Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Question for My Liberal Friends Who Oppose the Tax Cut Compromise

This question is addressed to anyone out there who considers themselves a liberal and who opposes the President's tax cut compromise. This is a sincere question and an attempt to, perhaps, better understand your position.

First, to be completely and totally clear, I oppose the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I am proudly a member of the economic left and I would place my credentials on that front up against anyone.

I understand completely why the extension of the cuts for the wealthy are so offensive to you. But the President is not merely signing an extension of the tax cuts, he is also signing a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits. What is the plan for helping the unemployed if this compromise dies? How do you get any extension, much less 13 months, of unemployment benefits through a GOP controlled House come January?

From my perspective I am willing to compromise on the tax cuts for the wealthy, as odious as I find them to be, in order to extend a life line to the unemployed. Set aside the stimulative effect the benefits will have on a macro level, I am simply horrified at the prospect of what will happen to individuals and families if their benefits run out. To me, casting the unemployed adrift would be immoral. This is an immediate problem and it cannot be ignored. I will hold my nose and agree to the tax cut extension if it will help save families from complete economic catastrophe. If someone can convince me that there is a solution to the unemployment insurance issue which doesn't involve extending the tax cuts then I am all ears.


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Extending tax cuts for the rich is the most powerful bargaining chip that Obama had, because it is at the center of the Republican agenda, and because it can't be achieved without Democratic cooperation because the status quo (non-extension of all Bush tax cuts) is the default option.

If the Republicans had been given a my way or the highway ultimatum, it would have been very difficult for them to refuse it. All of the options had there not been a deal: non-renewal of tax cuts, expiration of extended unemployment benefits, and government shutdown over failing to approve appropriations bills, would have been very politically painful for them. Failing to get any taxcut extensions would come across as a betrayal of their base so foul that there would be grass roots Tea Party efforts to recall them. Unemployment benefit intransigence would permanently deprive them of blue collar working class support. We saw what happened the last time the GOP forced the government to shut down and so did they.

If Obama had held more steadfast, he could have gotten a far better deal and still gotten unemployment benefit extensions. He didn't even manage to a get a two year extension of extended unemployment benefits to match the the two year extension of tax cuts. His unwillingness to show the courage of his convictions on this issue, where he was in a strong negotiating position also undermines him on every other issue where his negotiating position is weak.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The caveat to the observation that this was a bad deal is that a lot of legislation that was deadlocked is suddenly getting passed by bipartisan majorities. While the everything else on the agenda from uncontroversial judicial appointments, to food safety legislation, to anti-fraud legislation, to consideration of the START treaty, to the DADT vote, may not have been formally part of the deal on taxes, if they were a secret part of the deal, it may look better than it does at face value (although the DREAM Act and Stem Cell research appear to have been shafted and some more controversial judges apparently won't be getting nomination votes).