you are serious about cutting spending.” Then there is going to be a big fight over Social Security and Medicaid. When that comes around, I’ll be less interested in how those reforms affect the middle class, more interested in how they affect the poor.

    Republicans will probably try to focus on repealing health care reform, but they’ll get nowhere with that. Then the argument will be over who is responsible for government inaction and ineptitude. 1994-1996 all over again.

  15. Emma on 12 Nov 2010 at 9:51 am #

    and then is defeated by a resurgent conservative movement 4 years later.

    Hey! This time we’re ahead of the curve — we didn’t even have to wait 4 years!

    So the question becomes: should Obama and the Democrats expend what political capital they have left in a fight over tax cuts for the wealthy? I would say no. The easiest thing to do politically

    Holy Mother F****** GOD!!! The most politically ept thing to do would have been to pass an extension of the middle-class tax cuts BEFORE THE ELECTION and let the f****** upper-class tax cuts expire! Not only was the economically sound policy, it was a f***** political winner!

    But, again, everybody in the Dem party wants to play jr. political pundit so comes out defending the most politically inept party since, since, since….GODdamn I don’t even know when!

    If they didn’t pass the middle-class tax cut/upper-class tax cut expiration package when they controlled the HOUSE the SENATE and the PRESIDENCY — grab a seat on the clue train, they never wanted to pass it!

  16. Tom on 12 Nov 2010 at 10:13 am #

    And why is it that no one, democrat or otherwise, has the guts to observe or celebrate the end of the “tax holiday,” that the Bush law provided? Surely we all deserve a tax holiday or none of us does?

    But that rhetorical battle never seems to have been fought, much less won.

  17. Historiann on 12 Nov 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Congress is in session again–it can do what it wants with the remaining weeks of a Dem majority w/r/t the Bush tax cuts. But Obama can do what he wants, too–he can just let all of the tax cuts expire on New Year’s Day, or he can sign any bills that make it to his desk.

    But, Emma’s right: the Dems did exactly as they wanted to for the 2 years in which they ran the show. Whinging and crying about how the need 60 votes, then 66, to get anything done in the Senate is nothing but an excuse. (Look at what the Republicans did in the Senate with 50 + Dick Cheney from 2003-2007!)

    Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best. I never bought into 14-dimensional chess.

  18. Historiann on 12 Nov 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    I’m not a Keith Olbermann fan, but this Countdown report seems to sum up both the policy and the politics of the tax cut issue:

    What. A. Bunch. Of. Schmucks.

  19. Historiann on 12 Nov 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    And isn’t it funny that it’s a woman who has the biggest stones in Washington?

    Color me unsurprised!

  20. Emma on 12 Nov 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Pelosi’s House has been the most liberal and progressive force in D.C., and constantly opposed at every step by the Senate and the White House.

  21. Historiann on 12 Nov 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Agreed. (Although saying it’s the “most liberal and progressive force in D.C.” ain’t saying much!) Pelosi and her Dems took a lot of tough votes and delivered Obama what he said he wanted. I think she’s right that the Republicans demonized her precisely because she was highly effective.

    (Analysis of her tenure as Speaker here.)

  22. quixote on 12 Nov 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Democratic Congresscritters as well as Republican mostly are in the group that takes home a windfall if the tax cuts are extended for the wealthiest.

    I wonder if that could possibly explain the Democrats’ willingness to be “forced” to extend those cuts by the mean nasty Republicans?

  23. Z on 13 Nov 2010 at 12:56 am #

    @Emma — I wish my state would LET me stop contributing to that 401K or whatever I have (TIAA-CREF stuff). I want something like gold bars. I want to put them in a safe deposit box in Brazil or a Swiss account or something. I do not say this as a wingnut rightist … I’ve just lived in countries where they had economic shock programs and did things like commandeer the retirement funds and savings accounts. I am not sure what it would take for this to happen here but I don’t trust them not to do it.

  24. Knitting Clio on 13 Nov 2010 at 7:18 am #

    Since I’m teaching a course on the New Deal this semester, I’ll just say that history shows that raising taxes during a recession is a bad idea. Much as I’d like to see the cuts for the super wealthy expire, that isn’t going to happen.

    Another thought — the message that was repeated by Republican candidates ad nauseum was that taxes were “killing jobs” and that uncertainty about whether the Bush era tax cuts would continue was preventing businesses from hiring new workers. So, here’s a modest proposal. Let’s see how well that theory works — my prediction is that it won’t and perhaps the Democratic party will have an advantage in 2012.

  25. Indyanna on 13 Nov 2010 at 9:17 am #

    At this point, there’s not much incentive to NOT act like a dictator, or a wealth-redistributing socialist, especially if you probably weren’t born in the U.S. and can’t even prove that you weren’t born on Mars. So if I was living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I’d just direct the IRS next year to audit every return of someone making more than $250,000, and none of the returns below that figure. That might accomplish some of the same objectives, without overtaxing the fundraising energies of our hard working legislators. Just. Sorta. Joking.

  26. Emma on 13 Nov 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Much as I’d like to see the cuts for the super wealthy expire, that isn’t going to happen.

    Well it isn’t going to happen now! And raising taxes on the middle class probably would be bad, because less money into the economy and all that. But on the wealthy? Not so much.

    <Another thought — the message that was repeated by Republican candidates ad nauseum was that taxes were “killing jobs” and that uncertainty about whether the Bush era tax cuts would continue was preventing businesses from hiring new workers. So, here’s a modest proposal. Let’s see how well that theory works

    For pete’s sake, we know how it works. Bush tax cuts for 10 years = no boost to the economy.

  27. Emma on 13 Nov 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Also, here’s the real downside to Dem voters wanting to be jr. political pundits and therefore being willing to excuse the failures of Dem administrations, straight from the mouth of a Republican spokeshole:

    Well I think the real world implication here Dylan, is that if the Republican base does not want to compromise and the Democratic base is willing to compromise Republicans are going to win more public policy battles than they lose.

    Stop excusing. Start demanding. The Obama Admin still has a lame duck Dem Congress. Demand they do something Democratic with it.

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