Posted by: N.S. Palmer | December 8, 2010

Snatching Blame from the Jaws of Victory

By N.S. Palmer

There’s a feature of Obama’s tax-cut “compromise” that, as far as I know, has gone unremarked.

Before the compromise, both the House and the Senate had voted on bills for a middle-class tax cut. It cut taxes on income up to $250,000, so most of its benefits would have gone to the middle class and upper middle class.

The House passed the middle-class tax cut, with almost all Republicans voting against it. In the Senate, all Republicans voted against the middle-class tax cut and succeeded in killing it.

So at that point, there was going to be no middle-class tax cut.

And who was to blame? Clearly, it was the Republicans: the same Republicans who wanted to give a massive, unfunded tax cut to the wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans at the expense of everyone else. That’s why they voted against a middle-class tax cut (and everything else).

Give the Republicans credit: they danced with the one what brung ’em. They work for the super-rich and the corrupt. And they do a good job for their bosses. Just not for the American people generally.

So the Republicans, and only the Republicans, stopped a middle-class tax cut. What did Obama do?

No, he didn’t go on television and denounce the Republicans as an obstructionist minority who were blocking tax cuts for the majority of Americans. He didn’t denounce them as an obstructionist minority who were blocking ratification of the Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, which has been endorsed by elder statesmen of both parties. He didn’t point out that they were blocking all legislation until they could get extra tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, tax cuts that would not stimulate the economy or create jobs, but would vastly increase the government’s budget deficit.

He didn’t put public pressure on the Republicans so that they would have to give up their obstructionism and do what’s right for the country.

He sat down with them and agreed to all of their demands.

Which provoked howls of outrage and betrayal from the people who had supported Obama. From Democrats who didn’t want to sell out every last thing their party ever stood for.

There’s now a tax cut proposal on the table. It’s a “compromise” that gives the Republicans everything they wanted, and even beyond that, a reduction in the estate tax. In exchange, it extends unemployment benefits for 13 months and gives a tax cut to the middle class as well as to the super-rich.

The Democrats don’t like it one bit.

So now, if the current tax cut proposal goes down in flames, guess who will get the blame?

No, not the Republicans. They like it. It caves in to all of their demands. They don’t care if the middle class gets a tax cut, as long as billionaires get a much larger tax cut.

If the tax-cut bill fails, it will be because Democrats voted against it. And it will be Democrats, not Republicans, who will get the blame for raising taxes on the middle class.

So Obama took a situation in which Republicans would get the blame for blocking middle class tax cuts, and turned it around so that Democrats would get the blame instead.

Heckuva job, Barack. Remind me not to let you do my taxes.

Update: Senate Republicans just blocked another bill, this one to provide medical aid to first-responders (police, firefighters, and medical workers) who helped during the 9/11 attacks. The Republicans won’t let anything pass the Senate until they get their extra tax cuts for the super-rich. For once, I agree with Sen. “Gutless Harry” Reid (D-NV), the Senate majority leader:

“Republicans denied adequate health care to the heroes who developed illnesses from rushing into burning buildings on 9/11,” he said. “Yet they will stop at nothing to give tax breaks to millionaires and C.E.O.’s, even though they will explode our deficit and fail to create jobs. That tells you everything you need to know about their priorities.”

Later the same day, Republicans blocked a vote on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule that requires gays and lesbians in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret. Military leaders support repeal, which would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces. So do 70 percent of military service members and 75 percent of the American population. But Senate Republicans are holding the country hostage in order to get their way.

If Democrats fought even half as hard for the American people as Republicans fight for their plutocratic paymasters, then our country would be in great shape.


  1. Nicely analyzed and written, Scott.

  2. It is embarrassing…but what did people really expect from a politician formed by the Chicago machine, who voted “present” on most of the major issues in his short time in congress? When exactly did they expect him to grow a spine? Sadly I think his rise to the top was premature.

