If you follow US politics, you know that this past Saturday, the House of Representatives failed to pass two measures that would extend the Bush era tax-cuts for the middle class. One bill would have extended the cuts for persons making under $250,000 per year the other for those making less than $1 million per year. Both bills failed primarily because House Republicans refused to concede tax breaks for the extremely wealthy.
So now it's the 11th hour. The Bush era tax cuts are scheduled to expire on December 31st, and the tax rate for the lowest income Americans will increase by 50 percent if nothing is done. In addition, the Republicans are refusing to pass an extension to unemployment benefits ( in a time of 9.8% unemployment) unless the Democrats make cuts to other programs in order to fund the extension. (or so the Republicans say) Republicans and their kissing cousins, the Tea Partiers have drawn their line in the sand and are standing on the principle of "fiscal responsibility". Meanwhile the Democrats are trying to make the argument for human compassion and decency. The Democrats seemed to be winning the argument in the eyes of the American public. A recent gallup poll indicated that 44% of Americans believe that the Bush tax cuts should be extended but with new limits for the wealthy while 13% believe that the tax cuts should be allowed to expire for everyone. And, after all, this is the season of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
So what happened yesterday? President Barack Obama held a press conference to announce that he had worked out a deal with GOP leaders to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Angelo Mozillo in order to protect the middle class tax cut and secure an extension of unemployment benefits. You've also probably heard that the President had more than a few sharp words for the GOP, (for holding the American working class hostage), as well as, for the "sanctimonious" liberal Democrats for daring to hope that he would stand up to the congressional terrorists.
This is how Washington Post analyst Ezra Klein summed up the proposed agreement in his article, "How the White House cut its deal and lost its base":
"To put this in perspective, consider that last week, all Washington could talk about was the potential for a deal on deficit reduction. This week, it actually got a big deficit deal -- but it was a deficit-expansion deal. In the world that politicians claim they live in -- where the deficit is the overriding issue -- the deal couldn't have worked. But we don't live in that world. In this world, tax cuts, not deficits, are the Republicans' central concern, and stimulus, not deficits, obsesses the Democrats.
Which brings us to the liberals. My conversations with various progressives over the past 24 hours have convinced me that the problem is less the specifics of the deal -- though liberals legitimately dislike the tax cuts for the rich, and rightly point out that Obama swore to let them expire -- than the way in which it was reached. Put simply, Obama and the Democrats didn't fight for them. There were no veto threats or serious effort to take the case to the public.
Instead, the White House disappeared into a closed room with the Republicans and cut a deal that they'd made no effort to sell to progressives. When the deal was cut, the president took an oblique shot at their preferences, saying "the American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories." And this came a mere week or two after the White House announced a federal pay freeze. The pattern, for progressives, seems clear: The White House uses them during elections, but doesn't listen to, or consult them, while governing. In fact, it insults them, and then tells them to quiet down, they got the best bargain possible, even if it wasn't the one they'd asked for, or been promised."
In one press conference the theme of the Obama presidency transitioned from "Yes We Can" and "Change You Can Believe In" to "No You Can't" and "It's What You Have to Do to Get Things Done When You're Backed into a Corner."
So why did the White House let itself be backed into a corner. They certainly can't say that no one saw this 11th hour crisis coming. Sound familiar?
As Joanne Bamberger, known to her fans as PunditMom, commented on Facebook, "The Bush tax cuts were strategically set to expire now -- in a year GOP assumed would see a Dem in the White House and hurt him/her. Now, Obama has agreed to extension for two years, and discussion about what to do about them next time will come during his re-election bid. Dems -- you should be smarter."
Maybe We should have been smarter than to expect anything different. Now, because no one on the White House staff anticipated that the party who vowed to fight the President at every turn would back him into a corner over their holy grail, tax cuts, the members of the Presidents own party who were begging him to take a stand on principle, get lectured like ungrateful children who fail to show due appreciation for all that their parent has done on their behalf.
Dear Mr. President, we do appreciate all that you have done but was it so wrong for Democrats to have the audacity to hope that someone would stand up to the banks, the insurance companies, the unscrupulous mortgage lenders and a GOP who has made it clear that they care for none but the rich. Maybe it was. Maybe we were all foolish to think that politics in Washington could ever change.
In the following video clips Rachel Maddow analyzes the President's press conference. The only thing that Democrats can hope now is that the Obama campaign will come up with a new slogan by 2012