I started this as an update to yesterday's post (below) after Bill
Phillips sent me a bunch of links of the sort I hadn't bothered to
look up yesterday. I've added a few more, some quotes, and comments.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: Tax Deal a "Moral Outrage": "I will do everything
in my power to stand up for the American middle class and defeat this
agreement." Uh, what middle class is that?
Richard Trumka Statement on Tax Cut Deal: From AFL-CIO president:
"The tax cut deal rewards Republican obstructionism by giving the wealthy
the tax breaks they demanded. It throws away precious resources needed for
investments in jobs and our economy on upper income tax cuts that will do
very little to propel economic growth -- setting up excuses for the deficit
hypocrites to argue for even more cuts to programs serving working families.
It lards the tax cuts for the top 2 percent with an indefensible cut in the
estate tax -- giving yet another bonus to the super-rich. Taken together,
this package locks in the growing income inequality that has plagued our
country for at least another two years -- and quite possibly much longer."
Pleased to read this last line, but growing inequality won't be turned
around by restoring Clinton's surtax (see the 1990s for proof). It will
take decades to turn this mess around, and changing the top rax rates
right now is more symbolic than anything. But it is a start.
Brian Beutler: Menendez on GOP Tax Cut Posture: "At a press conference
this afternoon with several Senators calling out Republicans for blocking
middle-class tax cuts, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) escalated the Dem
rhetoric by comparing the GOP's my-way-or-the-highway posture to the
demands of terrorists."
Angry Progressives Shut Down WH Phone Lines With Calls Protesting Tax Cut Cave
Zach Carter: A Tax Deal Fit for the Gilded Age: Among other things,
blames asset bubbles on the Bush tax cuts. I think that overrates the
cuts, but they do contribute, as do several other things.
Robert Reich: On Taxes, Obama's Last Stand Is No Stand at All: "It's
politically nuts. Polls show most Americans are against extending the
Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. . . . It makes him look
weak -- Republicans got everything they wanted. And when a President
looks weak, he is weak."
Andrew Leonard: The Tax Debate That Never Happened: "There's no way
to dress that up, but what's unfathomable at this point is how we got
here in the first place. As a percentage of GDP, Americans are shouldering
their lowest tax burden in 60 years. And yet Republicans are still able
to make even the remotest prospect of tax hikes -- even when limited to
the wealthiest Americans and even when government finances have been
stretched absurdly beyond the breaking point -- a no-go zone in American
David Dayen: Tax Cut Deal Includes Monstrous Estate Tax, Dividend
Concession: Actually, not as bad as I feared, but pretty bad
anyway. Estate taxes are the main way to keep the rich from turning
into a hereditary aristocracy. One can argue that many rich people
earned their wealth, but not their heirs; moreover, inheritance
breaks whatever association there may have been between wealth and
achievement. Capital gains and dividends, like inheritance, are
unearned. Why we as a society should privilege unearned income over
earned is unfathomable, in some ways monstrous -- specifically in
that it denegrates the value of labor. All of the wealth that we
enjoy starts out as labor. We should respect and reward that --
not its plain usurpation and expoitation.
Peter Daou: The GOP's Super-Duper-Spectacular-Magical-Mysterious
Bargaining Power: "Riddle me this: how do you win a political
showdown when your sole objective is to give money to the
mega-rich? . . . All that matters from a political
perspective is that he and his once-vaunted team have misread the
public mood for two demoralizing years and hobbled the progressive
cause in the process. They are clearly misreading it again. I've
said it before and I'll repeat it: If you stand up for your principles,
you may lose an election but keep your principles; if you ditch your
principles, you'll lose both."
Matthew Yglesias: The Next Hostage Fight: "Which is a roundabout way of
saying that I found the logic the President espoused to defend the deal was
more troubling than the deal itself. . . . I mean, what happens
if this deal goes through and now the time comes when congress needs to raise
the debt ceiling and Speaker Boehner decides he wants to hold some hostages.
Sure he'll deliver the votes, but only if Obama delivers draconian spending
cuts. I'm not sure what'll happen. It'll be a standoff. Someone will get
criticized in the press. Someone will get nervous. Someone will need to
back down. Does this deal make it more likely, per se, that it's Obama who'll
back down? Not really, no. But the thought process he outlined at the press
conference suggests that he will. That in response liberals will complain,
and in response to that Obama will deliver the impassioned dressing-down
that he doesn't deliver to the right-wing hostage takers."
Paul Krugman: The Sorrow and the Self-Pity: "Let me add that Obama
has never, as far as I can recall, pointed out that these horrible tax
increases on the rich the GOP warns about would bring rates back to what
they were under Bill Clinton -- a time of enormous prosperity. But then,
Obama has always had a weirdly hard time making the case that the Clinton
economy refuted Reaganism." Also: "What's particularly striking is that
Obama seems passionate about denouncing his progressive critics, even as
he has nice words for the people who have spent two years trying to
destroy him." I've already written more about this in something I've
held back for a Weekend Roundup, but the gist is that Obama has always
been able to climb up the power ladder in America by making nice to
those in power, and thereby flattering them into accepting a benign
outsider. But he never has had to make nice to the left, except maybe
for spouting some platitudes during the 2008 primaries. I hate to
say this, but he reminds me of something John Bolton was charged
with: being a "kiss up/kick down" political climber.
Probably a lot more out there, and I'll pick up some of them later.
One thing I haven't seen much on is how the one-year FICA cut will
affect the neverending campaign to destroy Social Security. One thing
for sure is that anyone who already thinks Social Security must be
cut because it is facing long-term solvency issues will find their
favorite numbers tilted their way. Admittedly, the struggle doesn't
actually turn on those numbers: they're just flak that won't make
any impression on anyone who regards Social Security as a moral
commitment we have made and should continue to make to the welfare
of people who spent their working lives building this country. But
the cut will add noise to the flak, and that's something to expect
and deal with.
There are also rumblings from the far right about how the deal
sells out conservative principles. Entertaining as they are, they
can readily be dismissed: one thing about the Republican masters
is that they've never let principles get in the way of doing
Bill Phillips pointed me at a piece on the FICA tax cut:
Ryan Grim: Tax Cut Deal a Hidden Threat to Social Security: That,
of course, is why the Republicans agreed to it. On the other hand, Kent
Conrad is right (for once) in praising its stimulus effect: it quietly
adds 2% to every worker's take-home pay. The other thing to note is that
it's likely to add 2% to corporate bottom-lines (assuming the employer
matching tax is cut as well). The political problem for Obama is that
he won't get credit for the cut but he'll get blamed for its expiration,
when workers find they're bringing home less money next year. (One reason
we can be certain of this is that last year Obama enacted a too-subtle
d tax cut and this year the polls erroneously blamed him for raising