    • Hi, Jet —

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree with everything except “formed by the Chicago machine.” As a former Chicago resident, I can tell you that the “machine” isn’t what it used to be. 🙂

      And I really don’t see that in Obama. It seems to me that he bends over so far backwards to be reasonable and conciliatory that he can’t get anything done. In contrast to Bush, who embodied action without thought, Obama embodies thought without action.

      Of course, even with the best of intentions, Obama probably also knows what happened to Kennedy and doesn’t want a repeat of that.

      • “In contrast to Bush, who embodied action without thought, Obama embodies thought without action.”

        Hear, hear! These recent transporter-accident elections seem to have divided President Kirk into Dr. Obama and Mr. Bush. It would be nice to see a US president who can think it through, and then persuade Congress to make it happen.

        And yet, Sarah Palin remains in the public eye, apparently #1 on the runway.

      • Sarah Palin represents what I call the “inferiority complex nation.” Those are people with little education who believe, usually incorrectly, that they are intellectually inferior to people with college degrees. She’s not highly intelligent, but she is clever and ruthless, and her handlers are intelligent.

        I think that Palin cultivates the image of someone who is stupid and ignorant, even more than she actually is. That makes the citizens of inferiority complex nation feel comfortable about her, whereas Obama, with his Harvard degrees and all his fancy words, makes them feel threatened.

  3. Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts… where do these people expect the United States to get the huge sums of money it needs to do the things it does? Tax cuts? Tax CULTS is more to the point. It’s all voodoo.

    • Hi, LP —

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I love “tax cults:” that’s exactly right.

      It’s like most political ideologies. They take a single grain of truth and try to bake a dozen loaves of bread.

      It is true that if taxation gets high enough, it will depress economic activity. And under those circumstances, if you cut tax rates, economic activity might increase enough to generate additional tax revenues that would make up the shortfall from the lower rates. But from that undeniable truth, Republicans often try to argue that tax cuts always “pay for themselves,” especially when they’re tax cuts for the rich and for giant corporations.

  4. Hi, Scott! 🙂

    “They take a single grain of truth and try to bake a dozen loaves of bread.”

    I love this. I want to use it. 🙂

    “Republicans often try to argue that tax cuts always “pay for themselves,””

    I think anyone would be crazy to insist that taxes are always a good thing, and the higher the better. I do believe that those who are well off are obliged to pay more (one person being very much the same as another, they have a greater cushion between starving/being naked than the less well-off), partly because they can, and partly because their wealth also tends to enable them to make greater use of public facilities (highways, airports, Congressional private jets, etc.). I’m not rich, but at the moment I do better than average for a single person, and I accept that that ought to have an impact on what the government earmarks as my contribution to society. Any one of us can wind up on the receiving end of society, and we need to have the humility to recognize that. Even if we never do, we have a duty to others in society.

    I don’t understand how the Republicans get away with this. It’s clear, abundantly clear, that the US deficit and debt have skyrocketed since the Bush tax cuts. I’m amazed at how little alarm there is over this. I would have thought that even rich people would be admitting taxes need to go up again… I mean, they’re Americans too. Don’t they love their country? Don’t they want their grandchildren to live in a land that will look after them that they can be proud of and safe in? They have to pony up. But these guys keep getting elected. Reagan’s buttering of the ball and utter fumbling should have been the death knell for the GOP, but he’s practically a saint. I don’t get it.

    • There are rich people, and there are super-rich people. Super-rich people, the ones who own the government, don’t live in the same country as the rest of us. They’re citizens of “Richistan” ( and they’ve pretty much renounced any loyalty to America or Americans.

      A few Republicans might actually believe that tax cuts always pay for themselves, but nobody who’s thought about it for even a minute believes that. It’s just a rhetorical slogan to deprive the government of funds so they can push to eliminate Social Security and other programs that benefit the non-wealthy.

      By the way, my next blog (currently being written) is about the Bible. You’ll like that one.

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