Here’s an interesting nugget from Ezra Klein:
If you look at the numbers alone, the tax cut deal looks to have robbed Republicans blind. The GOP got around $95 billion in tax cuts for wealthy Americans and $30 billion in estate tax cuts. Democrats got $120 billion in payroll-tax cuts, $40 billion in refundable tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and education tax credits), $56 billion in unemployment insurance, and, depending on how you count it, about $180 billion (two-year cost) or $30 billion (10-year cost) in new tax incentives for businesses to invest.
But that’s not how it’s being understood. Republicans are treating it as a victory, and liberals as a defeat. Which raises two separate questions: Why did Republicans give Obama so much? And why aren’t Democrats happier about it?
Let’s start with the Republicans. For one thing, the things they wanted were things they really, really wanted. A number of sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations have fingered the estate tax as the major player in the size of the deal. “Republicans were extremely eager to get benefits for the top tenth of a percent of Americans,” says one senior administration official.
Extremely eager to give more money for the super rich. Charming. Who was it who said the love of money is the root of all evil? The greed of these people is incomprehensible.
Meanwhile, here’s Obama”s latest Sister Souljah moment:
This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats have been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.
Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of a preexisting condition. Or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.
The political calculations are pretty simple. If Obama had drawn a line in the sand then on January 1 a Democratic President would have presided over a huge tax increase. By January 2 his approval ratings would have been down to single digits. End of discussion.
As for bashing liberals, the administration figures that the angrier the left gets the more independents will return to the fold. I have no idea if they are right, and I mostly don’t care. Bill Clinton bashing Sister Souljah was a shrewd way of showing he was willing to stand up to his base without actually alienating his base. Obama, by contrast, seems to take positive delight in sticking it to his supporters.
Whatever. In 2012 we can look forward to the usual choice. A conscienceless Republican lunatic or a Democrat who will at least slow the rate of American decay just a little bit. Not very inspiring, but it’s also not a tough choice.
What angers liberals is not the need for compromise. We, after all, are the ones who take governing seriously and try to support policies that promote the greatest good for the greatest number. What angers us is the administration’s fecklessness in conducting its negotiations. Obama began the health care debate with a compromised position, not even using single-payer as a starting point, and then couldn’t wait to compromise further. He never wanted the public option in the first place. Likewise in the present debate. Perhaps this was the best deal that could be brokered at this point. But it was only Democratic listlessness and political incompetence that put them in this unfavorable position in the first place.
It’s the usual problem with Obama. Is he playing political long ball, slowly getting things done within an incredibly hostile environment? Or is he just a wuss who is so conflict-averse that he is unwilling to fight for much of anything?