OK, at the risk of sounding a bit paranoid, I feel the need to explain myself a bit more on this tax cut deal. So with your permission, let me borrow a phrase from the late and infamous former president and clear up any misunderstandings if I may.
I completely understand the angst among my fellow progressives that extending the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 is fiscally irresponsible and is the worst way to “stimulate” an economy. (Frankly, had the economy been in better shape, I would be in favor of letting all of them expire.) Nearly every economist has gone on record as saying that trickle-down / supply-side economics has not worked. It has caused record deficits and virtually gutted the middle class while greatly enriching the upper class. Even David Stockman, the author of Reaganonmics, has abandoned the cause. And I agree with all of you that “laying down” to the Republican “hostage takers”, as Barack Obama correctly called them, is inherently evil and will only make it that much harder to stand up to them later.
So why then did I support the deal? One reason and one reason only: It was the only deal on the table that had a snow-ball’s chance in hell of getting 60 votes in the Senate. No matter how you slice it and dice it, even in the lame-duck session, Democrats not only didn’t have the votes to get what would’ve been the correct deal – namely the elimination of all the upper-tier tax cuts – five of them jumped ship and voted against their own party. Yep, the party that sinks together…
And if you think this was too bitter a pill to swallow and are still of the mindset that it would’ve been better to call the Republican’s bluff and wait it out until January when the next Congress takes over, I give you Governors’ elect Scott Walker and John Kasich. In an obvious case of cutting off your nose to spite your face both men, who haven’t even been sworn into office yet, have refused to take billions of federal dollars that the Department of Transportation had set aside – that would’ve required no state matching funds mind you – for the building of high-speed railways. The railways would’ve taken over three years to build and would’ve employed thousands of workers and thus reduced both state’s unemployment rates; yet neither governor elect wanted any part of them.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what is coming to Washington in 2011. Both the President and the remaining Democrats in Congress are going to have their hands full dealing with a tidal wave of the most irrational and unhinged flock of Congressmen and Senators the nation has yet witnessed. They will have to carefully pick their battles if they are going to govern effectively. This was not the moment to draw a line in the sand.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: this deal, which I agree stinks to high heaven, was about as good as it was going to get, and was considerably better than anything that was awaiting the Democrats in January. Frankly, given the GOP’s rhetoric over the last two years and the lack of, shall we say, testicular fortitude that he has shown, I’m actually surprised that Obama got as much as he did in the deal. It comes down to this: sometimes when you take your medicine you have to hold your nose when you swallow.