Today, President Barack Obama succumbed to the minority party and cut a deal with the Republicans to preserve the Bush Tax Cuts for two more years. The same Tax Cuts that had been enacted by Republicans with a definite shelf life of 10 years. Some may argue this expiration date of 12/31/10 that the Republicans put on the post 9/11 Tax Cut package was deliberate; to force a showdown between those forces that would raise taxes on the American people against those who would fight to let the people keep more of their own money. I won’t go so far as to suggest that, as there is no clear way I can see to prove that was their intention. However it certainly has come to that hasn’t it?
For months now the Bush Tax Cuts have been in the limelight if not the spotlight. I’ve written about it more than once myself. While I had a sneaking suspicion the Republicans would win this fight, the last vestige of hope I had in Barack Obama would not let me give in to that suspicion. It was too easy of a choice for him to make. The country could not afford to continue these lowered tax rates that when combined with markedly increased spending on wars and Medicare Prescription Drugs have bloated the National Debt to surreal numbers that look almost cartoonish. Add on corporate bailouts, stimulus spending, extended unemployment benefits and the looming specter of new Health Care Legislation spending and the Federal Reserve themselves today said they can’t print money fast enough to manage the flood of Federal borrowing. Not to mention he campaigned on this very issue! Then Candidate Barack Obama said in 2008 he would “put an end to the Bush-McCain philosophy.” He opposed their policies by mocking the idea that “we should give more and more to millionaires and billionaires and hope that it trickles down on everybody else. It’s a philosophy that gives tax breaks to wealthy CEOs and to corporations that ship jobs overseas while hundreds of thousands of jobs are disappearing here at home.”
But the biggest arrow in my quill against the creeping premonition that he would cave in to what can generously be called moderate pressure from the Republicans on this issue was simply that the Tax Cuts would go away all by themselves. The President has fought tooth and nail with the Party of No for two years now. He could finally stop fighting and let them fight with no one. By their party’s own design the tax rates would return to the levels they were under President Bill Clinton all those many years ago. The President could then say plainly to the American people that he campaigned on this issue, and he was willing to extend the cuts permanently for those making under $250,000 a year, but the Republicans would have none of it. He could then present his own package of targeted tax legislation designed to boost the economy and support the struggling majority of Americans who did not reap the benefits that the mega-rich have enjoyed this past decade. That would put the Republican party in the awkward position of not supporting a Tax Cut package that would affect 95% of American voters.
Today, my hopes were dashed and I’m willing to bet the hopes of many progressive Americans who helped Mr. Obama win the White House were dashed as well. It isn’t just the fact that he kept the name of George W. Bush in the mainstream of our consciousness for two more years. After all, I’m thrilled my taxes aren’t going up. I certainly can’t afford to pay any more. It’s something deeper than that, something that goes to the Obama-core. He’s a negotiator, although not a very talented one. He’s a man of compromise, a split the difference kind of guy. This may make for a great legislator, but it’s not what the electorate looks for in a leader. President Obama is seen as a contemplative thinker. A man who clearly has some intelligence about him, a thorough command of the English language, a basic understanding on a broad and complex set of issues. But his messages, his words, they carry no weight. Sure he can point to a long list of legislative and executive accomplishments, but to the average voter that’s Inside Baseball stuff. They don’t know he accomplished 90% of it and even if they do, they won’t remember for long. What they will remember, as will his Republican friends in Congress, is that he will not take a stand on any issue. He’ll compromise to get something through. They needn’t waste time or energy worrying about a backup plan if the President refuses to back down because he will back down and relatively quickly.
Perhaps I am putting too much emphasis on a simple Tax Bill. I don’t think so though because just as the Iraq War was the single dominant Foreign Policy legacy of the Bush Administration, the 2001 Tax Cut package was the centerpiece of the Bush Administration’s Domestic Policy legacy. By folding his cards at this particular poker table, Obama has lost more than the ante and a few rounds of bets. This was the W table he was playing on and he never even bluffed. The worst part is, he never should have folded because he had the winning hand.